Monday, December 10, 2012

Phthalocyanine Blue

I've been thinking about the colour blue a lot lately. Not because I've got the "blues" (when in fact I've been feeling chipper and sproingy) but because I've used red in a few of my paintings for class and want to cool off a bit. Blue is reflective, peaceful, spiritual.
Mark Chagall
I remember sitting in front of these windows (or a version of) when I visited the Chicago Institute with my graphic design class back in 2000 (!). I was at peace. I felt whole and loved. That's what I'm feeling these days too :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Assignment 5: independent proj (post 2)

Here's the 2nd post about the independent project.
The painting was turning into a field of self-portraits. In a sense the painting was retaining/exposing the memory of the previous steps: showing the process which is something digital imagery cannot do without looking super-contrived. Digital cameras are fantastic at capturing a split second and recording millions of colours beyond what our eyes can recognize . . . but each frame/image does not have a connection with the frame/image that just came before it. Photography and video are great medium to capture time . . . but only linear time (ie. 3:00-3:15). A painting can capture lateral time: the underpainting done on Nov 2 shows through when worked on Nov 4 which plays off some marks which have been obliterated and reworked from Nov 3. Kind of a stretch . . . but it's an idea I'm still working out :P
The development of the field below:
The baseline for the field: figure-ground becoming confused 

Adding colour now to evoke glaring hues of a monitor

Scraped back. The greys begin to act as a lift-off point for the raw hues.

Reinforcing the colour: also solidifying some shapes

Interesting ridges and textures begin to form and helps to fragment the image

Playing with the balance of grey and colour

Scraping the wet paint back with a squeegee brings the viewer back to "This is paint on a flat surface!"

Strengthened some contours with line . . . not sure if it was needed . . .

Developing a really nice thick surface of paint! 

A few final touch ups!

At this point, we had our crit for this assignment. Some of the feedback I got was that I could push the field idea a little further by having some of the yellow hot spots on the periphery of the canvas because it still looks like figure-ground. Another comment was that even though this is a reaction to/stab at the screen, it still shares alot of common ground with it: the static-like quality in some areas and the language of the skype image (ie. here i am in front of my laptop taking screen shots of myself). This painting relates closely to Gerhard Richter's representational paintings were he has painted closely from a commercial photo of (for instance) a flower which he then reasserts the plastic nature of the painting by blurring the edges with a tiny brush.
Here's my final:

Memory Screen, 48" by 36", oil on canvas, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Assignment 5: independent proj (post 1)

For our independent project, I set out to make a painting that would be a reaction/commentary on the effect that the screen/digital image has on our perception of images. I began 4 self-portraits using photos taken on the camera on my laptop in ambiguous expressions. I wanted to combine each of these images somehow to show what a painting can do that a typical screen can't.
This first post shows some of the early stages.
I would paint in each portrait very roughly

Then scrape it away with a squigee (inspired by Gerhard Richter)

Then paint the next portrait over-top

The scrape it away hoping some of the previous image would show through

The plane starts to get cluttered very fast so the issue of figure-ground  started to become a problem

I had to "cheat" a little with my process and build up some of the  portraits from earlier stages

I thought maybe the fourth portrait would stand out more than the rest

But scraping it back brought it onto the same plane as the rest of the painting
This lead me to discover that the painting could be about creating a field of self-portraits. (next post . . . stay tuned)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Assignment 04

For this assignment, we are to take a historical painting as reference to make a non-representational painting. We are to study the picture considering composition, value, and colour. We will then take these components and create a painting: not an abstracted version of the historic painting, but something new!
Quite an exciting challenge. Also a little scary because I haven't had much success with my forays into abstraction. In a sense, this shouldn't be that different from the other assignments we've had, because, in essence, each assignment's subject/objective has been to use the subject as an excuse to make an interesting painting. This idea might help me out actually ;)
I'm choosing Turner's "Fighting Temeraire . . ." as my reference painting.
J.M. William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up
I'm attracted to Turner's work because of the atmosphere he evokes in his images. I'm also fascinated/phobic about the ocean and have had the motive in the back of my mind to create work that explores this fear.
A quick analysis:
-composition: relies on triangles (around the two main vessels) and directional lines (horizon line, bow-lines, clouds motion, reflections etc.)
-value: mostly low key except in the main compositional areas
-colour: mostly sombre blues with fiery sunset oranges, browns, yellows

Initial responses to this study is to create a vertical work as an opposite-reference to the landscape format. I think I'm going to create a lattice of triangles or diagonal lines from which I can pick out a gradation of hues that lead up to a cressendo of light and dark contrast. I'm going to try a few things inspired by Rothko and Marden.
Brice Marden, Couplet IV, 1988-1989

Mark Rothko, No. 61, 1953

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My lady in . . . red (breathy voice)

I've changed my composition drastically. I've decided to make the fabric of her dress as part of the background that dissolves into other fabrics and patterns. The small figures and building just weren't working for me. I like that it will be less about a figure in space and more about creating an ambiguity of the presence of a figure. I also love to paint patterns ;) I'm hoping that it still reads like a figure first, and then lovely, lush swirling patterns and fabric.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

03: first hit

I've decided that I'm going to make a red painting . . . that happens to have this figure in it lol. This is from a photo of Le Moulin Rouge in Paris (2007) and other tourists are caught in the frame: I have no idea who these people are. The big figure has her eyes closed but I really liked how vibrant her red dress is (it has a lovely pattern on it . . . I like to paint patterns ;)). There are a few other figures in the painting who are going to act as counterpoints. Not sure what to do yet with the building in the back ground or the lightpost on the right side of the frame.
First hit
Three other paintings come to mind:
Edvard Munch

Mark Rothko

Henri Matisse

Assignment 03: the figure

For our third assignment, we are to make a painting that centers on a human figure. We will be using photos as reference (it's recommended that we do not use advertising photos because they are more challenging to make into a painting). The painting should not be a transcription of any one of the photos and should rely on observation and reference materials. We should also consider the inherent narrative and emotion that the presence of a figure brings into an image.
For an example, we talked briefly about Peter Doig. His paintings are imaginary environments but a figure tends to anchor the landscape, making it a breathable space.
Peter Doig

Marcel Dzama as a counterpoint to Doig.
Marcel Dzama

We discussed how the photographic reference should be the starting point of the image. Marlene Dumas uses images that are unflattering or voyeuristic. Because they form a fragmented narrative, the meaning of the image is left up to the viewer.
Marlene Dumas

We then talked about Lucien Freud and how his sculpted marks begin to create a "fleshiness" of paint. The constant laying down marks, scraping them off, and then placing them back on, lend the painting a certitude: this is wear the marks should go . . . here's the evidence.
Lucien Freud

Jenny Saville's work is similar in that the paint is used richly and "fleshily" except that the fragmented narrative of the image is heightened.
Jenny Saville

Luc Tuymans work is interesting in that its a series of negations . . . like there was an elaborate scene painted, and then pared back. This gives his work an emptiness that is rather unsettling.
Luc Tuymans

I want to approach this assignment building on the idea of making a painting with the figure as an excuse for the painting to happen. This one might be hard for me just because I have my own hang-ups about the figure.  Hopefully, I can leave them at the door and make an interesting painting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Object Painting Results

He Tried to Contain Her (So She Flipped Her Lid), 40" by 40", oil on canvas, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kill Cezanne?

How do I kill Cezanne? (metaphorically speaking of course!)
How do I take apart the house of Paint that he has built for me? What tools do I use to disassemble it and make my own house?
Take "The Bathers" and the Skype pics I took for my independent painting project . . . how do these two worlds fit? Do they fit? Why should I care about this old master? Why should I care to make paintings? Are the answers there in that painting? Is there nothing but questions to be asked?
The Bathers, Paul Cezanne, 1898

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I love to paint

Hmm, my matroyshka dolls look like penises . . . might have to do something about that lol

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Assignment 02: "still life"

I put still life in quotes because this isn't a still life: this assignment is to make a painting based loosely on the objects we've chosen. I haven't thought about objects in this way before and I find it really exciting because it's opening up the possibilities of what representation can look like.
We started by talking about the boring, dead, and false idea of plenty that the Dutch still life school pioneered. When you take into account that the hens, fruits, and flowers they were painting would have decomposed beyond recognition before they finished the painting, you wonder about the authenticity of these so-called "real" paintings (art = artifice . . . when is it every, really, about the truth lol). Also, it's interesting to see the limitations of copying from a camera obscura in the out of whack perspectives and other technical problems said copying produced.
Abraham Mignon

Next we skipped ahead to Morandi who's work I enjoy. The idea of using "his bottles" as a method of working and an excuse for which a painting can be made is a potent one: interest in the banal. I also love the modernist bent with positive/negative relationships and greyscales! (I love greys!)
Giorgio Morandi

We skipped even further to Rosenquist (who is not necessarily a still life painter) who uses objects and fractured space to create layers of meaning.
James Rosenquist

A new (to me) artist is Neo Rauch. He creates a pseudo-narrative with his objects: how the objects relate to each other in the painting is what the painting is about.
Neo Rauch
What we are tasked to do with this assignment is to find ways to control the objects we've chosen so that we can create an interesting painting: not a still life!
First hit :)

Monday, October 1, 2012


I'm becoming more aware of the surface of the picture plane. You'd think I'd be all up on that, but it's one of those things like becoming aware of the edge of the piece of paper you've just made that mark on. I'm learning the properties of acrylic gesso and how it helps to make the stretched canvas tight, how it can make the surface smooth and velvety, and also how it can create a tooth for scumbling.
On Wednesday, we start our second painting assignment based on still life. I'm going to restrict the use of one of my major tools which is using traditional colours. So this means I may have to use the opposite colour than I would normally choose or do I choose in a stream of consciousness kind of fashion and see where that takes me? I do want to move beyond simply illustrating an idea into the realm of the image as a forum on which the painting unfolds so maybe I'll give that a try.
I'm going to use a 40" by 40" canvas which will make me work in terms of composition (which is what part of the assignment is about). It is also about spatial relationships, positive and negative spaces. And also meaning, both in the context of the painting and outside. I've never thought of still life objects on these terms before!
Somewhere in all this, I should get started on my independent painting. I'm thinking about making a self-portrait using skype images. I'd like to show these ephemeral images in an "eternal" format.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Final Painting Assignment 01

Here's the result for the first assignment in my painting class.
The crit went really well. I was told that my mark making was very interesting and helped with evoking the sense of space. My prof made the comment that my painting was the "opposite of technique", meaning that I was responding to the space with the different types of brushstrokes I was using etc. Some of my classmates didn't like the strong horizontal of the buildings in the background but before I had a chance to defend myself, one of the other students defended it saying it helps ground the composition (which was it's intended purpose). She seems to be the only other student that I've seen so far that has more considerable painting experience but of course, it's just as interesting to see the efforts of the others.
I was a little dismayed that one of the students was taking the criticism personally. I know it's your heart and soul up there on the chopping block . . . but only 3 weeks worth (not a whole lifetime of painting). And I also know that you have to maintain your identity and artistic integrity, but you also have to give way to constructive criticism: it only makes you a better painter and artist.
We also began the conversation about painting the side of your canvas: painting as 3d object. I have to agree with my prof on this one: when painting an illusion of space, it doesn't make sense to break the law of the window of the picture plane. You need that 2d plane to create depth of space. I wonder when it would be appropriate to break that rule? This makes me think I'm gonna have to cover up the edges of my stretched canvases that have part of the image wrapped around the edges with tape or a frame or something! :O

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An economy of stroke

When I first did a search for this, I got some pretty xxx-rated results. I'm not talking about handjobs or heart conditions. What I mean when I say economy of stroke, I'm talking about using the minimum amount of brush strokes to convey the structure of what I'm painting. My prof pointed out to me today that my strokes become decorative when there are too many, when they are too fussy, and when I'm not sure exactly on what colour to use lol. This means I'll have to think more about my choice of stroke and direction etc. Hopefully this won't leave me paralyzed thinking about painting instead of doing it. Also, maybe for now, I can edit my strokes by scraping them away when they get fussy. It's a fine line between structural and decorative "hey look at me, I'm a paint stroke" strokes. (use of the word stroke in the above = 9)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Assignment 1 - progress

Making some progress on my painting. Tonight I'm going to work on the beams of the sculpture and exaggerate the foreshortening to add depth to the picture. Not entirely convinced by the strokes in the foreground. Might go over it with a large smudge of warm yellow. Also have to work on the tone of the bricks on the walls of the building in the background. They need to have some blue in them so that they recede a little more. Then I'll add the brick line using 2 point perspective.
We'll see if my colours are getting too fussy because I'm reading 5 colours, only I wasn't expecting the sculpture to be different from the cement path . . . might have to change that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Assignment 1: Landscape

For our first assignment, we are painting a landscape using 5 colours to describe space. We are allowed to use perspective, overlapping, relative placement, etc. to help with depth, and we are allowed to tint and shade our 5 colours to enhance the space but, the 5 colours should be easily identified.
I'm thinking about taking a Cezanne-like approach using warm and cool colours to make the picture recede. I love the way he goes over and over his pictures, slowly building up the forms and spaces! I don't want to use the same kind of anxious strokes that he used though . . . but we'll see how confident I am while painting.
I haven't painted outdoors in a long time so it was rather fun! There's a sort of "on your toes" aspect when painting outside of the comfort of your studio (living room corner lol). It forces you to think about economy of paint and material etc.
We started about by doing a simple line drawing to work out the composition and to assign the colour zones.
Made some good progress today in class. The picture looks fairly solid in terms of space. I was starting to lose my concentration and was muddling around with my strokes. Thomas suggested that I use one or two bold strokes on the grass foreground. This'll make the viewer "trust me more" lol. I also have to pay attention to the perspective lines in my building. If I make them different, it might help me show which part of the wall comes forward (cuz I'm facing it straight on). He suggested that I keep painting the shadow each time I go over it as a kind of record of time (where the shadow has been ie. the distance traveled by the sun). I remember another painter using this type of method except he would paint different sections of the canvas in the differing light ie. morning = house and grass, evening = tool shed etc. It creates an interesting dialogue within the canvas between the different sections.
Gosh it was hot today! But it was nice to be outside . . . and the Department was offering free pizza after class = chomp to the omp! :)
I'll post more as the painting progresses.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Painting 211

I'm excited about my painting class that I'm taking with Thomas Chisholm. I'm interested in learning more about what painting is and what it means in a contemporary context. I'm a little sad that my paintings will probably look different by the end of this class, but this is part of what an art education is about: your work will be drastically different (for better or worse) when you're done. Will I still be painting nude figures? Will I still be using oil on canvas with the picture hanging on the wall? Will I do away with the image altogether?

I'm fretful. At the same time, I'm stoked to try something new with my painting that's in a completely different vein and see where that takes me. Hopefully, I can finish this self-portrait that I'm working on before I lose interest in the motive (new directions and ideas for art are so seductive).

I took stock of all the tools I have in making my paintings (this is the "before" picture):
- oil on canvas
- figures/nudes
- lively, meaningful strokes
- tradition portrait painting colours
- 22" by 32" ish in size
- using projections
- photographic references
- brushes: (no.12 flat, bristle), palette knives, squeegee
- to be hung on the wall
- multiple realities
- focal point, traditional composition
- lights and darks
- blended colour
- direct observation

I should eliminate one of these tools each time I work on a project so that by the end of this class, I'll be somewhere new and unexpected. Might be a lot to ask for 12 weeks of classes, but this would be a good start ;) The purpose of my taking art classes in University is to learn, not just do what I've all ready done and feel good about it! If I can do away with 5 of the above tools by December and be making work that I'm excited about, then I'd call that a success :D
Self-portrait (in progress)