Part 5, exercise 5:1 – weeds

Recommended artists:

Mimei Thompson — home

Thomas Hall – 5 Artworks for Sale on Artsy

Richard Dadd 1817–1886 | Tate

This exercise, as part of a focus on the local environment, asks for a detailed painting of weeds in the garden and I’ve chosen the ivy that climbs the pergola. It’s December and this is a reliable evergreen that, arguably, is only a weed if it’s in the wrong place. Mine has flowers that attract myriads of insects from solitary bees, to butterflies, to hoverflies; all of them under threat from pesticides and over-tidiness. This ivy earns its keep.

Another aspect of this module is, like preceding modules, seeking to allow development of the artist’s voice, and increasingly I am beginning to understand what mine is. Partly because of close vision deterioration but also due to an inherent expressiveness that’s beginning to find its feet (or arms), I am less inclined to detail and more to making shapes with large flat brushes. I’m very taken by Mimei Thompson’s work and actually copied one of her paintings, but while the colours are as vibrant as my preferences lean, I think at the moment Kim Baker’s work comes closest to what I’m beginning to see as my style. Another consideration is that, throughout this module I’ve been reminded/advised/encouraged to avoid over-working and for me this often translates as an inclination to add detail where space would be preferable. So for all these reasons I’m intending to pay less attention to the detail here and more to the colours, shapes, and impressionistic qualities of the image. I have also become quite fond of painting on gloss varnish – something I would never have considered before this module – and I think, from my experience with the tondos in Part 4, this will allow me to use very fluid paint on an initial underlayer, and then to judiciously pull details out with a stylus. That’s the plan, and to reflect back two levels through Baker to vanitas art, I’m using black cartridge as the support.

Copy of Mimei Thompson’s Dead Fly.
This is the first pass; fluid acrylics on varnished black cartridge.
Looking at this under low light, I found I could see quite mysterious shapes and odd highlights. These didn’t come out on the photo which is automatically digitally balanced.
I had a bit of a colour-fest here, trying to replicate the highlights with a view to applying a mask of colour-washed OHP film. That didn’t work out too well.
I toned down the highlights and lost the shapes.
So here we’re back at the highlights but with sgraffito marks made with a stylus that reveals the layers below. Whatever else, that was an interesting manoeuvre.

Every layer of paint has been spray varnished before another layer was applied. This was to keep the slippery surface that allows for better and looser movement of the paint. I’ve used mostly a large flat brush but also a smaller round one and my fingers. Unfortunately, I think this is another example of over-working and I should have stopped at that very first iteration. I’m going to give it a final blue/brown wash to dampen it but really I’ve gone down a rabbit hole with it and it’s time to stop.

Cropped and cleaned up first painted layer using Paintshop Pro. No enhancements.
This is a little better for colour but still emphasises that over the shadows.
I was hopeful that video might be less influenced by the averaging effect that seems to apply to digital cameras, but I’m not sure it is. The video does maybe succeed in showing areas without shine as the camera moves across the piece.

More interesting to me is the animation with a water overlay in the MotionLeap app. I was really just playing around with the effects which is why the top 1/4 of the image seems unaffected by the application of motion. I used the brightest iteration of the weeds paintings and dropped in one of the several water overlays. To me, this brings the painting to life, like looking down on Ophelia (painting by Millais, 1851-2) and seeing the running water rippling the weeds and her ornate gown just beneath the surface. And now I’ve thought of this I really, really want to try it!*

*Here it is. I believe ‘fair use’ terms apply to my reproduction and alteration of this image which, itself, is out of copyright, not for sale, and has multiple reproductions in the public domain. The product is posted in an educational context and with no commercial intent. A legal discussion in HuffPost with Bernard Starr, psychologist and author, and Christopher Sprigman, IP lawyer, is affirming.

Ophelia by Millais, animation by MotionLeap.

Finally, I want to reiterate that my intentions here were to follow the over-arching goal of developing my artist’s voice, and I’ve pursued that by building on previous learning about materials and methods, and approaches taken by for instance, Kim Baker. While this has not been hugely successful in terms of outcome, I believe it has moved me on in my ability to recognise when to stop, even if not quite in time, and also to find a way of rectifying an unsatisfactory result, even if not exactly according to the image in my mind’s eye. This builds confidence and I’m going to need that in buckets for the forthcoming assignment.

Starr, B. with Sprigman, S. 2012. Must You Pay to Use Photos of Public Domain Artworks? No, Says a Legal Expert. Huff Post online article http://Must You Pay to Use Photos of Public Domain Artworks? No, Says a Legal Expert. Accessed 3rd January 2021.

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