Painting Thin and Small

The first exercise in the first module of my BA in Fine Art with the OCA! This exercise provides an opportunity to practice painting thin and small. Tasked with choosing an array of images that appealed to me, I selected: a photograph of Boris Johnson, a collage of a hand, ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt, a blue and white Chinese sculpture, ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ by John Singer Sargent, an image of an ornate door, a photograph of a small house in front of a large mountain, a photograph of my sister and I, and a pink scalloped chair. The task began by painting a selection of backgrounds to create 18 rectangles A5 in size, ready to use to paint the image on top. I used a selection of different paints, including black ink, black paint, white paint, grey paint, varnish, pale acrylic and pale watercolour, and three adorned with random acrylic paint splodges.

I tackled this in two stages, mindlessly painting the background surfaces on one day and then coming back to them later to paint the images on top. I enjoyed simply painting the backgrounds as the first task of this long journey ahead. Next it was time to select which background would marry-up with which image and in which medium. As the exercise also asks that different painting mediums are used to paint the objects, such as black paint, white paint, grey paint, coloured paint, very pale watercolour, black ink, thin acrylic or gouache, and varnish.

Boris Johnson

I chose Boris Johnson as subject matter because he has been on our screens a lot lately amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The photograph (left) is a cropped image from Boris Johnson’s ‘official portrait’. The first response (middle) was made using acrylic paint along with varnish on a painted white background, it was quite tacky to work with and seemed to dry quickly. I can see that the neck and shoulders are out of proportion making Johnson into a kind of comedic bobble head, which I quite like. The second response (right) was created using acrylic paint on top of a black background. I much preferred working with just acrylic paint as it seemed to go on smoother and easier than with varnish. I can see in this painting the clear brush marks used and different coloured paints to depict different tones, and shadows.

A hand

I found this image on ‘Pinterest’ (left) and like the stylistic pop art style, with the hand reaching or pointing to what seems like the sun or possibly a button of some kind? The work is actually by artist Tyler Spangler, and appears to use block colours maybe digitally with a photocopied photo of hand painted on top with this bold blue. My first response (middle) was made using gouache paint on top of clear varnish. I used a dry paint brush to stickle black paint for shadowing of the hand. sadly my background and ‘button/sun’ is nowhere near as vibrant as the original. The second response (right) was made using watercolour paint on top of a patterned background of splodges of acrylic. I quite like the pattern, it could be confetti falling after the button has been pressed. I don’t feel confident at all using watercolour paint, which I think also requires some degree of patience to allow layers to dry, which I am not used to.

‘The Kiss’ Gustav Klimt

‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt is one of my favourite paintings (left) and I have a copy at home, so this was an obvious choice to paint. Here I have cropped the image to suit the size of my paper I’m working on. The first response (middle) was made using acrylic paint on top of a black background. I think the black background lent itself well to this painting as there does seem to be a dark undertone to the painting. The proportions are not quite right in the response which is probably because I was using the original sized image to reference. I enjoyed adding in the small details on this one with acrylic although they are very much so toned down as it was difficult to if it in so much detail on such a small surface. The second response (right) was made using watercolour paint on top of a yellow wash. Which again I was drawn to due to the bold and glowing yellow of this painting. As I mentioned previously though patience in painting is not something I’m used to so lots of the pigments have merged and the painting itself looks quite murky, a stark contrast to the bold bright original by Klimt.

A blue and white Chinese Sculpture

Another object of mine at home I thought would be interesting to paint is this Chinese sculpture I bought at a market when I was travelling in China. The first image (left) is a photograph I took of the sculpture using white board as a background. The first response to the image (middle) was painted using gouache paint on a black background. I started off by layering white gouache paint to pick out details on the sculpture such as the headwear, shoulders and beading. By doing so when I finished the painting with the china blue on top it could stand out against the black background. The second response (right) was quite challenging, I chose the blue wash background to pick out the details on the sculpture, but for this one I decided to use all white paint. I attempted to use layers as I did previously to pick out highlights but it was very difficult with the absence of any other colour or shade.

‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ by John Singer Sargent

Another favourite painting of mine, is ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ by John Singer Sargent (left). I remember seeing this at the Tate Modern, in London and I was immediately drawn to it. The subtle lighting and ambience, the beautiful floral setting and paper lanterns and two young girls reminded me of my sister and I. My first response was created using only grey acrylic paint on top of a green wash background. I chose the green to still provide an earthy, natural feel to the painting. I really enjoyed painting with just the limitations of different shades of grey. I started with a mid tone and then worked over adding in highlights and shadows where I felt necessary. The second response (right) was made using acrylic paint on top of a white background. I really enjoyed painting this one and spent quite a long time adding in the details.

An ornate door

This is anther image I found on ‘Pinterest’ an image of door (left), possibly found in Morocco, Turkey or Greece. I was unable to find the original publication of this image so it’s origins are unknown. I really liked the royal blue decoration around the arched door contrasted with deep yellowish green tiles and worn mint painted door. The first response (middle) was made using acrylic paint on top of a grey painted background. You can still see the grey dullness in the background I think. The proportions are slightly off on this painting, and I was perhaps painting what I was imagining as opposed to what I was seeing as the steps to the door don’t quite make sense! The second response (right) was made using just black ink on top of a patterned background made by splodges of acrylic paint. It was quite fun just using the black ink to highlight the outlines of the image.

Small house in front of a large mountain

I use ‘Pinterest’ regularly to collect interesting images, and here is another one from that collection. The photograph was actually taken by Finnish photographer Henri Kiviluoma (left).I really like the stillness and sense of isolation this tiny bright yellow house has amidst the foreboding mountains in the background. My first response (middle) was created using black ink on top of a red wash background. I quite like the red, it feels as though it could be from an alternate world, hot and unforgiving planet, or even post apocalyptic or post volcanic eruption. The second response (right) was created using acrylic paint on a a white background. I used quite a lot of water for the mountains to create pools of pigment and faded edges, which I think works well. the house itself looks quite flat in comparison and doesn’t share the same contrast between foreboding mountains and bright house, it looks quite bleak across the whole image.

A photograph of my sister and I

I chose this photo of my sister and I (left), probably aged around 1 and 3. It’s quite an old photograph and I like the bright exposure, and the different angles and considerations to be made. For example trying to paint the water in the bath and the way that the body becomes distorted underneath, I thought would make this a good challenge. My first response (middle) was dreadfully painful, I find using watercolours so difficult and not enjoyable at all. I much prefer being able to produce bold marks and colour, as opposed to watery subtlety of water colour. Just as I did with the Gustav Klimt painting I couldn’t tame my impatience which has resulted in a very peculiar blurred image of two quite strange beings. The second response (right) although I think still shared some quite odd facial expressions I much prefer. I could at least make an attempt at recreating the original image to some degree.

A chair

Another image I stumbled across on ‘Pinterest’ was of this beautiful chair (left). I have a whole section dedicated to beautiful chairs, and this is just one! The salmon, champagne pink upholstery, atop rattan legs moulded into this beautiful scalloped sea shell, I find very striking and beautiful. The chair is actually produced by British furniture company ‘Soane’ and comes in a variety of fabrics. My first response to this image (middle) was created using gouache paint onto of a patterned splodged paint background. I didn’t quite create a true representation of the chair but I do like the resulting image. The second response was created using varnish on top of black paint. Quite challenging yet simple at the same time. I was only able to pick up the outline of the chair however I attempted to pick out the individual scalloped edges of the chair in the varnish. It’s difficult to see the image in certain light but thankfully by scanning the image digitally, you can just make out the varnished chair in the dark shadows of black paint.

And there we have it ‘Painting thin and small’.

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