I am thinking of going for an interior again after what felt like quite a turning point with the previous exercise. This time more horizontals and with this ornamental firescreen that always reminds me of a Klimt painting. I took a series of photos to focus the letterbox idea in my head and pasted them onto a landscape orientation A4 sheet to use for reference and palette. Google sometimes stitches these together to form a panorama and I’m hopeful that it will, given time.
Then I set about making a composition, moving some items around and foregrounding a couple of them, whereupon the letterbox was gone but now there’s depth.
The first two sketches (biro and without reading glasses because both those conditions seem to make me less perfectionist, more get-something-on-the-page-ist) incorporate both Henry Moore’s sheep scribble technique and the more architectural lines of the floor boards, with white space to the right counterbalanced by the diagonal formed by the re-positioned frog, bird, and trivet. I’d like to see if I can fragment/shatter the image in the way Klimt’s images seem often to be. Shattered in an organised way though – it’s not entropic, it’s systematic.
5th February. A little bit of stewing seems to have gone on overnight; brightening, sharpening, and bringing this firescreen into the foreground. Today, I’m embarking on some experimental work involving aquarelle pencils, Inktense, fineliner, black paper, texture stolen from the surface by slapping a piece of wet A4 onto it, and a selective gesso underlayer to brighten the inks.
I’m taking a look at Klimt’s technique for some clues about how he achieved his fractured effect. This video talks about the importance of line but there’s something about surfaces, symbolism, and mosaics* in there too:
Video via YouTube accessed 05/02/19.
This one is a replication of his technique for The Kiss:
Video via YouTube accessed 05/02/19.
*An hour later I discover through this video that he studied mosaics at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna!
Blocky gesso on black sugar paper glued into sketchbook. The next experimental step will be watercolour pencils to try out colours and blends, perhaps also inks.
And Lo – the fantasy castle with mushroom turrets! I’m not done with it yet though.
6th February and I have three iterations of another version of this screen.
Bottom right is an inked gesso silhouette of the screen on black sugar paper pasted into a sketchbook. Above, I’ve added detailing with a dark watercolour pencil + small amount of water. The photograph has bleached a good deal of the colour and contrast so I imported it into Paint Shop Pro to re-adjust those elements. I’ve also cropped it and cloned a little at the edges because, whatever its fate here, it might have a future as a card or a print.
Re-visited the other sketch and added pencil detail, some white ink, and water dabbed with a towel. I’ve gone for the mosaic style rather than staying closer to the reality. The screen is hammered into small panels of various sizes and I’ve subverted those to follow the structure provided by the gesso.
In my house, this screen sits against a black fireplace and the tiny black pinpricks in it are designed to let the light from candles in jars arranged top to bottom at the back and I’d like to use that element in the final submission piece.
February 8th. Forgot about this scrap, stuck on the fire screen and left to dry!
It accrued some texture but not much. I’ve stuck it down again, this time in a sketchbook, and used inks and an intense block to pull out the shapes. I like the colours but to some extent that’s an artefact of the low light level when I took the photo.
February 10th. I’ve pasted two A3 black cartridge sheets to an A2 sheet and begun constructing a composition based on the fire screen and two other items. As the screen is quite a complex object, I’m planning on keeping the rest very simple.
The frog is reductive – white charcoal on the black background; the screen white gesso and brush textured using a paint brush and a tangleteezer; the tiny thumbpot (a piece I made for pottery ‘O’ level in around 1965) is also reductive but with a fine white charcoal highlight. Preserving those two items while I work on the screen is going to be a challenge.
11th February and the iterations are proliferating.
This is with the addition of inks and charcoal that blends into the inks.
And this has a second application of white gesso using a finger dab approach in an attempt to raise some of the quality of the beaten metal surface. The light both catches and diffuses across it so I’m looking for a texture that will support that when I begin to add detail.
12th February. Last night I looked at this piece, sitting in very low light in my conservatory/studio and saw a different kind of colour palette. I took a photo with no flash and there it was …
… brooding and bronze and with that frog silhouette brought forward as a kind of guardian of the gateway to some fantasy citadel. Then Google offered to adjust the lighting so …
… even more drama and this time with the tiny bottle picked out over on the right. I like this but I’ve no idea how to replicate it with the physical piece. Perhaps it will have a digital career instead. I’ll definitely do this again after making changes to the detail later today.
Edit: a friend visited yesterday (13th Feb) and told me how, on her photography course, she’d discovered that cameras merge the extremes at the white and the black ends of the scale to something that’s essentially a shade of grey. Explains why digital adjustment is necessary to restore the on-the-eye values.
Brown oil pastel and Pentel ink brush detail. I need to carry that through the rest of the screen, give or take flushes of light (especially behind the frog), but I like how the texture is beginning to seem more metallicised. I do wonder though, how far my less than precise style meets the criteria for this course. Is the ability to decline the nouns more important than the ability to use them conversationally – and am I demonstrating at least one of those capabilities?
Now please imagine huge brackets because this is the same image imported into PaintShop Pro, cropped, and with its edges cloned and its contrast and saturation adjusted. Let’s call it digital experimentation.
February 13th and drawing on the digitised version, I’ve made the bricks of the fireplace using black on black with a touch of orange oil crayon. The area around the small pot is bleached by the camera’s adjustment, as is the brickwork in close up. In reality, these are both black areas: black cartridge layered and blended with black charcoal, outlines smudged in white charcoal then blended down, detail in black conte and a touch of orange oil crayon.
February 14th, another pass with oil crayon, fineliner brush, and charcoal to attend to detail. That glow needs to spread right, I think.
And Lo! Different light!
15th February and following an email chat with my tutor, those bricks are in the relegation zone. Too distracting, too flattening, too prosaic.
Admittedly the light is more favourable to contrast today but I’ve scoured and blended black conte crayon into the brick area and set them back a little. I do need some perspective now; something to prevent the visible objects from floating in space. An anchor.
The camera is picking up more light from the black area than is truly available to my eye so I’m not sure this is a fair representation. In other news, I’ve added a thin horizontal line on that side indicating separation between the horizontal and the vertical areas, and blue oil crayon to areas on the left to emphasise the metallic substance of the screen.
I think I might import, clip, and adjust in PSP to get closer to my visual experience of it. Then I might leave it alone for a while, perhaps start another possible assignment 2 candidate, make them compete [insert emoji of preference here].
That’s much closer to what I believe I’m seeing. I’ve adjusted the dark areas using a darkening tool that doesn’t alter the substance of the marks just deepens the value. The rest is as is.
So, I’m unpinning this from the board and setting it aside for now.
February 16th, and faced with a task on the UVC module concerning digital art and, ultimately, a cow looking at a painting of cows, I’ve slapped more gesso on a larger expanse of black cartridge and scraped it with the (orange) tangleteezer. The proportions look different but maybe because the whole frog is visible at present which it won’t be once it’s been fully reducted.
So, when all else fails try actual measurements. It turns out that screen is almost exactly six frogs tall and also six wide. Hello drawing board, nice to see you again.
February 17th and now there’s colour.
I started with blue this time (an inktense block), damp-brushed that into the charcoal and added further blue-end inktense touches. Once dry, I put in the light inks – yellow, orange, and red – blending and over-running them to blur the surface so I can detail that later. After a short break, I added a mix of pumice medium and white gesso (plus some PVA glue as I’d picked up the wrong bottle!) and finger-dabbed this into the arches of the screen.
The frog is about the right size now (the white shadow will go in due course) and I’ve treated the thumb pot to a quick dose of pumice/gesso mix too.
It’s interesting doing iterations as each builds on the last. I have more confidence in my ability to manage the media because I have a better idea of how it behaves, and because of that I think I’ll be able to remedy most of what might go wrong or capitalise on a serendipitous effect. I think I’m going for evocation rather than description with this.
18th February. Addition of charcoal and oil crayon layers to deepen and darken the screen, knock back the white shadow under the frog, and reduce the prominence of the thumb pot.
Light reflection from the paper detracts from the overall image but it’s interesting to see that the way this has happened adds depth to the fireplace beneath the screen and up to the (un-defined) brick work. Frog needs more attention now, along with further detailing using fineliner to the screen. Do I need to explain why there’s so much light coming from those lower panels? I hope not because there isn’t one. In my head, there are fantasy lights behind there (and in fact there are small cups designed to contain candles all across the back of the screen at four levels bottom to top so it’s almost possible.)
After some fineliner action, more conte, oil crayon and enough finger blending to rob me of my fingerprints, I’m indulging in a bit of close uppery here because I really really like the textures.
19th February and I think I’m as done as I’ll ever be with this [caveat: for now!]. I’ve picked out the thumb pot a little with green/brown/orange oil crayon and added a tiny scratch of orange oil crayon to the top margin of the frog.
There’s an amount of light reflection from the paper that can’t be helped although for my own satisfaction I’ll run it through PSP to adjust for that – there may be a Christmas card to be had out of it!
I’m thinking now about the narrative as my tutor suggested, although I’m not too clear about what that means in this particular context. It certainly has a production line story and it’s become much more than a fire screen, but it also has an imaginative story, a back story in effect that transformed it from realism to something verging on the fantastical. Much of the palette, driven initially by the beaten metal of the screen, was influenced by the way I began to see it as a city wall with a creature of mythological proportions guarding its entrance but with apologies to classicists, Game of Thrones figured rather more than the Iliad.
21st February. In case I’m moved to make another version of this, or to ‘edit’ the ones already in existence, I made a couple of pencil sketches of the screen detail and the thumb pot. It’s interesting to me that my impression of each isn’t far off the mark, and fascinating to find I actually made tiny patterns on that pot – thin lines running from the top, and bubbles and flowers in the sides which are recessed, making it easy to pick up. Did I think of that at the time?