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July 2014 assessment portfolio

In tutor report 5 my tutor  commented; “2.5 m2 total of canvass is a lot of canvass on which to sustain meaningful activity. The danger being that the paintings can slip into becoming arenas for acting out emotions, rather than vehicles for conveying coherent visual ideas.” While I believed in the Modern Fossil submission was rigorous and thoroughly researched and documented; I felt I needed to honour my tutors advice and think again. And so I did.

Cultural Phenomenon: Distorted Perspectives:  Selfie Obsession

After I completed my studies and was signed off by my tutor I became interested in the phrase “Cultural Phenomenon”. I thought of social media as a basis for art with social commentary upon private and public persona. Specifically the current trend for taking selfies and sharing. This got me thinking about self perception, distortion, cultural tribes through peer pressure and voyeurism. It seemed like an fraught with “early overt sexualisation of youth”.

As a parent of a son (16) and daughter (14) this concerns me. It seems that children and young adults have no perception of personal space. The world mediated through technology has eroded the distinction between public and private persona. The notion of what is acceptable online  behaviour that would be questionable in real life. I note another trend that follows the argument. That of shopping in your pyjamas due to the popularisation of the one-sie outfit. I witnessed a family flying out to Mexico from Glasgow in their one-sies with prudish concern. This broadcasting intimacy is addressed below.


I began my research and found that technology was developing products due to a need created by the selfie craze.

How to selfie

The article attributes vanity and the driving force behind the compulsion to selfie. Technology has caught up with demand by creating a range of products to improve the quality of you photo since most are low resolution and badly framed. The desire to share your image is greater than the need to market yourself well. Extension sticks that you carry around and apps to remind you to take selfies at predetermined intervals seem absurd. Those who wish to self promote need to become more self aware. It seems an ironic dichotomy.

Why selfie?

The article tries to create a rationale for the development of the phenomenon and link this idea to the portrayal of self since Renaissance times. It is a conscious act of manipulation how one wishes to be perceived by ultimately a global audience. It is essentially dishonest since the imaged is staged and the author of the photo has an agenda in self promotion. A body that is not photographed and shared has no value. Therefore the act of selfie taking is validation that your imagined self image is the correct one and approved of by an invisible online jury. We can be heroes- everyday.

I needed a philosophic opinion on the need to take selfies and the role it fulfills in life and was interested in this article as it argued a feminist reading.


The article mentions the camera as a weapon to claim ownership over personal representation. I take from this that the author of the selfie is active and not a passive objectified, often sexual entity. The subject is author of their own narrative ( picorial autobiography) broadcasting intimacy that, in my opinion, accerates the process of making friends. This kind of intimacy is built on trust established over shared history. All this is alarmingly bypassed through the online agency. I believe it is narcissism, but an anxious one that needs others to affirm its worth through the collection of comments and views. This redefines the meaning of friends that can be collected on social sites like children trading cards in the playground.

I continued to update my info

Selfie and consummerism

The article refers to product placement of life enhancers linked to the lifestyles of  celebrities. Selfies are always in the media but their content is not necessarily newsworthy.

Developing a vision for the finished work.

Friends (online and actual) redirected attention to other sites.

At the same time I became interested in Modigliani.

Lady in a collar, 1917

Lady with a collar, or Anna Zborowska, 1917 (oil on canvas) by Modigliani, Amedeo (1884 - 1920)

viewed in

accessed 21/5/14

I admire the unevenness of the eyes, the zoomed look that the face dominates the scene and only hints of the room are given. The subject is female and staring slightly past the viewer.

In later searches through the net, youtube, I stumbled upon an artist whose method of painting, and palette matched my mental image of what I was striving to achieve. I watched more and discoved I had as much of a liking for Paul Cumes as I did for Modigliani.

Paul Cumes

I really admired the unfussy directness of his painting approach. Cumes has attempted a realistic approach from observed subject. I, however, wish to work from selfies available online. The point I wish to make is that you don’t own the image once it has been posted. I intend to deviate from the photographic reference but adhere strictly to the pose. I know I am going to select distorted images.

What artists do all day Michael Craig Martin

What artists do all day- Michael Craig Martin

I needed to find a look for my body of work or work of bodies. Writing in retrospect I came to Michael Craig Martin’s work late on in the process but significantly so. I like the flat plasticised look he achieves with large expanse of matte surface. There is a blandness and emptiness that is important to my message. Colour is important and I see magenta and mint and stripes as recurring themes.

Bit strips

I also was intrigued by the flatness of bit strips another popular cultural phenomenon. The cartoon look was important to the message as it suggests childishness and this will hopefully jar with the sexual innuendo of adults sharing intimacy.

I was conscious to use what I learned but to develop my own vision. And so I did a lot of preliminary drawing.  Cartoons, thumbnail compositions and practise drawing real faces and expression particularly focussing on eyes and lips as expressive tools. I called this section the Olga Project


Distorted perspective: Selfie obsession

1. Like Me

The title is deliberately ambiguous. Question is implied but a command is the strongest reading.

Selfie obsession underpaintings

Selfie obsession under paintings Like Me

My method involved selecting images by searching the term selfie in my browser. I sketched specific poses.


selling self; Like Me

It was important that the subject was holding the camera as this has the effect of distorting the body shapes. And, of course, body image is an important issue to young females. The drawing was scaled up by gridding on a bed of magenta acrylic from a spray can. The proportions did not match exactly and the process of distortion began.


Like Me

I deliberately chose to use ready made flesh tone straight from the tube. I used griffin alkyd oils with liquin original as a vehicle. The top down view makes the breasts unusually large while simultaneously shrinking the waist. I learned this from a teenaged friend of my daughter who I interviewed for insider research.

interior design

Like Me: interior design

I am having enormous difficulty drawing the “duck-faced” pout even in this bit strip cartoon style. However, this is the under painting largely completed using griffin alkyd oils ready to switch over to Artisan oils with fast drying medium. I believe the piece has to retain a bold contour line to maintain the “bit strip” character necessary to juxta pose the childish with the over sexual nature of the Lolita selfie. Even if the subject is of age. This one is based on a selfie by Miley Cyrus who is deliberately struggling to shake off her Disney childhood. In doing so, this once role model is mocked by her fan base who see through her actions. The cartoon style of the adult theme helps suggest the early overt sexualisation of youth.

Glazed expression- distortion correction

distortion correction

Like Me: distortion correction

Some feminists unkindly hinted that I was pursuing Lolita’s and that projects an agenda on me that I reject. Miley was 21 in this photo and so the cartoon simplification as helped to misdirect the feminists. My strategy was therefore successful but the notion that an overly strong reaction to this picture constitutes a “Distorted Perspective” in the viewer- may be lost.

Completed piece

Distorted perspectives: Selfie Obsession 1

Like Me

I deliberated long and hard about outlining this first piece. My friend Mark Lomax, director of Contemporary art at Inverness College, insisted I should not. While it may lessen the work, it strengthens the message. This first piece itself will act as the role model for the rest as the colour scheme is defined at the outset.


2. Rate Me

The self-objectification of the female as a sexual object is implied.


Rate Me: selfe

Initially I did not mind how badly drawn the image was. The nose mouth area is foreshortened with a distorted big head. Narcissism intended.


Rate Me: tattoo?

I deliberated about adding a tattoo such as the reference had. This would make an adult reading as children are generally not inked up. It would have given me technical development opportunities as I need to practise glazing with oils.


Rate Me

The cast shadow w was deep violet or diox purple. I glazed skin tones over to dampen the effect although in stages I liked the pop art citrus effect in some.

Sleeping Bag

Rate Me: Sleeping Bag

I had another attempt at glazing by adding differing amounts of liquin to the paint and then worked more opaque mixes to model the form. Since I only came up with the series titles right at the very end; I explored innuendo further intending this as sleeping bag. I was trying to pronounce moral judgement on my victims.

Distorted perspective 2:

Rate Me

One of my fellow student commented:

Jennifer Wallace Aaaaargh – the colour on the face! Adrian, you’ve made me start looking even closer at the faces of young people (when I sit in trains, cafes, etc), and I can’t believe what they’re currently choosing to do. I find these images soooooo disturbing! You’ve more than succeeded.

I began to make a feature of the eyes in a quasi-manga rendering.

3. Poke Me

Double entendre intended to create ambiguity and to challenge viewer assumptions.


Poke Me

The poses suggested a sexually aggressive and confident female. In the early stages, the chin is more pronounced and masculine. This accounts for an assertive reading.

Polarising views with flesh tint

Poke Me: Polarising views with flesh tint

I felt I was beginning to find my voice by working in series. Consequently I began to experiment and move things around. My tutor gave me many helpful quotes to mull over. One relates to not knowing what the finished product would be since paintings evolve and the finished piece is discovered.

developing skin tones

Poke Me: developing skin tones

Consequently, this piece had numerous alterations. The bagpuss cushion had to go.

Re-modelling the model

Poke Me: Re-modelling the model with a minty top

I tried glazing with blues, greens and violets to give more interesting skin tones. I noticed at the time that I was tending towards greater realism and checked myself. The flat rendering was to pronounce upon the flat and vacuous nature of the self obsessed. I desire to burst their bubble.

selfie 3

Poke Me

All through these pieces I was content to let the paint speak. And so the paint was applied thickly in places and scumbled over. I expect these pieces to be viewed at a distance and that the accumulation of mark making would merge from afar. I am also satisfied that in places the under-painting shows through and makes the piece much more visually interesting. This is something I admire in the work of Bonnard and Vuillard.

4. Friend Me

I am quite sympathetic to this one. It is interesting how colour selection, paint application and pose all work upon the reading and reaction to a work.


Friend Me: selfie obsession underpainting

My method is evident. I chose ready made flesh tint to give the sickly, fake reading that ” got to” my fellow student Jennifer. I could have mixed my own master recipe from cad red, viridian, yellow ochre and fast drying white. I opted for fast drying white when I discovered how slowly the sheen on the eyes was taking even with alkyd and liquin as an accelerant.


Friend Me: Insecure?

I used sgrafitto technique to add texture to a piece. I noticed that on the lingerie of all, if I applied paint thickly early on, when I scumbled glazed the pigment gathered and pooled in interesting textures. Similarly if a scraped with a knife the peaks and troughs pulled at the new paint layers.


Friend Me: insecure

I had been glazing up to this point when I got adventurous. The dried image is a bit more deckled than intended and I know that controlling the effect is dependant on lifting off rather than smearing on. I read in Smith’s Artists’ Handbook several passages on glazing as used in indirect painting techniques. It is my intention to explore this further in later studies with OCA.


Friend Me

This pose exemplifies for me the pun intended by the series title distorted perspective. 1. Distorted perspective of thos so obsessed that posting their image has become an obsessive compulsion. 2. The fish eye effect and distortion of bodily parts through badly framed images. 3. The over reaction of the viewer to the apparent sexualisation of young women.


Friend Me

There are better greens to complement the cad red deep; but I do believe it provides a segue to mediate the skin tones. The light source provides interesting shadows to model the forms and the extended arms seem to be offering a hug.


Friend Me

The eyes were glazed with a phthalo green as a complement to the skin tones. I wanted to glaze the public area with burnt umber but felt that would overstate the sexual in this piece. The cleavage was enough.

Selfie no.4

Friend Me

I am particularly pleased with the glaze on her lips that allows the modelled form to influence the transparent layer to model the form.

5. Share Me

Again an apparently unambiguous reading will catch out the viewer. All the titles are actually innocent. Friend, like, rate, share and poke are all functions of sharing open to the users of social media.


Share Me: underpainting

The magenta really helps you see colours. I think I will use this priming again when composing landscapes. The drawing in burnt umber is correctible but I learned that a fairly thicker mix is needed as the acrylic base was temperamental.


Share Me: Fast drying white

I had to learn the fat over lean principle. What is not stated is that it is possible to add lean over lean and fat over fat without adding increased amounts of oil to the mix.


Share Me: Naple Yellow and interior

Here, I tried to incorporate artisan water-mixable oils with griffin alkyds. I used stand oil with zest it as I mixed these with zinc white from standard oils. This was to explore the compatibility claims from Winsor and Newton.


Share Me : Playmate

The luscious mix allowed wet on wet painting that was dry by the following morning. If I had not chosen figurative work, I could see the wet in wet oil method really working if painting landscapes like Chaim Soutine. Rich, juicy and visceral painting could be highly rewarding. Wet in wet was used to model the bust in particular working from dark to light.


Share Me: playmate eyes

I deviated from the reference by adding platinum highlights since blondes have more fun; the title, share me, would aid the incorrect innuendo.


Selfie no.5

Share Me:


I do hope the innuendos will encourage a mis-reading of the pieces. They are actually about sharing of self on the internet. I hope the mis-reading will encourage the viewer to challenge their own assumptions, as the over ardent feminists did who decided to project their own agenda onto mine.  Above all, at the conclusion of my HE level 4 studies with OCA, I have learned to love oil painting and the expressive potential it affords to literally fleshing out meaningful mental activity.



Part 5: Assignment 5 Final submissions

After numerous experiments in my sketchbook I decided the most fruitful line of enquiry was the Modern Fossil. The umbrella heading would permit great freedom of expression but also facilitate experiments with acrylic media and techniques. I decided to blog the development of the pieces. My tutor report contained recommended viewings that were exciting , stimulating and liberating. In particular Terry Setch’s work includes unusual media that I was encouraged to be bold and extend my comfort zone. It was also apparent that each artist in my recommended viewing believed in their message and so Modern Fossil explores the notions of death and legacy in a symbolic way.


Submission overview

Submission overview

I got so absorbed in experimenting with acrylic techniques I looked up to see I was running out of time to meet my deadline. As artists are we not meant to be engrossed by what interests us? That is the essence of conviction and if you cannot convince yourself how can you convince the viewer. And so I began the final submission well and truly outside my comfort zone but with focus and determination to see it through. I felt the process was tight and the thinking rigorous and though anxious about the vision; the research had furnished me with a repertoire of symbolic acts and techniques to make art that was coherent, experimental yet planned.

Step 1: Gesso and jointing compound

Panel 1

The gesso was liberally applied with a knife and sometimes with a roller as this gives textural interest instantly. Also. I realised that the canvass would be treated quite aggressively and the gesso seals and binds. As soon as the gesso touches a blank canvass, possibilities suggest themselves and the painting act becomes exciting.

Panel 2

Several layers of gesso were needed and each new layer is influenced by the layers below. However, the jointing compound is needed to allow heavy textural work and permits sculptural treatment. It is very responsive and picks up movement and hesitation in the hand. It was applied to the canvass as I responded directly to fossil images that intrigued me While the process was identical on each panel; I wanted different approaches to distinguish them. I do not want to create a recipe for formula art. Shells, fish and lizard forms were highly suggestive. This is ancient element and the act of smearing very primal.

Panel 3

I have learned that parallel lines speak to me in a way I can barely express. There is something primitive and yet sophisticate. The primitive suggest traces of Nasca lines and sophisticated in the precision of printed circuit boards. The symbolism of ancient and modern is essential in this stream of consciousness. The parallel lines were striated using grouting cards of differing spacings. It is ironic that complex chemistry in acrylic and compound are being used, ironically to suggest something ancient.

Panel 4:

Imperfections and accidents were relished and encouraged. I enjoyed when the medium itself decided to dictate what it wanted to do. The next step is to divide the “page” up with direct reference to ancient fossil forms. We have built upon the past and the future shall be built upon our sediment.

Building in sculptural elements with Mod roc

Modr roc is plaster impregnated bandage. I sealed my jointing compound with system 3 acrylic gesso hoping to clean up the canvass and prime for  next layers.

I read the canvass as music and it makes perfect sense to think of rhythm and flow. I felt this canvass needed a twisted curve to balance the dominance of parallel lines.

The straight lines needed to be subverted with a loop. The parallels are a bit regular and so something organic was required to add dynamic tension.

Again I sought an organic line and irregular to divide up the canvasses surfaces unevenly.

I went for modulation on the surface. Essentially flat, I felt it was important to build in height and used canvass spacers to create hollows. Dynmaics provide contrasts and juxtaposition, loud/ soft, sound/ silence etc. Translated into art, we have smooth and abrupt, long flowing live with staccato broken burst. The marks had to relate to each other by working in unison, parallel or in contrary motion. This suggests energy and is appropriate as it adds layers and is made of aggregates gathered from the earth. This act therefore is SYMBOLIC and should enhance the message.

Transparent stains and glazes

I hoped that staining with transparent glazes would help me read the dynamic tension (or lack thereof) on the canvass. I felt this would help me make further compositional decisions.

I have not really decided how to view the canvasses yet. There is a dialogue going on between the media, the substrate and my imagination. The thinly mixed carbon black defines the lumps, bumps and striations on the surface.

It helps me feel harmony or dissonance between the various elements. I intend to make indentations into fresh areas of newly applied compound and texture with technology to make a reference to cutting edge of modern culture. The transparent glazes are exciting as the thicker opaque mixes dulled and looked heavy. Appropriate for the illusion of stone – but this is art.

Though my thinking was rigorous in my sketchbook and blog, they were leading me to a make up artist version of fossils. I am not inspired by a special effects for props and felt the experiments gave me an insight into the acrylic media and new techniques- but the finished outcomes looked phoney.

These fossils fuel my imagination and suggest new shapes and forms. I believe Leonardo advised looking at walls to generate ideas for landscapes but all manner of forms suggest themselves. In Art and Illusion by E.H. Gombrich there is much reference to the beholder’s share and stimulation of the imitative faculty by not spelling everything out. There must be fodder for the imagination but enough latitude for each viewer to project their own ideas and fill in the gaps.

Collaging references to arts, science, technology, achievement and legacy

I collected magazines Classic FM, Argos catalogue, New scientist and Guiness book of records. In legacy, I considered using porn to represent the more salacious and less palatable aspects of cultural legacy on a fifth panel under the title of “Consumed by their own greed” but at time of writing remain ambivalent.

New Scientist collagng

New Scientist collaging

Collaging culture The first canvass is New Scientist and the second Classic FM magazine. This phase has left me feeling uncomfortable. This is good- because at least I feel. I also look at the canvass differently and this must inevitably take me in a new direction.

Classic FM magazine

Classic FM magazine

At this point my work was commented on by a fellow student who asked what I thought I had learned about painting through this (OCA inspired) process. She said that she was interested to know how this is changing the way I think about painting.

 I replied :-
 I think OCA has got me making images for myself to explore an inner world in this case. There is a place for both  copying the world (that Gombrich call matching) and generating new images. Naturally experimental, it feel right to try and push the boundaries. I have spent a lot of time rationalising the modern fossil bit. In the absence of explanation, the work has to stand on its own merits. I have learned that not all artistic acts require justification. We are allowed to be inspired and within that inspiration we should enjoy some latitude.
If I died tomorrow, the work that I had created would be my PERSONAL LEGACY and onlookers would be able to deduce about me as an artist from my output. I would be intrigued to find out what they thought of this very personal journey. The more I learn about media and techniques the more I learn about myself and how I relate to my world.

First Impressions

Now the canvasses are “talking” to me and asserting their personalities it is time to introduce textured impressions in more specifically applied compound. This will have to respond to the specific dynamic of each canvass

visual resources from a computer

visual resources from a computer

I dissected a laptop to try to gather more visual information that could be exploited. These component can be used to emboss a soft, new applied substrate. They could be used as templates in conjunction with an airbrush; and, with the aid of heavy modelling compound, could be added to the surface itself. There is no requirement to make fossils or restrict oneself to colours reflecting stone palette. To do so could be twee or forced

humorous use could degenerate into slapstick

humorous use could degenerate into slapstick

While it is amusing it is not appropriate to to the message. There is no requirement to make pseudo fossils. However, the line of enquiry has generate a rich supply of visual information to respond to I suspect I may have been bogged down and early experiments though informative were like stage props.

Acrylic  Gels

Acrylic gels and media

Acrylic gels and media

Part 5 began with preparing textured grounds and mixing materials into paint. Winsor and Newton have ready made materials at the artists’ disposal. There is a vast range of additive from recent new developments in acrylics and I selected those that had a bearing on the modern fossil stream of consciousness.

25/1/14 Reflecting upon seeking permission

I wanted to date this thought. I teach children art in seven primary schools. One child bewildered by the open ended nature of the task asked can I have it portrait or landscape. I said thank you for that interesting question. The girl made me think about finding a voice and seeking permission in my own studies. I see that all the work leading to these finished pieces have been to legitimise a way of working to find a voice. Legitimising the work is seeking permission to use a voice. It is also a question of power. The girl in my class is seeking to validate her choice by confirming my approval. In a sense, I am trying to validate what I’m doing to  by tight reasoning through incremental steps. If there was no OCA third party approval, WHAT WOULD I DO? Surely I would explore the media and simple enjoy the experience responding to the stimulus that inspires me. The girl feared the novelty of her artistic freedom. DO I?

In development of a new art movement the role of the manifesto seems to be the codifying of a set of beliefs in order to legitimise the work that is to follow. This struck me most noticeably within Robert Hughes’ book “The Shock of the New” while considering futurists manifesto.

The essence of my personal journey is being fearless within the parameters of my thoughts and visual inspirations with no concern over third party approval. Therefore continue boldly with courage trusting artistic instinct. The blog so far has been therefore a search for a personal manifesto. Not asking permission but stating intention.

Embossing impression in compound 1

Embossing impression in compound 1

I thought that this would be a random part of the process. But I found I was selecting and planning positions in a fussy way. making tiny adjustments and “rubbing out” unsuccessful attempts.

Embossing impressions 2

Embossing impressions in compound 2

The surface treatment suggests forms upon my imagination and I am in constant dialogue with myself and the media. Questioning and manipulating ideas. I trust I have an open mind.

Embossing impressions in compound 3

Embossing impressions in compound 3

I believe so for I am not sure where this is all leading except I feel deeply involved in this because of my emotional commitment. I feel protective. Is this normal ?

Impressions in compound 4

Impressions in compound 4

New possibilities have presented themselves to me due to limitations in the media. I ended this section speculating that fimo clay, or salt dough would pick up the fine details I admire especially in the printed circuit boards. I could bind new segments from this approach but may reserve this for other works as this is most definitely me. I love texture and colour and this appeals to these primal needs in my “evolving” inner artist. How is it that I know I am past the half way stage and I am closer to completion?

Colour Coping strategy

The problem of showing the viewing sequence presented itself. Since each piece was created with identical methodology, how can I show progression. The answer emerged slowly as the paintings evolved. The whole project has been one of commentary on how culture has evolved  to the point of destruction to be viewed by a future, more sophisticated audience. This has resulted in the evolution of myself as an artist. It appealed to me that the human race evolved technologically through various stages. Stone, bronze, iron and industrial ages. Each suggestive of colour and that each colour could provide the missing link to bring the sequence to a satisfactory conclusion. Especially so since the works were symbolic in nature and everything had to have a reason commensurate with the message.

stone age

Finished canvass 1

Finished canvass 1

This actually began as a very dull stone wall. Thick impasto painting just responding to the texture and directions of the substrate resulted in the finished piece. I feel excited but unsure about this but I know it says what it is meant to say and is completed. I couldn’t get the colours thick and pure enough even using the palate knife so I started to draw squeezing straight from the tube. This was very liberating

It was at this point 26/1/14 I was notified that the Friends of Hugh Miller Society had covered some of my Modern Fossil sketchbook work in their Newsletter. Winter 2014 pages 10 and 11. 

I was delighted by the article.

bronze age

canvass 2

Modern fossil finished canvass 2

iron age

This one is fighting me

Canvass 3 finished

Modern fossils finished canvass 3 finished


Modern fossil canvass 4

Modern fossil canvass 4

A word of caution

I am growing uneasy at the thought that these works could have been produced merely by pushing paint around a canvass in an exploratory way without the possible over-reliance on he development of a personal manifesto to legitimise the work. What if after all the research, contextualisation and experimentation we are unable to state anything new and that it is true that there is nothing new under the sun and that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Especially if viewed fossilised in an unimaginable future.

Evaluation of my series of paintings

Demonstration of technical  and visual skills

Materials  – Good/ Average

The series features unusual media in the form of jointing compound to create a textured substrate. Some researching and problem solving was required to make this work. The addition of acrylic gesso and media is certainly experimental especially since this has been applied to a flexible base and the author is cautious about pronouncements on archival qualities of the media. However, since the subject of modern fossil, the notion of legacy, decay and interpretation; any damage sustained would/ could be congruent to that message. The artist has also ventured to use commercially available acrylic gels along with mod roc to add visual interest at levels of close inspection and a sculptural element to test boundaries of painting conventions and non-painting techniques.

Techniques- Good/ Average

The artist began to explore two themes in his sketchbook eventually favouring the modern fossil theme. In both strands of thought there was exploration into acrylic transfer techniques with varying degrees of success. Techniques displayed show peeled transfer and embedded transfer versions using modelling compound, cellulose thinners and GAC gloss gel. The author asserts that this would be a fruitful line of enquiry for level 2 studies with a focus upon surface treatment strategies. The plaster work involved screen printing jointing compound inside a shaped aperture  and/or outward buttressing from the aperture’s  resultant template. Their was printing using a variety of dissected technology including the complete dissection of a lap top. The printing was discovered to be more successfully performed when the jointing compound was partially cured. It became apparent that each piece had to be wet to create a cleaner image and to avoid unnecessary distressing of detail. The artist employed opaque and glazing techniques, heavy impasto and drawing straight from the tube. Collaging is also included in the symbolic building up of strata that the artist equates as analogous to the process of fossilisation that is at the heart of the theme. It is debateable if this action has an impact on the finished image. The artist also mixed media into the paint in the form of black lava and glass bead acrylic gel additives.

Observational skills- visual awareness – very good

The artist has documented various symbolic languages to incorporate into the finished pieces. These draw comparisons between modern and ancient symbolic languages. Aboriginal with electrical circuits; printed circuit board with Nasca lines; and ley lines with the the construction of communication technology. The choice of technology used to print in plaster related directly to fossil forms. Early tests printing with a Nokia phone “passed” as early fossilised forms from the Devonian period when presented to members of an archaeology society! The painting reflects all these inspirations and even the colour selections were influenced by evolution in their sequential ordering. Stone age inspired ochre and umber earth colours, Iron age suggestive of red rust. There is documentation in the artist’s blog of a break-though moment where the artist discovers there is no requirement to make copy fossil props and from that moment the painting becomes expansive and expressive to the point fury at times. The modern fossil theme remains a rich theme for future development and multiple interpretations. It is still a rich seam to be mined.

Design and compositional skills- satisfactory

The artist refers to the composition in terms of music, harmony and dissonance, tension and release, parallel and contrary motion etc.  While this may be the case, the impact of such may not be evident to the casual viewer due to the abstract nature of each canvass. However, there is a top left circular form as an idee fixee or recurring motif. In the absence of direct interrogation; the biblical notion ” there is nothing new under the sun” re-stating the ancient- modern cycle will not be identified and is not referenced at any point in the blog.

Quality of outcome- satisfactory

The ideas are expressed in detail in the blog. The artists even refers to tight rigorous argument and incremental steps- and the thinking, the theory of the piece is well documented. This is the very definition of coherence.It is debateable that these ideas have been successfully communicated and this is the second mention of the “viewers share” in this assessment. The author does not believe that the sinuous line of development leading to the finished work can be deduced from the work itself. The observer may detect crude primitivism in the brush work, or energy of application in some strokes, but it is unlikely that the symbolism of the piece could be guessed at unless the pieces are titled to encourage speculation in the “correct” direction. However, that artist has documented “we are symbols and we inhabit symbols” in the sketchbook and so any audience speculation, personal interpretation, reaction or response would be symbolic also and participating in the rationale of the work. The artist record a highly effective grasp of ideas but this is tempered a limited or reasonable communication of those ideas to an uninitiated audience whose appreciation may be reduced to ” I like the colours”!

Demonstration of creativity- Good/ average

There is evidence of imagination at work in this theme. The idea is original and the author is unaware of other atist’s working in this area. The artist has seen parallels between ancient  aboriginal iconography and demonstrated the similarity with modern electric symbols. Similarly the notion of ancient Nasca lines with their mysterious symbolism is juxta-positioned with printed circuit boards and the artist appears to exploit and subvert these images to provoke thought. References are made to poetry showing a desire to unify arts beyond the merely visual forms. To do this he has demonstrated and adventurous attitude and an almost scientific desire to test the boundaries of modern acrylic media almost to destruction. Certainly the approach has been experimental and expansive but has perhaps to its own detriment. The contextualisation of the works has perhaps muddied the waters and the artists own response become diluted from the original kernel of inspiration. Bolder statements can be made with less. However, there is some development of a voice. Whether it is a genuinely personal voice is questionable since there is much abstract expressionist work that shares the same voice. There is a slight concern that while the artist is developing a voice, he has a regional accent and may not be saying anything new. To his credit, the artist mentions this in his own commentary under the heading “a word of caution”

Context- Good average

The artist appears by his writings to be a self-reflective practitioner. He has a bias toward commenting on media and techniques rather than the emotional element. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he is employed as a teacher that there is a didactic or expository tendency in his commentary. A how to mind set that documents artistic problem solving. The artist does try to synthesise research but needs to do more to show his place in art, and be clearer about his influences that appear to ebb and flow according to whatever happens to be of interest at the time. Much of influence is subliminal and subconscious. There may be too much residue of the current studying of abstract expressionism or tutor reference directing attention to Terry Setch documented in his blog.

Level 4 Conclusion

The artist is informing himself about the art of others. Perhaps the relationship between sketchbook and finished work has been established only towards the end of the OCA studies but it is hoped that he will continue to develop the symbiosis at later levels He perhaps became so ambitious that the sketchbook became redundant thus explaining the reliance on loose sheet or work on surfaces to be collated later. The artist is autonomous and appears to actively seek out ideas for development and several interesting lines of potential enquiry are listed in part 4/5 of his blog. Viewing actual exhibitions is an area of weakness due to geographical considerations. This should be addressed by virtual galleries and there is greater evidence of Bridgeman and a growing number of allusions to Gombrich, Berger and Hughes’ set texts- although this could be more explicit. There is a suggestion that the artist is developing a voice but the jury is out as the artist has oscillated between realism, impressionism and abstact expressionism throughout his studies. A positive has been his desire to experiment and push his limits and his final submissions are certainly very bold at least


Part 5: Project: Towards Abstraction page 132

Abstraction from study of natural forms page 133

I chose a chaffinch as my inspiration and drew each colour portion as if it was a flat template. I altered scale drawing the small areas big and the larger sections smaller. I ignored the position of the items on the page with individual segments overlapping to explore pattern and line.

original A4 sketchbook idea for chaffinch abstract.

original A4 sketchbook idea for chaffinch abstract.

This created positive and negative spaces and with it exciting possibilities for the painting stage. I appreciate that my tutor and examiners of this blog would like to see a progressive journey towards abstraction, a disintegration of reality and naturalism, to retrace the journey that led to the finished piece; but, I sketch and paint in my imagination all the time and this piece has been on the back-boiler for some time. When it came to painting there was still the excitement of discovery and experimenting, but it all felt so familiar and comfortable.

view 2

view 2

This was painted wet in wet on to a bed of grey gesso using a palette knife. I chose system 3 acrylic and the paint was applied quite thickly with smearing and patting. Some drawing was effected by scraping back with a grouting tool. There was sgrafitto drawing of hair like textures and some printing with the side of the knife. The patting of thick paint made little peaks and each layer of texture influenced the following layers. I chose a limited palette of carbon black, tit. white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and French ultramarine blue as I felt the earth colours would have a harmonising effect on the otherwise disjointed drawing. M

My problem now is that I have displayed the piece as it was painted on the canvass. With abstract painting it s possible to centre the piece differently. I posted an enquiry on facebook and many preferred to view it thus.

Abstract based on natural forms. Chaffinch

Abstract based on natural forms. Chaffinch

Abstract painting from man-made form page 133

I began this by thinking about man made forms for a week. It wasn’t enough to select randomly things just because they were fabricated- they had to have additional meaning. In my sleep I dreamt of chess an in the morning it made sense. This doesn’t happen. The Staunton chess set design gave me the raw material for development as they are elegant with interesting curves yet functional too.

I made thumbnails and asked myself what I thought drew my eye to that portion of the design. I redrew exaggerating the forms according to my judgement. By exaggerating I reviewed what was the nature of the appeal. The shapes had a calligraphic flow to them and it felt like writing music. Once I had made a connection between chess and music; two of my big hobbies; the painting fell into place and virtually painted itself.

The Music of Logic: Abstract on man-made forms

The Music of Logic: Abstract on man-made forms

Part 5: Project: Adding other materials page 129

Exercise: Preparing a textured ground page 130

Texturing canvass board with gesso and jointing compound

Texturing canvass board with gesso and jointing compound

raised bed for printing/ embossing

raised bed for printing/ embossing

raised bed stained, patinations sanded scratched and painted

raised bed stained, patinations sanded scratched and painted

alternative- gouging and refilling with coloured acrylic mediums.

alternative- gouging and refilling with coloured acrylic mediums.

Stained textured surface stained and painted to look like a Mevlana

Stained textured surface stained and painted to look like

Mixing materials into paint

Painting on a textured surface: Mixed media canvass

Exercise: Mixing materials into paint page 131

I have been wrestling with the notion that; “we are symbols and we inhabit symbols” Ralph Waldo Emerson from “The Poet”. Recorded thought is symbolic in form as we have ascribed meaning to sound to create speech, and graphemes to represent the words we speak to articulate thought and conventions to regulate both. We invented a periodic table to record the elements that are the building blocks of the universe in a curriculum subject that is entirely theoretical. The word theory, ” an idea waiting acceptation of rejection” is an abstract concept and the word and its definition are symbolic in nature.

I decided to create a piece that shows my interwoven relationship wife my wife defining ourselves using astrological symbols by mixing symbolic materials into a white paint gesso concoction.

Shredded text to represent mincing words

Shredded text to represent mincing words

Because of my birth date I am a Piscean and Pisces is a compound sign. Two fishes swimming in opposite directions. Accordingly, I am supposed to be in two minds about most things. I can apparently see both sides of the argument. Great for diplomacy lousy for decision making. Arty or scientific I am simultaneously a visiting science and technology specialist and visiting art specialist in Primary school just North of Inverness.

emblem for pisces

emblem for pisces

The sign for this is also a simplified compound sign. The shape may be entirely arbitrary but has become universally accepted as with most symbolism. I used shredded words to symbolically represent mincing words appropriate for indecision. When mixed with gesso and acrylic paint it formed a gloopy paste that was easy to mould into shape. It reminds me of a dancing figure and has given me ideas for development later.

symbol for aquarius superimposed using nuts

symbol for aquarius superimposed using nuts

My wife is an  aquarian because of her birth date. The emblem for aquarius was superimposed on top of the pisces symbol. This symbolically represents our marriage union as we are inexorably linked together through love and because of our children. Aquarian’s are often eccentric and so her symbol was created using nuts embedded in heavy, carvable modelling paste. Eccentric people are often considered nuts and with her wacky sense of humour, acknowledges the pun. The nut shells were blitzed in a blender, or crushed with a pestal and mortar or used whole to give a variety of textures. When the nut shell faced upward it offered opportunities to fill with other gels. Latterly, I pasted black lava gel judiciously in these “pores”.

Heart symbol lentils and bran

Heart symbol lentils and bran new symbol from old

Pisces are spiritual creatures that search for meaning. My wife discovered the heart shape created by our union. It suited me to use red lentils for texturing as they are classified as pulses. A beating heart is responsible for our pulse so the visual pun was hard to resist. Bran, the sand in the mix, is great for a healthy heart and so the personal symbolism and significance continues. I think when textural complexity is the order of the day, that colour should be kept simple. At this point I was planning ahead and yet searching for the opportunities that the piece would afford.

Heart pulses with rice and broth mix

Heart pulses with rice and broth mix

My OCA studies have taught me to try to be responsive to the piece and let the work talk to me as it is developing.

It was harder to apply these thicker pulses such as split peas etc. in broth mix. I used a stippling motion and tapped these into place just exploring the positive and negative spaces our symbols had created on the substrate. Often I cleaned the brush by wiping on the surface just enjoying the feeling of using the media and the experience of being creative.

Food of love pasta

Food of love pasta with glass bead gel and black lava medium

Italian pasta is considered romantic food for dining out. We are both foodies and so I incorporated pasta pieces.  Along with these I included non food items such as glass bead and black lava gels. My wife pointed out that her emblem is more evident now and to me that is fitting  to me. I feel that my wife is the most prominent part of my life and I am happy to be eclipsed by her prominence. That said, the whole lot may be gesso-ed over and a gloss medium used to draw attention to what is meaningful. This will, it is believed, bring visual prominence to the peaks and troughs if I prefer a monochrome finish.

second gesso layer

second gesso layer

The gesso has a levelling effect where all the “drawing” has been lost except for the waves signifying the water carrier. Stains and pattinations are needed to draw attention to the relief aspects of the work. Most of my work is over thought and I realise I like complexity. Perhaps I should merely stain the piece with a glaze and let the media do the work. I know I have not learned economy but I can try to address this.

Part 5: Personal Development: Project: Different ways of applying paint

Response to my tutor report for assessment 4

Here is the link to my Part 5:

Personal Development sketchbook pages:-

Research point Look at a range of Paintings with particular attention to the way the paint has been applied page 124

Exercise: Impasto page 126

Still life with fruit impasto using a brush The artist’s brush marks are as distinct and personal as a signature. I learned this reading Robert Hughes’s book “The Shock of the New” chapter 3 discussing the landscape of pleasure. Smearing paint thickly amplifies the individuality even further as the thick paint is malleable and responsive to nuances such as hesitation, uncertainty, decisiveness and the like. I prepared a textured surface with jointing compound as this is an area of interest to me.

textured and cobalt primed surface

textured and cobalt primed surface

The paint was heaped in large globs and although the colour is uniform cobalt the paint was not rubbed smooth. The surface has personality now and textural interest enough to allow me to simplify the subject right down.

Impasto with a brush, some knife work and sgraffito

Impasto with a brush, some knife work and sgraffito

I confess it was fun pasting paint in thick globules and then mashing this into the textured substrate. There is a delicious sound made when a painting knife is scraped along the surface. This painting is screaming at me to tidy up the edges and smooth things. This would loose character. The heavily texture surface meant I had difficulty drawing clean lines- but should clarity always be the aim. I had been viewing Vuillard and Bonnard and noticed the rough and ready crude application with lines dissolving and merging into the background. This lack of definition works upon the imagination to fill in the gaps, according to Gombrich in “Art and Illusion”. The picture is expressive and the part of me that admires photo-realism, (although we must fight the myth that  artistic excellence equates to photographic realism) regards the work as unfinished. I am uneasy looking at it!

textured and purple primed surface

textured and purple primed surface

I prepared a purple surface in a rough way as I wanted to experiment further with impasto techniques. This would complement the yellows of a lemon.  I did not blend a uniform colour but rather preferred to mix my purple from cobalt and alizarin directly onto the substrate. I felt the lemon would permit stippling for the dimpled skin and  s’ graffito  drawing to explore the crinkle nature of the lemon segments skin.

impasto with a brush, knife work and sgraffito

impasto with a brush, knife work and sgraffito


an air brush through meccano

Meccano-saurus: Spraying wth an airbrush through a meccano template

Meccano-saurus: Spraying with an airbrush through a meccano template

Using a painting knife

A4 sketchbook aboriginal and electrical symbols

A4 sketchbook aboriginal and electrical symbols


subverting aboriginal x ray picture with technology

subverting aboriginal x ray picture with technology

Exercise: Dripping, dribbling and spattering I attempted this exercise after reading up on tachisme and abstract expressionism. Apart from freestyling with a brush, I decided to include a splatter device. I recorded my experiments in an online learning blog at :

Tachism tripod

Tachism tripod

I used the hook from my camera tripod to suspend a cup filled with acrylic paint mixed thinly with liquefying medium. The cup has been modified with a bamboo stick yolk and plug. The yolk is attached by a loose strap and the plug can be inserted to control flow. The arrangement is placed above a roll of heavy duty lining paper. Spinning and dribbling black

spinning and dribbling black

spinning and dribbling black

I filled the cup with system three carbon black with the tripod fully extended, pulled the plug and started to spin it by shaking the tripod. Burnt umber

Burnt umber spinning with decalcomania

Burnt umber spinning with decalcomania

Using the same procedure as before the patterning was made more complex. Additionally, however, I folded the page and made a rubbing Rorschach style. I noticed the liquefying medium was making the paint transparent and very runny. Yellow ochre

yellow ochre with walking/ hopping

yellow ochre with walking/ hopping

The same procedure was followed but the mix was thickened somewhat by omitting the liquefying medium. I walked the tripod around hopping from one foot to another. Lastly some splattering was attempted by dropping the cup from varying heights. Again some decalcomania. Reds and yellows

Alizarin crimson and cad red

Alizarin crimson and cad red

System three can be purchased in large flip cap bottles with nozzles. Red and yellow was squirted, thrown and flicked from varying heights and angles straight from the bottle. This creates differing splatter results. Blues

Spinning blues from low angle.

Spinning blues from low angle.

I returned to the original spinning and walking technique with thin dilutions of French ultramarine and cobalt blue. Because of the lower angle the spinning was more vigorous. Phthalo turquoise, magenta, purple and white

Tachisme Tripod: action art 1 metre square

Tachisme Tripod: action art 1 metre square

This time I threw the paint, flicking and tapping using a two in flat brush. The piece is finished and yet I sense it would be possible to keep going with this building up endless layers. Jackson Pollock used to work on a massive scale and therefore fairly large spatter marks appear smaller and more detailed when viewed at a distance. I could scale down further using smaller brushes like toothbrushes to make more intricate designs; but, I am satisfied with the result as a demonstration of the techniques. Finished piece

Tachisme Tripod: action art 1 metre square

Tachisme Tripod: action art 1 metre square

Research Point:: Abstract Expressionism and Tachism page 128 :-

Part 4: Assignment 4 page 121

Most engaging exercises.

Without doubt the most engaging activities were the plein air painting in the industrial site. It was a revelation looking at the ugly for inspiration sand finding it in the monotonous regularity of parallel corrugation and wire fences.  I attempted to do all my outdoor pictures for section 4 outdoors. I experimented with atypical painting tools and found that I taught myself how to work within these new parameters and methods.

Approaches and styles

I did not go abstract enough. In my  ebony (black page landscape format 30 x 37cm) sketchbook some of my earlier studies were more rewardingly abstract than the  71 x 51 acrylic pieces on lining paper. I should really explore the abstract as it is an area I understand and genuinely respond to. I know I am not attuned to pretty landscapes but rather conceptual work that extends how I see the world.

Large landscape


I thought of a landscape that has significance for me; and that proved to be my journey from Cromarty to Beauly at the end of the working week. I envisaged a mental map of the main things on the journey  and then composite them to make something meaningful for me.

Udale Bay RRSPB reserve.

Udale Bay RRSPB reserve.

Newhall Point

Newhall Point in distance

Pillars of old rigg

Pillars of old rigg

Jonathan Shearer is my  Scottish Landscape hero and having attended his life class and painting demos; I decided to paint my final submission in his loose oil style. Big brushes and lots of dribbles. Shearer’s influence is simple. He paints a brutal and unforgiving Scottish Landscape. He does so from plein air painting and extensive references in multiple sketchbooks. There is a direct correlation between his sketches and the finished pieces he produces. All of which I learned from the OCA first. However, Shearer is a prolific teacher and generously shares his tips and techniques. I like the egalitarian openness. Most importantly, and extraneous to OCA, Shearer impressed upon me that painting is as much destruction as creation. He works rapidly and is not afraid to used his hand, arm, rags and whatever is available to sculpt the paint into his vision. When I realised there was a destructive element to creativity; it opened up possibilities I will explore in later studies.

Sketches and colour notes

I decided to use a limited palette of Prussian blue, raw umber, burnt sienna with yellow ochre. I wanted to drive through a storm  the throat of which lightens my path home. There were small glazes of cad yellow and red.

Cromarty has not been an easy school or community to work for as an outsider. I wanted a way out through the storm to the promise of a brighter tomorrow. A tomorrow I will achieve with my studies. This landscape would be one of the mind and show a psychological state.

The finished piece

Assignment 4   91 x 61 Griffin alkyd oils on canvass

Assignment 4 91 x 61 Griffin alkyd oils on canvass

It was hard reinterpreting what is familiar through day into a nightime storm of my own devising. I think it was because I had to trust the artist is me to make judgements on behalf of a suspended conscious self. Just to respond and without too much premeditation. This is where I pushed my boundaries by taking as much risk as I could muster. The OCA studies has introduced me to Chaim Soutine. The abandonment of perspective would be very liberating especially if you can just let let yourself go with your choice of medium.

In situ or indoors?

In situ really suited me as being able to stand, and walk and have energy are things I do not take for granted. In situ I can experience the relationships between object, for instance, how a fence obstructs a view but offers visual information that can be altered, adapted or enhanced and exaggerated for artistic effect. This appeals to me. It is liberating to know that we can show an edited version of the world and call it our own.

Ideas for Assignment 5 and beyond

Self Portrait through the ages

500 years of me. Simple to produce a series of 5 self portraits in the style of/ or inspired by significant time periods. Flemish portrait with glazes on a grisaille underpainting. Self in the style of Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse and Abstract expressionist. This could incorporate a range of styles, mixed or multiple media, impasto, etc.

Modern Fossil: exploring how the modern world as we know it could become fossilised

Modern fossil has been developing in my part 5 sketchbook and can be viewed in later pages of this blog. I intended to find out how to make a satisfying rock texture. Then the next idea was to incorporate images. I investigated acrylics and how to get an image on to the acrylic rock. I then wanted to explore how to make the image appear imbedded. I started to think about distressing the image by tearing in a controlled manner. I then explored formats and discovered that long rectangles with straight edges look like storyboards. How can the storyboard be used to display a message? The answer took me toward aboriginal iconography. I realised that straight edges looked unnatural I tried to explore deckled edges and how to embed the fossil into the strata. This was more akin to the rock cycle I was trying to explore. (explain)  I realise the painting could emulate the sedimentary nature of rock and the essence of archaeology if I embedded the image into the substrate somehow and used a scraping back method to reveal the image. At time of writing, I need to explore acrylic gel to create transfers that can be incorporated into the fabric of the substrate. My research unearthed Atelier interactives’s binder medium and unlocking formula. I resolved that if I used a collaging technique showing images of what culture represents and would be lost in fossilisation; then the modern fossil could be scraped back to reveal the achievements of technology, science and the arts.

At this point I was contacted by a representative of the society “Friends of Hugh Miller” based in Cromarty. They interviewed me for their publication and intended to used sketches of Hugh Miller’s cottage (completed for drawing 1 exercises) and it became apparent that the modern fossil notion was fit for inclusion in their publication “Hugh’s News”. My art and interview would feature in the new years edition!

I determined that the scraped back areas could provide apertures based on fossil forms and that this would be adequate for the series of works. This would allow me expressive licence and the potential to explore media and techniques. Ken Bromley art supplies stock modelling compounds, mineral flake, sand texture and cracked grounds that would be congruent to this particular message. The sketchbook work so far includes an item called the Meccano-saurus. Other ideas linking symbols such as ley line, nasca lines and printed circuit boards will allow me to explore aboriginal cave painting by subverting these images to juxtaposition ancient and modern

Art Coefficient:

This would involve using text as art. Finding the difference between what artist intend and what they produce based on their published artistic statements. This would allow me to explore visual and literary puns headed under the expression what is said is slippery stuff. Pia Ziff quoted in Magaret Donaldson’s “Childrens’ Minds” 1979 Ultimately I would like to create a new alphabet and develop abstract art by “writing” words and meanings in this new symbolic language. The words would imply abstract notions in an abstract manner: Peace/ understanding/ community/meaning/ communicate etc. The girl from Paisley (pattern) Figures of Speech, What is said is slippery stuff, Illustrate a poem and A Fool and his words are easily parted.

Birds of Paradise:

Since my own art is involved in exploring meaning and subverting ideas; bird of paradise is a topic that would allow me to a variety of techniques. Bird of paradise flower in acrylic shown as watercolour glazes. Bird of paradise, bird (polar classification from plant) realistic oils. Provide segue to exotic Nottinghill carnival female  dressed in feathers with poured acrylic skins. This in turn segues neatly into an Asian bride hugely adorned and painted in Flemish portraiture technique. The veiled headdress links neatly into a niquab/nun. Symmetrical face split down the middle showing a Niqab and wimple from diametrically opposite religious spectrum. Remember  earlier polarised classification reference. This implies assumed virtue and modesty. Painted opaquely in alla prima. This could contrast with a pole dancer/ prostitute/ porn industry female ( bird=female, paradise= fantasy/ paradise nightclub) diametrically opposite painted in gritty, crude expressionistic manner. Finally, bird of paradise culminates with a ghost like angelic form. ( bird= flying entity= paradise= heaven) described by the element that constitutes ghost- smoke. So using fumage techniques with templates. A whole gamut of ideas, meaning, media and techniques embodied in wordplay and visual pun displays who I am as a visual thinker.

Celtic Not

Exploring through visual pun the clashing of homosexual messages expressed through images traditionally seen as Scottish or Celtic in nature. Celtic Not = meaning Celtic Knot=  forbidden or frowned upon by Wee Free Scottish Presbyterian parochial thinking. This would be particularly scatological/ polemic in the style of the graphically explicit work of Marlene Dumas and calculated to offend. The offense caused would be indicative of/ expose religious prudery and possible hypocrisy.


Part 4: Project: Working from drawing and photographs page 116

Exercise: Painting from a working drawing page 117

A linear study= main shapes


A3 loose leaf sketch: A linear study of the tower house at Avoch Primary school car park

a tonal study

Large tonal study: XL charcoal on 71 x 51cm decorator's lining paper

Large tonal study: XL charcoal on 71 x 51cm decorator’s lining paper

 A colour study

sketch referenced from watercolour 1 sketchbook

sketch reference

The painting should be larger but in the same format

Sketch development in System 3 acrylic on heavy duty decorator’s lining paper.

75 x 57 cm System 3 acrylic from watercolour sketch

75 x 57 cm System 3 acrylic from watercolour sketch

Exercise: Squaring up page 118

drawing or photograph- don’t paint too tightly

Inspiration for gridding

Inspiration for gridding

The street where I live has linear perspective potential complicated by the fact it is a crescent. Thankfully this is a straight bit before the bend. I feel the image should be cropped for a better composition.

Grid transferred photo with closer cropping

Grid transferred photo with closer cropping

This was very time consuming and involved process. The front doors of two of my neighbours are closer to centre stage. I feel more there, pulled in since object exit the picture plane and I like that. It is home after all. The pavement and the roof line makes a nice  zig zag route for the eye to travel and I may continue that pathway with clouds swelling top right.

grided image transferred and "cleaned" up on the substrate

gridded image transferred and “cleaned” up on the substrate

Well the linear perspective is not mathematically precise; but then, neither  is our street. I am satisfied that this represents the street fairly accuarately. Now to render with system 3 acrylic but in a fairly loose style.

first colour layer

first colour layer

I am feeling the loss of authenticity working from a photo. It just doesn’t feel genuine as the photo lacks emotion and there is no engagement with the subject in and experiential way. It is remote. I don’t think I will be happy unless I get out in the street and try to record a real place in time. At this point I have only used cobalt blue, yellow ochre and raw umber with white.

Scumbled sky and rendering around facades

Scumbled sky and rendering around facades

Scumbling gave a frothy texture to the clouds. Some would say dry brush work, however, the surface picks pigment off the brush in a grainy way. I could imagine using this technique much more. I created problems for myself by drawing in the buildings and rendering around. If I was to tackle this again I  would  prepare a sky and superimpose the image on top.

my street with rendered facades

my street with rendered facades

This has been a very limited palette. Burnt umber, cobalt blue, white, burnt sienna and French ultramarine. There has some unity/ harmony as a consequence. The darkest darks and lightest lights will complete this piece. To control the tone, I will be mixing with glazing medium. Shadows will give depth and solidity.

my street depth, detail and solidity

my street depth, detail and solidity

The painting is all but complete. I am happy that there is evidence of linear and  aerial perspective. I could possible go on tweaking this forever, but I have no desire to do so. I did not enjoy this and there is very little emotional content to tell the viewer how I feel about my street.

Gridding photos or drawings, however, is a notion that is rich and full of potential. In the portrait section prior to this; the idea of a landscape from the human face began to formulate in my mind.

Photo of a drawing

Photo of a drawing 1

This allowed me to study the human face. This is really important to me and is a go to setting in my artistic make-up. As is conceptual or abstract ideas.

Photo of a drawing 2

Photo of a drawing 2

I studied my own face and from this original I put the derivation through multiple distortions.

Photo of a drawing 3

Photo of a drawing 3

I got the notion of distorted grids from Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis. From that idea I extended out to playing cards, tiles and eventually shredding and weaving. This gave the heading that lives are “curiously interwoven” and I could produce images from shredded faces that are actually interwoven.

Photo of a drawing 4

Photo of a drawing 4

I really like abstracting landscapes from my face and hope to develop these pieces very large later and not necessarily for OCA purposes. However, OCA work opened up the potential in this area and I am indebted.

Exercise: Working from a photograph page 120

Glen Strathglass

Original Strathglass photo

Original Strathglass photo

This is a lovely view and I am lucky to live within twenty minutes of this view.

Derivative 1

Derivative 1

I cropped the photo to focus on the orange, purple and blue elements. This would be a lovely painting just to explore the symmetry and this portion of the colour wheel.

Derivative 2

Derivative 2

I cropped the image again to create a vertical strata that is quite abstract in character.

Derivative 3

Derivative 3

Again the picture was cropped square but a more moody part of the original has been highlighted here.. I occurred to me that all these views exist in one time depending on how each person views and encounters the world they live in. If they all exist at the same time, then why can’t all views be viewed simultaneously. When I pursued this idea I realised that this was the essence of cubism. The images could be zoomed, shrunk or elongated and then collaged. The collaging would destroy each image but if this was digitally recorded, printed and painted over; there would be a multi-dividend in the work and energy expended could be maximised. This was the essence of Andy Warhol and the mass-production of visual imagery. The idea was intriguing and I could imagine developing a working methodology from it.

Another idea was that the colours of the landscape viewed could be used to fit into pre-existing spaces. Referring back to my idea for a self portrait as a landscape; I could fit the colours viewed here into an abstract drawing that already exists. I had been thinking about the notion : Part of the landscape. Therefore abstracts of faces could be developed and then overpainted with colour schemes from the landscape. But why would you. Unless there was a unique connection between the person and their landscape. Say Hugh Millar and Cromarty; the only raison d-etre would be to develop abstracts that had personal meaning only. I am part of the landscape and I do live here. Therefore I am justified in pursuing this idea because it is mine and I am a creative entity occupying space.

However thes are departures that intrigued me and are congruent to the remit of this exercise. I decided to write these to allow the reader/ examiner an insight into the creative processes in my mind. I will probably develop these as I have been asked to contribute to an exhibition 2014.

Loch an Eilean Working from a photograph exercise page 120

I selected a favourite view that I felt matched the description closely. There is space for tall trees in the middle and large hill in the background.

Loch an Eilean inspiration

Loch an Eilean inspiration

Loach an Eilean inspiration 2

Loach an Eilean inspiration 2

Loch an Eilean inspiration 3

Loch an Eilean inspiration 3

I have visited this area on many occasions and know it very well. Indeed, the painting was begun  “plein air” and completed back “in the studio.”

Loch an Eilean landscape using photos. Atelier and system 3 acrylic on 46 x 61cm canvass

Loch an Eilean landscape using photos. Atelier and system 3 acrylic on 46 x 61cm canvass

A few quick drawings of the main shapes.

In what ways did you depart from the photo?

The entire composition deviates. Trees were moved around to find hot spots with the rule of thirds. Trees were positioned to create a frame for the castle. I remembered red oxide shingle under the water that had a different colour from the photos. I took a lot of liberties.

Why did you make that decision?

I really wanted to get a sense of the scale of the mountain in the background dwarfing the castle. I remembered the mountains being crimson biased and I wanted to exaggerate the use of complementary green. Additionally, the strong darks made the mountain faded and hopefully give a sense of depth

Did you produce a painting that satisfied you, or were you over influenced by the photo?

The painting does not satisfy me. There is some success in the quality of vertical light on the water. There is a suggestion of movement in the water too and I did achieve some aerial perspective. The picture just doesn’t look honest. Genuine detail has been lost. I am happy to deviate from reality and believe the artist doesn’t just copy the world- but has the power to invent new ones. The image is emotionally flat. Disconnect from the experience. It is easy to take a photo and capture the moment with no effort or thought; but to paint plein air, as I have tried to do so in this topic, is to be emotionally involved and engaged in time and place. The finished painting does not infer to the viewer any emotional content and it would be difficult to deduce my love of the place.