Drawing from Sculpture
I have been visiting museums to make drawings from sculptures so that I can become familiar with the figure in mediums other than oil. I choose sculptures or rather figures that capture the baroque chiaroscuro that contributes to this sense of drama I want to achieve in my paintings. This style of drawing with an eraser is similar to the glazing tradition which involves wiping away layers of glaze to reveal the lighter values below the surface. I find it interesting to start a work by removing rather than applying. I thought this method of drawing would be a valuable way to enrich my figurative practice. I am interested in the finding ways to express emotion and create tension through body movement.
Considering the Painting as a Tapestry
I have been experimenting with the canvas material to enhance my painting's quality as a tapestry so that it could become something more like a textile. Instead of stretching my canvases I have been leaving them unstretched. I attempted pulling and fraying the tiny 7.5 by 10cm canvas for my miniature work and it became somewhat like a rug or a traditional wall hanging. I had the idea to fray the edges of my canvas at the end of its production, and didn't consider how difficult it would be to pull the threads because I had applied clear gesso to the edges of the canvas and it hardened and fused the fibres. If I fray canvas in the future I would set an outline for where I want to apply gesso to avoid this happening. I had already been toying with the idea of hanging my painting from a bar and then I saw the Dansaekhwa Artist Kim Taek Sang at the Korean Culture Centre and he had hung his unstretched painting from a wooden pole.
On my new large scale painting I am fraying a significant section at the bottom of my canvas to give my painting the effect of a tapestry. Picking the tightly woven threads of the canvas is a laborious and painful task. I then began to think of the canvas is a physical representation of the mind, what it would mean to unravel it by hand, and then tie it off in a knot at the ends.
Preparation for a large work
I usually do not do a lot in terms of planning a painting but I thought i would design a more complex pattern for a large scale work on paper instead of drawing it directly on the canvas. Then I could project the image onto the canvas to trace. I thought about the symbolism of moths and their associations with death and rebirth, and how that may relate to the cyclical nature of anxiety. I'm interested in seeing how having a larger scale pattern in comparison to figures could create a more claustrophobic effect. In this unit I did not end up using this pattern for a large scale work but plan to use it in unit 3.
I also made this colour scheme for a large scale work, which isn't a usual routine in my practice, but I was interested in seeing how muted colours from a limited palette could become more emotive and somber than bright and vibrant palette.
With a pair of tweezers I have been pulling each individual thread of the tightly wound canvas to create a long fray, to give the illusion that the canvas is unravelling. I gessoed the canvas up until the point I wanted to stop the fraying. The raw canvas that hasn't been gessoed is rippling from the pressure of me pulling on the strings. The gessoed parts remain intact. It has been eyeopening to me to see how long this process takes and how much effort, for not a lot of visible change on the canvas. I thought it would be interesting if I'm considering the canvas as a metaphor for the mind what it would mean to physically unravel it. The properties of the canvas are very tightly woven and it was a struggle and a strain to unravel it. The act of pulling apart each individual strand was repetitive and pattern-like. It was a sort of mindless process which was very different from the type of precision, detail painting I undertake.
Experimenting with glazing
Click images to enlarge.
These images show the process of applying a dark brown glaze over top of the patterned background. The goal of the glaze was to push the pattern back and emphasise the figures.Which I think worked successfully.
The glaze is made up of alkyd and transparent brown oxide, and I applied it with a 3" brush.
As I painted the glaze around the figures the glaze dripped onto them and I had to keep wiping it away. Once it had dried I repainted the edges of the figures that were affected.
When the glaze had dried I experimented with painting over top of it with brown oxide and a tiny bit of titanium to create mist that was coming from the bodies. Painting overtop of glaze that is completely dry instead of when it is in its peak sticky stage, was very challenging to make it look soft, because the bristle marks can be seen in the paint when you are painting over a shiny hard surface. Glaze also makes any colours appear very cold in contrast with the warm so although the mist- which turned into beams of light, look white, they are actually dark brown.
The purpose of this painting was to experiment with negative space, and I wanted to attempt to put a pattern on top of a portrait to see if it would be an effective way of getting across the idea of being trapped in a psychological space, or feeling a distance between yourself and reality. I found working with the raw canvas as negative space was restricting. It was a useful excercise to paint a portrait and her vacant expression was working well to describe what it feels and looks like to dissociate. But in this composition the pattern and negative space did not help to convey this idea. upon hanging on the wall from the wood pole, the canvas curled and became more fluid. This was an accident but I was very happy with how the portrait transformed and appeared distorted from different angles.
After visiting Mark Fairnington's studio I was inspired to experiment with photoshop. I began with a pattern by William Morris, then layered a dark brown background over top to try and mimic a glaze, then I cut out the figure, in this case a picture of my hand, and an old self portrait I made, and lowered the opacity to see how the figure would look with pattern peaking through from beneath. I then took figurative references and applied the same process to get the final result that I am using for my large scale work. I thought it was interesting to be mimicking the glazing effect, rather than actually glazing, to avoid the issues with the glare as I had with my last painting.