Studio 8th Feb

I’ve managed to drag myself away from the Winter Olympics today (particularly the slope style – although the Luge is about to start!) long enough to blog about yesterday’s studio session.

One thing I did learn yesterday is, if it starts to go wrong, STOP. Particularly if your attention is being pulled elsewhere (Sochi…). Pushing through it is OK if it starts to pick up. If it continues to go downhill, stop and revisit at a later date.

So yesterday’s session was concentrating on scale and testing out stripes and abstracts at differing sizes on the boards than I had done previously. I began with 2 small squares (approx 15 cm) on which I had slightly rounded the edges – this was only done because the corners got a little battered because this MDF was very thin (about 3mm), although the effect was quite nice. I would only round these corners slightly (not as much as Stewart has on his) in order to keep the corners intact on such a thin panel (should I ever use this thickness again).

I used the same colours on these panels but used a cool and warm emphasis. I don’t mind the scale of these ones, but I’m not sure I would like them any smaller. However, this size are good for grouping and making diptychs and triptychs etc. Although I probably still prefer the sizes I used for the last module. I would be interested in text trying out larger versions of these (I have some 60cm panels that it would be good to try out).

They are quite cutesy and the rounded corners make them quite personable – which is appropriate for the intimate size. At the larger sizes, where the colour and board itself make more of an impression, I think the corners should remain sharp – to keep the appropriate ‘distance’ to the viewer. I would still prefer these larger – even if just a little larger – than these ones.

The next ones I tried a tiny and small board for a long, thin, striped painting. I also tried a much larger (also very thick – 9mm – I don’t like this thickness of board – it is far too chunky and clunky and hard to work with physically) board to do a simple abstract akin to the crops I made from last week’s experiments. Also this was a way to use up paint – it is hard to mix the correct colours to match my diary in very small quantities. As the colours are often only used once or are continually turned into the next colour closest to this one in the spectrum, there is often a large amount of wasted paint. The plus side of using acrylic is that it dries very quickly and allows me to retain sharp edges and work in a continual session – the downside is that the paletted paints also dry very quickly that they can’t be saved for future sessions.

I have also discovered that using the ruler on the board has been more problematic than on canvas (either boards or stretched). I am unsure why this is – but think it is likely to do with the drying. When I place the ruler on the board with any pressure, it pulls off the paint that has previously been laid down – although the edges created are much more precise and preferable to faffing with masking tape. On canvas I can dry the paint easily with the hairdryer. I try the same with the boards and it clearly takes longer to dry – with the paint being absorbed into the emulsion base coat. I have not put PVA in with the emulsion, but realise this may be required. In a later painting I tried (that involved much water) the emulsion ‘melted’ into the acrylic. Whilst this MIGHT be interesting, it wasn’t something I was trying for! On the smaller one of these boards, I tried painting a watered layer of PVA on top of the emulsion before I painted on it. Although this made no/little difference to the ‘pull-off’ of the paint, it did stop the emulsion from mixing into washes I made. So in the future I will have to seal the boards I think. The next ones I do, I will try sealing before I start. Steward suggested using undercoat – not sure if this has some form of PVA/sealer in it – so may also try this.

The above experiment leads me to believe that the ruler issue has to do with paint that has not quite dried and a damp ruler. I wipe the ruler with a damp cloth after each stripe painted, but don’t dry it. This has not been an issue on canvas. However, if there are patches of slightly thicker paint, these will dry more slowly and probably attract better to a damp ruler than a dry one. Use the hairdryer more thoroughly; the sealing of the basecoats should help the paint stay on top and be easier to dry without being absorbed through to the board and drying the ruler should help with these issues. Patching these small holes is much easier than trying to fix a splodgy edge!

The smallest one is just too cutesy and may as well be a photo. The larger of these 2 is the smallest I would like to take these sorts of paintings. I am happy to decrease the height and make a much longer board (which will be something I will test with my next round of boards) where I can still retain varying and larger widths of colours. I am quite excited about testing out these ‘slices’ as they will create a ‘canvas’ I would not be able to attain with a stretched canvas.

Below is the abstract I tried to create whilst I was making the above boards. It focuses on the colours at the right of these – and I had to create new rules for them. The ordering is retained in the laying down of the colours (although there is some striping still anyway) they remain painted in order with the leftmost colour from the diary at the bottom and the rightmost at the top.

As a whole I don’t like it. Again, I prefer the right hand side in a much closer crop. What is interesting to me is that I prefer all of these abstracts on a smaller scale – and that is something that Stewart and I discussed – that abstracts don’t have to be monumental. There is something about the intricacies that convey the intimacy of my diary in these. I don’t want to change the marks – all I would like to do is scale it up just as it is. And why would I do that? Particularly since the right hand side is most interesting close up and looking deep into the colours. I feel this would be lost at a larger scale. I have been bothered about using my diary for generalised ‘abstracts’ because I was worried about keeping the order and, therefore, the integrity of my diary. But applying the colours in order feels OK. There is something about these crops that also ‘read’ as Stewart and I discussed. The way the eye moves around the space… these are beginning to show a consistent pattern and composition which I should/could take notice of. I particularly like the sliver of layered colours at the right, the play of sharp and natural edges and the solid/reveal of the gold. I would probably varnish this too – or possibly the scumbled section… but this may already have enough interest.

I am interested in creating a bunch of small, intimate paintings in this fashion, but feel I need to continue with the stripes as one can feed the other and bring elements of one into the other (so perhaps they eventually merge into one way of working).

I left these to dry in the kitchen on the airer (keeping them in sight as Stewart suggested). One interesting thing is that part of the kitchen is lit by LED spotlights. A lovely bright, warm light. This has completely sealed it for me that I want my paintings to be spotlit. I deliberately took some photos with ambient normal light and spotlit – as Caroline and I suspected the spotlit ones are like jewels. This may prove a challenge if I make some which are very long, but am sure this is achievable with multiple light. Notice how the colours really ‘ping’.

I was also reminded of some monoprinting work I had done (below) when it was ‘liked’ on Facebook. Next step should include some scumbled backgrounds with the addition of striped small section. I anticipate these will be painted on watercolour paper and stuck onto the board. I will them glaze it into place.


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