Somewhere along the line the format of this template was changed and I’m now unable to insert pictures at their suitable sizes. So I’m thinking of creating a new blog with more versatility visually. Meanwhile, here are a couple of sculpture updates. If there is a new blog, I’ll put the details on here before moving on.
Following my preference for the small informal clay figure shown in the last post, I have been making more of them similarly, modelling the shapes quite roughly and allowing textures to occur naturally over the surface, just by the movements of my fingers and basic tools. Every pose is slightly different, I am aiming for about 30 of these which will then be given colour treatments.
I’m doing some work at a friend’s house (decorating – a brush is a brush, right?) and each time I go in I am surprised and pleased by a small drawing she bought from me years ago. It’s just a simple oil pastel sketch and there’s a freshness to it that often gets lost by overworking. I did many studies of this subject, based on a photo. I’m tempted to go back to it, it does have links to what I’m doing now, in my head anyway.
Usually, when I’m exploring a subject, I do a number of small and medium sized versions and typically end on a larger scale, at which point I will most likely feel I’ve gone as far as I can go. The painting I’m showing here came out of a desire just to work large, which I hadn’t done for a while, so some of the exploration that I do in the smaller scale work, which includes trying different techniques and mixing media, took place on this single piece of paper, which is approximately 4ft (1.2m) square. The photo shows some distortion as I just snapped this with my phone, and it’s hanging from clips on the studio wall, so you can see a distinct curve.
The theme is, broadly speaking, remembrance, and it draws together various motifs and images from earlier work, also from newspaper clippings and the cemetery photos I took in August last year (see blog posts for July and August 2013). It’s a complex and, I think, somewhat unsatisfactory piece. It evolved rather randomly and as it developed there were awkward spaces and a lack of colour coherence. Frankly, it was a struggle. But these shortcomings rather recommend it to me, as I can’t be coasting on something I know too well where this is concerned. I am working on a smaller watercolour painting based on this (the large one is acrylic and collage), and I’m looking forward to more work aimed at solving some of the problems this presented.
This is a really odd photo, giving rise to some equally odd paintings and collage. A friend looking at the recent work asked, ‘what is it you are trying to say about it?’ – ‘it’ being the fact that the people in my paintings are almost always dead – older relatives, ancestors, mummies. I’m giving this some thought, meantime questioning whether it is necessary that a visual art piece does have something to say?
Incidentally, there’s a non-dead person in there – on the right is my mum, currently still with us at 92. The others are my father and a friend (centre) and my uncle (left). I have three recent paintings based on this photo. I think I prefer the third, for its ambiguity.
Last weekend was spent in the printmaking studio of Ian Brown, local artist and teacher (www.volcaniceditions.com). The studio is small but excellently equipped and it was great to work really hard six hours a day, for two days. It’s difficult to keep up those habits in my own studio when life is so full of distraction, but I always find that booking a course is great for encouraging focus and physical involvement in the work.
I chose to do screenprinting because I haven’t done any since college – sadly that was decades ago. The process was less sophisticated then and the way it was taught to me didn’t suit my ways of working. I specialised in etching and lithography, and left screenprinting alone, but lately thought it would be good to try again and see how I might be able to use it. The print I made was quite carefully pre-planned, not my usual practice, and the positives for the six colours were painted and drawn in India ink on mark resist (a grainy, transparent plastic sheet material). I brushed on neat ink in places, then applied water to enable it to spread randomly, in some places breaking into texture on the surface. The keyline positive was drawn with a twig dipped in the ink, which creates a dynamic line, with a dip pen used in places where the drawing needed to be more delicate. The drawings are based on my sketches of the Palermo mummies.
Not knowing the technicalities I wasn’t sure how the tones would transfer to the screen mesh, so the spread of the colours contains accidental effects. Luckily this worked quite well in terms of how one colour sat against another and occasional overprintings. With a bit more knowledge, I would use the overprintings more another time to enrich the textural qualities and depth of the image.
I like repetition as a theme, I’ve used it a lot, but no doubt the screenprinting connection made me think of Warhol. With the method used it would have been difficult to work the image as randomly as I usually would in a painting, but I’ll be using a couple of the prints to add some more hand-done drawing, probably in oil pastel.