By observing the development of the top right hand shape or form, you can see how I am adjusting the composition. I have placed the image from my work yesterday above and some previous versions below. From last week to this week ,this form has gradually shrunk and then moved to the edge. The main hanging form has also shrunk to the left and become more resolved. The fire which began as a few strokes of white paint has moved to the left and become larger. If I can sort most of the composition out now then it will be less work for me later.
I’m also thinking a lot about tone at this stage and how it impacts the overall composition. For example I have darkened the bottom left hand corner so as to get the observing eye (being directed down by the strong verticals on the left) to swing from the left bottom corner back to the fire. In turn, the central hanging form catches the eye leads it up and to the left, where it is directed down by the trees. A little visual loop which will be joined by a loop through the figure later. The form on the upper right echoes the central form and directs out of that rectangular shape of the background landscape back into the painting, it is getting close but may not be fully resolved until the figure and background are painted.
A quick note that the figure is hovering over a river, now with one foot splashing in the water. The fire also sits on the water. The forms in the air are taken from drying tents that are hanging. I’ll write more about my inspiration soon.
The river is being painted mainly in transparent glazes, using medium, while the upper foliage and sky is being painted with mainly opaque paint and less medium. All the rest is mix of both approaches. Some parts of the edge of the river are reminding me of the work of Paul Cézanne, of who I am big fan. Although interesting to see this quotation appear it was not intended and is probably a direct result of the big brush strokes and technique that I am using at this stage.
I’ve just begun laying out an initial underpainting. It’s made up of several elements having begun with an image from photo of a river and large rocks, where we camped and swam last summer. Then I painted the images of tents that were hanging to dry (the blue) after that trip and the pencil pines which line one side of our back garden (top left). The figures were then added from my imagination. Whereas most of my work of the last years would have the figure grounded, I want these and all the other elements to be more like collage although with careful consideration of how they all fit together. As with my little experiment of the vase a few weeks ago, I would like to push the fracturing of the space further and the range of technique also. Hopefully this also gives the possibility of developing the concept and narrative a bit further.
I’ve used oils with a mix of 3/4 mineral spirits as the solvent and 1/4 stand oil although it was all done in a flurry so that ratio might have varied. Rather than just one colour, I used a limited palette of Raw Umber, French Ultramarine, Ochre/Raw Sienna and a cool red. These were what had been left on my palette, so not a lot of planning there. The river is fairly limited in colour but complex so a little colour helps differentiate the forms at an early stage.
This is the first time I have documented my process so it will become clear how many changes a work can go through. At this point I will begin working up everything apart from the figures and use a model to paint the figure properly once I am sure of the composition.
The two works above are a result of my new year’s decision to play for a period of time. I have enjoyed working in a more painterly, looser manner as I try to let go of what I was working on last year (Odd Nerdrum inspired space and textures) and allowing myself to breath new ideas into the work. These works are painted from objects on a little table I set up in the studio. In this case a vase, seaweed fragment and then a figurine.
I like painting from life, it allows me to paint what I see and I tend to do this more naturally and fluidly than if I use a photographic image. I don’t find myself second guessing the photo for colour, distortions or how space ‘would’ have looked. I know I won’t always be able to work without a photo but it really helps if I don’t.
The image of the vase plays with space quite loosely, allowing the objects to sit in the composition in an irregular way that is geared towards how the objects are perceived in space. The objects float in and out of focus, or become more or less painterly dependant on how they sits together overall. I would like to bring these qualities into my existing work although when I look back, similar elements have been slipping into the work for a long time as you can see in the the work below. Perhaps then, I am reverting back to what has been an interest all along.
I’ve been working on this painting since early to mid last year. I think it is close to finished although I have been spending some time adjusting tones on the woolly coat of the lamb and adjusting lighting.
I began this painting by laying a heavily textured layer down for the wool of the lamb. This early layer was mixed with Liquin, an Alkyd resin medium which acts as a drying accelerator. The purpose of this is that if I was to put a thick layer in oils down first and if if I wanted to put thinner coats down later, I would be breaking the ‘lean to fat’ principle. By accelerating the drying of a thick under layer, I reduce the chance of a thiner layer that is applied over the top, cracking.
I am not sure if this process produced the result I was after. I found that the under texture dominated all my painting afterwards and it was difficult to manipulate the paint into the more subtle textures I required. The mid layers of the painting therefore felt like they took a long time to resolve and at some stage I scraped back some parts of that under layer/texture. With the under texture dominating I also found the more subtle description of the coat of the lamb, the little shadow of the crevices of the wool, difficult to describe effectively.
I think the final result has worked out well with a softness in the right places. You can see the under texture coming through on the right just above the leg in the image below and you can see the many layers which build texture and tone to give a sense of the wool and the form of the body.
You can see the same elements in the description of the head, the under texture being present on the forehead but the later layers describing the form overall.
This approach is inspired in part by the working method of Odd Nerdrum who works with a long process of laying down, scraping and sanding. His work also has a mythical quality, often described within an invented landscape. I loosely used some photo sources for the animals but invented the landscape, pose and lighting. All this invention also added time to the making of the piece but I hope that it is imbued with a iconic aura only really achievable through a long process.
Below are some of the images begun this year. Little playthings derived from painting some kitsch objects which I’ve placed out on my table. After a lot of tight painting last year I see the only way forward as to be playful for a time. The paintings may still end up being worked up considerably.
I’ve had success with the photos by using an iPad. Bye for now.
This is where I do my work, it is my personal studio where I run to follow a little golden thread of an idea and then pour hundreds and thousands of hours into seeing it come into fruition.
As some of you know, I teach in our art school, Melbourne Art Class and administer it with Lauren part of the week. That is at another wonderful studio in Richmond. This studio here however, is where I hide, where I try and where sometimes, for a moment I see a glimpse of something wonderful.
I have always considered myself a private person and as you can probably tell from my website, I only like to show finished work. However, as I teach painting and drawing, I’ve become aware of how much I emphasise the need to understand the creative process with all its multiplicity of directions, its searching and its setbacks. I would like to open up that conversation a little by bringing you into my studio and showing you what I do. That means showing you some of the things I do that don’t work out, my little deviations and experiments. Hopefully, some of the technical knowledge that I teach will become evident in my own process.
This year, I will be painting three days a week, so I’d like to aim for at least a post a week about what is occurring in my practice. My focus will be on the process I go through to get to a finished art work.
At the moment you can see a Still Life on my easel. I have set up a little table in the corner, near the window which overlooks a narrow street. On that table I have placed various objects and I am experimenting with working from life but also collaging the image so that it is spatially ambiguous or at least, interesting. This ties in to my interest in perception and space. I’ll talk more about this painting as it develops.
I hope you like the black and white images, I’m using a fairly simple phone camera so the images looked much better in monotone.