Part 3, project 3, constructing narratives, and project 4, reflective surfaces

In the course of thinking about the narrative project and coming up with very little, I began (16th June), putting some mirror foil to the test to see how it performs with veiling (a white watercolour wash) which we discussed in yesterday’s tutorial. These are strips of mirror foil cut from a roll that has a self adhesive back. The layout brought to mind a ‘make your own Barnet Newman’ I did as part of a Coursera run MoMA course.

Having painted myself into this image, I find I’m in it again by reflection as I take the photo.
Strips of mirror foil with self adhesive backing on black A1 card; painted with dilute watercolour and subsequently removed selectively with a finger, flannel, and then a small paper blending tool.

When the sun has gone down, I expect this to look quite different, and later with the LEDs, different again. I think, with a bit more looking and seeing what its possibilities might be, I may have the basis of the narrative of this exercise. But even if I don’t, I will have more thoughts about one of the parallel project ideas – the ‘we are the people we’ve been waiting for’ option.


This is seems more of a fit now with the mirrors task and I’m thinking I can probably remove this paint and make a second image although I’m not sure how at the moment. And how about another piece of mirror foil on the right, this time with a wash of black paint? It would dry matte, giving a density to the appearance, and judicious removal would reveal the mirror surface which then would reflect the surrounding black of the card and the paint. <— Hypothesis!

17th June. No wonder my unconscious had failed on the narrative issue, it had been occupied with this!

This is black watercolour at various degrees of dilution started off at the top of the card/foil and allowed to dribble down. I used a dust blower (for cleaning out computers) to make trails of the wet medium which began to take on intriguingly fantastical forms.

For me, there are two key areas of interest, beyond the versatility of the support/mirror combination, and those are firstly that it’s almost impossible to keep myself out of it because there I am in the reflection every time I take a photo; and secondly, I can poach colour from anywhere else in the environment – point the easel at it and there it is, even more depth and texture than it owns as a single entity.

I set up a Blink camera to take 30 second bursts of video at 20 second intervals while I worked on the piece with the medium, the blower, and a blending tool.

Video shot by remote wifi camera by Blink, editing in Filmora10, audio (birdsong) my own, camera sound from Filmora.

18th June. I’ve wiped down yesterday’s painting as before and begun another. This one uses the landscape orientation and that’s what I had in mind. After the white and the black pigment, and the sparse lines, I wanted something a little more filled out. As usual, I had no particular thoughts by way of composition; this is very fluid so I wanted to see what it would do with more edges to run into this way up.

To me, the narrowest band at the top began to look like trees after I’d used the blower on the wet paint. This gave rise to thoughts about a layered, almost list-like (cf Chinese art) landscape, and the one that came to mind was the cabcam bus ride from Lancaster to Keswick, uploaded in December last year. The roadside is lined with trees; the hills roll behind them, and the sky billows like dirty washing over it all. Dreich about covers it, and as that’s the weather here today, it’s clear my brain knew exactly what it wanted to express!

I’ve scratched some directional marks with a rough flannel to make rain, and I may have borrowed a little from Simon Carter with regard to some of the shapes and colours, but I need it to dry now so I can see where I want the reflected light to come through so that it makes a different painting depending on the direction it’s facing.

I’ve pulled paint off some selected areas to emphasise gaps, peaks, points where light might catch, and the texture of the roads (second and third strip down). I think what I have now is something slightly William Blake in those stylised clouds and a fantasy landscape at the bottom and the top that’s still in list formation. Simon Carter can breathe, I think what might have come from him has been metamorphosed by gravity into a much less stripped down image than I’ve seen in his work. I need to get some video now and again later in different light.

Same image, late night LED light.
The phone is not as good as I’d hoped at handling close focus, although that may be my handling of it. The animation is by MotionLeap for iOS, the audio provided by Epidemic Sounds, and the video editing finished in Filmora10.

This has earned a title: Blue Bus to Keswick.

Looking back, I find something appealing in all the stages: the starkness of bright green and the few drips down the support; then the rough brashness of the large brushstrokes that bring to mind Frodo’s journey to Mordor; and finally the transparency and ‘found’ detail of the final image which has something of the stained glass window about it.

I shall file all of these in my mental magical realism folder because they look promising and also speak to the idea of the mirrors I’d thought of as a separate strand.

Textual narratives per painting

What if we left a part of ourselves in the bar code of every product we handled?
How long before they filled up?
Would we get one each or would we be sharing, and with how many?
What would the supermarket aisles sound like if we all screamed at once?

Fantasy Drip Forest
How do you make magic out of drips?
The answer, my friend, is blowing.

Blue Bus to Keswick
Blue bus to Keswick;
Sodden greens under a biscuit tin sky.
Ambleside is tourist rammed, and
Keswick is a black-stoned webcam terminus, dotted with bright visiting anoraks looking for lunch.
The masked passengers stretch their legs and join the rain-bowed pedestrians hopping puddles through the streets, while the driver breaths out a safe arrival and turns the rest of us off.

SCH 2021

This exercise began with an intention to address Project 3, constructing a narrative, but morphed into Project 4, reflective surfaces. It drew initially on Barnet Newman’s zip paintings, touched on Pollock’s drip technique, and ran into a touch of Blake and Carter on the way to listing its progress towards Keswick.

The narrative only becomes evident post hoc and is an emergent property of the process. It is this: that reflective surfaces hold more images than can be painted on them because they shift moment by moment and with changes in light. This was clear when I tried to take photos of the individual iterations and small crops of detail but could not keep myself out of them. I used that subsequently to show how the reflections borrowed colour and light from elsewhere in the room and took photos to record that at different times of day. What seems static is not. It even creates a 3D illusion as somewhat evidenced in the ‘Fragmented’ video. The sequence goes from the simple and largely representational, through the experimental and more complex, to the listed thematic semi-abstract story of a journey. All iterations are underpinned by the fluidity within the images generated by their interaction with surrounding light and reflected content. Additional textual narratives are my own written response to each individual painting.

19th June 2021.


The ‘cinematic’ version. It tells the story of a journey on a megabus from Lancaster to Keswick with rolling skies, rain, and a tumbling green/brown landscape. The road is towards the top, under the narrow strip of bright green representing trees. Beneath that is a band of cloud, and at the bottom, a wide expanse of landscape. The animation via MotionLeap is augmented by audio via Epidemic Sounds in Filmora10.

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