Mitigation revisited

I was encouraged during the last tutorial to make some additional pieces for the parallel project. Something more gestural and less tightly controlled. The seal painting having failed dismally, apart from perhaps being faithful to the seal in terms of its representation, I decided to return to it but using different reference images. These are drawn from our local Facebook page where almost the whole village was posting images that ranged from telephoto close ups to barely discernible dots in the water. Most of mine were of the latter type so when I chose images posted by other people, I was clear in my mind that they were consistent with what I saw myself but could not photograph.

This is one of those images we’ve all seen on TV – a seal popping up out of the water quite suddenly and then disappearing. The one I chose was taken by Barbara Laker, and if the painting turns out reasonably well, I’ll let her know that I used to it help me make a seal in paint. One of the hardest parts of the task was to leave out some of the extraordinary colours she captured in her beautifully composed image. The ‘drafts’ above go left to right – the first very gestural applications of acrylic on white primed cartridge, a black and white version of the first photo for contrast purposes and looking disturbingly like Darth Vader, and finally a new layer using a different tone of blue and some bright turquoise for highlights. There is about a centimetre of leeway with the nose area, pitch it too low and it’s a dog and at the moment it’s a dog. To me the eyes make everything about the life of an animal in a painting, however impressionistic it might be. I have the hollows up there, going right into the forehead, and the very large eyes are just below and within them. They’re like huge dark marbles, shadow planets in their own universe.

At present, I’m not sure about the background beyond keeping it very simple.

Still looking more dog than seal but I think dragging the paint across the surface has made the background and also somehow rendered the eyes more effectively. The nostrils need refining.

Rather than refine, I used a damp flannel to pull off some pigment and spread it beyond its original scope. This prompted me then to make a bolder move by using a pebble to pull white paint across the image in imitation of distortion by water. One eye is visible, staring straight at us and largely achieved, I think, by capitalising on the phenomenon of Pareidolia. Our brains are geared to detecting faces (see Webb [undated] below) and so we find them in all sorts of assemblages of ‘features’. My absolute favourite is the angry barbeque; multi-forwarded and retweeted.

26th September. Took another run at this.

Added a waterline over a gloss layer and pigment to the background area. Then pulled it back with a scratchy flannel Also added whiskers, having miraculously caused eyes and a nose to emerge.

Close cropped image.

Pareidolia. David Webb on All About Psychology. Undated. Available at Accessed 23 September 2021.

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