Research Point: Landscape in Series.

I initially researched what working in series involves, and why it is important. I learnt that when submitting a proposal for an exhibition, it is so much better for an artist to create a unified and cohesive group of work following a similar theme, as opposed to a selection of singular paintings with various different meanings and ideas. It is ultimately tiring and confusing for an audience to walk through a gallery of multiple artworks that have no correlation or connection to one another. I don’t believe it to be stifling or repetitive to work in series, I truly imagine the idea of being able to explore a topic so in depth to be interesting and gives the viewer even more insight into your message and what it is trying to covey. Whether you tell a story, explore similar compositions or create a set of paintings all around the same theme, ultimately it is much more interesting than a singular insight into an isolated painting, then move on. The artist knows all his thoughts and motivations behind the piece, but the viewer won’t. Viewers of art wish to be invited into the artist’s mind on a very personal level, and just like an author wouldn’t just give a reader a single chapter of a book, artists are able to connect and explore much more collectively with images in series.

Artists in the past who have worked in series include Cezanne, who created a series of paintings in his native home town entitled ‘Montagne Sainte-Victorie’. Layering very obvious fore, mid and backgrounds in all his paintings, and with the repetition of the mountains, you really feel like you’re travelling on a journey with him and have an intimate understanding of the area. Historically, this mountain held a huge symbolic appeal for the region. In the late 1870’s, a cross was placed at its peak to celebrate being spared from invasion during the Franco-Prussian war, and so is associated with victory and the early Christian Festivals that were held there. The use of geometric shapes is particularly obvious within the square houses, rectangular tree trunks and triangular mountains, all fitting together to make a complete and interesting image. He had an intelligent understanding that horizontal lines created breath and vertical lines created depth. His dramatic use of trees in the foreground helps frame his paintings incredibly well. He easily differentiates between different types of trees, simply by adapting the brushstrokes he uses. In this first painting, entitled ‘Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley’, the leaves are circular and compact, whereas in the second, entitled ‘Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine’ the leaves are seemingly more hastily applied in quick feathery brushstrokes, flowing as if the tree is blowing in the wind. Both images have easy to follow paths which draw your eyesight naturally and comfortably through the painting. He is utterly skilled in creating pleasing compositions, and his palette only enhances his work, vibrant greens, yellows and blues with the occasional hint of purple and brown, making for natural and beautiful paintings. He can also very easily change the mood of an image with the use of a dominant undertone. For example, in the second image it appears to be colder and on the cusp of nightfall, simply with the use of a blue hue, whereas the first image is warmer and brighter due to the more dominant yellow. His paintings are just as much about the paint and canvas as it is about subject matter.

Katsushika Hokusai is a Japanese Ukiyo-e artist who created a series of landscapes at the age of 70, entitled ‘Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji’. Ukiyo-e, meaning “pictures of the floating world”, is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings, mainly produced around the 18th century, feature images of everyday Japan, ranging from famous actors, to landscapes and tales from history. These large prints are created by initially drawing an image on paper, which is then used as a guide to cut multiple wood blocks. These blocks are then covered in ink and pressed onto paper, the final image slowly revealing itself as more layers and colours are added. Each artwork features Mount Fuji, either as the main subject, or as a speck in the background, within various weather conditions and settings. Historically, Fuji was seen as sacred and spiritual, and became the focus of many pilgrimages. By the early 19th century, many of the local towns inhabitants became followers of the Fuji cult, or ‘Fujiko’, climbing the mountain as a sign of their commitment and respect. The most famous of this series is entitled ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, and depicts what appears to be a tsunami, but could simply be an exaggerated wave. What I find really interesting is that the Japanese eye would naturally be drawn from right to left upon looking at this image, following their natural reading method, making the vibrant blue wave appear as if it’s swirling towards and over you. A westernised version of this would be a mirror image. The simple three colour combination of reddish brown, indigo and a hint of green works effectively to create a clean finish. His use of shading and building depth is highly sophisticated too. The second image I was drawn to is called ‘South Wind, Clear Sky. In autumn, there are certain moments when the setting sun turns Mount Fuji a warm glowing red colour. Soft bright white clouds in a blue sky form the background of the overwhelming dramatic Mountain, and I really like the way the light blue of the lower sky fades gently into the clouds in a subtle form of abstraction.

 

 

 

More modern artists who work this way include Peter Doig, a Scottish born painter who infuses traditional landscape painting with elements of magical realism. In this series, Doig reimagines the island of Trinidad. Travelling and moving regularly, he lives a content nomadic lifestyle. His images give a unique sense of isolation and ‘otherworldliness’, with vibrant colours and a rich, tropical atmosphere. You instantly get a feel for the lush green vegetation and the cool calming water. They give both an at once mystical insight into the islands colonial past and diverse spiritual traditions, and an undercurrent atmosphere of threat and danger. His paintings provide a glimpse into the wealth of tales he has to tell, but gives the viewer the freedom to finish the stories with their own imagination. Wonderfully composed, he consistently splits the page using the rule of three, then adding in everything from trees to bridges to guide the viewers eye through the painting. He describes his working process as ‘making mistake after mistake’ but ultimately finishing with something unique that he learns from and quickly moves on. He works painstakingly and meticulously, usually only producing around 6-8 paintings a year, working from a collection of paraphernalia from his travels, photographs, leaflets, postcards and found images. The first painting, titled ‘Grande Riviere’, depicts a dark sky with bright green vegetation and a tranquil looking pool. The tonal difference from the black to the white sand is stark but highly effective. A white horse travels mystically across the beach, a completely romantic cliché, but actually based of a true to life scene he experienced. You can almost feel the humidity and damp topical atmosphere through the page. In ‘Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre’, he sought inspiration from a photograph of himself and a friend, at the time working as a dresser in the English National Opera to make some extra money, and found themselves occasionally dressing up in the costumes for a laugh. Once such incidence ended up with him sneaking onstage and getting caught by the choreographer. His use of colour for the sky, the subtle blend of greens and blues flecked with white, makes for a magical result.

  1. Grande Riviere, 2001-2. Oil on canvas.
  2. Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre. 2000-2. Oil on Canvas.

Nicholas Herbert uses intense darkness to describe the mood and atmosphere on the Chiltern Hills so perfectly. Upon looking at the images you can’t help but instantly understand exactly how Herbert felt and what he experienced whilst there. He uses earthy, dark colours which leaves a raw energy behind, but never uses pure black, instead mixing the darkest browns and blues create an accurate depth true to the natural world. He also interspaces it with the exploration of light as well, when you look closely you can see the shadows and the brighter tonal areas being swallowed by the blackness. He is incredibly physical in his creation of art, sometimes using his medium so harshly that it will scuff or damage his paper, an effect he incorporates into his art, the final result being an un-precious and worn painting, but ultimately full of emotion and energy. Depicting the arrangement of the natural world around him in a fast but almost abstract way, you can still see the brushstrokes and the physicality of Herbert actually making the art, which in turn adds to the stark intimacy and sense of isolation the viewer feels upon seeing these images. Deliberately choosing a dark range of materials, he de-romanticises the outside world and forces the viewer to look objectively. He uses relatively inexpensive paper that will enhance the scruffiness of his technique and prevent any preciousness or hindrance over his creations. Using mixed media, acrylic paint, crayons, gouache, pencils and chalk, he uses paintbrushes and his fingers to create his final pieces. I would love to create similarly atmospheric skies in mixed media, as this is a wonderful technique for depicting clouds on a thundery and dark day. I love the juxtapositioning of the bright peeking out behind the black hill, so subtly that you have to look closely to even really begin to see the recognisable shapes.

  1. LANDSCAPE L921, SHARPENHOE SERIES, LOOKING OUT FROM MARKHAM HILL, THE CHILTERN HILLS
  2. LANDSCAPE L913, SHARPENHOE SERIES, BENEATH THE ESCARPMENT, THE CHILTERN HILLS

Roger Colson is an internationally exhibiting painter and printmaker. His most recent series of landscapes focuses on sunsets and the sky, its temperament, and its ability to change in the blink of an eye. Using a dramatic sense of natural light, Colson blends paint seamlessly together to create a gradient of colour. He is able to capture the fleeting moment as the sky changes colour, makes for a beautiful and completely unique piece of art. His medium of choice for this series is oil paint on canvas, giving a textured result in which the sweeping brush marks and the movement during creation are visible. He does not complete any underdrawings, but does occasionally prepare his canvases using a mixture of glue and sand, which, once dried, leaves a textured and interesting surface on which to paint on. This first painting, titled ‘Enchantment’, uses a mix of complimentary colours, orange and blue, with a hint of red. The darkness surrounding it frames the painting and a tiny dot, representing the sun, finishes it off. I wonder if this is a completely accurate representation of what the sky was like at that particular time, as I would personally have changed it so that the upper half of the sky was more purple. The warmth of the lower half jars with the colder blue, splitting the painting horizontally right across the middle. I will always believe in artistic license, and shifting things in a landscape to create a visually pleasing image, so lifting the orange so it just hit the top third of the canvas, and deepening the blue to a purple, would be the only changes I would make. This second painting is entitled ‘Voyage’ and shows more of a seascape. It’s my favourite of the two, the use of the single colour unifies and enhances the subject matter, along with the skilful and delicate texture of the surface of the sea. Colons’ paintings can take from weeks to months to complete, and thanks to the longevity of oils he is able to continually rework the paint around the canvas day after day.

 

  1. Enchantment
  2. Voyage

Yun-fei Ji uses traditional Chinese medium of ink and mineral pigment, on mottled handmade rice and mulberry papers, to create these intricately detailed drawings. Full of stories surrounding modern day China, this particular series entitled ‘The Empty City’ depicts the historical, cultural, social and environmental consequences of the controversial hydroelectric dam that was being built along the Yangtze River. He tells the important story of the relocation of over a million people as the dam is causing an inevitable flood, submerging cities and important history within them. He paints intimate scenes of natives scavenging for their own survival, however it’s interesting to note the actual dam never once appears. With such an important social commentary being portrayed, artistic merits almost seem invalid, but his work is of exceptional quality. His colour choices are muted and subtle but so effective, as there is so much detail within these pictures you need an overriding constant to keep the drawing appear unified. His use of multiple tones of brown depict autumn, representing the decaying and ending of a season. The first painting, ‘Water Rising’, portrays a man on a bicycle, travelling with multitudes of stuff in his basket, painted in a very flat dimension. Even the title gives an initial sense of urgency and panic of the community. He plays with the idea of space, time and perception in a non-traditional way.  In the second image, ‘The End of Autumn’, he shows a barrage of wasteland with the river flowing down the middle, giving the viewer a multitude of interesting objects and ramifications to explore and understand in their own way. Although somewhat overwhelming to pick apart at first, upon close inspection of the detail, within all of Yun-Fei Jis works, you can spot objects such as dirty buckets, bags of rubbish, fallen branches, limbless people, skeletal creatures, large toxic clouds, boiling polluted waters and fallen buildings, all describing the real life horrors he has witnessed in a fantastical way. Overall he depicts important and interesting stories, and whilst influenced in his technique by traditional artists, portrays modern and relevant and tragic social narratives in his own unique way.

  1. Water Rising. Mineral pigments and ink on mulberry paper. 2006
  2. The End of Autumn

Sources:

Cezanne

Katsushika Hokusai

Peter Doig

Nicholas Herbert

Roger Colson

Yun fei ji

Project 2, Exercise 3: 15 min landscape studies 

Just behind my back garden, there is a field, used for playing football or rugby, overlooks houses, trees, a park and a main road. I thought this would be perfect for this exercise. Although not a traditional rolling hills landscape, with multiple layers of depth, I found the 15 minute per drawing aspect of this was a huge learning curve. Working in a short amount of time gave me a definite finish point, and forced me to get the absolute essentials down on paper quickly without worrying about small inaccuracies. It also opened up my eyes to the fact that not every inspiration point has to be absolutely perfect before I start, even though this was only outside my door, I was still introduced to a plethora of various landscape opportunities. I could have done honestly hundreds of these little drawings there and then with all the various subtle differences surrounding me.

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Although there are many tiny technical inaccuracies within all these images, occurring due to the speed of creation, I believe I have successfully managed to depict the mood and general idea of the area. In the very first picture I am looking towards the sun, so as well as being a little slow and hesitant, I was very gentle in the application of my medium. I had a limited selection of coloured pencils in various shades and tones, which also helped speed up the decision making process as I wasn’t overwhelmed with masses of choice to wade through. Generally, for each drawing I spent five minutes drawing in pencil the horizon line, and then the outline of the houses and trees in the distance. Then I would start to add large blocks of colour to the grass and sky, and then spend the remainder of my time adding the small darker details. In this particular drawing, there is also a small path your eye follows naturally.

In the second image, I am facing in the complete opposite direction so it is much darker. I tried to keep all my images in the compositionally pleasing rule of thirds, drawing the horizon line either a third of the way up or down my page. I think the content of my drawing was just right for this exercise too, personally if I had traveled to a large cluttered landscape with lots of dramatic textures and subject matter, I would have got overwhelmed and been unable to produce a finished quick drawing in only 15 minutes. In this image, a slightly random, out of place looking bright green tree sits, and I wish I’d had time to blend it in more smoothly with the rest of the foliage in the background. I have very clearly defined various different shades within the bushes however, even if slightly dramatically. Although the grass and sky are very hastily drawn in and don’t look particularly realistic, as a sketch it gives you a general idea of what you might want a composition to be like for a more final piece, in which you spend more time on.

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As I went out in the evening, the sun changed and began setting rather quickly and the lighting became more dramatic. In certain lights, the outlines of the houses were shed in darkness as the light hid behind them. My drawing techniques consequently became more heavy handed and dramatic. As I sped up, I became way more confident and firm in my drawing, becoming less precious over the result. The third picture is a dark and intense contrast of tonal values. There are also hints of clouds in the sky as well. The grass was much darker, I learnt how facing in various directions causes the sun to shine differently on certain areas and create a completely different mood. I really enjoyed blending the oranges and yellows into a flaming sunset behind the buildings

My very final image is facing yet another direction, but the lighting was not nearly as harsh. The subtle sunset was beginning to spread to this side of the field though. I feel like I could have perhaps placed a more obvious hint of green within these foliage though, as the mood from this angle wasn’t quite as harsh as the previous image yet I still used my darkest pencil. I like the tree that comes out into the foreground, and the gradient of light green to dark green of the grass. You can almost see a change in my drawing style as the pictures develop, from light, cautious and neat, to heavy handed and just focussing on getting product on the page. Even in this short amount of time my confidence has grown.

Something I really need to start keeping an eye out is landscapes that fit the fore, mid and background formula. Hardly any of these images have very much, if any, complex depth to them and so are quite plain. Although dynamic in the right lighting, they don’t allow for showing particularly complex composition skills or ability. However, even so, this has been a huge learning curve in speed and having the confidence to just get it down on paper without worrying about the results. When out, I would sometimes only take pictures rather than actually sketch there and then for fear of not having time to create a drawing that would be useful or accurate, but this has forced me to hone this skill and it has proved to me that I can create a drawing in 15 minutes, capture the dynamics of the area quickly, and use it as reference in the future for a larger piece.

Project 2, Exercise 2: Sketchbook walk 

I took a walk around my garden one evening and found four views I wanted to draw. It was around 5pm, not dark yet, however the sun was hidden behind a multitude of clouds, resulting in no shadows or intense light and shade contrast. I took both my small A4 sketchbook and my camera out. So that I could capture the areas all in the same light, I drew very quick outline sketches whilst outside, and then took photos and ultimately came inside to finish the completed detailed drawings a little more comfortably. I used layer of coloured pencils as my chosen medium, as they are my favourite for creating interesting textures in a small space.

In the first image, I depicted a small dirt path lined with bushes and leaves. I know I need to keep practicing drawing foliage, as it is one of my weaker subject matters. I struggle to represent a large area of greenery accurately and sophisticated, so I am going to continue drawing trees and bushes as the more I produce, the more instinctively it will come. I initially started out drawing every single leaf, differentiating between the two bushes both in the leaf shape and colour, either bluey-green, long round leaves or yellow-green short pointed leaves, but quickly realised that was a time consuming and ineffective way of working, so just filled the area with lots of textures and hinted at depth with darker colours. I am, however, pleased that I managed to include a hint of fore, mid, and background using the trees, and although not extremely obvious it is something I considered and focused on. I enjoyed playing with the uneven and messy leaf litter on the ground, and really like how the viewers eye line is naturally drawn through the path through the drawing. In regards to its composition, I believe it is a well rounded and effective piece. I really like how the messy foliage contrasts with the more detailed gate in the background.

In the second image I tried to get an unusual and interesting viewpoint, hitting the corner of the building. This perspective is one of the most dramatic I think I’ve tried to depict, and it works successfully. I focused on the variety of colours within the bricks, and although they aren’t perfect, as they aren’t all perpendicular to each other, they still cohesevly work as a whole. When I squinted to see different areas of tone, I saw that the flower basket in the top corner was the darkest area, but I don’t think I particularly accurately depicted that, as I still saw it as ‘green’ rather than ‘the darkest shade’. I went over the green in a grey pencil to darken it. The texture of our house is really unique too, above the traditional layer of brick we have a textured wall of plaster, bumpy as if globs of paste have just been thrown onto the walls. I love how tactile it is, and tried to represent the tiny shadows created all over our house. There is again a small hint of fore, mid and background, and I also really like the contrast of the man-made building compared to the small pots of foliage framing the image.

In the third image, a variety of textures combine to create a visually interesting image. I am not sure if the textures clash against each other, or whether the repetition of different geometric shapes make for an interesting image. I split the page into thirds and the overall composition sits well, even so. I wanted the main point of focus to be the gate, however the plant pot also stands out and they battle for your immediate attention. The pot sits almost in mid air as I didn’t put much shadow underneath, it would have worked better if I had bought it forward into the foreground. I personally believe it to be the least successful of the four drawings. The textures in the gate could have done with blending, as it feels very disjointed, and although there are multiple colours and shades in wood, they merge seamlessly together. Again, there is no obvious fore, mid and back ground, something I really need to start actively looking for and incorporating. If I were to do this drawing again I would shift the viewpoint sightly, placing the fence in prime position and not quite giving as much detail into everything else. .

One of my favourite elements of this entire exercise is the ground in this last drawing, I think I effectively captured the depth, colour and tone within the tiles.I also really like the subtle hint of texture within the fence as well, such as the knots in the wood. I really tried to focus on the tonal values within the greenery in the pot, as it was the main point of interest, and I believe I accurately depicted the variety of shades within the leaves. I also really looked at how perspective affected the fence, using the photograph as guidelines definitely helped with this. My viewpoint in this image was overhead, giving an unusual perspective of the fence which I really tried to capture as the panels get smaller and less detailed they are, the further into the distance they go. I did hint at two flowers within the foliage, but struggled to position them comfortably, and could use colour accurately enough to make them stand out, so blended them into the background instead.

Project 2, Exercise 1: Cloud formation and tone

With the English weather being as temperamental as it is, I found myself struggling to find a wide variety of clouds to draw. However, this is an exercise I will definitely be repeating as time goes on. I had to look at tonal values so closely and accurately, which in turn enhanced my skill at depicting depth. I used two types of charcoal, thin sticks of willow charcoal, and chunkier, thicker sticks, both of which were useful in layering and creating the variety of shading necessary. I also used a putty eraser to lift the medium and create highlights, but quickly found that it rubbed at the paper I was using and didn’t lift off product particularly cleanly, instead leaving behind a grey smudge, so I learnt to leave spots of white paper behind instead, and used the rubber for blending instead.

It had been heavily raining earlier on in the day, and although it was dry at this point, the clouds were dark and heavy cumulus, still in the sky with hardly any wind. In this first drawing, I incorporated the tips of the trees in the skyline, hoping it would add to or enhance the final image. I made them as dark as possible, as the sun wasn’t visibly highlighting them and I wanted them to make them stand out as different objects to the clouds. I started the sky by covering the entire page in a really light, blended layer of charcoal. Then, using a thin stick, I lightly mapped out the general outlines of different clouds, and areas of light and dark throughout the image. Using the side of a thicker piece, I began the light first layer of darker shading, creating interesting textures and blending with my finger. I just continued building up, erasing and highlighting as much as I could to create voluminous spaces with intense contrast.

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I followed the same rhythmic formula in my second drawing, however I feel like this is even more intense. I didn’t draw out the outlines of individual clouds in this, which definitely helped as there were no visible lines underneath anything and the focus was on using tone, not line, to differentiate between areas. Ultimately I am so pleased with how these have turned out. They capture the atmosphere of the evening so well. I learnt that clouds are not just singular, fluffy, light shapes in the sky, they are a careful compilation of multiple tones blended together. I also tried to incorporate a white conte stick but found that it would probably be better used to highlight actual colours, such as reds or browns. When incorporated with black charcoal it just becomes a muddy grey colour and doesn’t leave a very obvious mark behind.

I would really like to create a sunset or ‘back-lit’ drawing, incorporating the sunlight either coming through the clouds, or hidden just behind, visibly highlighting it. I think playing with highlighting strips of sun rays would be so dynamic and interestingly unique. I think it would also be really important to draw multiple different types of clouds, for example wispy cirrus, speckled cirrocumulus, and flat stratus, so will constantly be checking the sky from now on. Going out at different times of the day, especially in the mornings may help, as I only tend to do any outside work in the early evenings as I feel more physically well then.

I also initially tried a study of the sky in a red-brown toned conte stick, but the resulting image was not successful, and did not look like clouds at all, so I placed it to the side, counted it as a learning curve, and henceforth will be forgetting all about it. I would like to continue trying to create more coloured studies, maybe in blues or even dramatic yellows and reds as a background to a sunset. This is just the beginning of exploring clouds.

Research Point – Landscapes


Transcript

Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Durer was a renaissance painter from Germany in the 15th Century. Beginning in silverpoint pen sketching portraits, he quickly became skilled and in his early twenties, he started using watercolour to depict landscapes and cityscapes, of which he quickly became fascinated by. He was able to create precise works of art with dramatic moods. This drawing, entitled Innsbruck castle court with clouds, was created in 1496 with watercolour and gouache over a faint line drawing. The overcast sky hovers menacingly over the otherwise bright and sunny scene. A subtle palette of greys, browns and light blues makes for an incredibly natural image, and the perspective in this is used effectively as it draws your eyes to the centre of the image. The black stormy sky hidden under the clouds frames the painting cleverly as it piques the viewers interest, a subtle hint of what’s to come as if we’ve each individually been let in on an intimate secret.

He was fascinated by nature and animals too, and showed his curiosity to learn and document even the tiniest detail of the outside world in his drawings. I really love his meticulous attention to the minutest aspect and really hope to incorporate that into my own work. The thing that first attracted me to this picture is definitely the meticulous effort that must have been spent painting each strand of grass, the photorealism and the outdoor palette of colours chosen. Greens, yellows, browns and a hint of purple work together so well. I often use nature as inspiration for colour palettes, nature will instinctively and naturally create pleasing combinations and so keeping an eye out, for example, for a cluster of flowers, in both yellow and purple, and making a brief note using coloured pencils in my sketchbook could be the beginning of a painting with a completely different subject matter but with a complementary colour scheme of yellow and purple, inspired by the outdoors. The tonal difference between the dark soil and the light sky in this makes for a subtly dynamic image.

Claude Lorrain

Moving forward into the 17th Century, Claude Lorrain appeared to be fascinated with the depiction of light, using the sun in his paintings as a focal point and exploring the possibilities of its effects, and of shadows and highlights. His paintings are known as the ‘idealised landscape’, a perfect depiction of a beautiful place, trimmed and edited flawlessly. Although most of his works at first appear to be identical, further inspection shows that his consistency played to his advantage as he simply grew more skilled and advanced in his techniques, especially in his ability to create pleasing compositions. There is a subtle evolution in his work, his early paintings are cheerful and bright, and towards the end of his career they become darker and more wistful.

His method of painting is very traditional. Starting out with a white canvas, he uses oil paints to create a loose underpainting, and then adds layer upon layer, drawing with his paintbrush and adding detail. In practically all of his paintings he depicts biblical, mythological and historical staffage, an element met to some critics’ judgement as his figure drawing was not particularly strong. Many have wondered why he continued painting such subpar people within such rich and impressive landscapes. Perhaps this was his way of being unique and branding his art as his own, as there are not many other striking features to set his work apart from the rest.

This particular artwork was painted in 1603, and is titled ‘Seaport at sunset’. The sun is setting over a harbour, and figures splatter the lower half. The crisp detail in which Claude Lorrain paints the geometric boats masts, and the buildings, makes for an incredibly interesting image. The main thing you notice about this picture however, is the atmospheric mood the lighting creates. The harsh black shadows contrast with the bright sun to create the most visually interesting image. The warm toned colour palette makes for a very cozy and comforting painting, and even though you have the vastness of the ocean it still feels intimate and secluded. The place is imaginary, in order to give him full creative control to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

George Shaw

Today, George Shaw paints completely different type of landscape, set in the dingy council estates of Tile Hill, Coventry. His medium of choice is Humbrol enamel paint, more commonly used to paint model kits and toys, but creates a completely unique finish to his art. He often creates his work on large MDF boards. The paint isn’t shiny, it isn’t thick, and is hard to move and manipulate but he has a firm dedication to his signature and exclusive medium, of which he has mastered the skill to turn it into something beautiful and fluid.

He believes the not using expensive materials gives him the ability to experiment and create freely, and takes the pressure off to create ‘perfect’ artwork first time so as not to waste anything, an interesting concept I hadn’t thought of before. It’s like constantly working in a rough sketchbook, I always feel looser and more creative when I know I can just play with my materials, without worrying about wasting high quality paper or products. It also stops Shaw comparing himself to anyone else, which is incredibly clever. Comparison gets you nowhere, and using a completely different medium to everyone else first of all forces you to think creatively outside the box as there’s no step by step tutorial available. It also stops you believing your work is any better or worse than anyone else’s, as the paintings will be obviously different, yet you can still appreciate the individual talent and skill of each.

This painting, entitled ‘Scenes from the Passion: Ten Shilling Wood’, depicts the natural beauty of the sky juxtaposed against an urban townscape. This is his childhood home, and the idea of atmosphere and weather is a central theme throughout the majority of his work. The soft rose glow enclosing the entire image has an incredibly romantic feel to it, and he often talks about how he creates his paintings based on the feelings and emotions he had at the time of painting them. In some images, rain could represent the sadness or fear in his life, but in this it appears like a glimmer of wonderful hope shines over the building. Perhaps it signifies a time of love in his life. The fact that no people appear in any of his artwork could be an important symbol as well, meaning that to be fully immersed in the painting, you have to forget about the oppressiveness of other human beings and just immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the natural beauty of even the grungiest of places.

Hannah Woodman

Another modern landscape artist, Hannah Woodman, is based in Cornwall and I adore her almost abstract artistic interpretations of the outdoors. In this particular artwork you see a soft hint of a path with darker green bushes and trees outlining it. Occasional hints of colour indicate flowers and petals. It is obvious she never intends on portraying an exact photographic replica of the place she is painting, but instead gives an emotional response that allows the viewer to interpret her work and fill in the gaps, a clever and interesting device. Although her work is not complete abstraction, it is quite clear what certain areas and objects are representing, she cleverly uses colour as the primary identifier for objects, a hint of green representing a tree, some purple indicating a flower, ultimately relying on the viewers own knowledge of objects and flowers to create a much more personal interaction with the image.

Building layer upon layer of paint onto her canvas, Woodman often leaves her paintings half-finished and returns to them some time later, allowing time for her instinctive use of colour, texture and paint to merge with her initial, flat composition ideas, these underpaintings so vital in work so layered. She uses so much texture in her paintings, something I love and wish to take through to my own creative endeavours. Altering a canvas with thick paint in such a way that you can scrape, scratch, and splatter the surface is such an enjoyable experience and leaves for an interesting and varied piece for the viewer to look at. A really interesting aspect of her creative process is when she scrapes away wet new paint to reveal already dry layers underneath and incorporate it all seamlessly together. She has an emotional, very physical way of creating art, when she gets frustrated with a piece she channels that into her painting, giving it a raw intensity unlike many others. Compositionally, in this particular picture she has placed the horizon line in the centre of the painting, something that instead of focussing on the sky like many traditional landscapes do, we see the ground and the foliage in a unique perspective.

Sources

 

Research Point – Vija Celmins


Transcript

Vija Celmins was born in Latvia in 1944, before emigrating to the United States.

In the video, Vija Celmins discusses how her creative process works. From what I interpreted from her words, she doesn’t see herself as an artist who constructs brand new unique ideas, but as someone who creates representations of objects and pictures to look at. She doesn’t believe the point of art is to just copy exactly what may be in front of you, especially as the word copying itself implies something fast, and is an incorrect term, especially for artists who spend hours working on a single image. In her opinion, a view I completely agree with, art is thoroughly re-describing the subject matter in a unique way, and portraying, in her words, an ‘attention span’, a length of time spent focussing and working on something, individual to each artist. She keeps and shows all her inspirations, her found objects and incorporates them in her exhibitions along with her final pieces as evidence. In this sense, I will adapt this in my own work as not worrying about perfectly depicting my subject matter identically. She attends more to exploring the process of creating art and improving her skill of the materials used, rather than worrying about the final product.

In this particular piece entitled ‘Ocean’, Celmins created a series of drawings depicting water in intense detail. Although this image is not the entire work, consisting of seven images, it gives an accurate reflection into the type of art she creates. Although seemingly identical at first glance, each image is individually crafted and subtly unique, becoming darker as it progresses. Her medium of choice is either a lithographic crayon, or a 3B or 7B pencil. The ocean is a highly repeated subject within all her creations, but in personal interviews she has reinstated that it has no significant meaning to her other than that the intricate detail and repetition of a similar and familiar subject allows her to look at her subject thoroughly, in depth and create highly detailed art. In this sense, you get the feeling that subject matter is actually rendered insignificant to Celmins, that she could draw anything without needing a personal connection to it, but the important part is the study of mediums and the creative process. The ocean is simply a vessel for her to explore art intricately and finitely.

Celmins explores how using different tonal values affect the same image, and the atmosphere it creates. I believe the more subtle the tonal difference, the calmer the sea appears. In the images with barely any depth or darkness it feels like it could be a sunny, bright day with no wind, however the darker it gets the more tumultuous the atmosphere becomes, with a more ominous and stormy undercurrent. As well as exploring the extremely subtle changes of the water, she was also experimenting with the medium she was using too, the depth and darkness in which her graphite pencil would take her. Learning just how black she could make her page is just as vital, interesting and important to her as creating a shiny and wonderful finished masterpiece. This physical evidence of her personal artistic journey is so important. Using simply black and white (and hints of grey) in this series of drawings is clever as it allows us to focus on the actual unobjective mark-making and the atmosphere created, otherwise as viewers we would be distracted by seeing it as an image of the blue sea. There is an increasingly dramatic sense of movement throughout, you can almost feel the direction the water is flowing and the intricate details moves your eye naturally down the canvas.

Sources

Part 1, Exercise 3: Study of several trees 

For this exercise, we had to produce a drawing of a group of several trees and introduce colour. As it’s not very easy for me to get out into the woods in a wheelchair, and my back garden only has sparse trees here and there, I decided to google image search. After sifting through pages and pages of random pictures, I came across this of a forest which had the most pleasing composition of all.

Original image – google

A3 paper – mixed media

I drew a very basic and loose sketch in pencil of the tree positioning, and then started off adding colour using watercolour pencils, believing them to be the best medium for more detailed work. I really need to practice using these more, as I’m not as skilled as I want to be with them. I can easily use watercolour paints but pencils are so different. It started out promisingly, I added in the strong dark tree trunks, colouring the entire area and then adding water to enhance it. I then went about the foliage bit by bit, adding a small amount of pigment, wetting it, and trying to move it about the page. It left behind a saturated sheet of paper that I was randomly adding to without rhyme or reason, meaning it wasn’t very harmonious. You could still see uncomfortable pencil marks and I wasn’t using the pencils correctly to get a nicely blended image. I was also spending far too long on the tiny details. An hour later I really wasn’t happy with the result, it was inaccurate and looked wrong.

So I used a hairdryer to quickly dry the page completely and ended up picking out my pastels. Using the work I had already done as a guideline, I quickly added layer after layer of colour, speeding up and looking more carefully at the shading and tones. I was looking too much at the smaller details previously, I learnt a big lesson on how I just needed to focus on the bigger picture more. I took note of the curve of the subtle valley in the trees, the movement it creates and draws your eye to. I could blend colours using my fingers It worked so much better.

If I were to do this over again, I would definitely skip using the watercolour pencils. As I didn’t use watercolour paper, when it dried and I put pastel over the top of that medium, it left an unusual, bumpy texture which the pigment clung too, and although it’s interesting it’s not quite the effect I would’ve wanted. I think a smooth surface, defined inked in tree trunks and a whole lot of blended pastel foliage would look so dynamic and interesting.I also wish a lot of the trunks had been thinner and more defined too.

I don’t think there were many different species of trees within this particular image, but I did notice the difference in these trees to my cherry tree in my other drawings. Whilst these trees had regular dark trunks, the tree in my back garden has a greyish, gnarly trunk with horizontal slashes, so much more intricacy and detail was needed. The leaves were also different, in the pencil drawing I used tiny curly round marks to depict it, but in this image I used quick, sometimes harsh horizontal strokes without too much definition.

To covey the the spaces between the trees, I again tried really hard to look at the negative space and measure the spaces between trees accurately. This is where taking a much less overwhelming amount of trees would have been more beneficial, but I was able to block out everything and find the biggest foremost tree to begin with, and work from there. To convey the masses of foliage, I used hurried strokes of soft pastel, layering multiple tones and shades across the entire page, including the ground.

In regards to depicting light, in the top left corner I used a circle of white to represent the sun, although its not as prominent as I hoped it would. I put a layer of the bright yellowy/green behind everything as a base so it would seem as if the brightest leaves were shining through the back even if I covered it in a darker green. I should definitely have looked more carefully at showing the light on the actual trees though, as, whilst looking back, I can see highlights especially on the right hand side. I wish I had also been able to use an eraser to lift out these lighter areas, but the water damage to the paper made it impossible.

In this particular drawing, I simplified and selected my scene first by cutting the source image in half, as there were even more trees in the original. I tried to simply focus my attention on capturing the vast amounts of green that overwhelms the entire page. I would  also really like to try a more abstract drawing of a much smaller area of branches and leaves one day.