Depicting your environment

Thinking about how I might like to depict my environment for the final assignment of Understanding Painting Media, with the Open College of Arts, I began to consider all of the previous work and exercises I had undertaken to date. I thought about the different practices and techniques I used and decided that monotype printing had to be in the final assemblage, some sort of portrayal of portrait, as well as the ability to be quite experimental and playful with brush marks, and materials, as this has been what has stood out to me in both my learning and what I have enjoyed during this entire module. The guidance for the assignment suggested that certain exercises could prove useful in thinking about what exactly to paint, of which some in particular stood out to me. For example painting/photographing/drawing:

  • a photo of you each day as you wake up
  • a fly on the windowsill (can you paint the sound)
  • the view from your window
  • the food you eat

It caused me to start thinking about my morning routine, and the different things that happen each morning, specific activities, what they look like, and how they sound. I started to brainstorm ideas for content. Such as:

  • In bed waking up (alarm sounding)
  • Toast for breakfast (toaster popping)
  • Applying make up (soundless, but there are often birds singing in the morning)
  • Brushing my teeth (electric toothbrush whirring)
  • Leaving the house for work (door closing)

I liked the idea of a corresponding sound to the image, and producing a body of work that reflects this part of the day for me. I do very much take my time and enjoy my morning rituals, for other people, they may rush out of bed, brush their teeth and go, grabbing breakfast on the way or skipping it altogether, but for me, I like to enjoy breakfast, washing my hair, getting ready, preparing lunch for the day etc. It made sense to me in depicting my environment that I would record and paint this daily ritual.

In bed waking up

I was initially motivated by my previous work on A Circular Painting to recreate something related to the bed in my environment. Instead of painting the scene as I did previously I wanted to return to monotype printing and so considered how I could portray this. I firstly considered taking aerial photographs of myself in different sleeping positions – these would then become the monotype prints I could use. I wanted to create more of an abstract approach to this, and revisit the theme of movement as I did in Monotype Portraits.

I really enjoyed creating my response to the works of Iain Andrews so purposefully chose the below colours which I have taken from his work “Salome” with bold pinks blues and golds.

I then explored digitally layering the different sleeping positions and manipulating the transparency level to create this sea of movement and sleep.

Afterwards I decided that I should experiment with paint, and started off with monotype printing, then using watercolour, and finally onto oil.

I was prompted by my tutor to look at colour and experimenting more with it and so I thought about how I might use colour in this final collection. I really wanted the collection to tie together colour wise and thought about the colour used in renaissance paintings I had looked at previously and thought perhaps this could be a good starting point. I settled on this final selection, returning back to the pinks, golds and blues, and then adding white and brown. I first created a vibrant underlay using quite bright colours, and then continued to layer over the top with thicker paint mixing some of the colour together on the brush.

I’m really pleased with the final outcome, I used the bodies as starting points, but then did add in some gestural makes also, it feels reminiscent of the works of Cecily Brown.

Toast for breakfast

I’m very much a creature of habit and usually have toast with marmite for breakfast. When I considered how I might depict this, I thought about earlier experiments using different painting mediums such as in Unusual Painting Media as well as the plates I painted in Lisa Milroy, and the tondo paintings on paper plates from Mindy Lee. I considered painting the toast and depicting it on a plate using a tondo as a surface, however this seemed a little flat, so I decided to take some inspiration from Paul Westcombe and Lee Edwards and paint on a three dimensional object.

I used a cardboard box to create the ‘toast’ and then wrapped it in brown packing paper to create a solid base to paint upon.I then started painting in the outer edges of the crust, and then the middle of the buttered toast with flecks of marmite. I briefly considered using marmite to paint with but decided to continue using acrylic. I also thought about painting the plate itself, however with the final assemblage, it felt right to leave the plate white.

Applying Make-up

Much like in my previous contemplation of how to depict the toast for breakfast I also considered alternative materials and painting surfaces for depicting this scene. I thought about how I might use the metallic card I experimented with in Peter Bonde and Lene Bladbjerg, as a mirror, or even a mirror itself, as well as the makeup I used to paint with in Unusual Painting Media. Or perhaps I could use a photograph, printed onto card, painted over in the style of Guim Tio Zarraluki and then affixed to a mirror? I researched using acrylic paint on skin and was generally warned against this as I had considered using acrylic paint directly onto my face and then photographing this but to be safe I have avoided doing so.

Following my work on Jenny Saville I considered creating a painting using layers of the portraits I had taken applying make-up, however when I had completed the pencil drawn watercolour of this when exploring savilles work I felt that it wasn’t quite bold enough and was a little lack lustre, so I thought it might be best to focus on one portrait only. I decided to use metallic card to create this portrait, as I wanted a selection of materials in my final assemblage. I used a monotype technique to print onto the card initially, and then continued to use additional oil paints to create a clearer representation. The metallic card meant that the oil paint would not be absorbed at all on the surface, so I mixed and pushed the paint around on the page to create line and shadow. Similarly to my final collection in Monotype Portraits I decided on painting only my head with the mascara wand just hovering above my eyelashes. I think the resulting painting is more impactful than if I had chosen to layer the portraits or add hair…a neck etc. You can just see my reflection at the bottom of the page as I try to photograph the image.

Brushing my teeth

I thought about the small brush head on my electric tooth brush and how I could perhaps blow this image up onto a tondo, a little bit like how Virginia Verran‘s work reminded me of petrie dishes and looking at microscopic levels, perhaps I could try to do this with the toothbrush head and look much more closely at the surface and the bristles, depicting them in this way so they almost become abstract. I also thought about how I could use toothpaste as a painting medium or a toothbrush as painting implement. When I researched microscopic images of toothbrushes the images didn’t really appeal to me. However I did later stumble across a microscopic image of the surface of a human tooth which was interesting.

I found an article online demonstrating lots of different microscopic images related to oral hygiene. I was particularly drawn to the above image especially due to the colours, which are quite striking. Thinking about how I could incorporate the toothbrush as opposed to painting it representationally I through I could paint the microscopic surface of the tooth, it is designed to keep clean, and use the toothbrush itself to paint with!

I used a toothbrush and some smaller brushing implements, as well as cotton buds and a palette knife to create the above response. I took off some of the blue paint using cotton buds in a style similar to that of Mimei Thompson which I think was quite effective. The overall image though is a little too dark and gritty for the overall look I want to go for in this final collection so I decided to approach this painting in a a different way. I kept the original image of the tooth surface but manipulated it digitally to distort the colours to a more peaceful and natural palette, as well as cropping the image into a circular tondo. I then decided to return to using watercolours, as when I had used them in my response to Virginia Verran I think they were quite effective at capturing this microscopic world.

Leaving the house

Lastly, to finish the selection from waking in the morning, the final image felt like it should be me leaving the house altogether, for this creation I thought it should be a more realistic representation and took inspiration from Robert Priseman and George Shaw as well as earlier painting exercises such as Walking Art.

Below is the final painting, I used the original photograph I painted from in Robert Priseman but decided to remove the car from the driveway to focus on the building only, it’s also as if my car has already driven off the drive and left for work too. Considering the final assemblage of paintings I also decided to crop the photograph and paint using a square format, which I think works well as the house becomes more of a focus by removing the road in the foreground. I like the final image as it’s quite striking with the bold use of colour and ties in well with the other paintings. It reminds me a little of paintings by David Hockney, I think because of the swathes of blue sky in the background.


Throughout these different processes I also considered how time was a very important factor, for most of the time these rituals take place under a time constraint, due to having to leave for work. Should a clock then appear in the final assemblage of images? or should the individual images make up a clock so to speak and follow and clockwise direction in they presentation? If this was to become an installation perhaps motorised clock hands could be useful, with the audio from each time zone and activity playing after the other, to create quite an immersive experience for the viewer.

Above I have placed the paintings in a clockwise way in the order that they are completed. For example waking up and getting out of bed is at 12, and then as we move around to 3, 5, 8, 11 hours on the clock then the subsequent actions follow, enjoy breakfast, get ready apply makeup, brush teeth, and then leave the house.

For this above arrangement I have placed the paintings in the order of left to right in the usual way of reading literature.

Using the opposite direction I though about the passage of time and movement of the sun so this time I positioned the order in line with the sun which rises from the east (right) and sets in the west (left).

Lastly I played around with the aesthetics of how the paintings could simply look together and tried out this composition using the circular plate in the centre, and then adding the subsequent paintings at right angles. I think overall though my favourite arrangement is the first example, where the paintings sit in chronological order in a fluid clockwise motion. Playing around with this concept further a mechanised clock with just the hands could be placed at the centre of the arrangement. As well as the accompanying sounds which could be played at staggered points to represent each action.

3 thoughts on “Depicting your environment

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