Keith Tyson

Keith Tyson was born in 1969 and is an English artist. Tyson works in a wide range of media, including painting, drawing and installation, in this blog post I will focus on his works in painting. Similarly to Allison Katz Tyson does not want to be bound by one particular artistic style or theme and instead reacts to what is around him including drawing influence ranging from mathematics and science through to poetry and mythology. Interestingly, I hadn’t realised this before I chose the below image to look at more closely, but ‘Entropy’ was actually the palette that Tyson had been using between 2016-19 from which these flowers organically emerged. Aptly titled, ‘Entropy’ is often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.

Keith Tyson, Entropy, 2016–19 © Keith Tyson

Tyson has painted a series of paintings using flowers as the focus, however whilst reading this interview between Tyson and Mark Rappolt, here he explains how they are much more than that, there is importance in the process of producing the painting. The influences of poetry and mathematics transform the initial inspiration of the flowers into something more, with a narrative and story behind it. We can see in the bottom right hand corner of ‘Entropy’ the actual formula for entropy itself hidden away.

I started this work by painting in the blue speckled back ground and then slowly adding in the darker warm tones underneath adding in layers of colour over time.

I really enjoyed creating my response to Tyson’s work, as I was working with oil paints I left it a day or two between layers so they could dry and harden somewhat, it felt like a slow and steady process. It also felt freeing, splodging the paint and just trying to gauge colour and location to dab away on the board. As opposed to creating a scene or portrait, this work, even though figuratively resembles flowers and foliage felt quite abstract as I was painting. Although I have just noticed the sublte absence of the equation!

Allison Katz

Allison Katz was born in 1980 and is a Canadian Artist, currently living and working in London. Katz has been described as lacking in a particular style of painting or using on-going themes, it is quite the opposite of this actually that gives Katz her own characteristic style. Katz paints a whole range of different subject matter avoiding any narrative or continuity yet it is in this jumbled assortment that Katz finds her coherence. Some images do appear more often in Katz work and one of which is her use of silhouettes. Looking at Katz’ work more closely I landed on the below image to delve into a little deeper.

Cabbage (and Philip) No.1, 2012, oil on canvas, 43 x 35 cm

The above image on the surface is a close up of quite a vibrant looking cabbage, yet when we look closer and as the title dictates we notice Philip in the corner, wearing his spectacles and gazing seemingly at this big beautiful cabbage. Katz painted a series of paintings including the cabbage as the centre piece and the silhouette off to one side. I was encouraged to look at Katz’ work following my submission of Collection Painting in which I chose to paint a selection of fruit and vegetables, in quite a traditional sense. Katz has painted the cabbage realistically and traditionally yet Katz also introduces us to Philip, an unknown person seemingly gazing at the cabbage.

I decided to use this artist research as an opportunity to try and get to grips with oil painting and decided to work in layers building up the oils gradually. I began with quite a thinned oil to map out the shapes and contours, and then building up with more colour as I continued.

Comparing my painting to the works of Katz I can see where actually I haven’t built up enough oil paint through the use of layers or perhaps by over-thinning my oils with turpentine. The background looks rather streaky and grainy whereas Katz’ warm toned background is rather opaque, allowing the portrait of ‘Philip’ to stand out quite nicely against the cabbage. I have also not depicted the cabbage in Kat’s painting as accurately as I could have, as the base is rather skinny in my painting as opposed to Katz’ quite stocky bottom. I wonder if instead of looking at the original work I was actually painting from memories of seen cabbages and painted this instead. There is also a vibrancy to Katz’ painting which mine is lacking. I think this is due to the colour palette I had chosen as well as the use of turpentine which has been used to clean brushes previously, there is a murkiness to the painting caused by this.

Laura Collins

Laura Collins was born in Chicago, and now lives and works on the Oregon Coast, USA. Collins is well known for her paintings of actors, actresses, and celebrities. Series of Collins’ works include paintings of the Olsen Twins escaping the paparazzi, Runway Models Falling, The Real Housewives pointing fingers and celebrities wearing fur. As you can imagine as celebrities there are vast swathes of photographs and stills for Collins to draw inspiration from. Looking at the technique and style of painting, similarly to Alice Neel, Collins uses strong colour and line in her paintings. There is also a sense of humour to her work and emotion.

For my response I chose to draw a pair of celebrity in-film siblings who I particularly like. Will Ferrel and John C Reilly from Step Brothers – one of my all-time favourite movies. I particularly like the photo as it’s remnant of child-like school photos, which is even more so solidified in their child like gaze, yet they are both 40-year old men, it’s very comical as is the entire film.

Image found at:

I used acrylic paint on A2 watercolour paper and began by roughly sketching the face and bodies of both actors. I didn’t spend a huge deal of time on this however and I think this is apparent in the slight error in facial proportion of both actors. Will Ferrel’s face is a little too elongated whilst John C Reilly’s face is slightly too small overall. It’s a shame, but it’s useful that I can pick out the errors and take this learning with me to the next painting. This was also only meant to be a quick response to Collins work so not something I intended to spend hours upon hours on.

I specifically wanted to try and emulate the same bold style seen in Collins work so used a medium sized filbert brush throughout this painting challenging myself to not add in small details and keep sweeping bold movements of the brush and paint. On occasions where I wanted to add in finer lines I tried to use the very edge of the filbert brush quite gently on the surface.

After painting in the general colours of the brother’s vest tops and shirts I set about adding in some of the smaller details although still trying to keep the bold colour and line, such as the fine lines on the diamond vests. I also then added in the bold blue background, using white acrylic paint I traced the edges of the portrait to create the light seen in the original photo. I then worked back over with sweeping brush marks to emulate the curly wavy hair.

Overall I’m quite pleased with the painting, I really like the use of colour in this painting and it was a good photograph to work from, I’m disappointed in the faces of both Will Ferrel and John C Reilly as they are distorted and don’t particularly resemble either of them very well, however I do think it was a good exercise in trying to use those bold brush strokes as Collins does in her work.

Alice Neel

Alice Neel was born in 1900, and sadly passed away in 1984. Neel was an American Painter widely celebrated for her expressionist paintings of her friends and family, as well as casual acquaintances, using strong colour and line. Expressionistic use of colour is where sometimes colour is not used in a realistic way, but instead utilised to express emotion. Neel was called “one of the greatest portrait artists of the 20th century” by Barry Walker, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which organised a retrospective of her work in 2010. Looking more closely at Neel’s work I chose the example ‘David Bourdon and Gregory Battock’ I particularly liked the way the two men are seated and their contrasting personas, one open legged in his underwear seemingly unshaven and disheveled, juxtaposed with a far neater suit-adorned man wearing spectacles. They’re both looking just off camera slightly to who or what, we don’t know.

Alice Neel
David Bourdon and Gregory Battock
oil on canvas
60 x 56 in.
at the Whitney

For my response to this work, I decided to paint my brother in-law Sam, and his brother in-law Daryl. I also wanted to challenge myself in using a larger sized format and decided to paint on A2 Watercolour paper. Below is the photograph I used to paint from. The image appealed to me because of the bright colours and style of both of the men’s shirts, and the way they are sitting, I like the poses. I also liked the positioning of both of them with Sam in the foreground quite open and engaging with the camera, and then Daryl very sort of nonchalant and relaxed in the background combined with the strong lines form the table, and the sofa, it makes for a very interesting image to paint, and reminds me of some of the endearing qualities I found in Neel’s painting above.

I began by using a grid to sketch out the portrait to ensure I could get the correct Iines and dimension, working on one figure, and then the next. I tried adding in some small detail to help me ensure I had proportions correctly recorded.

Then I started to paint in the individual figures, starting with Sam in the foreground. I purposefully omitted lots of the other objects in the room, such as the lampshade, window and curtains and other items on the small table as I didn’t want to clutter the painting. Neels work feels quite simplified and this allows the person(s) in the portrait to take centre stage.

In Neel’s painting you can see a strong use of line and colour which I wanted to try and emulate in the colourful attire worn by Sam and Daryl and also the strong use of line I added to highlight the figures and details.

Here we have the finished painting. I decided to stop at his point as I feel like the two figures really pop – actually it does remind me a little of the pop art style too.

Genieve Figgis

Genieve Figgis was born in 1972 in Dublin and lives and works out of County Wicklow in the idyllic Irish countryside. Figgis takes inspiration from aristocratic culture—especially that of the French pre-revolutionary Rococo period, and reinvents them in what we can see below, using a thick painterly style and injecting a sense of humour and darkness. There is a dream like state to this painting, especially the young woman on the swing appears as if she has stopped in time with her onlookers beneath in awe of her.

Genieve Figgis, The Swing after Fragonard, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 31½” x 23½”.

Below is the original ‘The Swing’ by Fragonard, we can see here that Figgis has really transformed the below idyllic, warm, care-free summer scene, into something more otherworldly and macabre. Instead of the chubby angelic creatures below in the original, in Figgis’ reimagined scene those figures look as if they could be demons or ghosts or perhaps some other mystical creatures.

The Swing, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Oil on canvas, 1767

I really enjoyed recreating Figgis’ The Swing, the deep blacks and pastel colours and dancing brush strokes were fun to paint. Although in the scanned image below the colour appears a little flat and dull I think this is caused by the light used in the scan, as in real life they are more vibrant and akin to Figgis’ original. I used swiping brush stokes as well as smaller brushes for stippling the leaves and shadow. Comparing the images now, I perhaps could have used a smaller brush again to add in some more detail and reworked the face a little, there is a noticeable grin on Figgis’ painting of the woman on the swing which mine is lacking and takes away from the sense of joy in this disturbing scene.

Pippa Gatty

Pippa Gatty was born in 1965 in London, and currently lives and works in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. Gatty graduated in 1990 with a Fine Art (Painting) BA from Chelsea College of Art and Design and subsequently took a break from creating whilst her children were younger. Gatty later returned to painting, and drawing and gained her MA in Fine Art with the Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2008.

Various Works, 2019, Pippa Gatty
Oil on linen on board
4 7/10 × 5 1/2 in
12 × 14 cm

Looking closely at Gatty’s work, they are small in scale, dark and foreboding. They are also rooted in nature and the wilderness. Gatty often takes inspiration from her environment in the Inner Hebrides. I chose the above works to look at more closely, being drawn to this tunnel-like landscape with high, towering rocky sides, and vegetation decorating the edges.It feels like the night sky above is this deep blanket sitting over you, yet there is a glimpse of light and warmth towards the horizon.

In response to the works of Gatty I attempted to recreate the above scene. Following feedback from my tutor I purposefully used different sized paintbrushes in order to create this painting. Initially marking out the shape of the painting in pencil and then filling it in with black acrylic, leaving space in the middle for bare paper to enable light to shine through. I then started working in some lighter marks using a mid sized brush picking out the different colours and tones in the image and adding in finer detail with a small paint brush. I also purposefully wanted to show and simplify my brush marks and not hide them into the painting. It’s a quick response which is reflected in the lack of detail in comparison to the original but I really like the overall outcome. I think there is a sense of depth and light in the painting, and I especially enjoy the deep hues of blue painted in the night sky above.

Guim Tio Zarraluki

Guim Tio Zarraluki was born in 1987, Barcelona, and is a Spanish Artist, living and working in Spain. Zarraluki studied Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona, and has painted both portraits and larger landscape works throughout his career to date, although even when painting landscapes there is still always a heavy focus on people and humanity. I stumbled across Zarraluki’s work when I was searching on instagram for ‘unusual portraits’ whilst I was exploring and experimenting with Monotype Portraits. His work and inspiration speaks to me as I am usually always drawn back to the intricacies of people, relationships and human lives.

Zarraluki’s bold use of colour and manipulation of facial features creates a very striking portrait and it’s hard to look away. Even as I look now at the portraits I’m drawn to the alien like greyish skin tones and piercing eyes of the women depicted, alongside their vibrant hair, you can just catch a glimpse of the magazine cover beneath which Zarraluki has painted upon. The portraits offer both an eerie yet cartoonish feel to them. Indeed for this series of work Zarraluki worked closely with fashion models, looking more carefully you can still see the remnants of their original lips from the cover itself.

Working again with digitally altered photographs I started painting in skin tone and bright hair. I had intended to add more paint and manipulate the images further but as you can see the paper has rippled significantly. This is because I was using simple printer paper which was very thin. Although now scanned, I quite like the ripple effect caused by this accidental oversight, it feels as though the portraits are radiating out of the page.To experiment further I’d like to paint over some magazines and play around with distorting images and recreating these beautiful models into eerie other-worldly figures. It would be interesting to paint with acrylic upon a shiny thicker cut of paper too to see how the two materials interact.

Paula Rego

Paula Rego was born in 1935, in Lisbon, Portugal, and currently lives and works in London. Rego attended the Slade School of Fine Art and was an exhibiting member of the London Group, along with Frank Auerbach and David Hockney, she was also the first artist-in-residence at the National Gallery in London. Rego is particularly well known for her paintings based on story books although Rego has also explored hard hitting themes such as illegal abortion, which she created in response to a failed attempt of legalising abortion in her home country of Portugal in 1988. For the purpose of this blog post I will be looking more closely at her series on ‘Dancing Ostriches’.

Paula Rego
Dancing Ostriches
Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium
162 x 155 cm

Dancing Ostriches above is part of a larger series which Rego created using pastel on paper on mounted aluminium. The series is inspired by the would-be ballerina birds in Disney’s Fantasia. Immediately I feel like the images are strong and gritty, not what you might expect from elegant and dainty ballerinas who so often glide across the stage, although Rego does not necessarily produce the expected. Yet Ballerinas are both elegant, effortless but incredibly strong, I think Rego captures this well. It also appears as though the body here is distorted somewhat, the arms and legs are quite short and stocky, not a typical ballerina’s physique. Perhaps Rego purposefully did not want to objectify the ballerinas in a stereotypical manner of considered societal beauty, and instead wanted to accentuate their physical strength. The gaze of the dancing ostriches also does not fit with the viewer, they are preoccupied and looking elsewhere.

Source: – Fox Searchlight

For my response to Rego’s work I immediately thought of the film ‘Black Swan’ in which Natalie Portman plays a tortured Ballerina who descends into madness when she experiences feelings of immense pressure in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet by the New York City Ballet company. I chose this photo due to the beautiful lighting, as well as the expression of Portman’s face and the strong line and shadow, something which I found in Rego’s work. I also had an idea in which I could experiment with both acrylic paint to create the main painting and then using pastel to highlight contours and create the dusty cloud of light above Portman.

I used black ink to create the initial background but did work in some thicker acrylic paint to create a more opaque finish. You can see some of the difference in this in how the pastel has stuck to the paper. I used the side of the pastel to try and create an even finish over the top and then a large soft bristled paint brush to work in the pastel and create more of a dusting. I don’t think it was wholly effective and would require some more experimentation with different paper and painted backgrounds to try and recreate the desired image but I’m happy that I could utilise the same technique of using pastel which Rego has in her work. I also wanted to try and capture the strong line and contour that Rego depicts in ‘Dancing Ostriches’ which I did by using watered down black acrylic to form shadow and line and then working over again using the pastels also. I’m pleased with the overall response as an experiment, although admit the portrait itself does not represent Portman, I think it does capture that sense of turmoil she is feeling in this pose, even though her lips are looking slightly pouty and posed!

Reworking: Collection Painting

Following the feedback from Assignment Two: Collection Painting I set about reworking some of the still life collection painting. I noticed by looking at both paintings the photograph has also changed the overall image slightly the first was taken on quite a bright sunny day, causing a little bit of a shine on the surface, whereas the second was taken on an overcast day which I think enables a truer representation fo the colour and line. Nevertheless I did spend a couple of hours reworking some of the fruits and vegetables. Below is the final reworked image.

First off I wanted to tackle the cauliflower, my tutor sent me some examples of cauliflower painting, and a link to a you tube video indicating that stippling much like how you can paint in clouds would be a good technique to use to depict the florets. I used varying shades of white and stippling over the surface many times, first by using darker tones with brown, green, yellow and grey tones, then working on top with creamy white, and then back over with dark and then finally highlighting with a bright white just at some of the edges. It’s resulted in a far better representation of the cauliflower. Using this stippling technique I also revisited the oranges to stipple in the puckered surface using both light yellow and dark brown to create light and shadow which has worked well. I also added some warmer yellows over the bananas which were looking a little ashy.Finally I also tried to reduce the streakiness seen in the peppers adding in some more bold colour and shape.

Comparing both images together I’m a lot happier with how the fruit and vegetables have turned out, I think if I were to try and push it a little further I’d like to still spend a little bit more time on the cauliflower and peppers, as well as the grapes and bananas, but I’m pleased with the improvement and progress so far.

Kaye Donachie

Kaye Donachie was born in 1970, in Glasgow, and is a Scottish Artist, known for her muted figurative paintings. Donachie studied at the University of Central England in Birmingham before receiving her MA in 1997 from the Royal College of Art in London. Donachie currently lives and works in London. The works I will focus on in particular for this blog post are the figurate paintings in which Donachie also weaves landscapes, and places into, fixing the portrait of the person to a place in time, although painted in such a way you would wonder if you are dreaming as you fall into the gaze of the portrait, or the night sky in the back ground.

I love the many layers that go into Donachie’s work, face’s behind faces, or landscapes and moonlight. There feels a real depth and each painting draws me in deeper into the image. I especially like how in both of the above images neither portraits are looking directly forward, they are gazing off into the distance looking at something unbeknownst to us.

I particularly enjoyed working on a very dark background in previous exercises, although I wanted to inject a little colour so I chose a deep green and deep blue as a background for my responses to Donachie’s work. Just as you can see the movement in the painting on the left ‘Against the mass of night’ and the two faces, I revisited my previous work Monotype Portraits and used the monotype print faces, experimenting with this darker background and colour on A5 mixed media paper. I intended to paint the images in using acrylic, however I started off by using coloured pencil to mark out the shapes and actually preferred to stop here, just to see how the pencil and painted background interact. Also the portraits are quite small and use fine lines which actually meant I was able to capture this more easily in colour pencil.

This is quite a simple response, and the portraits are a little distorted, in comparison to Donachie’s complex work, they lack depth. Considering the layers in the painting more, and how I might like to experiment further with a concept that I particularly like which has spoken to me whilst working through my Post Grad Cert in Counselling was this notion of the child within us. Every adult carries around with them their childhood experiences, some may be positive, negative, ambivalent or unconscious, but either way we carry this small child with us wherever we go. To push this response further I’d like to try and portray this by painting portraits of adults and their child within. I’d experiment digitally using photos of me now, and as a child, and move on from there.

I also considered how I might like to experiment using Lino cut prints of the above portraits taken from Monotype Portraits, printing them onto different coloured paper with different coloured paint, this is something I’d definitely like to come back to. Perhaps even printing smaller portraits in a series on A4 with the faces all gazing in different directions or at/toward one another.