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.

Monotype Portraits

For this assignment I was asked to produce three monotype print portraits, gathering together all of the artist research and learnt experience following completion of the exercises. I enjoyed the different angles I used when I painted the quick ink paintings and wanted to continue with this. Of the ink paintings I particularly liked the poses of me looking to the left and right and up above. Thinking further ahead around sequencing I thought these three poses could evolve into a good conversation and connection with one other.

I struggled to produce monotype prints I was happy with using the ink paintings so decided to take photographs of myself in these poses to work from instead. I also thought a lot about colour and how I wanted to translate this into the triptych, I wanted to experiment some more with the portraits and didn’t necessarily want them to look uniform like some of the series I had seen when looking at Annie Kevans but I still wanted for them to be connected to one another.

‘Boys’, by Annie Kevans

Another artist I have really loved for a number of years is Francis Bacon, and I particular enjoy his triptychs, there is a burst of colour, and they are connected but not necessarily uniform, for example in the works below the subject matter is the same but the paintings are created from different angles – a similar idea to my different angled poses.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969), by Francis Bacon

Indeed Bacon also produced portraits of George Dyer as well as many others seated in different poses. In the example below I particularly like the dark background, as I discovered in the works of Kim Baker, which was something I also wanted to try and incorporate in this assignment, although through experimenting with different background colours in a previous exercise, I decided it would be better to keep the monotype simple by using a plain white background.

Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, oil on canvas, in three parts, 1963.

Bringing together all of the research and responses I had worked on, I decided for these self portraits I wanted to incorporate different poses, interacting with one another, using some of the simple and subtle painting marks seen in Annie Kevans work, as well as the bright colours added by Eleanor Moreton and the movement of Yuko Nasu, I wanted the portraits to have energy and interact with one another.

Above are some of the photographs I took of myself posing at different angles. I manipulated the images using digital software to crop the photo and also transformed the photo into black and white, changing the contrast. Thinking about different ideas I could bring into this assignment, I particularly liked painting Yayoi Kusama in my response to Annie Kevans work and I think this was because of the addition of the bright bold wig. Without a wig to don myself and photograph, I decided I would imagine the wigs, once added in the painting they would transform my self portraits into someone else, a little like the work of Yuko Nasu, where her portraits aren’t painted from real life – they’re imagined. I also enjoyed painting Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker in my response to the works of Geraldine Swayne and wanted to explore this idea of painted faces and roles people play further.

In the images above I printed out my manipulated photographs and using oil paint, created wigs, as well as new facial features, such as face paint and a clown nose. I had lots of ideas on how to explore monotypes further, one of which was to also embrace accidental errors, the blobs of paint or the mis prints resulting in movement on the page.

I tried to experiment with the double printing technique here, whilst also incorporating this with the wigs. When I was thinking about wigs I also considered different roles of people who wear wigs – clowns, judges, aristocrats in history. In the monotypes above I painted the hair onto the acetate on each print on the first double print, and then on the last print, painted the hair in afterwards around both images. Ultimately though I think they are just too messy and actually the addition of the hair over-complicates the image and takes away from the simplicity and movement of the double print.

I also wanted to experiment with using different coloured paint for the face itself, as Annie Kevans used more subtle colouring in her portraits. However actually I much prefer the black and white monochromatic style in comparison to this orange above. I also noted from these prints that the portrait looking down doesn’t quite work, the pupils of the eyes are needed to understand the gaze, as this image could be mistaken for closed eyes as opposed to looking downwards.

Ultimately through these various experiments I decided for this assignment I’d like to incorporate the restraint and subtle facial features achieved via monotype, rather than pursuing this narrative of identity or roles people play through the addition of face paint or hair. I particularly enjoyed painting my responses to the works of Yuko Nasu and Eleanor Moreton and wanted to continue working on the simple floating heads. Throughout the exercises I have attempted to add in colour and rework the prints but as time has drawn on I have really come to like the simplicity and subtlety that can be achieved. I also really like stripping the heads back to just the simple shapes with facial features, they almost become slightly anonymous and homogeneous.

I had been using printer paper to practice the monotypes and had intended to use better quality watercolour paper for the final assignment, however above is the monotype I created using the final floating head design, and the print quality was no where near as pleasing as the printer paper. Clearly the printer paper is much thinner, which I enjoyed using during the printing process as it helped me to guide the second print more easily, however as an end product it doesn’t feel of good enough quality. To push this project further I’d like to try and experiment with lots of different types of paper to find the right match.

Below is the selection of floating heads I created for the assignment, the print on the far right end I decided to not include at all, as the head is not a whole figure and doesn’t look right, I also wanted to discard the fifth painting as the spacing between print one and two isn’t large enough, resulting in a cluttered image without enough movement. So I decided for the final assignment the first three images as these are the most clear and accomplished.

I explored different ways of presenting the three monotype prints and actually different messages and meanings can be conveyed or interpreted depending on their sequencing. In the below sequence I like to think that perhaps these anonymous heads are three people intertwined in maybe a love affair with the ‘other partner’ on the far left. or perhaps a falling out of friends – it feels as though there is some tension and conflict, and uneven energy or power between the three.

In this second sequencing the group are looking inward and feel more connected, perhaps they are having a conversation, although the middle portrait is turned slightly to the person on the right, maybe they are agreeing with something they’ve said.

Lastly, this sequence looks like it could either be conflictual, like a falling out amongst friends, or I can also sense some adventure or foreboding they are all looking out away from one another but what are they looking at? What’s to come? What have they discovered?

This last sequence is my favourite of the three, it feels somewhat hopeful and exciting.

Re-worked Monotype Portraits

For this exercise I was asked to revisit the two previous exercises An Introduction to Monotypes and Monotype Portraits Continued… in order to produce three new images. I needed to chose three prints that I wished to push further, by either adding more paint to create greater definition, contrast or a closer likeness or by removing paint to change the image in a different way. As I had created three different series I decided to choose one of each

I initially thought I disliked the barely there original print on the left but actually as I worked toward and craved definition I then wanted to run back to the subtlety! By adding in the definition I can see more character and the print resembles me more, especially the smile and eyes but it feels too definitive and too precise now, theres no room for the viewer to imagine or interpret, it’s very rigid. I’m surprised by how much I prefer the barely there print, it reminds me more of the subtlety of Annie Kevans delicate portraits. I wonder what it would be like to recreate the subtle prints using flesh toned oil paint, and then perhaps being extremely selective in adding in a hint of definition here and there, treading extremely carefully!

For this print I much prefer the provided definition from adding in the black oil paint, the painting feels more life like which in contrast to the previous reworked image, I think it needed in order to bolster the bold colour on the page, its as if the black definition is scaffolding the print behind it, and holding it up. Although the face doesn’t look like my own and has become more generic.

Lastly I decided to rework my favourite image from the very first set of mono prints. I particularly liked the print because it just felt quite powerful, it’s as if the print didn’t care about me attempting to produce a print with care, once the paper hit the acetate there’s an explosion of paint, disregarded blobs I had missed, and pools of turpentine seeping into the paper. I wanted to add on a very slight definition here and carefully added in some strong dark line working from the initial ink study so as to not detract from the haphazard nature of the printing process. Although I must admit like with the first example I much prefer the subtlety!

This exercise has been very revealing, previously when painting portraits I have tried quite hard to try and produce a true likeness and with the previous work on collections I focused a lot on shadow, colour and tone. This section is really challenging the subtlety, decisiveness and restraint in me. Usually I’m quite an expressive painter especially when painting large abstracts with swathes of paint so to channel my inner restraint has been quite a challenge but I am enjoying this different direction, and alternative way of working. I’d like to see this carry through to the final assignment.

Monotype Portraits Continued…

Moving on from the previous exercise An Introduction to Monotypes this exercise called for five more monotypes. In order to experiment in other ways I chose one image to recreate 5 times (as previously directed). In this exercise I was prompted to remove different areas of paint with cotton buds, cotton wool, smooth rags, rough rags and tissue paper. As well as experimenting with the removal of paint I also decided to experiment with different colour combinations across the backgrounds of the paintings. I found it much harder to produce the prints using the ink studies so decided to revert to using a photograph for this exercise, this selfie taken at a park in Tokyo, below.

Below Is the entire series of portraits for this exercise. I purposefully decided to experiment with different backgrounds to see how this would impact the outcome of the monotype, choosing plain white, bright orange, deep purple , pastel lilac and black. Looking at the collection as a whole I prefer the black and white backgrounds, as these form the most striking monotypes portraits. Across the portraits I can see similarities in the vacant eyes, which I have really struggled to depict, they remind me a little of the eyes found in the works of Yuko Nasu The photograph was taken on a bright sunny day and I’m squinting at the camera, but this is completely lost in the portraits.

My first attempt was using the plain white background, I much preferred working from the photograph as there was more information to transpose from the image onto the acetate, however I still feel very inept in using this process. I attempted to remove some of the paint from the acetate to create definition but overall very little paint was transferred onto the paper, so I was apprehensive towards removing any paint. As the print didn’t come out very well I repainted the acetate and attempted a second print on the same piece of paper. Again this was still quite unsuccessful so I painted over the print with some additional paint and turpentine to complete the image. The detail does’t look right to me and I really struggled to get to grips with the thick gloopy nature of using oil.

Here is the second print, across all of the portraits I can see inconsistencies in the colour palette. Previously when using acrylic I’ve felt quite at home in mixing colour but oil I find especially difficult. I attempted to use a palette knife to mix colours as my brushes were becoming clogged but I still couldn’t get this right. In this portrait I like how the green dress interacts with the bright orange background, it reminds me of camouflage jackets with fluorescent orange linings. Besides this though I’m not entirely happy with the portrait itself, it’s clumsy and not very skilled.

When I first revealed this print I realised how important it would be to load the acetate with light pigmented paint in order for it to register onto a particularly dark background. As the image was barely there, but by adding some additional paint and turpentine though I could fill in the space which it didn’t pick up.

This is my least favourite of the collection it’s very flat and the pastel lilac background doesn’t give anything to the portrait itself. Although as I’m looking at the portrait now I realise that I initially learnt that with monotype printing less is more, and with this painting in particular – that previously learned information clearly was lost because this feels like more is more and actually there is far too much paint on the page!

This last image along with the first is my favourite, I learned from the monotype using the deep purple background the importance of loading the acetate with light pigmented paint, and I felt I had the ratio of paint to turpentine better with this attempt, I gained in confidence too and attempted to remove some of the paint to produce definition but this was still unsuccessful. This painting doesn’t necessarily represent the original photo very well as I think the first portrait on white background does, but I do like how the paint interacts with the background to create shadow.

I decided to practice some more with monotypes as this exercise so far felt quite unsuccessful, so this time I decided to use the same photograph and simplify matters by practicing using black and white only. I’d also forgotten to photograph the initial prints of the above images so its hard to really reflect on the printing technique itself as I rushed ahead to add in more paint or move around paint the page using turpentine. Ultimately I think I was becoming too focused on colour palettes and mixing paint, trying to create a true likeness and generally being frustrated with using oils that I lost the point of the entire exercise altogether – to experiment with monotypes! So in the below series using just plain white paper and black oil paints I set about trying to capture the image in print, and using different techniques to remove or alter the paint on the acetate to create different effects. In order to aid in this process I used some digital software to manipulate the photograph, which helped tremendously, although felt a little bit like cheating.

Here is the selection of five monotype prints I created, which have been untouched (unlike the previous selection) so that I can analyse what worked well and what didn’t and analyse how I might carry this forward into the assignment.

I enjoyed this process much more than the previous rounds, simplifying the monotype to pick out the facial features and working in just one colour using oil. I could play around and explore the oil paint and monotype technique and the process – before I was too focused on the end outcome, mastering use of oils and controlling colour.

This was the first print using the simplified technique and moving away from the heavy handed paint. I particularly like how the eyes and mouth have come out with this print, you can feel the smile. Although the hair doesn’t appear defined, as I used too much turpentine I do like this blobbed and messy outcome.

The eyes were quite subtle in the previous print so I purposefully loaded the pupils with blobs of paint and as you can see they are very prominent. I used a little more oil and turpentine on this second print to see if I could achieve more definition, and did also try to remove some paint on the hair although this wasn’t consistent so there are pockets where there is quite a lot of oil/turpentine and then lighter sections where I pulled some of the paint back using a rough paint brush.

This time I used a different paint brush to apply the oil paint, an angled flat brush, which felt like it really glided along the acetate for the hair strands. I made a bit of an error as I applied the paper to the acetate, but this has resulted in some nice movement on the page and haphazard blotches which I quite like.

In this print I tried to revisit removing the paint using a dry brush and I think it was far more successful in achieving a good result on the hair of this portrait. Although the eyes have lost their definition and become a little confused.

Here is the last print, I was too heavy handed on the nostrils of the nose so they have merged a little, the rest of the print is quite faint so this appears quite prominent although I like how the rest of the print is quite faint, and sort of barely there, it reminds me of a very over exposed photograph.

Overall with a little more practice and experimentation I’m happy with the outcome of the black and white monotypes and have gained some more experience and confidence in this process. It’s given me a lot to think about when I come to tackle the assignment of this section.

An Introduction to Monotypes

For this exercise I could choose to either work with an ink portrait I painted in the previous exercise A Series of Quick Self Portraits or a photograph or image from a magazine. As I had previously worked with a photograph found online in my response to the works of Geraldine Swayne I decided to experiment further with the ink portraits. The exercise requires the use of one image but I missed this part of the instruction! I had intended to use a complete ’round’ however sadly I miscalculated and used one from the first round and four from the next, never mind! For this exercise I selected ink portrait numbers 10,11,12,13 and 14.

In order to create the monotype I placed acetate over the ink image and then painted on top using oil paint and turpentine as a thinner. I found this exercise very challenging, although I’m sure this is to be expected when learning a new technique. As I would be working with oils I had purchased some oil board to use for this exercise however I realised that actually monotypes really require paper to be printed upon. Nonetheless I thought it might be fun to experiment using the oil board and wanted to see how it turned out. The board has quite a rough texture which I think is highlighted in the mono types.

I intentionally chose a bright colour to use in creating these monotypes, taking inspiration from artists Yuko Nasu and Eleanor Moreton. I also decided to paint on imagined hair to the portraits, although I think perhaps I should have kept the portraits as face only in the ink studies, nevertheless it was good to experiment. Much like the time constraint I experienced in A Series of Quick Self Portraits I feel like working with monotypes still continues with this theme. In my haste to avoid the paint drying and not printing, my painting onto the acetate wasn’t very considered and I felt like I was still working quite quickly, which I don’t particularly enjoy, as I feel rushed. However working back over the print reassures me and I do enjoy the stages and layers to this process.

Above are the first monotype prints. They do resemble the ink studies although I think they look very messy and unfinished. There are blobs of paint which have formed where I haven’t worked the paint in to a smooth surface before pressing. I quite like this accidental addition though it reminds me of old film or photographs and the small imperfections that can be found there. I’m not sure whether to keep these in the painting and accentuate the hap hazard nature of them, or to try and work back over them to recreate a more coherent image. Out of the selection my favourite is the middle image, the eyes are quite striking, and I like how the oil and turpentine solution has mixed at the neck line and top of the head, the added turpentine has helped here so I will remember to be generous with this when I attempt subsequent monotypes. Following the initial prints I reworked the paintings in different ways.

In this first painting I used a selection of paints, the original deep red and blue, as well as white and black to add in light and shadow, and turpentine to help with the fluidity of the paint. The resulting image feels quite ghostly to me.

For this painting I decided not to add any more material, paint or turpentine and instead used a cotton bud to push the paint across the page, attempting to accentuate the features, the resulting image feels quite stark and gritty, a little bit like my response to Geraldine Swayne.

I decided to use only turpentine and a paint brush to join and smooth the collection and pools of paint on the page, trying to be quite restrictive, and I only worked on this for a couple of minutes or so.

I decided to leave my favourite print as it is, so this is the final image I reworked, I decided to introduce another colour to the palette, this contrasting burnt orange against the electric blue I think works quite well.

Ultimately, sadly I don’t really like any of these images, and this whole exercise is peppered with mistakes, but good learning points too! I’ve struggled to work with this new material of oil and turpentine, I would much prefer to be working with acrylic and water at this point, however it is good to experiment with different materials, and if anything solidifies my admiration for acrylic as a painting material. I think using the ink studies as a jumping off point has also frustrated me as I wasn’t really happy with any of the ink studies as they were created so quickly. I also think I was a little heavy handed in my use of oil paint and actually the strength in the monotype is less is more. For the next exercise I have decided to use a photograph of myself and to use this same image for each painting which I hope I will find more enjoyable and easier to work with.

A Series of Quick Self Portraits

For this exercise I was asked to produce 20 self portraits using black ink. The ink was separated into three cups, one with ink only, another with diluted ink solution and one with water. I could spend no longer than one minute on each portrait. Before beginning the exercise, as advised I took a look at the portrait work of artist Marlene Dumas.

Marlene Dumas. Chlorosis (Love sick). 1994

In this work Dumas produced this series of paintings in response to reading about ‘Chlorosis’ which is derived from the greek word ‘light green’. In nineteenth century literature, heroines would often die from tuberculosis, but now this isn’t thought to be the cause of death, and actually love sickness could be the reason, so one would turn light green and then die from lovesickness. An unusual story but this piqued Dumas’ interest and prompted her to produce the above series, in which she used various photographs and images to try and recreate these portraits conveying that feeling of lovesickness. Dumas uses a range of materials including, ink, watercolour and acrylic paint. Each painting appears quite different, with different poses, styles and use of material, but all share this eery quality of longing and sadness.

For this exercise I was allowed only one minute to spend on each portrait which felt incredibly quick and actually quite stressful to try and paint under this time constraint. I decided to play around with different positions so produced 5 different poses and then repeated these four times to produce the required twenty portraits. I sat in front of a mirror with a large window to the right of me, on an overcast day.These are the first 5 paintings showing: face on, turned to the right, looking up, looking down and turned to the left.

I purposefully decided to not include any hair or detail other than the individual faces, as I had done so previously in Yuko Nasu and Eleanor Moreton. I felt it was extremely difficult to capture the portraits in one minute although I did try to keep to this time and used a timer to ensure this. This round is quite reserved, and some of the portraits even look angry, perhaps I was quite angry at the one minute time constraint and this translated into the work. Here is a look at the second round.

I think this group was more successful than the last. For the last two paintings, and subsequent rounds, I had to change which type of paper I was using from Hot Pressed to Cold Pressed water colour paper, as this was all I had. I haven’t used Cold Pressed water colour paper before but discovered that I needed to load the brush with more water/ink solution, although in so doing this created some quite nice interactions on the page between the ink and the paper. It’s difficult to see from the above images but in real life you can see where some of the ink has seeped out into watered down solutions of ink. It was unexpected, and I’d like to experiment a little more with this. I like the first and third paintings from this particular selection most, both are much improved in comparison to the first round. Below is the third round of paintings.

For this round I particularly like both of the side posed paintings (two and five), the angles feel right. Sadly in the third painting there was slightly too much diluted solution on the page so as I added more ink, facial features have become quite blurred. I don’t particularly like the outcome of the fourth composition the eye positioning isn’t quite right here. Below is the final round of paintings

I think this final round of paintings shows how my brush strokes have become a little looser and more confident. The fourth painting is still not quite right but I think it is quite difficult to depict this pose given that I could only work for one minute on each painting. Compared to the previous rounds of paintings this selection of 5 feels the most coherent. Below is the final selection in it’s entirety.

Comparing the first painting with the last row they look entirely different, and I think you can see the progression of each painting as you look vertically down the grid at the poses. It’s a shame that the digitally scanned images don’t necessarily show the details, there is some really quite beautiful pooling and spreading of ink on the page. Particularly on the last round where I have posed looking up, the pupils have melted into the under eye shadow beneath. This was a fun exercise to carry out and demonstrates the importance of exercises such as this, for me to become looser in my painting and more confident before tackling final assignments. It’s also made me realise that I find it particularly difficult to paint quickly and don’t enjoy time constraints. I prefer to paint at leisure on my own terms, but I can see the benefit in quick exercises such as this.

Kim Baker

Kim Baker is a British Painter living and working in London. I really enjoy her work as it incorporates bold colours and abstract elements which I particularly like and also use in my own work. Baker has taken influence from 17th Century Dutch floral painting and abstract works from the likes of Willem De Kooning. The below artworks I have chosen to look at more closely is from Baker’s series ‘Nature Morte’, which is translated from French to ‘Nature Dead’.

Looking in more detail at Baker’s influences I found examples of 17th century Dutch still life paintings. I really love the dark backgrounds and bursts of colour. I especially enjoyed working on dark backgrounds in my previous paintings in Painting on a painted surface and Collection Painting, and this is something I would definetly like to explore further.

Still Life with Flowers and a Watch, Abraham Mignon, c. 1660-1679 |  Rijksmuseum Public Domain

Looking in more depth at Baker’s other influence of abstract work and in particular De Kooning I explored his abstract works and gestural marks, below is an example of just this.

Willem de Kooning Untitled XVI 1975 oil on canvas 70 x 80 inches (177.8 x 203.2 cm)

When looking at these pieces together Baker’s intentions and influences become clear. In my response to Baker’s work I used black ink as my background, cutting down the edges of the paper to create a crisp edge of pure darkness. I then continued my experimentation with oils, loosening the paint using turpentine. I still feel quite uneasy using oil paint as it feels very alien as oils are so much thicker than acrylic however with the addition of the turpentine and increased fluidity I feel a little more comfortable. Sadly the painting feels quite dull, although I like the layers of the painting and the gestural marks. I purposefully decided not to paint from still life and an actual image and instead embraced just the fluid mark making.

To build upon this first layer I decided to retreat back to the comfort of acrylic, whilst also using an acrylic binder to increase fluidity. I attempted to inject some more vibrant colour into the painting, more akin to the works of Baker and De Kooning. The image still feels a little flat although I think by scanning the image digitally it does dull the image somewhat. In real life, the painting feels brighter, and I particular like the contrast between the deep matt black ink background, muted dull oils and gloss in the acrylic and binder combination on the top layer.

Geraldine Swayne

Geraldine Swayne was born in 1965, and is a British Artist. Swayne attended Newcastle Upon Tyne University where she gained a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 1989, and later went on to gain a MA in Fine Art at Kingston University in 2013. Swayne enjoys using a wide variety of materials and methods in her production of art, including large scale paintings on canvas, smaller paintings using enamel paint on metal, as well as performance art and film making. For the purpose of this blog post I will be looking more closely at Swayne’s work using enamel paint on Aluminium.

Geraldine Swayne, ‘Nazi Compact’, Enamel Paints on Aluminium

Swayne paints in a loose sweeping style, creating a final image that has movement and energy. Looking at the image I was thinking about how I could create a response. I first searched online for ‘woman applying lipstick’ but I didn’t particularly like this gender role stereotype. So I thought more about applying makeup in general, which led me to clowns applying their own stage makeup, and then stumbled across the below striking image. I like how Joaquin is looking away from the viewer at a fixed point, much like ‘Nazi compact’, and I think it could make for quite an interesting painting.

Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker, 2019

This time I decided to use oil paints even though I admit I was reluctant to start using oil paint. I don’t particularly enjoy long drying times that come with using watercolour and thought using oil paint would be much the same although this is exactly what makes a monotype possible. As I hadn’t used oil paints before I was also unsure around using them safely and looking after my brushes but I think actually this was fine. I used turpentine to thin the oil paints slightly when working with them and to clean the brushes.

Swayne uses enamel on aluminium in her depiction of ‘Nazi compact’ but without access to enamel and aluminium I decided to try and use the monotype technique to capture the image of Joaquin phoenix with the intention of painting over the top to add in any detail, although still trying to keep the same loose style of painting. My first attempt at a monotype (Kim Edwards) was a complete fail as I thought I could work very quickly and still use acrylic paint to produce the image but it just didn’t work, although I was still pleased with the resulting image, I wanted to practice this technique some more.

It took me a couple of attempts painting on the acetate over the image with oil paints and then printing on paper, I think I actually repeated this process around five times, I’m not sure what was going wrong. I don’t know if I just didn’t apply the oil paint thick enough or whether the oil paint I was using is maybe not of good quality as it was given to me by a friend and had been opened at some point previously. Either way despite the multiple attempts I did start building an image I was becoming happier with. I then added some oils over the top, a little thinned down with turpentine and added in some more detail, although still trying to keep the image loose and suggestive rather than trying to replicate the photograph completely.

I very annoyingly though created an error in the painting. As the monotype style creates a mirror image I became confused with how each hand was presented. The thumb on the right hand in the photograph is pointing downwards but in my confusion I thought I had missed this in the monotype process so painted it in afterwards – I hadn’t missed it I just got the two hands confused! So now in my final image both thumbs are pointing up! Without seeing the photograph though you wouldn’t necessarily realise, it’s just annoying as the painter I know the error is there.

I do really like the overall image itself though, the thick and painterly style of the oil painting is very remnant of the thick face paint Joaquin applied to face in his role as the Joker. The Joker film itself is quite gritty and hard hitting, and I can see this in the painting so I think it was a good fit for this response. In the same style as Swayne it would have been good to use a reflective surface to paint on as she used aluminium but unfortunately I haven’t been able to obtain any metallic card at this time. I would like to come back to this later when I am able to though, and compare resulting images.

Kim Edwards

Kim Edwards is a British Artist, currently living and working Badingham, England. Edwards uses a range of mediums including, digital, print making, watercolours and painting. For the purpose of this blog post I will be specifically focusing on Edwards work with Mono-types, (monotyping is a type of printmaking made by drawing or painting on a smooth, non-absorbent surface). Edwards works using images and photographs taken of the Suffolk coastline, and produces mono-types using thick opaque oil paint, which is often painted over again.

Kim Edwards, Towards Dunwich, Monotype, 2016

I find Edwards work to be quite moody and foreboding. The above image doesn’t appear to be a bright sunny day, it feels like there is a storm on the horizon, waiting to hit the shoreline. In response to Edwards work, I searched online for an image of the British coastline, and came across the below image. This photograph is of Durdledoor beach, found in Dorset on the Jurassic coast. I’ve never visited the area but would really like to!

Photo: Mark Towning via Flickr

I attempted to create a mono-type in the same way that Edwards did. Unfortunately I don’t have a piece of glass to use in the mono-type process so I’m using sheets of acetate. I placed the acetate over the image and began to fill in the main sections of the painting, with the intention of painting over the mono-type with more detail, such as that of the long grass in the foreground.

The painting didn’t quite turn out as I had intended. I used acrylic paint so the drying time would be quicker to allow me to scan the image. I thought if I worked very quickly, and as it is only a small image I would be able to still produce the mono-type but when I lifted the paper from the acetate the majority of the paint was still on the acetate. So instead I decided to glue the acetate onto the paper using a glue stick and then paint over the acetate. The resulting image is actually still quite pleasing, in the sunlight there is a shine form the acetate, contrasted with the matt acrylic paint, although as you can see it is a mirror image of the original.

Annie Kevans

Annie Kevans was born in in 1972, in Cannes, France. Kevans attended Central Saint Martins University and gained a BA(Hons) in Fine Art in 2004. Kevans is an English painter who focuses on painting portraits which often explore controversial topics and alternative histories. Some of Kevans’ work includes a series of portraits named ‘All the President’s Girls’ which depicts Presidential mistresses, following on from this Kevans painted a series on the illegitimate slave children of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler. Kevans’ work highlights and challenges gender inequalities, racial conflict, the horror of slavery, and the injustice and hypocrisy perpetrated by key figures in society. For the purpose of this blog post I have looked at Kevans work on ‘The History of Art’ where she has showcased the many successful female artists who have often been marginalised due to their gender in the art world, and which continues to be a theme of inequality in the modern day art arena.

To showcase female artists is very important to me as we are still very much so marginalised in the art world, and I wanted to use this as an opportunity to celebrate some female artist who I admire. Two artist whose work I have seen in person and was particularly moved and intrigued by is that of Hilma AF Klint and Yayoi Kusama, born in different centuries and countries, but both have a shared passion for creating abstract art work which pushes boundaries and provokes reaction.

Hilma af Klint, ca. 1910. (Courtesy of the Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm/Courtesy The Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm)

Hilma Af Klint was born in 1862, and was a Swedish artist. Her abstracts work although unappreciated at the time of production have now become widely known as some of the the first examples of abstract painting in the western art world. Many of her works predate the well known purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky. Klint was one of the first generations of women to receive a higher education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. Klint was interested in spirituality, alternative dimensions, and often used various dualistic symbols in her work. I was lucky enough to visit the Guggenheim in New York, and attended an exhibition showing many of her wonderful works, to imagine her work being exhibited in the early 1900’s is almost hard to believe, she was such a pioneer of her time, yet sadly and very often overshadowed by the many male artists of the abstract movement, such as Kandinsky, Mondrian or Kupka, to name a few.

Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929, and is a Japanese Artist. Another artist ahead of her time, Kusama paved the way in the 1950’s with her ‘Infinity Net’ Paintings which were made up of thousands of tiny monochromatic dots on canvas, she’s also known as ‘The Princess of Polka Dots’. Kusama’s work has spanned over several different mediums, including painting, installation, fashion and performance art. Kusama’s work is heavily influenced by an early childhood experience, in which she had a hallucination where she was surrounded by flowers which started talking to her. Kusama moved to New York in the 1950’s and became widely popular in her work, by the 1970’s sadly Kusama suffered a mental breakdown and returned to Japan, she has been living in a mental hospital by choice ever since. Kusama continues to produce amazing works, and works from her studio close by to where she lives. I was lucky enough to experience first hand some of Kusama’s work when I visited Naoshima – commonly known as Japan’s Art Island. There I was able to see examples of Kusama’s giant polka dot pumpkins!

Here is my response to the works of Anie Kevans, paying homage to some of my favourite artists, Hilma AF Klint, and Yayoi Kusama, I’m pleased with the final outcome. I used acrylic paint with an acrylic binder, in a similar way to using oil paint with a thinning agent, but the drying time is far quicker. There is a lucidity in the paintings which I also see in Kevans work. My favourite is the painting of Kusama due to her bright and bold hair colour and clothing, and she has a really strikingly beautiful face which was really fun to paint.