Paint Box

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Practical Research

From the Exploratory Project there were three distinct elements which emerged which needed action, so it seemed sensible to start with these...
  1. Extend and refine studies rather than moving between multiple ideas. 
  2. Refine and develop my practical skills - investigate glazing techniques in order to become a better painter.
  3. Use using different viewpoints, including the whole figure and developing context by placing figures in an environment.
As I really covert the work of Peter Doig, I researched his painting techniques to see how he creates his surfaces which I find captivating and enchanting. I discovered Tate's brilliant analysis of Doig's practical work, breaking down the making process of 'Echo Lake' (1998).
This image doesn't do the painting justice as you can't see the succulent layers and glazing, or the saturated textures on the surface  Accessed 8 June 2012
The paint appears to be entirely oil paint and was applied over the stretched face of canvas with some drips around the edges (especially the right edge), indicating that at the least some preparatory layers were applied with the canvas horizontal. These layers appear very thin and the capillary action of the canvas threads would have exacerbated the effect. The rest of paint was applied vertically with a brush and in a huge variety of consistencies, from very thick impasto that was applied straight from the tube (possibly even having some medium leached out of it), to extremely thin and fluid dribbles, applied as glazes and scumbles. Much use was made of wet-in-wet technique and there are areas of significant thickness that often consist of a number of paint layers built up on top of each other. However, sometimes just single thin layers exist, through which the canvas weave texture remains very apparent. In the lake and the trees, it is more typical to find many thinned layers applied over each other, and often as glazes, to give a great deal of depth to the image. A very fluid material has been applied late on in the process, which has dribbled down across many of these areas, which could be heavily diluted paint or oil medium, or even a varnish. The overall gloss is very uneven and the degree of opacity / transparency also varies.

I am going to explore glazing and layering in particular but I will need to actively underpaint and consider areas of light and shadow which will be challenging as recently I have tried to keep light areas clean of painting and darker areas have still been relatively light. I anticipate that there will be drying time to take into consideration; I will need to be really self restrained to not fiddle with the surface before it is fully dry. I love the idea of  thin and fluid dribbles but I also plan to tryout heavier, thicker areas of paint (more blocks of colour than impasto) which previously I haven't had much success with. This seems to lean towards the Bad painting realm to me but we shall see how I get on!


It was really useful for me to experiment with glazing pure colours over each other because I was able to identify which colours would be more appropriate for underpainting, burnt umber, cadmium red; more translucent, crimson, french ultramarine; and denser,  yellow ochre, white, cerulean blue. It also highlighted to me the need for patience and that I would need to take this into account when making the paintings - my intial glazing sample turned into wet on wet painting as I didn't realise it would take at least a week to dry when incorporting linseed rather than turps.
I found this website which was really useful, including this technical information about the pigments and molecules...

Pigments come in two types;  
The dark transparent pigments are sort of slimy or jelly-like and behave like wood stain.
The dark staining pigments have smaller, rounder molecules which penetrate surfaces more, and don't reflect as much light. 

The bright reflective pigments are stiff and clay-like and behave more like chalk
The clay-like pigments have large rough molecules with many reflective surfaces.

Color Light / Reflective Dark/ Transparent

Brown:  Raw Umber Burnt Umber
Orange: Raw Sienna Burnt Sienna
Yellow:  Yellow Ochre  Lemon  or Cadmium Yellow Light
Green: Permanent Green Sap Green
Blue: Cerulean Blue Ultramarine Blue
Red: Cadmium Red Alizarin Crimson
(Written at end of project)
This information was invaluable in underpinning my strategy for building and layering the surface using glazing and scumbling techniques. If I had not experimented and researched how to begin the work, the result would have been very different, including a less tonal result and probably more wet on wet painting, as I wouldn't have been aware of the drying time.
Studio at beginning of studio project
Studio mid-September
Although the work isn't 'finished', I can't believe how much my work has changed by sticking to the glazing techniques - my paintings have been transformed; the colour is much stronger and vivid and the figures are much more formed; the shadows are stronger and everything seems much more definite. There are still dribbles but they are glazed over in places, and trapped between the layers which creates a fluid but more structured surface. I am going to continue to work into the three paintings for the time I have left; if I push them over the edge I accept that the work is part of a learning process so I may need to sacrifice them. I am documenting each stage of the process so will be able to look back at each stage to identify when significant changes or mistakes happened.

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