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Create a simple narrative, involving one or several human figures, and produce a painting that gives the viewer the clearest possible idea of what’s happening.

I really wanted to go experimental this time and push myself to do something out of my comfort zone.  I had also just received my copy of Vitamin P2:New Perspectives in Painting and spent some time looking through and reading about several contemporary artists I had not been exposed to before.  I was taken by a Chinese artist called Li Song Song.

His work which can be viewed here


He does work from photographs of current or recent historical news events.  His pallet for the work is quite muted, beginning in black and white and tones of grey.  Then colour is added in the form of rectangle patches over the work.  This draws the eye to different areas of the work as you scan the different colours.

I had to work from a photograph as no models available so I chose an image from the internet.  Three women chatting over coffee.








The first step I took was to do a blind contour drawing. I do enjoy the outcome of contour drawings.  This seemed to turn a friendly chat into a bitchy conversation.




I then photocopied the drawing and looked at the potential of colour.  Would it be possible to produce this project as a contour drawing, would this be the correct thing to do or am I expected to produce a “correct” image.  In the picture on the right I used coloured squares to link the faces to their intentions.  The pink squared ladies intent on the ipad and the lady on the right looking at them for their reactions to what she is showing them.


Then I did another quick contour drawing on top of some pre coloured squares, but this did not have any effect worth considering, so I abandoned that idea.

Deciding to try this in a bigger format I did another drawing in a Sharpie, which I had recently discovered were quite useful pens.  I find if I draw straight away in pen…as opposed to pencil, although not a correct drawing ,there is more sense of freedom to it. Also as I was planning to paint in oils this would not be seen.

I wish I had taken pictures at the early stage, but I got cross with it and totally immersed and forgot to do this.

I began by putting paint on with a credit card, thinking of the Li Song Songs rectangles and intending to link the faces, but it wasn’t working and I ended up just slapping paint on. I left the painting and went to bed.


The next morning………looking at it again…..there is something that I really like about this.  It does tell the story……  the woman on the left is spouting forth and the others are listening, maybe not too keenly.  I am very conflicted at this stage, it wasn’t what I was aiming for but there is something here….do I carry on with it?  If I refine it too much I will not be producing something different, yet if I don’t finish certain details like the arms and the faces a bit does it looks amateurish…  Its certainly much much freer and expressive than I have achieved so far.

The brief does say. Use all of the resources of colour, tone, shape and line to create a painting that goes beyond the merely figurative to convey a simple narrative. 

So, I dipped in again with some definition of the background and tweaking the faces to get a little more reality.img_1859

I am much happier with this. This does tell a story. They are having a good old gossip over coffee.  I have not defined the hands very well but feel that the faces and heads tell the story.

The final tweaking of the background was actually done with a glue spreader, making that three different implements for applying paint.

What I learnt.

  • Looking a other artists pushes me to attempt different style, techniques and using different ways of looking at things.  Although this bears little resemblance to the artist I started out looking at, it did make me look at loosening up at lot.
  • There does not need to be massive amounts of fine detail to express something.  The expressions on these faces, although painted basically do let us know whats going on.
  • I am capable of pushing myself further……even if it goes through a stage of being scary.
  • Mixing colours on the page can get a bit muddy if you don’t leave enough time between layers.  I was a bit too impatient again here and have a rather dull pallet.

Final image.

Cropped it and think this works better.



Watkins, N. (1993) Vitamin P2. London: Phaidon Press.