Exercise 3.1 – Look in a mirror and make 20 A4 ink studies of your face. Have three cups to hand: one of black undiluted ink, one of diluted ink (with water), and one of water. Use a mid-sized soft brush and spend no longer than a minute on each painting. Remember to squint to see the tones. Try this in different light levels. Near-darkness can really help you to capture a lot of different tones. For inspiration you might like to look at the paintings of Marlene Dumas. HP watercolour paper is good for this exercise but, as these are sketches, cartridge paper, card, photocopier paper, or any other scrap paper, is fine. You’ll use these images as the basis of your monotypes in the following exercises.
1 minute isn’t very long, I know this as its a time we use as warm up at life studies. Its a gesture, or a hint to a person rather than a portrait. They are all still recognise-ably me though, mostly with glasses (makes my life easier with focusing and all) and towards the end, without. I tried painting in daylight, there are 3 windows in my studio space, 1 is westerly the other 2 north, need to get some blinds sorted, however, its not on my high priority list. Anyway, most of these ended up being painted after the sun had set, the standard lamp I use the most (lack of plug sockets till we get the studio earthed, apparently its too far from the house to use the main one, so the power is currently run from an extension socket from the garage. Finding electricians with time and the where with-all to actually communicate with the customer is like finding rocking horse shit).
Electrician has been, power is installed safely and I now have more sockets than I can shake a stick at.
My Tutor also suggested I’d better revisit part 3 of the course as it was lacking substance and practise. So I redid the portraits in 3.1, most were unsatisfyingly short, to make them look like me I need the eyes and nose, then I’ve run out of time for shadows.
I tried to work some monotypes off one and wasn’t happy so went back to the easel for 1 more, starting with a bigger brush to work shadow first and work line over, this has more potential to work from
Exercise 3.2 Choose an image to work from. This can be one of the ink studies you made in Exercise 3.1, a photograph, or a magazine image of a face. Try the monotype technique described above and see how it goes. It may take you a while to get it right so don’t panic if things don’t go well first time. Don’t throw anything away! While you are working think about the following. Do you need to mix the paint with more white spirit/turps? Or less? Where would you like to remove bits to create a highlight or definition? Which bits would you like to paint onto after you’ve created the print? Carry on until you’ve made five images you are happy with.
I initially tried it with oil paint thinned with spirit, it bled in the unprimed paper and of course the drying time doesn’t help, neither does the ‘what medium can I put over oils’ factor. So then I tried acrylic ink, which was too sloppy, the pooled liquid just spread into an unreadable mess on the paper. The answer for me was to mix acrylic paint into the ink, this produced a much more viscous mix
The bottom 3 I tried printing something onto the paper before I added the monoprint and then I worked into them because they where bland. the glasses on grey paper works on its own and reminds me of a slightly more informed version of that John Lennon self portrait sketch. I’ve worked over the right hand sketch in a blue ink painted on and the left with dip pen and ink (This is from looking at Kathe Kallowitz etchings at my local gallery, her mix of processes, lithograph, etching and tinting the paper produces much depth between the layers, however, knocking off £500 on a secondhand printer is also not in this years budget and getting to Southampton to use the printing shed would be a time/cost thing at the moment) I think this aspect can be developed further, a more complimentary monoprint colour possibly grey might help.
Also, printing on collage of found papers then adding the detail over the top would work, I think in which case, I’d need to work larger, a4 is too constricted to let all the processes work together…
I tried water based printers ink and it turns out the shed is too warm today to work it before it dries, so went back to oil, as thats what I’ve been sketching with in part 4 and Ex 3.1 anyway. My paper choice went to a slightly thicker standard white A4 printer paper, I wanted something with a smooth surface to seee if I could match the effect Anni Kevans manages and it failed, there is a slight photocopy to all the prints as there is a light texture to the paper. I’m not convinced a thinner paper is the answer without it falling apart under saturation of oil.
The flat 2 tone was unsatisfactory and I know how quickly the thinned with spirit oil paint soaks in so did shadows in burnt umber really thin with a big brush then after it was dry (not long, less than 30 minutes) went back to the black for a finer line, I also overworked a couple of really splodgy practise sheets and tried one on wrapping paper. I prefer the effect with the fainter shadows so will be sticking with the 2 step process, I decided to thin some black to do some prints.
I have picked these 5 because they represent a series of the same person each with a different feel, 1, looks to your right and the the emphasis is on the eyes, 2. is a rougher print from the first sketch and has merits because it has a raw uncertain effect. 3. the shading under the eye worked well on this on and the eyes are its weakest point. 4. is the best print, the gaze is equal and sure with a good balance between the brown and black. 5. is a bit weak in the shading to be totally happy with however I plan to work into this in 3.4 which should strengthen the image.
Exercise 3.3 Make five more portrait monotype prints, this time removing different areas of paint with cotton buds, cotton wool, smooth rags, rough rags or tissue paper.
Top left, colours blended with a cotton bud, middle, thickness of paint removed by laying on kitchen towel to remove even layer then proper paper added to take off print. top right, scrunched up tissue paper, dabbed over. Bottom left scrunched tissue laid over, pressed lightly and removed. middle cotton bud to remove as is bottom right.
I think top middle as an impression thats barely there has merit, as does bottom left, good texture. The context of bottom right with the broken up image , fractures, behind something is reasonable.
But not much.
Texture on the shading over the lines made more sense, so I tried scrunched up tissue, heavy cotton canvas, a dish sponge. I tried marking the ink with a coctail stick and a cotton bud, I wiped out an area like Yuko Nasu, to make the face unrecogniseable.
1. (From the left) is just the under paint after a cover of cotton has patterned the ink. I have put this print in to represent the unfinished element that is barely recogniseable as a portrait.
2. underprint was wiped at the eyes, the portrait cannot look back at you (In terms of Ways of seeing, this is a totally modern approach, the female view altered so it cannot make contact with the surveyor) .
3. A cotton bud was used to clarify areas and clean up the highlights.
4. This was created as a page of water-based printing ink (white over black, I hadn’t cleaned off the previous prints ink) and the face was scribed into the ink with a cocktail stick part of the reason I like this one is the mix of the 2 inks helped by the scratching through process. I w
5. This is a 2 step process print with the undercoat being treated to scrunched up tissue to pattern the ink before printing. As a texture creator, this appears to be the best method, the ink has to be plied on quite thick to show anyway.
Exercise 3.4 Choose three of the prints you made in Exercises 3.2 and 3.3. Work into these prints with extra paint to change the image. You could choose to pursue greater definition, a closer likeness or a more dramatic contrast. Think about how you could apply the paint to achieve these effects. Make notes as you work through the exercises, noting down the different effects you’ve been able to achieve by removing more/less paint, adding extra paint, etc.
Working into the oil paint version with either oil paints or oil pastels, for a different texture I’m going to try pastel, More dip pen and ink over the acrylics with light washes for depth. We’ll see how this goes today.
The first image was the oil paint with pastel over, this (and number 2) have come out reminiscent of Elizabeth Peyton’s portraiture, the depth of shadow in the eye sockets and the use of colour, however, they part company there. The ink wash and dip pen in number 2 and 3 add more detail, however, I’d say that number 3 achieves a vulnerability and believability whilst not making me look as haggard and old as the other 2.
Part of the believability is the monochrome colouring, however the emerging feel of the features from No.2 because of the red and yellow .
My personal preference is for number 3, as graphic as the final layer makes this, it feels the most painterly.
I have added watercolour to 3 prints to define the femininity much like Annie Kevans, I’m not sure if because I know I’m doing it it distances it from the historic use of women in art as objects or it is playing straight into it all as a self fulfilling act.
I can see that the extra work has made this part of the course a bit more relevant