Lee Edwards

Lee Edwards was born in 1981, in Kent, and lives and works in London. Edwards gained his BA at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, followed by his MA in Painting, at The Royal College of Art. Edwards is well known for painting quite small intricate images onto a variety of different surfaces, some of which include, conkers, MDF, plastic bags, and pieces of wood.

In the examples chosen above, Edwards has used random cuts of timber, and depicted extremely detailed portraits. The first on the left ‘My aunt’s friend’ and the second on the right ‘Fades to Memory’. It appears as though Edwards uses the knots and grain markings to guide where the painting is placed. For instance to the right, the rings appear to emanate from the young woman’s face, and to the right the subtle glimpse of the woman is just etched in to the grain markings of this piece of wood.

In the same way Edwards used found pieces of wood, I found a couple of pieces of discarded skirting board in the cellar of my house to work on. Inspired by how Edwards uses existing imperfections on the surface of the wood I used this as my jumping off point. To the left, I mimicked the knot and round indents found in this piece by using a selection of corals, yellows and peach acrylic paint to adorn the wood using swirling brush strokes, the painting feels like a celebration of confetti. To the right, there were lots of angular lines and cuts found in the wood, so I painted in bold straight lines using earthy greens, and turquoise, it reminds me of an angular landscape with lots of different fields. I like how the two pieces are presented together with the soft bevelled edges they look as if they always belonged together.

Cathy Lomax

Cathy Lomax was born in 1963, in Croydon, and is a British painter based in London. Lomax is part of the Contemporary British Painting group, and is a curator and director at The Transition Gallery. Lomax gained her MA Fine Art from Central St Martins, and also edits two art and culture magazines, Arty and Garageland. Lomax’s work is influenced by film, fashion and fame, juxtaposed with the everyday. One of Lomax’s collections is ‘noir bags’, 2013, which depict the necklines of iconic femme fatales.

Given the current situation with restricted movements due to coronavirus, I was unable to scour the charity shops and thrift stores to find an old handbag to experiment with, and not wanting to use one of my own, I decided to turn to a different kind of material, a cardboard box! Instead of depicting the feminine necklines of those who may use said handbag, I chose to depict our hard working delivery men and women who are keeping the nation going at this very difficult time and found an image online of a Royal Mail postal worker (Getty Image, found on http://www.mirror.co.uk). I cropped the image to match the size of the cardboard box using only their torso to provide an anonymised universal depiction of delivery personnel worldwide, and painted on the cardboard box using acrylic paint.

It was fun painting on the cardboard that had quite a porous quality, I decided to leave some packaging tape on the cardboard running across the surface to provide a different material to paint upon. The plastic tape meant that the paint took longer to dry and required more layers to build pigment. This was especially difficult when I was trying to paint the hand and neck on the delivery person, which was extremely challenging!

Paul Westcombe

Paul Westcombe was born in 1981, in Scotland. He studied at The Grays School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, before going on to gain his MA at The Royal College of Art (Painting). Westcombe uses a variety of surfaces to paint and draw upon, including old vaseline tins, batteries and used coffee cups.

The titles of Westcombe’s work are provocative and self deprecating, and here are two below which I have chosen, to the left a red and white doodled intricate maze including tiny toasters, lightbulbs, and chains, entitled ‘In the morning in the Shower I Saw the shit run down your leg’, 2008. To the right another complex scene of monochrome, entitled ‘Sex is boring with me’, 2008. They remind me of the intricate worlds of where’s Wally with lots of hidden detail. Without being able to see the whole image at once your eyes are drawn to the outer edges to wonder what can be found beyond.

In response to Westcombe’s work I saved a couple of items from the recycling to experiment with, so I could experience what it’s like to paint on a spherical 3-D surface. I chose a baked bean tin and a jar of spicy marinade. In order to doodle easily on the surface instead of using acrylic paint with a brush I used an acrylic paint pen instead.

Here’s my first response to Westcombe’s work, a baked bean tin covered in doodles. It was really fun to just doodle and see where the lines took me. I found working on the baked bean tin quite challenging as the ridges along the middle dictated the movement of line and often caused the pen to veer off in unexpected directions. I don’t think this would occur in the same way if I had used a paintbrush.

Here’s another example of some doodling on a glass jar. I decide to only cover two thirds of the bottle, as you can see the pattern through the glass and onto the other side. I really enjoyed just doodling, as in previous assignments there was more of an emphasis on drawing from an original image or object, and doodling can be just anything at all that pops up in your mind!

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965, and studied at Goldsmiths University. Hirst became a leading figure in the Young British Artists movement in the late 1980s and 1990s, and is one of the richest living artists in the UK.

Damien Hirst’s work spans decades and Hirst has explored a vast range of materials, styles, themes and narratives throughout his work. For the purpose of this blog post I will focus on his work around collection. In particular what lead me to investigate this further was a recent Instagram post of Hirst’s ‘I Found You/God’, 2012-2013.

‘I Found You/God’, 2012-2013

‘Part of an edition of 8 works I made of to raise money for a friend’s film. It has pills attached to a polished stainless steel background, I like it if this gets put somewhere where it can get used as a mirror. The pills float on the mirror and are between you and yourself, it feels a bit like a void.’ – Damien Hirst, Instagram.

Exploring Hirst’s work further I came across an earlier work of his on Pill cabinets, between 1999-2005, and indeed cabinets and collections often form part of Hirst’s work. In response to Hirst’s work I documented some vitamins I take myself.

Pushing forward and experimenting with different painting surfaces, I used bubble wrap and acrylic paint to mimic the shape and repetitive pattern of the tablets and pills.

A Series of Paintings

This is the first assignment in the module of ‘Understanding Painting Media’ with the OCA. It is designed to integrate all of the techniques, observations and lessons learned during the four preceding exercises – Painting Thin and Small, Black and White, Quick and Focused and Look at what you see – not what you imagine.

Inspired by my paintings of Boris Johnson the current man of the hour in the UK in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic, I wanted to work more on my portrait painting skills. I’ve always avoided real life paintings or even attempting them, finding it too difficult to master. However you can only improve with practice, and I think 20 paintings later I definitely felt more at ease at tackling portrait painting, and I think they did start to get better.

I thought about who I would want to paint, and about those influential figures who I admire, are full of passion, who have fought for causes I feel strongly about, or who have been key figures in modern day society. So here are my top 20 most influential people of 2020.

I decided to paint a ground using gouache for each painting before attempting the portrait, as I found it much easier to start painting when this was called for in previous exercises. An existing back ground colour also provided me with something to interact with as I layered the acrylic paint to build tone and shadow.

Rainbows have been a common theme over the past few weeks/months as a sign of honouring our NHS staff and keywords and so I decided that each painting would make up part of that rainbow, and these were the heroes I’d be celebrating and honouring in this piece of work.

Above is the final set of paintings – I have assembled them here to mirror the sequence of arrangement of the original photographs I used to paint from. I quite like the multicoloured arrangement with no particular flow or reasoning. I didn’t attempt to paint the portraits in a particular style, or in response to a particular artist. My main aim was to attempt to produce a likeness to the original photographed individual, to put my realistic painting skills to the test.

Here I have reassembled the images to create more of rainbow like effect from left to right, although as I wanted to create a final entire image which was square/rectangular and even, the images are laid out 5 x 4, which doesn’t quite marry up with the flow of colours. Although there is a warm tone to the left side of the final image and a cool tone to the right.

I tried to push the rainbow colour theme more here by arranging the images by colour/tone from the top left corner to bottom right, which I think has achieved an overall pleasing image, as the warm and cool colours are introduced at an angle, it doesn’t appear as harsh as it did in the previous arrangement.

If the images were displayed in an exhibition or gallery setting I would quite like for them to be hung individually along a long winding corridor, graduating through the rainbow colours one by one. I’m happy with the overall outcome of this project.

Some aspects I found particularly challenging was trying to paint the portraits of those whom I could only find black and white photographs for, and reimagining them in colour. I did consider painting these portraits in black and white to match the style of the photograph but I wanted to learn from experimenting with colour. I did try to search the internet for other examples of the particular persons to give an indication to skin tone and hair colour etc. which was only successful for a few of those persons. Some portraits proved more challenging than others, especially for some which had a great deal of detail. For instance with David Attenborough, this took me quite a while and in the end it still didn’t feel right, but I felt comfortable to stop at the point I had reached, as I had still learned a lot from trial and error. Differences in photographic quality also had quite a large impact, for some of the older images they had quite a soft airbrushed like quality to their skin, in contrast to the newer more advanced photography which could pick up lots of detail.

Two of my favourite paintings are probably Mahatma Gandhi and Malala Yousafzai, these were painted towards the end of the process, and I felt more confident in tackling them. Painting skin tone, and working in lightness and shadow felt very difficult to begin with but this did ease over-time, although I know I still have quite a way to go. I’m pleased I chose the subject matter I did, as each person represents something I hold important.

Both people and societies are an important part of my art work, and I’m heavily influenced by them, I’ve always been interested in these areas studying Sociology and Psychology at University, and I continue to explore these areas through painting and creating.

Look at what you see – not what you imagine

Building upon the previous exercise of Quick and Focused this exercise was also a challenge in painting what you see and not what you imagine. The exercise also came with a time restriction of 10 minutes for the first attempt and then 20 minutes for the second. I also had to reposition the image upside down, before painting it, and chose to use the image of Boris Johnson for this challenge! I also used acrylic paints on water colour paper.

On the right is my first attempt at this exercise, a 10-minute painting of Boris Johnson. Which I think comically looks nothing like him! The shape of his head is quite odd, as are his facial features. I found the challenge of looking at the image and not the paper especially hard over 10 minutes and did cheat on a few occasions, unable to help myself. Attempting to paint the image upside down paired with looking at the paper I think meant that some ‘imagined’ images crept in and distorted my way of seeing!

My second attempt, along with the advantage of an additional 10- minutes I think was slightly more successful, the dimensions and facial features feel a little more authentic, and I did try very hard to focus on the image as opposed to the paper on this occasion.

Quick and Focused

For this exercise I had to work quickly, focusing in on the subject matter rather than looking at the page, as well as using the paintbrush as I would a pencil. I also had only one minute per image to paint! I used A3 watercolour paper, and watered down acrylic to paint with, and chose 5 images from the previous exercise to paint: scalloped chair, Boris Johnson, house in front of the mountain, Chinese sculpture and the hand.

Above is the first attempt at the exercise, keeping to one minute per image was extremely hard and focusing on the image and not the paper was even more difficult! The individual paintings look more neat and tidy and structured in comparison to subsequent attempts. I think this is probably because I cheated and ended up looking at the paper!

During the second attempt I tried to look at the image as opposed to the paper. The paintings feel freer and looser. They’re also a little haphazard with regards to the positioning, as the hand painting is slightly cut off at the top of the page.

Lastly here is the final attempt, I tried to be more strict with regards to looking at the image only, the one minute timer still did not feel long enough at all! On the whole I found this exercise really quite challenging. I’m not happy with the overall finish of any of the paintings, but it did teach me to loosen up a little with my painting and also to focus on the image itself not what I think it looks like.

Black and White

This second assignment focuses on using black and white paint mediums only, including both backgrounds and object images. With 5 black backgrounds, and 5 white backgrounds, I used the following materials on each: black ink, black acrylic paint, white gouache, white acrylic paint, and grey gouache. I systematically used one painting medium atop each of the black and white surfaces, which was interesting to work with when for example it was the same colour – black acrylic on black background and vice-versa for the white paints.

I chose to focus on one image only so I could appreciate the difference in the black and white mediums, and I was interested to see how my painting may differ for each image. The chair was one of the more simpler images to paint, and due to its bold shapes and line I thought this could be a good choice for this exercise.

Black Ink

You can only just about see the black ink on top of the black background here. It’s more noticeable in the sunlight and has a kind of iridescent sheen to it. On top of the white, the shapes and outline are very striking.

Grey Gouache

This grey gouache feels very flat on the surface of either background with only the layers of paint build up providing any depth.

White Gouache

I liked working with the white gouache on top of the black surface, with this example it provides a ghostly feel to the image, and on the white surface it’s barely even visible.

Black Acrylic

As with the grey gouache the black acrylic also offers a very flat, stark contrast, and is almost entirely invisible on the black surface aside from the ridges of built up paint at the edges.

White Acrylic

The same ghostly feel from the white gouache on black background can be seen here using acrylic although not to the same extent.

Entire Series

Here is the entire series of black, white and grey scalloped chairs, some boldly visible in black and white, others more ghostly, and iridescent, and some don’t appear to be there even at all!

Here we have the entire series of black and white scalloped chairs.

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’.

Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown was born in 1969 to British parents in London, and now lives and works in New York City. Brown’s work uses an array of colour and gestural markings, there is an energy to Brown’s brush marks which have been compared to other renowned artists such as William De Kooning and Francis Bacon, (two of my favourite artists). Bodies and the human form offer inspiration for Brown’s work and can often be seen depicted in erotic positions.

Armed and Fearless‘, 2014
oil on linen
195.6 x 139.7 cm (77 x 54 7/8 in.)

The first painting I chose to look at more closely is ‘Armed and Fearless’. I particularly enjoy the choice of vibrant and bold colours juxtaposed with pastel pinks, lemons and black. There is a vivid energy to the canvas that draws you in, and I can pick out human bodies in motion, almost dancing together.

Above is my response to the work of Brown, using acrylic on paper. I really enjoyed imitating the gestural markings that Brown utilises, it felt natural and freeing. I think to improve upon my response I would slowly build up the vibrant energy using layers and waiting for each to dry. I can see where I have added some of the paint it has merged into other wet paint and lost it’s decisiveness.

Title: Untitled #54 , 2007
Medium: oil on canvas
Size: 43.3 x 32.2 cm. (17 x 12.7 in.)

In contrast to the bold vivid colours of my first choice, I chose ‘Untitled #54’ as my second painting to analyse. The creamy earthy tones of this painting remind me of a forest spilling onto a beach and then looking out to sea. Or a strong river cutting through a thick Jungle, with tree trunks and vines hanging down in-between. I can’t identify any human bodies as such but more so the body, or the organism that is alive in the earth.

Again similar to my previous response there is a lack-lustre to my acrylic on paper, which I think could be saved by more layers on top and woven in between. Perhaps also with both responses, the introduction of a smaller sized paint brush to add more energy and definition to the painting, and a wider colour palette.