Friday, 5 October 2018
Last week I was back again in Lund Studios on the long anticipated course with David Tress. We crammed an awful lot into 3 days with painting demonstrations then drawing on location and putting it into practice painting in the studio . As everyone says , besides producing such inspiring art, David is an excellent tutor, generously sharing his approaches to painting as well as giving individual help and suggestions. While I didn't produce any masterpieces, I've very happy with what came out of the processes and am excited about taking it further into paint and textiles
All photos here are of my own work . I took photos of David's painting demos for my sketchbook (he requested that all such photos were for personal use only not for publication/ sharing on social media )
I was a bit constrained in materials as I travelled by train so had 1/2 imperial sheets of 300lb watercolour paper rather than the full imperial size he works with but I did have plenty of acrylic paint and brushes with me.
We were encouraged to start with vigorous marks to block in the main areas of light and shade. When David came round , he liked the strong start I'd made but suggested changes to the composition in the quick sketch below
A second demonstration showing how he uses collage ( ripping up paintings , placing pieces from behind as well as in front, stapling them to the board!) finished off the day.Sutton Bank with it's spectacular views and gliders hovering . I was glad I'd taken lots of layers ( it was very breezy) and settled on a bench with a side view of the 'white horse'. Where do you start with such a panoramic vista?! I did several sketches in pencil and watercolour trying to work out the structures, light and shadow.
Back in the warmth of the studio , another demo by David showed how he'd tackle the subject ( very different from the fields of the previous day) with tips on horizon lines, middle distance, how lines work to give sense of perspective, leaps in tone, the negotiation between different elements.
After lunch I really went for it - ripping paintings up, slotting collage in, lots of use of a staple gun .
It went through several reincarnations, getting fussier and fussier. David's suggestions were to introduce bigger brighter yellow in the distance and bold dark paint strokes right across the painting ( shades of what I did with Ashley's help in 'Black and White' )
What a difference! Though without all the fiddling about with marks and scratches , the foreground wouldn't have been so interesting underneath that bold black mark. I love how this painting retains memories of the marks and processes involved, the 'palimpsest' effect
Day 3 , I headed back into the fields around the studios for some more sketching, this time of the light shining through the fenceposts and hedges.
I just had time before a demo on colour mixing to block in the main shapes and tones.
The final demos showed how different colour palette /tonal range can give the same composition a very different feel and how techniques he used of blocking in the big picture could be used to on very varying subject matter. He finished with the final poems on Autumn he'd been reading to us throughout the course.
So much to think about and digest but the take home message is big simple ideas, taking risks ( messes are not failures but possibilities to disintegrate and rebuild) and if in doubt go for a bigger brush!
Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Last Thursday I headed off to Creek Creative laden with canvases , paints and brushes , sketchbook of samples and ideas , head full of possibilities, excited by the prospect of how Ashley Hanson would approach the theme of 'Black and White' in 'Freedom in Painting' 2 day class.
It was a fantastic ,thought-provoking couple of days with excellent, insightful tuition from Ashley but also so much to learn from other participants: our work was incredibly diverse.
We'd been asked to think about what black and white meant to us, for instance what was
'Silence' - white wilderness? black hole? Ashley talked about the opposites of black and white , but also unity ( yin/yang), it's association with nostalgia and memory ( I thought of my childhood memories suitcase collection quilt - dayglo colours of 70's but black and white photos )
He showed work from a range of artists who'd used B&W in different ways from Goya and Rembrandt through Matisse , Picasso, Miro to Abstract Expressionist artists such de Kooning, Franz Kline, Ad Reinhart ,quotes from Agnes Martin, and contemporary work by Gillian Carnagie.
As part of his 'City of Glass' series, Ashley is thinking of using black and white and he made a start on a pair of canvases, demonstrating mixing different blacks and applying them in a loose grid as a starting point for working into.
collage to generate ideas for painting but that's with bits from newspapers and magazines - this was more graphic. It was a fascinating half hour, partially inspired by structures of breakwaters ( now there's a surprise!) but also differences in the qualities of the marks made by tearing or cutting and the addition of different blacks (glossy as well as matt) . I was intrigued by sections of both sides but decided the one below had a stronger composition and contrasts
I liked the effect of the brick wall behind it but settled on grey card ( and later , a newspaper cutting) to give a different tone. Ashley had a quick look at the results and liked what I'd done - referencing my original photos and sketches but also introducing new elements with the torn area to suggest waves
After sketching out the outline of the collage on a white canvas, on the black canvas , I drew up a grid and started mixing blacks, whites and greys, sometimes layering /covering over. In some cases I was mixing the blacks on the canvas itself and liked the bits of colour left around the edges ( I've never been a neat painter, even at school I'd colour over the line. The difference now is that I embrace the possibilities rather than thinking I'm not doing it properly). I apologize for the photos - it's difficult to take good shots of blacks, especially when the light wasn't great.
It reminded me a bit of Paul Klee's 'Ancient Sound' ( although nothing like as interesting) and I decided it was a bit too patterned and dominant to act as the background for a painting . Instead I painted the other pair of smaller canvases I'd brought with me in more subtle variations of blacks and whites.
I made a start on my painting from the 'template', blocking in the areas of white and enjoying making strong single-stroke vertical brush marks in a range of different blacks. There's always a tendency to revert to previous behaviours and make the same kind of marks - you can see the similarities to the painting I did last year (below)
It was so exciting and liberating - there's something about a very big mark on a relatively small canvas, a different take on ' scaling up'. A great end to an exhausting but productive day.
Day 2 was much calmer - I came in with a good idea about what I wanted to do next and some additional paints ( the advantage of living locally). I was inspired by this painting by Franz Kline , the hints of yellow at the edges of the black and the bold gestural marks.
I wasn't very happy with how the black curved shape ( above) was indistinguishable from the lower strong horizontal line. Ashley suggested I get rid of it ( he liked the empty space in my original sketch) and also to simplify the the background , make it white with brush stokes and marks of a similar quality to the black. I'm gradually learning to discard source material after a certain point and just respond to the painting itself.
I'm pretty happy with the results ( tho' I think the fainter black marks in the middle need to go ) The white is a much more interesting surface from having the layers of paint underneath.
While I was waiting for Ashley's advice, I worked on the pair of 2 smaller canvases I'd painted with whites and blacks. In the earlier 'Painting the Novel' course with Ashley, I'd enjoyed trying slightly different techniques on 2 canvases but hanging them joined together in a 'book' structure.
So in the middle of night I had a brainwave - I'd paint the negative shapes with whites on the black canvas and the positive black shapes on the white canvas.
On the blacks canvas I used a palette knife with white paint for the gaps and light between the wooden structures of the breakwaters ( I like how you can still see the different blacks in the grid) and on the whites canvas used a transparent black made of ultramarine and burnt umber with gloss medium.
And more from luck than judgement, the horizontals line up when they're side by side! I think the larger white area could be more interesting but overall I'm pleased with the results. .
We finished painting mid-afternoon and then had a critique of everyone's work which was invaluable, particularly the diverse ways people had interpreted their collage 'templates'. It was also interesting to see how often those final touches make such a big difference and how some pieces had changed dramatically over the 2 days and others had made more subtle shifts. The range of colours within black and white were astonishing
I was a bit worried that my work with breakwaters was perhaps getting a bit stale, but encouraged by Ashley to take risks, make dramatic changes, react to the painting itself, make bold and strong marks I can see this series developing further both in paint and textile.