Part 1, exercise 1:3 – quick and focused

18th August. This task requires an assembling of five of my found images, overlapped; an A3 sheet of paper, and water-based paint. I have run out of HP watercolour paper so I used black cartridge, painting the blocks of the photos in white acrylic. The idea is to paint from the assembly of images without looking at the paper and really I have no idea how that works in practice given the spatial organisation of my set-up. Still, this is the first of three and actually it is not as horrific as I had thought it might be. In fact I am quite pleased with the one at the bottom, and now I have a feel for what I’m doing, the next two could be both fun and interesting. I will try different techniques and media as well as support because that will change my approach. Acrylics, for me, lend themselves to broad brush, impasto ridges, and imprecision whereas other media may not. That said, precision is unlikely given the task directive about not looking at the paper. Simplified form and some muscle memory perhaps using large amounts of water for the medium to leak into and balloon within.

This is the second in this short series. I’ve kept the items the same and in the same layout but this time painted on the A3 card that was my HP watercolour sketchbook. I sprayed it first with matte varnish just to see what effect that would have on the later application of wash in the area of the photos. It was minimal as card is very absorbent. Painting at this scale without looking at the support is really quite difficult, just navigating the space to find the approximate target is a challenge. Yes, I peeked.

I’ve used T white to make the borders of the photos and stuck then to blue, yellow, payne’s grey, green, and burnt sienna for the rest of the palette. Again, it’s the one at the bottom that appeals to me most and perhaps that’s because there are some simple shapes there in a fuller context than the others. I like the pressure to simplify the forms even though some of them give no indication at all as to what the subject matter is. If there’s a story, it’s in the scatter and so I used a blue/payne’s grey wash pulled back with a piece of flannel to make a background.

I found a piece of HP watercolour paper. I believe there is one particular side intended for use and as there’s something on that side, I’m using the other. I have also used my right hand (non dominant) to make feeling for detail even less possible. This is watercolour.

To some extent I’ve played what Eric Berne in his 1964 book Games People Play called The Wooden Leg Game. This is where someone agrees to take on a role but warns the person making the request that they have a wooden leg (think cricket or football), then when they inevitably fail they can say that, well, everyone knew they had a wooden leg so what did they expect? Using my right hand to paint may be an artistic choice but it may also be my wooden leg moment because I have really struggled with this.

Nevertheless, I can see some benefits and certainly when I did this on a much smaller scale it produced some surprisingly satisfying results. The most obvious is being drawn away from picking at detail which I know I used to do. Detail now is something I may add very late in the process. The second is being more gestural and finding gross shapes rather than minute ones – at least for me it is. The third is finding little gems. These are two of them, both of the same subject:

Even though there are some delicate moments in the first crop, the second is my favourite – jewel-like and strong, bringing to mind stained glass, these are the Loch Arkaig osprey inspecting their eggs, the image taken as a clip from the 24 hour webcam.

Looking back at the title of the exercise, I’m not at all sure this could be described as either quick or focused!

Berne, E. 1964. Games People Play. First published by Ballantine Books (NY), latterly by Penguin Life, this was where Berne, a psychiatrist, introduced his theory of transactional analysis.

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