Assignment 2 – painting a collection at A1 scale, dramatically lit

This is really my preferred size – it allows for gestural movements and maximises large rather than very tiny marks. I’ve chosen the tubes of paint again, placing them on a black Amazon box that had contained one of those Alexa driven clocks. It’s square and has a slight shine to it but the photographs go beyond that circumscribed area. This has given me some folds of cloth at what has become the bottom of the image and transformed the whole from landscape orientation to portrait. The lamp I used has a daylight bulb and can be roughly angled. It felt a little like being on stage, rocking a microphone back and forth although from the corner of an eye it also looks like one of those horrors from War of the Worlds.

I started with a layer of black primer to improve the resistance and substance of the cartridge. Next, I marked out the tubes using white watercolour pencil and painted these with gloss varnish. I had liked the way painting over this medium had worked on one of the earlier exercises and, thinking back to my preferred A4 painting in the last exercise, I thought I could use this to good effect for blended paint and perhaps ink.

Not the easiest surface to photograph but it shows up the varnished areas.
First pass with T. White diluted with gloss varnish. Looking for the light on the cardboard and the shadows on the tubes.
Lamp black various dilutions (water) to scrub into the white and set a platform for scrubbing off again. Tones blocked in with Lamp black, Payne’s grey, and the gold/silver acrylics that are in the picture.

This has to dry properly now before I can begin to detail where detail is important, and adjust where shapes aren’t quite right. The large tube in particular is looking especially flat.

19th September. Not so much detailing as looking at the shapes from a better distance and also on screen. This has enabled me to tackle the lighted background, the illuminated and shadowed surfaces, and some of the tiny lines in the lids that suggest their function.

I’ve also begun on the area below the box, using the initial layers of gloss and spots of T. white. My aim is to paint them as though in full light and then use a green and/or burnt sienna wash to subdue the colours. I’ve added a touch of Hooker’s green in parts of the back ground too, although this is an artefact of the laser printer which is over enthusiastic in its use of yellow.

I’ve used the grossest and the most minute of tools today – my finger and a very fine brush. I find I can really feel the paint on the underlying texture and also imagine the feel of the subject too. This image shows me I may need to make a subtle distinguishing line between the box and the items beneath it if the muting wash doesn’t put them more effectively in shadow.
I’ll look at this again later; at the moment it’s not quite saying that these are items at a lower level than the box and in shade. Also it looks like a vaguely anatomical root system!

Final step, for this version anyway, has been to spray the whole with matte varnish in order to fix it for some painted details of gloss varnish.

I applied gloss varnish to the white area of light at the top, and some selected areas on the tubes. The light in the room is quite diffuse and so this isn’t evident as none of it is picked up. I may try later under artificial light.

I’ve learned a lot from this so tomorrow I’ll start a second version then decide which will be the submission. Competition time!

Version 2. This time I’ve painted the background first over a layer of white primer, and I’ve painted the brightest part of that, plus the tubes themselves, with gloss varnish.

White primer, Payne’s grey – the blue-ish cast seems to make the dark tones less dead than the lamp black over black primer I’d used before. The white is T. white.

Already I can see how the topmost tubes are almost disappearing into the reflected light so I need to be careful not to lose that when I start applying colour. This time, I have a better idea about how to manage the shadows; I like the sharpness of the shapes I’d made with the paint in the previous version and so I’ll try to replicate that here. I’m undecided about the lowest quarter of the image; maybe that horizontal is necessary to provide a containing edge but the bits and pieces underneath?

As before, turquoise, magenta, silver, gold acrylics with basics in Payne’s grey and T. white. Much finger painting.

I’ll finish the tubes tomorrow and the background where it needs darkening then think about that bottom quarter.

21st September.

Detailing on the tubes using dilute Hookers green/Payne’s grey then muted with T. white. Background washed with H. green. Further T. white applied to the lower right tubes as they had been too shaded, and hints of the materials beneath the box made with the same H. green, magenta, and gold palette as elsewhere.
Crop from the painting above showing some of the brush/finger application work.
Varnish applied to background (top two thirds) and parts of the tubes.

There are some details in each that would have improved the other but on the whole, I think the shapes, the lighting, and the positioning are better in the second version. There’s something a little more ‘laid back’ about this version; loosened and less obsessed with itself so it doesn’t need to be quite so tidy. I think I got caught between a graphics and a painterly approach in the first version, possibly because of those really sharp shadows.. I have softened those in version 2, which I think lets the whole image integrate more with itself.

I can look at them side by side in the real world as well as on screen and, because circumstances (the imminent demolition and rebuilding of my conservatory/studio) have caused me to get as much of the practical work done as soon as possible* I have yet to tackle the research component, which means this section isn’t yet complete.


*And as we go to press, not only am I still waiting for completed quotes but a second lock down appears to be on the cards so goodness knows how that will impact on projected building work. At a personal level, I’m happy to be still upright, pointing forwards, and virus-free. Roll on that vaccine.

Post subject to amendment up until submission.

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