Leaving space, making space – option 4, ex 4.1

I took an inspirational dive over this. For some reason, I found it hard to imagine and couldn’t bring to mind any kind of subject matter that might remedy that. So I ran a search on Pexels which provides royalty free images and videos and the White category caught my eye.

I found two photos that seemed to lend themselves to the task; one of leaving a large amount of space, the other about creating it by pulling back and revealing elements of the composition :

The first thing I did was to import each one into Rebelle5 Pro to work up some ideas.

Using an A2 piece of black card I’d some weeks ago sealed with gloss varnish, I made both paintings at the same time – rotating the two A3 pieces between the easel and the table.

The dark painting is made using dried acrylic paint peeled from my palette and glued in place. I washed the whole with dilute T white then pulled that off with a flannel. The next layers are lamp black and burnt sienna, dragged across the support to lodge on the peaks of the collaged paint. I rubbed quite a lot of that back too, then cut out a hand drawn image of the bird in the photo to glue into the centre of the chaos.

The painting on the right is based on the same black card with its gloss seal but with a white primer applied. I drew in the lines of the blinds in pencil and found the place for the eyes, using my Rebelle image for reference instead of the original because of its surreal quality. Then I applied layers of T white mixed with Naples yellow to make the space. The eyes went through several phases, at one time looking more like a cartoon than something oddly creepy.

Bird in a storm.

I’m not sure how far this meets the criteria, but if half hidden imagery in a larger space is the aim then I may be close. I scrubbed back parts of the collaged acrylic and also a small amount of colour around the bird which, while being the actual focus of the painting, is muted and positioned surrounded by brighter elements representing the storm. The physical piece is darker than in the photo, the camera picking up and highlighting shine.

All the worries. [Much to do with current affairs in Ukraine]

After a lot of rejigging, I’m happy to have moved the eyes away from reality and into their own disconnected world. I used quite a lot of dragging – by ruler, stylus, and pebble – and a range of painting tools, including my fingers.

Both the use of palette peelings and gloss surfaces are techniques I’ve used before. I like the textures that come from them, whether raised or due to the mobility of paint on the surface. What I haven’t done is actively given priority to space, and I had both Agnes Martin and Ian McKeever in mind for their sparsity and muted colours. Martin’s lines definitely lent themselves to the ‘blinds’ painting but had much less impact on the storm although I had drawn a line down the centre and another across in white paint using a ruler. This ultimately felt out of place and served only to fix the bird.

I deliberately chose opposites for the palette – one dark and solid, the other very pale – even though both were based on a white reference image. Again, the paintings grew, not quite of their own volition as in McKeever’s terms but in a kind of table tennis bilateral response between the two of us. I set the parameters then watch to see what happens during and after each ‘hit’. I was conscious of needing to layer and hide in one and to isolate in the other so doing the two together may have confused things a little. In the end though, my feeling is that the pale painting provides hints of what may live beneath the background due to the very exposed eyes, while the other draws its hints from the partially revealed ‘landscape’ and centrally positioned but barely visible bird.

From a rather frustrating start, I feel I’ve added another tool and technique to my stock of resources. I also found Pexels, which was very much worth the search.

Can’t let a pair of eyeballs pass by without a video!

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