year one part five: don't look back
I also did a quick assessment of some of the new things I’d been learning this year, mostly with Angelo at my Adult Ed. class. I’ve said before that he brought a sense of lively experimentation to the group and I’ve been surprised by some of the things I’ve enjoyed. Uncle Lenin was top of the list – I loved re-creating the colour palette of the time and looked a lot at Kandinsky, Léger and Ravilious (for the pencil markings).
uncle lenin (watercolour, graphite and ink)
‘My Venetian Dream’ was also fun and I took great pleasure in chopping up old black and white etchings for the purpose, as well as using some hand printed Italian papers from Venice. I was maybe inspired by the thought of John Malkovitch lurking in the shadows. I kept to a very limited palette on this one because the textures were so extravagant.
my venetian dream (watercolour, textures and collage)
I got quite involved in ‘Love is a Bitch’, using my favourite “bruised” colour palette and black ink. I had two strands of reference in my mind – one was Pinkie in “Brighton Rock”, pinched and mean, with vulnerable Rose (which is why I kept her little mouse-like paws) and the other was the Degas’ ‘Absinthe Drinker’, with the scuffed bar table and muted colours.
love is a bitch (watercolour, textures and ink)
‘Skye Scarf’ was a surprise. It pre-dated 'Cushioned Comfort' and was the first time I’d used watercolour pencils. It was an intricately woven scarf I'd bought in Scotland and I struggled to get the colour differentiation in the squares, with alternate colours taking precedence in the mix. I was able to make it look slightly fluffier in parts by adding water and really learned about blending and layering coloured pencils. It’s unfinished because I had twisted it artlessly on the desk and couldn’t possibly hope to recreate it at home. All these pieces of work were done within a time limit of 2 hours, with not much planning. Some I really enjoyed and continued at home, others were a disaster.
skye scarf (watercolour pencil)
The worst efforts have been binned. I was well outside my comfort zone with Mr Stamp and I don’t think he would even get me a low grade GCSE. I did actually draw him upside down, but a similar approach to Fidel Castro a couple of years ago had been much more satisfying.
mr stamp (oil pastel, watercolour and ink)
'Secret Garden' in thick acrylics began well with harmonious background colours and layering, but I was inept with the palette knives and ended up with something fit only for a boot fair well away from home. ‘Still Life with Peas’ is even more boring than its title.
I could see some preferences emerging. I had a look at what I’d managed to do relatively successfully and what hadn’t appealed. I am really not comfortable with heavy acrylic work and palette knife painting. I also sense that even if I could do it better, I still wouldn’t warm to the result, which is probably why I never try hard enough. I do like acrylic, especially on board, but thinner, more layered and scraped, with pastel, coloured pencil, sgraffito etc.
The versatility of coloured pencils gives me a real buzz. I was amazed at the way ‘Cushioned Comfort’ developed and felt within my control. It is a very contained medium and doesn’t swirl about doing its own thing while you watch helplessly. I suppose we are inevitably lured towards the medium that suits our temperament. To work with palette knives and thick paint, or in a very free watercolour style you must need a high tolerance of “accidentals” until you are an expert.
Ink has appealed from the start. I like its starkness and drama. It has the same qualities I found in the etched line. Do I like botanical painting? It’s full of contradictions: intense but calming, controlled but expressive. You have to have a different vision or it’s just a specimen. Watch this space.
next month: back to the drawing board