Sunday, 21 November 2010

Session 6: Painting with Chris Hough

This was another tough exercise in starting from scratch. Another still life. Another attempt to locate and define the objects, this time in paint. And once again a dispiriting opening not just lacking in accuracy, but also weak in composition. It felt like I had learnt nothing: except, that these first cack-handed attempts were just that. Merely a first few steps on a much longer journey and steps that can be re-traced and re-taken:
But Chris was much more concerned with making a painting and his session was full of good advice (not that he was laying down the law, just offering us an approach: this is what I have learnt from him so far: you do need an approach and you should try and make it consistent, then adapt or try another, but not stick with what you've always done or hop about from one to the other).

Here are some of the ideas I picked up that seemed helpful:

  • Try starting with a ground colour that gives you something to work from either being an opposite or a sympathetic colour to your eventual palette. Cover the paper then rub it down to give a lighter ground. In the above it was red rubbed down to a pink. 
  • Then the outline drawing itself should also be in a colour that will work in the finished picture
  • Once you start to put in colour 'float' in the shapes do not define them. Keep it rough. "Start loose and then tighten as you go". Also start THIN and apply colour more thickly as you go on. 
  • In particular leave the white and highlights until last: they will need thicker paint. (We looked at several classic paintings and noted that the blacks were thinly applied and the highlights were laid on thick)
  • Stick to your game plan! Once you settle upon an approach, stick with it. Especially in the choice of your palette. (He referenced the abstract work of Sean Scully here where he sticks to a strict set of usually muted colours, but builds up his patterns within the limits imposed).
  • Use big brushes at the start, don't be obsessed with detail. It distracts from composition and colour.
But best of all he tried to get us to lay down the dark colours first and then lay the light over it. In particular with the shadows: lay shadow everywhere, then paint in the lighter patches. This counter-intuitive approach really worked and I was pleased with the way some of my shadows suddenly lifted of the paper when the light was floated in.
Struggled on, trying to put all this into practice and ended up with a painting that wasn't anything like as bad as I had expected throughout most of the afternoon. In the end I felt pleased with the colours and many of the shadows (it was a complex and somewhat inconsistent set of shadows).
 Certainly something to build on by way of a 'game plan.

Drawing on the iPad

I missed the first painting session as I was away in San Francisco. It was the paint mixing lesson I took a few weeks ago. However, I had become increasingly fascinated by the Brushes application on my son's iPhone and had begun to look at the art done on the iPhone and now iPad that was finding its way onto the art sites. Above all I was captivated by David Hockney's work on the iPhone. He seems to wake up each morning and does a 'painting' on his phone and sends it to a group of friends who all get a brand new Hockney before breakfast.
I was attracted to the immediacy, the rich colours and the plasticity of the process. I had a feeling it would help me to draw and paint more. So when in San Francisco I indulged myself and bought an iPad and immediately downloaded Brushes. I confess to being quickly captivated by all the aspects that had drawn me to it.

I is taking time to get used to, but generally I am enjoying the freedom, the inability to obsess with detail and the chance to float colour into anything. I also greatly appreciate the ability to layers drawings. It is starting to get me thinking about how print making might work. There is nothing special about my early efforts but they are strangely pleasing on the eye and most importantly they are encouraging me to look and draw. Here are two sketches:

 Finally, I have been importing some of my art work from the class and using the application to try out colours and new layers. Here's a charcoal drawing with some colour layers in anticipation of a lesson to come in taking our charcoal drawings and turning them into paintings.