Twelve hours gives enough time to be more relaxed about a piece of work.I spent
the first day 'drawing with paint' and I had intended continuing with this
linear approach but the paint took over on Sunday. However, I feel that at least
for once I didn't wreck it.One problem I always have with painting is what to
do with the background. I can't cope with complicated backgrounds, prefering to
concentrate on the figure, whereas other people produce work where the figure is
integrated into a coherent whole, producing a picture as opposed to a life
drawing. Looking at other peoples'responses is always fascinating and inspiring.
An enjoyable and productive weekend, thanks Tom and Tony.
We had some good conversations around the core business of painting the model for 12 hours. Montaigne, Cezanne, Pollock; about how painting the model might be about something more than an exercise in objective study; that what we make could say something about the confluence of life stories presented by the group, for that day, working from the model. Also about practical technical matters and maybe just a bit of banter around the lunch table. As to that 'core business' . I'm thinking about 'finish' and when to stop. I crave an objective study with the figure sympathetically rendered as a person, preferably as an identifyable individual; 'Jaz' in this instance; distinctive within the environment but very much naturally connected to it as a human being. This may be 'straight hair/curly hair 'syndrome i.e. not being able to appreciate what you've got, but I'm wary of the subjective painterly approach which probably comes most naturally to me. In the best painting ther isn't two things going on: free expression verses cool analysis; there's just one painting that works.
It was good to have a model who was new to me - so no preconceptions. Having two whole days I was determined this time (as always) to keep the treatment open and 'unfinished' as long as possible. I also worked on a larger scale than in the one-day sessions to better set the model within the visual context. So did it work out? Well the result was certainly still in a pretty raw state when time was up, but I didn't mind that since I had resisted the temptation to start fiddling with the detail - even (to my surprise) putting on the paint with my fingers which I haven't done since infant school. Also I excluded colour which certainly ensured a rather crude but very direct encounter with the physical presence of Jaz who was an excellent model. So have I broken the barrier? Perhaps! I hope!
P.S. The range of results in the group was great and I particularly envied Steven's painting which I thought was a minor masterpiece of perception in its economy and control of form.
I had a very clear perspective of how my two day painting would look. Using a canvas I had prepared before featuring a red wall I visualised Jaz standing in front of the wall and the exposed sides of wall covered in graffiti. Got in early to get a good spot
The first change! Jaz behind the wall with arm dangling over it. At least I only have to do a portrait,arm and hand and I need to practice hands. Decided to put a fence behind him (as you do),thought about an allotment!!. Visions of Kes.
The afternoon session went really well especially after the Town beat Leeds 2-1. Saving the graffiti till tomorrow.
Sunday. Had a lie in, breakfast in bed, newspapers to read and the eye pad to look for graffiti samples. Very civilised, Pauline happy until the grandson stormed in, newspapers thrown on floor demanding to change the graffiti on the I-pad to Toby the bear. Time to get up and head for Batley
Jaz looks grey so I try to blend orange onto parts of his face. The fence looks loud so I scrape burnt umber over it, Jaz still looks grey. I paint blue over the top three inches of fence, big improvement. I thoughtfully include yesterday's score line onto the wall, just in case Russell hasn't heard it.
Whilst I'm making these improvements Tom masterly finished his head and shoulders and by lunchtime must have changed his background eleven times, and each one to die for. I've only had one idea and it needs improving.
Pleased with bold graffiti. Tom suggests painting all the background blue in a South American style, the artist I've forgotten. What an improvement,he then suggests changing the bold graffiti and suddenly, I've got a painting!!! Thanks Tom!
Looking at everyone's efforts I thought there were some lovely paintings produced, especially when you considered how difficult the pose was. Well held Jaz. By the way Jaz, what are you doing behind that wall!!
My oil paints had not seen the light of day (or night) since my last ‘two-dayer’ in autumn 2012. Relatively new to the use of oil paints, I was up again for the challenge of experimentation through trial and error of how to use them. I started safely with a quick drawing on cartridge paper with charcoal to establish the pose and get attuned. I could have comfortably spent the whole two days just drawing. However, out came the board and oils and the guessing game began. Everything was propitious; fantastic model, pose, light, space...no excuses. By the time lunchtime arrived the pose was set on board with ground colours going on. I decided there was nothing I loved more in life than life-painting. By 4.30pm tiredness was overwhelming and puzzlement as to what colours I was mixing and applying and why. Sunday morning brought a fresh view – the painting was a yellow and blue flesh, flat, lifeless affair. I started to work up some more fleshy colours and to try work out how to make the background recede and figure to look more 3D and lively. By lunchtime I began to wonder what I was actually doing here amongst all these artists who were producing paintings. I never really resolved my painting problems due to lack of knowledge and experience. But I will say I learned a lot from my trial and errors. There will have to be a few more of those before a real painting emerges. Nothing ventured – nothing gained.
I’d like to say that I had thought through the format for my painting and decided on the long narrow shape because of pre planned reasoning and aesthetics etc.
However the truth is that I had two spare canvases which were not each big enough for a painting lasting two days. I prepared them earlier in the week using the usual formula of applying randomly yellow pages, acrylic paint and some crepe paper. In passing I showed them to Haydn who asked was I joining them together and I thought ‘yes, I might just do that’.
So on Saturday bright and early Tom produced wood and screws and stuff and they became one long narrow whole canvas. There is nothing like a challenge to get you going--- how to squeeze the seated figure of Jaz into the frame or whether to take a slice of him and also what of the scale of it. Much bobbing up and down had to be done in order to overcome some of these problems.
Then I had a conversation with David where we discussed panels of fragmented bodies in this format and how they could be arranged in disorder and mixing up their sequenciality--------- and ‘bing!, another idea was born.
Great two days of painting, lovely atmosphere, time simply flew by and Jaz was a hero.
I tried but not for the first time I think I failed. The idea was to have the figure/head thrusting forward as though bursting out of the picture frame whilst in it's wake splintered a series of fragments, a combination of my thoughts and the imagined thoughts of Jaz our model. I'm always conscious of the bubble of the life room, the unreality of it all and this was a first attempt to play with the idea of the outside world intruding into our inside world. I so often feel that my life is like a brush full of ink dipped into a jar of clean water, for a brief moment the trail of the ink is visible as a series of beautiful patterns only to then dissolve into a murky, inseperable mess. For me art is the attempt to hold that brief moment of insight by paradoxically using laborious techniques, layering one moment on top of another with only shards of clarity remaining. It's a pointless but compulsive activity, a private vice almost.
Looking forward to the session I pondered the usual dilemma - what to do? Luckily, lurking in the drawer I had a new sheet of a new paper, Arches Huile. As it says on the tin, "Arches Oil paper is a French made 300gsm (140 lb), 4 deckled edge paper specially formulated for oil painting.......features a powerful & efficient oil barrier that absorbs water, solvents, and binders evenly while allowing the paint and pigment to remain on the surface. It is ready to use - No need to gesso; no preparation required!" Remarkably it does exactly what it says on the tin and, even more remarkably, it stays flat throughout. Brilliant! At the end of day one I was a little disappointed as the pigment on the surface does have a tendency to combine with any colour laid on top, thus the whole thing could easily end up muddy and monochromatic. I feared this was where I was heading and, to a certain extent, I think I did. I ended up doing a lot of rubbing out with a rag before over painting to try to overcome this. By the end of day two I think I had worked out a way of making it work for me, and I am looking forward to working with it when I can let the layers dry and work wet on dry thus, hopefully, creating more contrast, more punch. In terms of scale I think I, not for the first time, bit off more than I could chew - I might have been better off using half a sheet. It's very satisfying to end the weekend feeling that you've learnt something, so for me it's been a great, enjoyable couple of days. Our model, Jaz, was terrific. On Thursday when Tom and I were trying to work out the pose I tried the one we used and, though I thought it would be interesting, I thought that physically it would be very difficult. Was Jaz up for the challenge? Of course he was and he did a terrific job. Thanks, Jaz. And thanks to everyone else who came along. What a lovely, fun way to spend a couple of days. Watch out for future sessions COMING SOON!