Pt 2 Exercise 2.1 Unusual painting media

Make paintings of any of the collections you’ve collated using three (or more) of these materials. All of these media have been used by contemporary artists:

• coffee (e.g. Paul Westcombe)

• Coca Cola (e.g. Marcel Dzama)

• Marmite on a white plate

• jam

• nail varnish (e.g. Nadia Hebson)

• make-up (e.g. Karen Black)

• food colouring

• chocolate sauce (e.g. Paul McCarthy)

• resin

• ice (e.g. Liz Ballard, Francis Alÿs)

• Humbrol enamel paints (e.g. Geraldine Swayne, Genieve Figgis, George Shaw)

• egg tempera (e.g. Andrew Wyeth)

• sand

• graphite

• marble dust (e.g. Antoni Tàpies)

• icing

• household paint (e.g. Gary Hume)

• ink drawn with a stick or the wooden end of a paintbrush.

The thing about experimental mediums (and there are a couple) the thing that makes me incredibly nervous about them is the not knowing how they will cope with time. If someone is prepared to give me something (anything, a coffee, iced bun, couple of notes) for my pictures, I should be able to give them the confident reply that they will last on a wall. It’s still going to be visible after a few rotations of the sun that has the potential to bleach the life out of it.

The other major thing is that if you aren’t careful, the medium becomes the point, an affectation or more important than the picture content itself. As does its then further degredation.

I’m more keen that whatever picture I make to reflect the moment/person/place to actually not degrade faster than the memory itself. Picture making appears to be my memory aid of the things that are important to me, and as it turns out, my world is quite small and tightly limited around the area I live in and the restrictions of work and being a parent. I am aware that there is a point in the future when those restrictions will be loosened and the pictures will be the crystallised memory as I have the freedom and money to move further afield to create those things I want to paint. Maybe I choose them to paint because I know they won’t always be around in this form/age? It will be interesting to see if I’m still choosing to paint the same things in 5 years time, which is about how long I figure it’s going (less if I am focused enough) to take to get my studying  through to the full degree…

Useful tips

1. At the moment keep these paintings quite small, A4 or equivalent at the most. This will help you to gain control of the media you use in a limited space.

Good, just experimenting with my nail varnish brought me out in a rash. I need to buy canvas, gesso and as it turns out a lot of white oil paint, using OPI and No.7 colours I like is an expensive option on top, they are also designed to dry quickly so would be an excellent opportunity to ruin paint brushes.

Also the bottles are tiny. the number of tubs the same colour to block a larger picture would be astronomically expensive.

Lipstick next. Now this would have to be photo’d (issues with authenticity given the non existence of the original) or immediately distanced behind glass to protect the image. The point of the picture seems lost.

I like marmite. Its sticky as hell, the way to make it runny would be to heat it which would make it smell more. Someone in this house would complain. Marmite is a no.

Humbrel. I did want to try this, My husband has an extensive history in model aeroplanes, he works in the industry with a lot larger ones now, but back through the mists of time, before the 6ft ones with engines and really good insurance that make our attic look like an aerodrome, Airfix had its part and I know he has the paints. Don’t actually know where they are and I’ve finished this exercise now and he’s off the continent till tomorrow anyway. Also, again, small pots, uber cost.

Cola is weak, I’d have to buy soda stream syrup concentrate to get it nearly dark enough to see the image. I can create a delicate image with water colour I’m not sure I see the point in making a painting wasps will love and potentially half the viewers won’t be able to see. Coke’s a no too.

2. You might also want to use paper/card/a paper plate/metal/found packaging/doilies as a surface to make the paintings onto.

I like painting on found papers, this exercise asks for a picture of a collection, and only in a4. this element feels like a next step over an exercise thing. (Tutor note, look at the sketchbook for this part)

3. If you use Humbrol enamel paints, you can dilute them with turps or the thinners that are made to go with them. You can paint them onto canvas, board, card or paper, or onto ‘oil-primed’ paper.

4. Photocopying objects can be a useful way of making them more manageable to depict. These painting materials may be messy so you might have to document them with photographs and then print the photograph out to create a physical record. The photograph might then become the piece of work.

Authenticity alert! We are talking about a photo of a painting of the collection, thats another step removed before we even get onto the option of prints of the photo?!? Why would I choose to create a picture working on this theory? Why not just make it out of something that means the real picture I’ve created exists and a print is just a second generation image and is closer to the real thing. thats not me trying to replicate perfectly whatever I’m painting, I’m not into photorealism, that just smacks of showing of what you can do over personalising the image to reflect some of the artist in anything other than the pose or focus of the picture. (turns out I’m more opinionated than I thought I was).

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The 3 collections I picked show themselves in different ways, the disorder of the cookware in the cupboard is the most honest of the three, its how the stuff is stored, handily in a white cupboard. The nail varnish are ordered to emphasise foreground and hide the scale of the objects, the ink-pots are all the same make so allow a more formal array where the difference is the colour.

The mediums I chose, Coffee, emulsion, graphite and ink with a stick (chopstick) chosen because I have them/they are really cheap. Also, 2 of them have longevity I can hang a hat on (graphite, ink). Coffee plays such a big part in my life that curiosity made me try it and all the results show it produces an ethereal sepia which has a lovely shine to it, which gives it another dimension (still not sure on how it takes to UV degradation without sticking it on a wall in direct sunlight for a season. I’m going to have to test).

Emulsion is something I’ve used a lot over the years, I get stuck with a lot of the decorating, partially because I don’t need masking tape. But I have used it to create a mural (daughters first bedroom, nothing complex), so I know it is a reasonable substance and these days, the range of colours available is broad. I picked primaries, black and white tester pots from Homebase tested with water and the reaction is similar to a gouache (see nail varnish bottles, effective used wet on wet), however, used neat looks strong and has the effect of making the ink-pot version look like a pop art picture which is why I didn’t paint in the shadows. The pans are stainless steel, there isn’t really a benefit to using the emulsion for this image.

 

The ink-pots I find most successful in the emulsion (the colour differentiates the pots form each other in away the mono-colour pictures can’t achieve). And the coffee, the lack of information as to what the picture is is softened by the shadows helping to explain something of the shape we don’t know. The graphite version  failed to achieve the clarity in the jar edge for me to be satisfied, Doing it again but mixing drawing with the aqua pencil and graphite wash could fix it, that would be a next step.

Pans don’t benefit from colour, its more stark and interesting in mono. The graphite has worked well for this, ink n stick is also effective, coffee is in its own little vintage world again.

However the nail varnish works the least for me in the coffee, the others work better because there is a more noticeable different between the bottles.

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