Exercise:Preparing a textured ground

I had attempted some texture early in the module and am very happy to return to this area, I am embracing experimenting more and more as the course goes forward.

I dribbled pva glue onto a sheet of canvas oil painting paper and let it dry.  Oil paint could then be smeared over it with a cloth.  Disappointingly the pva soaked into the surface rather than standing proud of the surface so I didn’t follow this one any furtherDSC_0026

Remembering something I had tried before during the still life brief I added kitchen roll to a board and painted over it with gesso.


still life from earler in course



Without thinking too much I just began to add paint.DSC_0013.jpgDSC_0012.jpg

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Small section from the painting

I am learning to be a little more patient and letting colour dry between layers.  This is starting to make a difference and I am enjoying the colours going on in layers and still being able to see those layers.  Something textured like this realy alows the colours to show through.  Using a dryish brush and just skimming the surface meant the colours just hit the raised texture in places.  I like this small section, and perhaps this is something to take forward, not a picture but texture and colour for its own sake.

Another thought, I collected bits whilst out with the dog…


Much harder to stick to the surface and paint over, but I gave it a try anyway.

My thought was that the grasses should show, so painting them in a bright contrasing colour, but the whole thing is rather unsatisfactory.  I like it better before I applied the blue.  As texture goes they are probably too specific a shape.












A lesson in using experiments you don’t like!

During the dripping exercise, as I was trying out the paint consistency and how/if I could control the dripping I came up with this.


I really liked it but had no clue as to how to carry on and in which direction so put it to one side.

During a break in another exercise I fiddled and filled in the squares.


Then I hated it and was disappointed, it got shoved to one side again.

Picked it up a few days later and remembering how I loved dragging paint on with  a credit card…

I tried to scratch in some of the lines from the original as I went.  Now it was starting to bring to mind the work of  Gerhard Richter whom I had looked at right at the beginning of the module.



I tried to mute the colours a bit with another layer and scratched vigorously into it where I felt I wanted to let other colours back through

Close ups of two of the areas I particularly liked.  I like how the colours play off each other, its like a crazy tartan.

I suspect the difficulty with this type of painting is knowing when to stop.

Visit to The Summer Exhibition Royal Academy

Today I visited The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.  I deliberately sought out texture in paintings as I was on this part of the module.



City Skaters 1 by Bill Jackson

This had a very fine texture to the canvas and looking closely the paint had been applied with a kind of dry brush technique over this texture with gave the lovely softness to the scene, no hard edges, definition achieve with colour not line.


Till the Morning Comes Eileen Cooper

This was painted wood panel, which I hadn’t seen before with tiny boats strategically placed to look like they are on the water.


Departure by Hughie O’Donoghue

One of my favourite paintings in the Exhibition, oil, acrylic, liquid leaf metal, photographic trace on prepared tarpaulin.  Texture and unusual ground gave amazing life to the painting, close up it was lovely but the fullest effect was from the other side of the gallery. The size of the painting really emphasised the subject.


Set of four Gouach paintings by Fiona Rae

Although no texture involved here, I was drawn to these because of the colours.  they manage to look Chinese, even though there is not actual representation of anything, the strokes and shapes somehow make you feel that your seeing something.


Stuarts Prediction by Frank Bowling

An acrylic painting, unfortunately my photograph doesn’t show the texture very well, but I found it very calm to look at and soft colours.  What drew me to it also was the realisation that the application of the paint being so free and not trying to portray anything particular, which is something I need to start working more on myself.  There is a fine pink circle which I felt crucial to the painting, I felt it wouldn’t have had the same emphasis without that small line.


Encaustic wax on linen and collage.  A lot of texture, holes and collage.


Land by Susan Absolon

This was my favourite.  Very clever use of oil on linen. There was splashing, dripping and some areas of dragging of comb like shapes and a perfect straight line.  This landscape was not a landscape but appeared to be one.  Close up its a series of splashes and shapes. I wondered if the artist had had an view in mind or was representing one she knew or was it created as it grew.  I’d love to have been able to find out the process.  The lime green diagonal line appears like a road with maybe traffic creating the light.  A town one side and fields and landscape the other.


Tulips by Sarah Armstrong-Jones

I made a note of this paintings as it was done in oils and yet looks watercolour, showing how you can use the right solvent and achieve a very loose drippy oil work.


My Lucky Number’s White by Michele Griffiths

A work done on plaster and therefore gouged and scratched, a very simple shading and four main lines that gave it a plane and vague appearance of a scene.


Brave New World by Melanie Comber

Made with oil and pigment. I assume that the pigment was sprinkled after the carved or scratched lines which emphasises their edges, making them stand out more.


Unborn by Anish Kapoor

Made in silicone and fibreglass this is huge and horrifying.


Und Du Bist Maler Geworden by Anselm Kiefer

This was texture to the max. Acrylic, charcoal, emulsion and oil on canvas. Huge painting, incredible depth of paint.  Unfortunately I don’t know the translation of the title but this appears to be a reflection in water, until you step right back and there is an artists palette in the top of the work.  I tried to get a close up showing the depth of the paint and the cracking, but unfortunately its blurred.









The exhibition has over 1,000 works, professional artists next to amateur and is inspiration from that point but absolutely exhausting to walk round and I am glad that I took a particular focus.  To try and see everything would have taken hours.


Research point: Abstract Expressionists

Find out what you can about the Abstract Expressionists and, in particular, the style of painting called Tachism or ‘Action Painting”. Look at the work of those artists who developed this style of spontaneous expressive painting which worked by the artist making large gestures and exploiting accidental effects.  Look at the work and ideas of Hans Hartung, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock amongst others.

Having looked at Jackson Pollocks paintings for the last exercise I looked further into the artist, discovering that he was  steered towards drawing and ultimately painting by an analyst he was seeing to treat his alcoholism.  This really explains the ‘action’ nature of his work as a form of venting his feelings and how this lead to him developing his style, which was considered radical at the time.


Summertime: Number 9A by Jackson Pollock 1948

He is known also for listening to Jazz whilst painting and you can see the rhythmic flow in the painting above.

Abstract expressionism is the overall name given to work produced by American painters such as Jackson Pollock,  in the 1940s and 50s. These paintings are made with abstract marks, gestural brush-strokes often made to convey feelings but not actual scenes or ‘things’.  The artists are hoping that viewer will be able to feel the emotions conveyed in the brush strokes.

Quotes from two of these artists may help to explain the genre.

“The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through”.…..Jackson Pollock

“I paint not the things I see but the feelings they arouse in me” …..Franz Kline



Franz Kline 1910-1962


Figure of Eight 1952



Chatham Square1948









There is an incredible difference in this artists work over a period of just four years, when he met William De Kooning.  Franz Kline became most well known for his large, gestural black and white action paintings. This “Figure of Eight” looks as if achieved with sweeping marks using a large brush mostly.  However, it is difficult to see if the black went on first or last there seems some overpainting in certain areas.



Looking at this photo of the artist in his studio, it can be appreciated just how huge his paintings were and the whole gestural/action painting takes on a new light. These must have taken quite a physical effort to produce.

Hans Hartung1904–1989 


Hans Hartung  was a German-French painter, known for his gestural abstract style.

The two works above showing the main type os gestural strokes that I found in his works,  multiple strokes in mainly one direction.  The painting on the left was made in a vinyl medium, scratched into whilst still wet and resembles human hair, although the artist is said to have rejected observation as a starting point for his works. The second is a lithograph of a work made earlier than the first, it is difficult to tell but looks like black ink.

Tachisme is described on the Tate website as “non-geometric abstract art that developed in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and scribble-like marks”. So the European version of Abstract Expressionism.

T00634_10.jpgSam Francis

Around the Blues


Oil and acrylic on canvas.

Really soft blue and pink and yellow organic shapes. There is some dribbling of the paint too. This has a very gentle feel to me unlike some of the other expressionist work I’ve looked at, softer edges and no violent strong strokes.



Willem de Kooning1952. Oil on canvas

Willem de Kooning was a dutch born American painter at the time of Jackson Pollock, an abstract expressionist. His work, however, merged abstraction and representation. The picture above is entitled Woman 1. The woman is seated but there is no chair she appears to be merged with the background the brushstrokes outline her but also become the background. I find this a rather aggressive portrayal of a woman, the brush strokes appear fierce scrubbed. The face is hard and I cannot work out if she is sneering or wide eyed with fright. It is not a comfortable view.











Exercise: Dripping, dribbling and spattering

To begin this exercise I prepared 6 sheets of A2 acrylic painting paper by giving them an extra coat of gesso as working with oils I have found that even paper prepared for acrylic seems to suck up the oil paint, sometimes to a point were I loose definition.

I had saved a few bottles from the recycling to try to use for squirting.

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Heading out to my garage and whilst waiting for the sheets to dry I started to work on the consistency of paint.

Mixing a couple of colours with thinner I began dribbling it on but whilst he paper was on an easel, as it dribbled I turned the paper one turn and got caught up in doing this.


As you can see the oil/solvent was sinking into the paper, however I left this to one side as its not reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, but I  liked it and intend to go back to it, perhaps to practice washes/glazing, or play with it somehow.

Looking at Jackson Pollock his work was very large and I wondered if it would be possible to achieve these effects on the smaller scale.  I noted that he had a love of Jazz music and so made sure to take my ipod out with me as part of the experiment.


On the Floor.My first attempt was very simple, but managed to show me how much the effects were reliant on the consistency of the paint. Here the purple was the first colour on was very dilute and the blues and yellow thicker and finally the red. As I picked up the paper from the floor and give it a shake I got the movement in the downward angle and some of the colours started to merge.


On the Floor.Starting on a dark grey ground this time I threw on the red and moved it around with a paint brush (and later wished I hadn’t).  Then using white and a few spatters of yellow and blue.  The paint was too thin and started to just merge into a wet mass.  I put this to one side.



On the Floor. This time I was conscious of making a picture.  Blue and white spattered on but  very dilute.  Then picking up the paper and shaking it to mix the colours on the page. Next quite thick (custard consistency) greens flicked on with a brush and spatters of red purple and yellow and pink. Ended up with something like a wildflower medow.

Next I attached two pieces of A2 together and taped it to the garage wall.  Put on the ipod and with Nina Simone blasting in my ears I went for it with dramatic downward, mainly, strokes of prussian blue and a glorious crimson.DSC_0070

It looks like there’s been a massacre!  The smudgy red was squirted from a sauce bottle. When showing this to my daughter she remarked that It reminded her of how a psychopath would behave in a horror movie and the very rhythmic music would be just the sort of background they would play!! Oh dear! But I see her point.

I found getting the right consistency tricky, and especially using oils it was an expensive exercise, using a whole bottle of thinner quite quickly.

It’s difficult to know when these are finished. With oils you can get to a stage where everything is very wet and more paint has to wait to the next day, rather losing the spontaneity.


Taking sections from the last painting you can see the effects of the paint on each other.  As in this one the paint was applied quite physically there is a lot more happening.

There is a feathering in some places and in others the paints have started to mix.


Using a squirting bottle has given a fine spray.

Flicking wrist action has given some interesting angles.










Very enjoyable exercise and quite physical to do.

Sketchbook for Part 5 (to be continuously added to)

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Discarded wire amongst leaves in an allotment.


Sketching a friend’s bronzes.

Continuing the exploration of drip doodle that came up from the Pollock exercise


Sketchbook playing with the Drip doodle.


Sketch of then opposite on trip to Wilderness Festival


Threes drawings done at Wilderness Fesitval when joining and Art Macabre session of life drawing.  It was night time and dark and one could not even see the colour of the pens and pencils you were using.  Models ‘dressed’ in animal masks and furs.  Great experience.


Dribbling acrylic paint, like how its gone round the lemons



Using oil pastel for fruits and dilute ink for drips
















Inks and pencil

Exercise: Impasto


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As I have been encouraged to, I have been working with oil paint for the majority of this module.  I understand that there are many gels one can add to Acrylic paint to achieve enhanced impasto effects but very little for oils.  I began the first exercise with only a little Liquin to add to the paint.

My first two, below rather sad.  The first, way too tight, the paint too dry and achieving little.  The second I’d learnt the shapes better and beginning to use the colours better actually mixing on the surface.



Third version, much improved. I was beginning to understand that working this way means feeling your way around the object. As the strokes are visible they are better if they follow the direction of the shape of the object.

DSC_0065 Pleased mostly with the pear as its mix of colours on top of each other are giving a pleasing feel of the shape.




We are then asked to use a pallet knife.  I have already experimented quite a lot in this course with Credit cards, knives and glue spreaders , particularly in the last part, not realising we would be asked to do so at this at this point.

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First attempt, paint a little too dry to flow and the pattern of the paper was quite strong so decide to use larger sheets and gessoed up some A3 sheets of mixed media paper which has no texture of its own.

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This is much better I used a nectarine, pear and lemon and a glue spreader and palette knife.  Using more paint and as its oil there was loads of opportunity for moving it around.  The Pear is a little long, ha ha, but I’m happy with the rest.

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Next, scratching, scrafitto.  Again I have been experimenting and using this technique right from the beginning of the course.  In this attempt I feel the most successful was the lemon, the scratching has given it a nice texture.  In previous experiments I have let the under colour dry first therefore giving a nice “show through” effect.


Using up the remains of the palette and a piece of card I smeared the colours on the paper first. A wooden skewer from the barbecue scratching in the fruit shapes and some very dark green just to define the seperation.


Research Point:The way paint has been applied.


Research point : Look at a range of painting with particular attention to the way the paint has been applied. For example, look at the paintings of Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Van Gogh and the Expressionist painters.  Look at some twentieth-century pastel paintings and make notes about the range of effects you find.


My first thought was how I would be able to view the works closely enough on line, so I headed to the Google cultural institute on line.  This site quite often zooms right in to the paintings.



This first link takes you to Les Bateaux Ammares by Van Gogh.  Not a painting I’d seen before we are so used to the usual pieces by Van Gogh it was nice to find something different. Although there are some of his staccato style of short strokes around the water under the boats it is not as obvious as in say, The Starry Night, which was painted a year later.  The paint is applied very thickly and in parallel strokes and the objects and figures are outlined in a darker colour for emphasis.  The paint is not so thick in this Van Gogh that you cant see the texture of the canvas in some places.

Grainstacks at Giverny inthe Evening Sun by Monet is the next link.



This has such beautiful soft colours, each layered on top of each other which gives an all over first impression of one colour and it is not until you look closer that you can see all the different colours used.  The top most layer looks thick and  as if applied with a dry brush technique as one can see the colours below in the gaps left as the brush moved over the paint underneath.



Muse on Pegasus by Odilon Redon

The most beautiful amount of different colours all in one painting. I believe there is a light ground of maybe more than one colour and then more colour added in patches and daubs and using different size brushes. there also seems to be some colour applied quite dry and some of he larger areas more fluid/wet.


The Sheep by Franz Marc.  Zooming in with the tools on Google Cultural Institues site I find this pain quite thinly applied, to the point in some areas where the canvas clearly shows through.  The white of the canvas has been used as an aid to blending and giving shape to the curves in the painting.


Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne byAmedeo Modigliani.  Looking closely at this painting there are quite clear areas of no paint at all.  Not only is the figure outlined in a very fine line of black paint, but there areas highlighted by leaving the canvas blank such as the area at then end of the blue part of her dress and where the arms enter the sleeves.  The walls have areas of different colours scumbled together but there are no particularly heavy applications here.



Alain Leroy Locke by Winold Reissc. 1925

Interesting portrait done in pastel on board of an influential writer and philosoper of his time.  The pastels are applied in light cross hatching strokes which gradually build up the form. The first layers appear blended and  then the uppermost are left as drawn. The fact that only the face and hand have any colour makes them so much more important here.


Two beautiful figures by Edward Degas and Paula Rego, both executed in pastels.  There is a luminous quality about both of these figures and it seems that pastel is almost as much about what shows through as about the strokes laid down.  The Degas has so many colours when viewed closely but theire interaction from a distance makes the shape of the figure.  The Rego has a consistant grey throughout, this may be done on a grey pastel mat, even the skin retains that grey.

Response to Feedback for Assignment 4

I had a google hangout with my tutor following submission of Assignment 4, unfortunately the camera on my laptop wasn’t working so it was more like a phone call! However I always find these very useful.  This was followed up by a summary of the conversation in report format.

From the conversation and report I understand that my approach is better and there is more invention and confidence in my work which I was very happy to hear.

Feedback is very fair….my reflections…..

  • I understand that there can be a tendency for some of the work in the landscape section to appear “a bit muddy”. I believe this was due to me trying to get to grips with working in oils outside and lack of experience  at this point but can also see how the suggestion of re looking at colour theory and making sure I am aware of clean lines will help.
  • not working on corrugated cardboard going forward because of too much of an underlying texture…yes … it was an experiment that I got a little carried away with and the desire to find cheaper alternatives for experimenting on.
  • changing brush more often….think I was just being lazy.
  • understanding the rhythm of the object at the back of a scene…..I had gone back and altered an area which was clumsy and broke the flow of a tree with a bridge in front….
  • Continue to experiment with ipad as a way of investigating possibilities….yes I was also quite surprised at the outcome of trying this will do more.
  • Continue to experiment with ways of applying paint – loved doing this and happy to keep it up.\
  • Go back and refresh myself on lessons in Drawing1 regarding negative space, structure and tonal range ……certainly a reminder or too would be good, I’ve been aware of being caught up in all the greenery which lead to sludgyness as in point 1.
  • Visual research is going well….I would like to try and get to see more in the flesh, I’ve been very much doing this on the computer due to restraints on time with my daughters wedding…will try and get out more.
  • Posts on the blog not showing properly……I have already going back and checked by looking on another computer…….they seem fine now….will continue to check as I go.



Assignment 4


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The brief asks us to review the paintings produced in this part of the module and I have, first looked back at the work produced. Reading from bottom right backwards to top left I can see how I have been  working on loosening my painting and every now and then I get pulled back into being more literal.  Trying different methods of applying paint and scraffito have featured more and more and the work that was more spontaneous and/or on the spot is far more interesting.  Working quickly seems to produce more interesting results for me, the mark making is bolder and freer and in 2,4,and 8 this produced pictures I am more happy with.

Beginning this assignment I already have an idea of the place I want to portray and how I want to work.   I have recently been looking at Joan Eardley and admiring the bold loose style, something I would like to work towards, but which is alien to me. Again I am using familiar territory, my dog walking takes me to some lovely places, but I want to try to include some sort of man made structure into the landscape. This time of year, June, there is an awful lot of green around so I want to find something else to include and break this up.

Having chosen the spot I first want to get my composition sorted so make my first visit just to gather information. I take not only my sketchbook and home made viewfinder, but also my camera.  Over the course of this part of the module I have found that one can use different elements from both.   Sketches and thumbnails are the most valuable in terms of shapes and composition. The camera shots are just a visual reminder when away from the scene, and as I learnt in the last exercise I can pick out pieces from one photo to add and not slavishly follow the photograph.

Walking around the area I took loads of photos from different angles some to experiment with composition some to remind me of natural shapes as in roots, foliage and reflections in the river.

I then started on some thumbnail sketches just to start getting a feel for the tones.


I had taken one of my bits of card so used this with oil pastels to get a feel for the colours, I was starting to choose a particular view now and so went for a large A2 sketch in charcoal and chalk.


As this was much bigger I became more free with the drawing and felt this a good place to stop. Taking this information home to reflect on and to at least start on a coloured ground for use the next day when I will come back and try to get painting in situ.  There is quite a lot of dog walking traffic at this point, but I will just bring headphones an try to ignore it.  I had a lot of people peering over my shoulder today….bit uncomfortable….but when you get chatting most people are ok and just interested.


Day two, lugged all my stuff back again, much sunnier than yesterday, but still quite a bit of doggy traffic.  The smell of the oil paints kept them away though! Ha Ha.

After working for a couple of hours, I took everything back to the car with the intent of finishing at home.  I was getting bitten, forgot the insect repellant!!!!  Over the course of this module I have learnt also that I work better in quick bursts.  If I slog away at something it never seems to work.  If I take regular breaks the eye sees a lot more when I come back.DSC_0055 (1)DSC_0056

These are not great photos, but they show that when I got it home I started to adjust and scratch into the surface.

The following day the rain set in and so going out again was not a possibility.  I became increasing frustrated with trying to portray the river, in particular and it seemed to defeat me not matter how many time I changed the colour.

During the painting I tried to take my frustration out by making another very quick painting alongside the original.


I am undecided about how I feel about this, but it did the trick in helping me to carry on with the original.


At this point I am going to leave it for a couple of days, partly to dry and partly to have a think.

I have used bubblewrap to try and achieve foliage, however this looks a little weird not quite sitting comfortably with the other style so I might need to change this.

During the course of this module there have been several artists that I have discovered that have influenced how I would like to work.  Pierre Bonnard’s coloured grounds struck me first and since then I have used coloured grounds. In this painting I am pleased with the warmth of the red/orange ground which shows through and gives warmth to the scene. I am also trying to work across the whole scene simultaneously which gives a better feel of togetherness in the scene. I have recently discovered  Joan Eardley.  I would like to be able to paint with the seeming wild abandon that her landscapes have.  Clearly I have not achieved anything like that here however, the field in the background is the closest I have come to this sort of looseness and the foreground with several layers of washes is closer to the sort of feel of several layers that she achieves. I would need to give much more time to the oils and their drying process in the future.

After two days………

Having forced myself not to tinker or indeed look at it for two days, I can see three areas immediately that I want to work on.

First the bridge….there’s something awry with the perspective, so I set about trying to amend this.

Second the foliage is way to small for the size of the picture, the bubble wrap was hopeless, so I picked up a much larger brush and got bolder with the paint.

Thirdly the river.  I went back to my tonal thumbnails and noticed a much darker edge to the water caused by rocks.


Final Painting

I took the painting outside to photograph it. This is a much more realistic picture of the colour.

I am much happier with it now.  The particular areas that pleased me are:

  • I have worked to work across all the canvas with my colours and this has tied the picture together there are elements of all the colours in all the areas.
  • I’m glad I sorted out the perspective, its not perfect but much better.
  • I love that not one plank of wood is the same as another, I’ve scratched and played with the colours a lot which I hope makes it look worn and not new.
  • The warmth of the ground colour gives the scene a glow it did not have in life, but a sense I hope of a pleasant place to be.

Next time….

  • Be bolder still.  I feel that this was not the scene to attempt wilder painting.  I had wanted a manmade feature amongst the landscape, but the fact that I chose to paint the bridge right across the canvas limited the attempt I’d hoped to make on being even looser.  I became a little obsessed with getting it right and therefore tightened up.
  • I have learnt more about oils by having to work bigger.  The drying a little frustrating, but when glazing one colour over another I enjoy the interesting depth that can be achieved and in the foreground of this picture.  I would like to follow this up.
  • Although the drying time is long, this makes oils easier to play with whilst wet which made the scraffito fun.  I used a pointed pallet knife and held it at the very edge of the handle with made the marks unpredictable…..more.
  • I don’t enjoy foliage :(….my colours were not considered enough, and the marks rather timid.

I have added a few shots at the bottom of this to show close up areas of the piece.