I was really struggling with my paintings today, I was getting so angry and frustrated with whatever I was making. Eventually I gave up and left it for a few hours. Then I remembered I had some black sharpies stashed somewhere, paired with a blank canvas I thought I would give drawing a try.
I haven’t drawn in so long, sketching is such a foreign concept to me but as soon as the pen touched the canvas I was off. It felt just so natural. There is something quite initially daunting about a clean, fresh white canvas and I think this is amplified when painting on a canvas. There is something so permanent about paint when in actuality pen is a little more stable. Paint can flake off, break down, be covered up but pen is a concrete bold line that takes many coats to cover up and the ink actually sinks into the canvas.
I’m still using my pron images for reference and I think it’s really going to work for the drawings I do. The next thing I’d like to try is mixing materials and finding out how pen and paint relate on a surface. does the harshness of the pens lines interfere with the softness of the paint? If the paint is applied harshly (with a palette knife) will this diminish the permanence of the pen?
With my art I’ve always very much stayed within and close to my comfort zone. I never go far away from what I’m comfortable with. You will have noticed that through the images of my own work that I have put up the majority of them have been paintings. I get very precious of the canvas and surfaces I use and feel like if I have painted on it then it is a surface wasted. However I have found myself very much stuck in a rut with my work at the moment; its not really progressing and I feel like I’m just going round in circles with it.
In my sketchbooks I normally take a bit of a break in between photos to write a “diary entry” like this. Hence why there are no photos in this post; I didn’t feel it necessary. I like to do this from time to time to re-cap everything that has happened before. It is almost like a mini evaluation and assessment for myself and it has helped me in the past to encourage my work to progress. It also is a nice place for me to write down any ideas I have had that feel like trying out.
I really want to experiment with charcoal a lot more, especially on canvas and canvas board. I love the texture of charcoal and the possibilities of it. It can be give a soft and hard feel to an image by just varying the pressure. I’d really like to experiment with charcoal and explore how it reacts with other material, such as paint. Paint can be such a thick viscous material where as charcoal is quite bitty and is very chalky, mixing the two together could proved a very interesting image that offers a lot of flexibility within it. I often search for flexibility within my work and the techniques I use but rarely find it; it’s always so hard for me to explore ideas without reverting back to my own ways. I think what I need to do is to just do a painting and as soon as I feel like I’m getting there, just stop. Stop and back away from it and leave it for a few weeks. As I create a painting I find it very easy to get lost in what I’m doing and it is very easy for me to take the painting in a direction I didn’t intend to take it in which often ends up being a style that I am used to.This might be a good thing and it might be what I should be doing but at the moment I really want to break out of this “style” I’ve developed.
I really want to go back to long distance drawings, where I attach the medium to a long piece of wood/stick and draw from a distance. By physically distancing myself from the work I want to see if it also removes any mental and emotional attachment I have to my work. I think by doing this it might allow myself to get a better idea of when to stop and say a piece is finished but it will also force me to stop being so precious over the image I’m creating. I can’t be as finnicky with it and the overall image would be a lot looser. It would also eliminate the issue I have had with the size of the surface; by extending the distance between me and the surface I would actually benefit more working with a much bigger canvas. It gives me a lot more play within the material and allows me to be a lot more broad and bold with my mark making.
In conclusion, I just need to man-up, be brave and try something different I think.
While researching my project I have come across a few artists who have become quite popular through social networks. Namely, Instagram. Instagram can be, when used effectively, a clever way to capture peoples attention. This is how I found the artist Elly Smallwood and have since found many other artists and interesting people.
I’ve started to dither back into the realm of film and the role that play within the art world. I stumbled across a videographer/photographer/exhibitionist who goes by the alias of Vex. She has started a website called Four Chambers which depicts people through a variety of closeup shots. Vex chooses to have a main theme for the films and works in correspondence to that theme. While looking at her films the most popular way she interprets the theme is through sexual acts, or the illusion of sexual acts. Her films are tastefully shot with beautiful chemistry between the people involved. This had a direct link to my work and how I am focusing on porn film stills at the moment in order to capture a moment. However, in a way, I think Vex’s films capture a truer moment than the stills I’m re-creating at the moment. Vex captures chemistry, captures a pure igniting moment between two (or more) people.
There is one particular film where she focuses on the marks that can be made upon her body by two other people. The intensity in the moments where you are waiting for one person to touch the other is unbearable; the energy that is captured through the slowed down footage is indescribable. I think part of the intensity is due to the clever editing of slowing the clips down to such a pace that it still keeps the viewer interested but that builds tension. There is a variety of slow and fast paced moments in the films which is really effective. What is also effective, is how Vex doesn’t try to encompass too much into an image; the simplistic shooting/set-up of the films lends itself to the tastefulness of the film. By zooming in on either the reaction from the people in the film, or zooming in so much to the action taking place that it blurs, creates an ambiguity. We are on edge because we know what is happening, we have a good idea of what is going on, but there’s nothing to confirm that;from ambiguous names such as ‘Tendrils’ and ‘The Renascence’, there is a sublime element to the pieces.
Since my dissertation, I have found myself returning more and more to the theory of the sublime and one thing I have learned is that the sublime is very individual to the person experiencing. What may be sublime for me may not be for another person and vice versa. but that individual experience and the way images/sounds/art is interpreted is what makes the sublime so terrifying. The very idea that something as complex as the sublime is both definable and indefinable at the same time is hard for some people to comprehend. It is definable because an individual can define it for themselves, but they cannot define it for everyone else. There is no universal meaning for the sublime. I quite like the idea of looking into the individual experience of the sublime and not just my own experience. When doing group tutorials for my dissertation it was interesting to see how all of our definitions of the sublime differed.
*All the images belong to Vex, the people of Four Chambers, or the individuals involved in the making of the films/photographs.*
I’ve started toying with the idea of sketching the subject with paint rather than painting with paint. The paintings I was doing were okay but they werne’t wowing me at all and I was never really happy with the final outcome of them. So I started switching up my technique; I’m painting on a smaller size and with a lot more carelessness. I start by quickly painting on the canvas all over as a background/under-laying colour, this gives me something to work on top of. The disadvantage of this though is that I can’t work directly onto the canvas straight after painting on it, I have to give it a few days to dry and for the colour to settle onto the canvas. When that has happened I then use my reference picture to trace the outline of the face. I tend to start with the nose and work my way outwards. This gives me a good starting point and lets me gauge the proportions of the face a lot better. I use black acrylic paint for this, I wanted a harsh colour and something that would provide definitive lines that would show through the block colour I would put on after. Black proved really effective here, although I’m sure a burnt umber or dark purple would do the same job. The black gave the classic sketching look that I liked and almost looks like it was done with charcoal or Indian Ink. I then start to block in some parts of the background with the black, this harshness helps cement the face as part of the image, I’ve found. Without doing this the face almost looks like a floating head and there’s nothing to ground the image. Another way of grounding the features is that I left some of the red paint from the background showing through the face.
I then start to block in some of the shadows and highlights. Using a flesh tone and yellow ocher as well as a little bit of golden yellow, it helps to bring some definition and contour to the face. The flesh tone also acted as a highlight to provide some dimension to the painting and compliment the contours from the darker colour. When defining the features I left it very rough but also left out some information such as the hair, the hair wasn’t integral to the image and I think it would have detracted from the overall effect of the painting; by providing a finished piece it is slightly more conclusive for the viewer to see whereas by leaving out some parts and leaving it unfinished it allows the viewer to help fill in some missing parts. Unless the viewer read this blog post or my sketchbooks they would not know that this is from a porn film however with this ambiguity the viewer can come to their own conclusion. The role of the viewer in my work isn’t entirely integral to its success but its something to note.
After I block shade and light in I then use the black and start to go back in; I then go back and forth between this until I’m happy. I also use some of these block colours in the background as this allows to create a harmonious image. Although I am interested in creating a cohesive image that flows I still want an unfinished quality that comes from sketching. This could also be a “rough painting” or a study before the bigger painting. I’m not interested in doing bigger paintings that signify the end result of something though; I’m really interested in the idea of a continued body of work that evolves and remains inconclusive. Rather than bouncing from one project to the next, completing each one with a satisfactory ending, I prefer to keep it open ended.