< I have decided to re-visit this painting that I thought I had completed only last week!
I wrote about what was wrong with it here. But after being with the painting for a little longer, and talking about it with a friend, I realised I could adjust the structure lines which might resolve the issues with the dimensionality of the structure.
My intentions are to reconsider which lines need to sit ‘in front’ of the brushstrokes and which need to sit ‘behind’. I want to push the back of the structure further back, and bring the front of the structure further forward, to make the structure and therefore the whole painting appear as a three dimensional space.
Going back to wide angle lens vs normal lens, I thought this image that Nuria sent me was relevant:
She sent me this footage of a church (the Tibidabo basilica in Barcelon, Spain). The angle and height of the church is great for comparing to my structure images and thinking about which lens is best.
^ It fits almost exactly. So the perspective of the sculpture with a normal lens is accurate.
The wide angle lens distorts the top part of the roof, therefore the sculpture image doesn’t line up with the church. The image of the sculpture is flattened and abstracted into lines, because it does follow perspective rules that match what the naked eye would see.
Now I know this, I want to do another large painting which uses an image of the sculpture that has a normal lens.
It’s great to be able to have works of different mediums next to each other in the studio.
It shows how much stronger the oil painting is at creating a sense of space and depth. And how much dimensionally stronger the structure in the oil painting is, because the lines have been layered under and over marks to create a sense of depth.
It’s easier to compare these two paintings, because I think the ink painting better holds its own next to the oil painting. This is because this ink painting has many layers to it, which means it has the same complexity to the oil painting.
Differences between the two: – tone! – oil painting very opaque, ink painting very transparent. Which produces very different effects of layering.
I have never compared one of my ink paintings with one of my oil paintings before, because I have not had an oil painting strong enough or large enough to do so in the past. I didn’t expect to be doing this but since their both on my wall it seems natural!
Comparing them is a good exercise in (finding the flaws and) defending the different mediums. Picking at what they do well, what they stand for, and why I am choosing to work in those mediums. So far it seems when I compare them, both works appear weaker than before! HMM. I’m going to have to think.
To paint the structure onto the canvas I used the method I developed last academic year, which involves a few steps… Firstly photographing the sculpture from the angle I want in the painting. This is a series of trial and error – taking multiple photos and picking one think will best suite the painting. Then I trace the structure onto sheet of acetate with a marker pen and a ruler. I then project this tracing into the painting and play around with how large the structure should be and where it should best fit on the canvas. I could then repeat the tracing process to find an angle that better suits the painting, until I have a projection that matches what I want.
When deciding on the angle, size and position of the structure in the painting I took into account the shapes in the painting. Although the painting is an abstracted woodland, I think the painting has a ground, a (hidden) horizon, tree canopy and sky – It’s like I’m painting (constructing on the canvas with paint) a forest of my lived perception – I’ve started saying that recently:
So when I was deciding on where the structure would go in the painting, I realised it makes sense for the structure to be believable, therefore standing on the ground. This decision seemed meant to be because the roof of the structure then lined up with the ‘sky’ in the painting! Perfect:
I then started adding the lines to the painting, following the projection as a guide, using a thin brush and titanium white oil paint thinned slightly with white spirit to make the paint glide on smoother. During the process I would turn the projection on and off regularly, and stand back from the painting lots. I was selecting which lines to include to create the illusion of depth, as if the brush marks are floating in front or behind the structure.
You can see in this GIF that I would add lines and then remove them again. I kept taking breaks from the painting so I could get a fresh perspective on the painting. Adding or removing one tiny line can make such a difference to the believability of the structure and the illusion of depth so I took my time painting.
I think that it does feel like your standing inside a structure and looking up! It is the first time I have painted the structure from an angle that should make you feel inside the structure, and I think it demonstrates potential.
Lining up the structure with the ‘ground’ and the opening revealing the ‘sky’. This really helps to create the feeling of vertical space.
Smaller brush marks at the top of the painting, where I want the brush strokes to appear further away, also works really well to create the feeling of height.
What doesn’t work
I used a wide angle lens to photograph the structure, which means that the structure legs around the outside of the image have a much more extreme angle, sticking outwards, than you would see with the naked eye or a normal camera lens:
Looking at these two images side by side, I think the normal lens is actually better than the wide angle image (which I used for the painting). The wide angle lens distorts the shape to the point where the structure loses its dimensionality and the ceiling looks completely flat. The normal lens, on the other hand, is more accurate to the naked eye and so the image of the structure is easier for the brain to construct with the illusion of depth.
I did not consider how a wide angle image would affect the believability of the structure in the painting! I used a wide angle lens image because wide angle captures more of the structure in an image, and makes the ceiling look smaller ie. further away, which are all good things. But the structure I think looks like it is tipping backwards in the finished painting, and not standing on a horizontal surface. This is a major issue! Is it just me that thinks it looks like it’s tipping? I’m going to ask around and see!
There is a lot of ‘ground’ in the painting which means the ceiling of the structure is cropped out a little more than I think would be best. This is something I’ll have to try out to confirm. But I do think it would work for the painting to have less ground in it, and be more focused on looking up, at the canopy and the sky. To do this I will have to look up more when I’m painting outside! And fill less of the bottom of the canvas with impressions of the woodland floor.
It’s really exciting to see the finished painting next to the ink painting I started with and the sculpture! This process is very meditative, what I mean by that is the process of ink drawings, a sculpture and the painting process is a meditative process which enables me to think conceptually and take things forward. Doing as a method of thinking, that’s what I feel like I’m doing.
With all the things I think could be better I still think this painting is great, and I can’t wait to exhibit it along with the sculpture at UNA’s exhibition next week. That’ll be a good chance to get others opinions.
I do think that the painting itself has something that is not quite right. The structure lines aren’t as successful as they normally are, the lines don’t have enough dimension, they seem a bit too abstract. So…
Another big painting! I want to do one which refines my process with all that I have learnt from this painting. I didn’t expect to do another big painting so soon, but I think it is worth while.
This next painting will improve on the plein air process (improvements which I discussed in a previous blog post). And I will improve on the structure painting process – using a normal lens image projected onto the canvas, and thinking again about where best to position the structure so the height and believability of the structure are as strong as possible.
Looking through the book: Smith, V. & Sillman, Amy, 2019. Amy Sillman, London: Lund Humphries.
Sillman mentions the thin line in her work between drawing and painting. Sometimes it is hard to find distinction between the two. Sillman works a lot in ink, then in these big colour canvases as do I. Her material uses and technique was the reason I was drawn to her work.
^ The mass of lines on the right top interests me. It looks like a mass of vines, and there is something – a person? a limb? emerging out of it. Layers of paint producing a structure that things can go in and out of. It is like that mass of paint is someones inner experience recorded through paint, and outside of that is another landscape. The viewer is the onlooker. I am suddenly thinking about the edges of my recorded experiences. If you zoomed out of my paintings what would you see? Digital mock up idea:
^ My inner experience: painting that surrounds me on all sides… like an instillation… Outside of that it is….. just the landscape again.
She produced ‘a stop-motion animation that recorded the live manipulation of ink drawings and cutouts.’ Called Triscuits (2010). P.45 What if I did a stop motion thing with ink in which you are shown around the structure space? I watched Sillman’s video. It’s playful. The use of text popping up as a monologue is interesting. I want to try this. A very playful act.
^ The yellow scraping is like a screen. Like some semi transparent fabric half covering the scene that is behind. How would this kind of mark change my lived perspective landscapes? I think Gerhard Richter does this a lot. I need to look at his work anyway. The painting reminds me of a painting by Howard Hodgkins, this one:
Both paintings use different materials and techniques that do something similar: separate the viewer from part of the painting by putting a ‘paint screen’ up. It is an extremely material feature – the flatness of the canvas and the nature of the medium is celebrated. But in contrast to this, the depth of the scene in the painting is made clear and then the viewer is denied access to. it The juxtaposition of the flatness of the canvas and the depth of the image is pushed to an extreme here. This is very interesting. A bit like the structures I paint? (But less extreme). The lines of the structure are both very flat and also create an illusion of depth and space.
Sillman’s work is more interesting to me as a formalist material inspiration, than some conceptual work as well. I am reading bits of the essay in the book I have on her but nothing is interesting me, other than the notes I’ve made here.
I prefer Sillman’s looser work. The stuff where she hasn’t boxed in shapes, but where the marks feel more immediate and less thought through and re-worked.
I like the contrast between biiig blocks on the right with the gestural busy marks on the left. The right side of the painting is set and resolved and seperate from the human action that made it, whilst the left side immediate and busy and confusing and reminds me of the human act that created the marks. The edge of the busy marks on the right as the edge of the woodland, either to the sky or to open landscape. This is an interesting idea. This would introduce something new into my paintings.
This book has surpised me! It has made me dig deep into my practice; the mediums I use, painting with a Greenberg formalist approach, and the flow into instillation work…
It is also nice to see work by a female! Ideas formed whilst looking at Sillman’s work feel like I am going in the direction of instillation! That’s new. I am going with my flow of thinking, which seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. Interesting to look at her work and find conclusions which don’t match Sillman’s own conceptual thoughts. I have taken the bits of her work seem relevant – the material qualities, and left the stuff I wasn’t interested in – the conceptual side to her work. I have been looking at her work and thinking about it as I see it, not as I read about it.
Looking at Sillman’s work has left me with things to think about going forward. Summary list of those things are: – Zooming out of one’s painted lived experience, to see it’s surroundings. Which leads to instillation work of the painting and structure in the zoomed out landscape. – Scraping residue action paint layer which builds a screen. How would this mark change my paintings?
I primed a large canvas and took it to a new woodland that I haven’t painted a big canvas in yet! This space is wilder than the woodlands I have painted in before, the trees are denser and not as tall or mature. I started the painting at around 3.15pm and finished at 4.30pm. It slowly got darker and darker as I painted, with the sky getting a darker and darker grey. When I first put my things down the trees were wild yellows and oranges, but by the time I had finished, the colours were far cooler and more muted. It was a very still day, with the sense of impending rain (that never came) and the onset of darkness.
It is the first time I have painted a large canvas in oils since June! So the process felt like returning to something so familiar and yet a little alien.
I changed something about my painting process this time round: I took the sculpture that I would be added into the painting at the end, with me into the woods. And used the sculpture as a prop to imagine the shape as large as the trees above. Before I began painting I used the sculpture to decide where it would sit in the landscape and in the painting. This was very helpful! And felt like my multi-medium process was going full circle. I used a wide angle lens to photograph the structure as I imagined it; as tall as the trees:
These two images work very successfully! Other than the leaf on the left image, it really has the illusion of being a large structure! This was a useful thing to do before starting the painting. I had a clear idea of where the structure would sit in the landscape before I began.
This image didn’t work as well. Partly because the trees in the background are blurry. It would be better to use a wide angle camera where I have control over the aperture (instead of my phone camera).
This was the position of the structure in the above images, but from afar.
It’s so useful recording my process because it reveals how I paint, when a lot of what I do is subconscious.
I showed some people the video, and one person (who is also a painter) pointed out that I work in layers of one colour which reveals how I keep the colours on the canvas clean. She said oh you lay down one colour wherever it is needed, then change brushes and repeat? It’s interesting because I have never thought much about that (or can’t remember ever thinking about that) but it’s true! And crucial to how I work outside.
The painting process
Priming the canvas with blue acyrlic + gesso, dried before going outside. The implications There weren’t enough of these blues in the landscape to warrant the bottom of the canvas being this colour. This is the first time ever(!!) that I have done one of these paintings in autumn. So I need to adjust my background colour to suite! An off white/grey or warm colour would be better. Blue fitted for spring and summer, but it won’t do for autumn! At least not on the day I was painting. Perhaps I need to do some background colour tests in my sketchbook in acrylics.
I had no Liquin, a medium I have used in the past to speed up the drying time of layers, and reduce the drag of marks put down. It is especially used near the end of a painting when there is a lot of paint on the canvas already and I don’t want top layers of colours mixing with anything underneath. I just completely forgot I normally use it until halfway through painting! The implications: – I put down thicker layers of paint at the end than I have previously done. I couldn’t rely on Liquin to keep layers from mixing, so I was applying lots of paint (rip my bank account) and thickly, to add layers of pure colour. – The finished painting has so much texture. From where I was putting down paint that hadn’t been thinned at all. – The paint layers mixed more than usual. Looking back to my previous large oil painting, the colour definition in that work is better than here. The layers of colour have mixed less and so there is more depth in layers of paint. In this most recent painting, I applied paint without any medium quite soon onto the canvas, so I felt I was battling with the paint in the second half of the painting process. If I had had Liquin, I could have thinned the earlier layers a little or thinned the top layers a little, or both! So that the paint wouldn’t drag as much.
I ran out of Lemon Yellow half way through! The implications: There were so many autumnal colours in the leaves, which needed lemon yellow to make them pop! Running out of this meant the autumnal leaf colours are more muted than I would have liked. It is not super detrimental to the finished painting. I captured the warmer colours in the landscape with Cadmium Yellow. And when I was done with the painting, the light had faded so much that some of the bright lemon yellow colours were no longer present in the landscape anyway. But still. It would have made a difference to have. This is purely down to me not checking if I needed any new materials before painting. I’ll know better next time.
I applied colour from dull to bright.
The finished plein air painting
The colours feel autumnal. You can tell it’s a different season to the last paintings I have done! Which is exciting.
Using smaller brush marks to finish the top of the canvas. Even without the structure lines added the top of the canvas where the brush marks are smaller does feel like looking into the distance. YAY! I made the decision when I was painting for the big brushstrokes to go underneath the structure – so really far away, and the smaller ones to mark the distance. So far it works. It’s going to be interesting to see how adding the structure works.
The size and general method as per! I love painting outside, I love doing these works and refining them. They bring surprises and the result is so cheerful and takes me somewhere.
What doesn’t work
The texture of the paint is a little distracting? It reminds the viewer of how the mark was made, and gives the mark lots of energy and immediacy – as if the final paint marks had just been put down. Is this immediacy a good thing? It might distract from the viewer finding the depth in the piece. Because the viewer is reminded that the canvas is a flat surface when what I am trying to create is DEPTH.
The layer beneath the ‘top’ layer. The layer of paint applied before it started to get really thick doesn’t have enough depth! I think I am a bit out of practice at doing these paintings and it shows. THE PROBLEM was that applied too thick paint too fast. I should have blocked in thinner paint for longer. This would have given the painting more depth and less confusion. It’s going to be interesting when I paint in the structure lines, working all of that out.
Applying colour from dull to light removes depth at the ‘back’ of the painting. Because what creates depth is contrast, I now realise. Contrast in: texture – thickness, direction of mark colour – bright or dull tone – light or dark In this painting the marks at the back have no textural variation (because they all need to be thinned down), no colour variation (because I made them all dull), and no tonal variation (that was wrong of me). I don’t think the colours at the back of the painting need to be all dull. Although it makes sense for most of them to be. In my next painting I will make sure the marks at the back (and in the whole painting tbh) have more tonal variety, which will create depth when nothing else can.
Add the structure lines in. Using a photograph of the structure and a projector.
I have learnt that the next painting I do I will: – make sure I have all the colours I want! – have picked a different background colour – use Liquin when needed so I am battling with paint less – thin the paint down for longer in the painting process, either with turps or Liquin, so I am battling with the paint less in the second half
The main way I can learn from these is by painting more of them!
After looking at Panini’s paintings I am wondering how this sculpture would change if I added little sculptures of people walking around the space? I initially made this digital mock up of what I imagine. The little people would give the space a relation to something more real. But it might take away from the abstractness of the structure, because the shape then more clearly becomes the framework or ‘bones’/’skeleton’ of a building. (Those ‘words’ fit the sculpture so I’m testing out using them).
I made some very simple figure shapes out of clay to test the idea:
I positioned them standing in the space or walking around in it. Some of their heads are angled up as if they are looking up into the space. I thought it was important that the shapes are engaging with the space – walking, looking around, standing with each other, to give the figures as much life and movement as possible from such simple shapes!
The sculpture immediately appears as a model. The abstract, weird feel of the shape is transformed into something familiar. The structure looks like an architectural model. Without the mini people, the shape had no relative scale and so the structure size could have had any meaning.
Adding the people reduces the abstract qualities of the structure. There is less mystery. But do the mini people add anything? They make me want to get my eyes down to the same level that they are at. I want to see the structure as they would. I am far more aware of the space between the figures heads and the top of the roof. This space becomes a more prominent feature of the sculpture, which is good. The height of the sculpture is emphasised.
I want to know what others opinions are on the little people. I can’t conclude what I think of them just yet. I will have to give it some thinking time…
After the ink drawings I wanted to see how the shape would sit in 3D. And also use the method of paper mache again for the second time. Refining my method to make a sculpture that is more complex and larger than anything I have made before.
The finished sculpture
Kasia said the finished white shape reminds her of bones. And Pip said to me my structures could seem to some like a ghost, ruin, a forgotten representation of religion and these holy buildings. There are themes running through these comments! I want others opinions… Perhaps I could hold a group crit? After I do a big oil painting using the sculpture.
What works: (process & completed piece)
Minimising the amount of times I had to attach two pieces of wire together. I wanted to avoid this so that the piece would be as thin and un-clunky as possible. Because wrapping the wire together creates bumps and lumps in the linear design. To avoid this I thought about building the structure as I would a continous line drawing – trying to build the shape without breaking the wire as much as possible. This method worked really well. The structure is sturdier than the last one and required less clunky wire attaching.
The size. The bigger the better! With this size you can begin the appreciate the model because it is large enough to and look up into the inside of the structure and appreciate it as if you were standing inside it.
What didn’t work: (process & completed piece)
Using thin wire to join two larger bits of wire together makes a very clunky end result. The paper mache does a great job of smoothing out the joins, but it makes the wire look clumsier than the shapes in my paintings. There is something interesting about the joins – something organic – Kasia said it reminds her of bones! I am intrigued to see how the sculpture would look if the joins were precise, and didn’t have these blobs. Perhaps I could solder the wire together?
Sort of a point: the process is a very slow one! This sculpture took hours and hours to make. It is a very delicate, intricate process. But the result! I think is worth it :).
I want to make lil people to go inside the structure! Inspired by the artist Panini.
I also want to do a big oil painting and add the structure to it. Using the method I began last term of projecting an image of the structure onto the painting to use as a painting guide.
I am also going to be exhibiting the sculpture in King Street Galleries in the un/covered exhibition. I want to hear people’s opinions of the work when they are given no background info on me or my work!
Italian artist b.1691 d.1765. He painted views of both real and imaginary Roman architecture. His most famous works are of the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica.
I came across his paintings and was instantly mesmerised by the incredible height and space in his paintings. They are magnificent!
Giovanni Paolo Panini, the most celebrated and popular view painter in eighteenth-century Rome, was born 17 June 1691 in Piacenza. Although he prepared as a youth for a career in the Church, he studied perspective and architectural painting in his native city and had received some architectural training by the time of his arrival in Rome in November 1711.
^ You can tell he has an architectural background. His use of perspective good and he seems to understand how a building works.
The people at the bottom of the painting are so tiny compared to the scale of the building. The people in the painting also have so much movement. They are all involved in some action, and all are poised elegantly, with extravagant dress colours and silhouettes. The floor of the painting is full of so much energy, which makes the building appear all the more monumental.
The perspective in the building lines are thoroughly believable, which is key to the depth in this painting. The little alcoves to the right and left of the main space make the space all the more believable, intricate and grand.
I would like to do some paintings and sketches baed on his work. I think this will help me understand them better.
More of his work:
This painting is just amazing. The sunlight that is coming through the hole in the ceiling and hitting the side of the room is very interesting. It gives the space some context as to the time of day and the world that is outside of the room. What if I shone a light through the sculpture I have made? The people in this painting have as much energy as Panini’s other paintings. Their garments are so rich in colour, the lighting gives the fabric such clarity and elegance. The people have an energy that completes the space. Without people at the bottom of the space I suspect the building would look lifeless and the space would hold a feeling of impending doom! The people give the space life. Otherwise the building might have the same feeling a ruin would? Holding lifeless air that was once filled.
I really want to go and visit St Peter’s Basillica in Rome. Photos of it online looks so much like the paintings by Panini! I would be great the see the space for myself and even paint in it.