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July 2014 assessment portfolio

May 21, 2014

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.



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