I feel I should start by explaining why I am doing POP1. I have drawn on and off (mainly life drawing) for many years but have very little experience of painting – certainly no tuition, not even a local class. A few years back I inherited a well-worn set of ancient oil paints (all still in very workable condition) and brushes. Once I had removed the now considered toxic colours (some of these paints are nearly 50 years old!) I was left with a reasonable palette which sat unused in a draw. Then 3 years ago, due to a back injury, I suddenly I had some time on my hands whilst not being very mobile. Out came the paints and needing a reason to paint set about painting my daughters portrait. It took a week and was done from a combination of life and photographs.
I was very pleased with the result: it is a good likeness; has a good range of tones; and was great fun to do. There are some issues, compositionally for instance, it isn’t helpful to be looking down on your subject! I have to hang this really low on a wall as a consequence to get the eye gaze right! However, the point is that I was happy with what I had produced through what was really trial and error (along with good use of you tube videos on mixing flesh tones!) As a direct result of doing this painting I rang up OCA to enrol on POP1 with the hope of being able to expand and learn on this very brief experience. At that point I was persuaded by the OCA office to enrol on D1 first which I duly did. It took me 2 years to complete, and whilst it had its up’s and down’s overall I loved it.
So now I am enrolled on POP1 which is where I originally set out to be…and instantly I feel as if I hit a huge wall with the exercises. A brush feels weird in my hand, the paint doesn’t do what I want (and I don’t understand what I want to do with it) and the paper doesn’t behave how I expect – none of which I experienced with my portrait above. I know one painting isn’t much to go on, but I firmly believe I can regain the enjoyment I felt in doing it…I just haven’t worked out how to yet and I am finding the process frustrating and dis-heartening!
Given that was how I was feeling when I sent my assignment off I was pleasantly surprised to read that ‘This first assignment is full of promise’ and ‘there is some really lovely painting here and some nice experimentation too..‘. I really feel that I have struggled to move from Drawing Skills 1 to POP1, however I can see from this feedback that in fact I have managed to bring some of the skills I was starting to gain (those of experimentation, the idea and use of a sketchbook to name but two) into this module which is such a positive position to be in and something I need to hold on to. I am not one to shy from a challenge but negativity can get the better of me if I am not careful.
‘It is important as you progress to achieve a constructive creative balance between holding on to your research focus and inspiration and allowing the process to suggest opportunities to you.’ This comment struck a chord with me. I know that I tend to latch onto an idea and find it difficult to move away from it even if it isn’t working. One of the biggest hurdles that I didn’t overcome in D1 was that my assignment work was never as good as my preparatory work. That pattern seems to be repeating itself here. Your comment ‘this final painting may have suffered from a slight lack of nerve’ is probably true. I didn’t intentionally set out to create a more ‘pin sharp Dutch style realism’, it just happened that way, and the final image is nothing like what I had in my head (which was a much looser style). I too prefer the more sculptured study (mentioned with respect to brushwork) and suspected I tried too hard in the final piece even though I was very consciously trying not to try to hard!!! I have no idea how to overcome this problem other than to keep going and not be scared by it.
I am really interested to read that you felt as if I was enjoying colour in the abstract paint experiments. I was! I got a lot of satisfaction from daubing colours quickly next to each other. I recognise that I have an odd relationship to colour. I really enjoy colour for colour’s sake (as a child I used to collect paint colour charts – well still do really) yet I am not drawn to use it, or if I do, it tends to be the more muted tones or earth colours. The choice of a black background and black vessel probably reflect that, but the brilliant colour of the orange fruit against this background was stunning to look at and that contrast definitely appealed to me. Perhaps I am over thinking it but I feel I don’t know what to do with colour in terms of turning it into realistic shapes – which is maybe why the abstract shapes came across more strongly than the final painting! I am painting with a constant feeling that I have missed the point somewhere and I am not entirely sure of what I am doing.
Interestingly the little pear that I did was done very experimentally without much forethought and I feel was one of my more successful paintings in terms of colour use, however the process was much more like drawing for me. I definitely sat down to ‘draw’ it rather than ‘paint’ it. Again this points to me needing to make the mental leap between the two.
You ask which of the two egg paintings I think is more successful. Both have successful elements and elements that need improvement. However on balance I think the one on the white ground just has the edge. Whilst the tonal patterns of the bowl and the eggs are executed in a more competent manner on the coloured ground (it was the second of the two so I had had some practice), it is the bench of the first, larger painting that I think makes it more successful. It has tonal variation in it rather than colour variation. The smaller painting has the ground showing through but the grey is fairly flat over the top which, whilst making the eggs stand out more prominently, loses the vibrancy of the painting as a whole. The shadow on the larger one adds to this tonal variation. I hadn’t come across the artist Richter (presumably Gerhard) before this feedback. However I have looked him up and amongst his many different styles I am particularly drawn to his still life paintings such as Apples (1984) which I presume show the smudging you refer to. I find this painting fascinating. There isn’t a single hard line in it! He appears to have taken Cezanne’s idea of indeterminate edges in still life to the extreme and produced an almost photographic quality image but blurred (and I use that word deliberately over soft focus). I have put more about his in my research book.
Thank you for your timely turnaround of my assignment and for your very helpful comments and further pointers. If I have rambled on too much here I am sorry but thank you for sticking with it.
- Be more positive about painting and more bold
- I have put a big label on my easel saying ‘Construct with Paint’
- Experiment / practice more with glazes
- Consider other techniques
- Don’t be too constrained by original ideas, allow the process to open up different possibilities