Reflection on take two influences

I struggled with this to begin with. I understand why Emma wanted an earlier tutorial as once I had that I had a much clearer idea of where I was going.
I knew I wanted to choose Monet as an influence. I have always loved the way he painted and the first time I went into the Orangerie to see his waterlilies I sat in the middle and cried. I’ve never really been able to put my finger on why that might have been too. Perhaps It was the scale. Not sure I ever expected them to be that large. The detail, yet vagueness and the beautiful use of colour that is intense close up, but blends from a distance. My pastel drawings at school were often likened to the Fauves and I could see an element of that in Monet’s work. Colours included that would never be there in your head, but you can sometimes see in light refraction and bring alive the picture.
At the introductions course in Barnsley, I introduced my felt pieces by saying at I could use colour in them in a way that I never could in paint. This is very true. I struggle layering paint, it’s never wet enough or dry enough and I really struggle with mark making. Everything needs to be replicated in exactly the same way as I see it and that can, at times, mean in minutiae detail using pencils or something similar when I can’t use a brush.
I knew I had a couple of photos of waterlilies in one of the ornamental ponds at Brighton pavilion, so decided to use them as source. I also know that I struggle with being way too literal with my work. I wanted to try to find a way to make these freer without my eye taking over.
Another aspect I find interesting about Monet is his poor eyesight. Hearing some theory a while ago that he might also have severe myopia as well as cataracts. Having been severely myopic myself, I completely understand why that might be relevant to his work and be where some of the impressionism might have come from. I had laser surgery 3 years ago so I could function without my glasses as everything without them was a thick fog. I was a danger to myself without them and they caused me many physical problems because they were so heavy. It is interesting that this is where I see abstractism coming from in me. The fog that I used to see. Maybe that is why I am often obsessed with minutiae. Because I can now see it!
Monet is someone I admire and aspire to paint like. Rothko is what I would have seen without my glasses! Ooh, it’s quite scary putting all these bits together. Emma asked me to look at Rothko as an artist and something I saw in his work rang true with me.
In some respects I would quite like to go back to seeing through my eyes with the myopia and astigmatism (not permanently obviously!) but for the purposes of abstraction.
When chatting with Emma we also established that my affiliation with the landscape is NOT about the landscape, but the colours I see in it. There are many things that point me towards this. One main one is how much I love Venice. It is because it is so colourful. I often have trouble with landscapes, in fact anywhere, without a blue sky. This seems to make all of the colours come alive and without it my images seem flat. I could take the same photo – one on a sunny day with a blue sky and one on a grey day and be completely disinterested in the grey one. It’s because the colours are not singing to me. I remember being devastated at Kennedy Space Centre that it was such a grey day when we went there and the rocket garden looked flat. I wanted rockets punched out against a stunning blue sky. This also reminds me why I loved the Keys in Florida. The colours. The colour of the sea against the sky and the White sand and the sun making it sing. I can just about cope with Venice and Verona as they have a lot of colour in them that sings without needing the blue sky to make them punchy.I was looking at my bathroom (beach) photos this morning as I got out of the shower and they are all about colour. How interesting. Would never have thought that about me.
So back to the waterlilies. I dug out the photos and started to crop chunks of them with interesting colour compositions. And then blur them. I also started to blow them up dramatically and take screen grabs of the now pixellated images giving an instant cubist effect. On works’ machine, which has CS4 on it, they now show small gridlines between each pixel, but on mine, with an older version, the squares butt up against one another. This certainly has some merit to trying as squares (like Dali’s painting of Lincoln) as well as a way of pulling me out of literal representation.
Emma and I also discussed my pictures of Skye and particularly the rock on Elgol beach. This image was also about colour as I had an obsession with the golden coloured lichen contrasted with the grey lichen and black rock.
While I was researching Monet I looked at one of his pictures of London in the fog and there was a patch of colour in the sky I found really fascinating. So I decided to have a go at felting it – overlaying thin layers of fibres as a way to replicate his impressionistic feel. This worked really well as an abstract piece. The colours were formless and the piece is solely about colour. It is very hard to be precise in felt, so it is much easier to be abstract in it. But in it, through the layering, I can see all the colours that Monet placed in the original, even if it isn’t a literal representation of the image.
I then looked at all of the images I have of Skye and cropped them all into a square shape – I currenty have a lot of small square canvavses for experimentation. In them I can see what makes them interesting and how I would want to present them abstractly. The image I picked I thought would be really good to do as there were clear bands of colour. BUT it seems that my literal eye just won’t allow it! I began by dropping down colour like I would have expected, but form and highlights kept coming back into it all the way through. The mountains were really pleasing. Mixing paint on the canvas and suggesting form with the shapes was really good. I like the sea too. But once I got onto the boulders, my literal eye kicked back in. I was trying to do them in angled squares to suggest form, without being too literal, but they did become blocks. And I had s similar problem with the front area. The painting, as a literal one, became very flat and as an abstract became too detailed. However, I was keeping it light and fun as requested, and instead concentrated on mark making and experimentation. So in that respect I am thrilled with the outcome.
I wonder if the abstract would be better a different way. If I were to felt the image FIRST as I have no problems making literal to abstract in felt, and were then to paint the felted piece. Using felt as a sketchpad. My time is used up on take two influences, but my next step might well be to make a felted piece, with embellishments, from this painting. And next time, try doing it the other way round.
I tried bluring the images, but they then lacked clarity and looked confusing to me. Maybe in time I will be able to do this and it will be enough, but right now I need to work on abstracting the colour from the literal, so felting as a step is a start.
When Emma and I spoke she said I was quite accomplished at painting and was surprised I had done so few canvases, considering what I had achieved in those few. So I was really encouraged by this to try more painting. I think the abstractism and painting work well together, and the felting I do see as something I can do in parallel. Abstract colour bases with embellishments as details would make a good flip site and probably produce more rounded art textiles than the craft type pieces I create at the moment.
So my next trick will be to try out felting the painting and as a way to progress, see how these work for me and if they might become a new process.
I did have a lot of fun with the piece and because I did I was less worried about whether it was working or failing and used the whole thing more as an experiment in process and production than on concentrating on the finished piece. As it turns out, there are some sections of the finished piece I am truly delighted with, though not the whole. But this is something I regard as as success and has given me an enormous amount of confidence going forward.


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