Thursday, 30 October 2008
I ended up with a series of a dozen or so quick sketches: trying to capture the rhythms of the water as the tide was advancing, observing puddles to fill up quickly, shorelines to alter within a couple of minutes and all the time trying to figure it all out: the coming and going of the waves, when would break, intermingle, flow back, be quiet - I'm sure there's lots of words for all this... but here's some of those sketches.
They don't make much sense, do they?! They don't have to, though. It's about marks, little reminders of patterns, the moving shoreline. And funnily enough, looking at them, they give me plenty of those reminders, in particular about the shoreline itself where water meets sand but also about the patternings of the advancing tide.
The one I have been circling around [as in this misshapen oil sketch here] is a view right along the waterline, sand on left, water on right and a bit of horizon line. If I go through my photo folders, I will find dozens of these photos, they frequently make it onto the background of my computer. The line where it all happens.
Depending on where I stand, it can have a low or a high view point, no horizon lines, but in any case there is usually plenty of skewing of the viewing plane the lower my view point is. And this is what I was struggling with in the previous sketches (in ink, oil pastels, oil) with this view.
So, I've been doing some more sketches, altering the view point, reading up on vanishing points (one, two or three), digging around various books on drawing (again, Bert Dodson's Keys to Drawing is coming out tops for this [see Katherine Tyrrell's review on the book here]), only to discover two things:
1. no, my problem has nothing to do with a three point perspective and various vanishing points: it's a flat plain I'm trying to depict, and it is about distortions on the shoreline, not about vanishing points... duhuh... sometimes it's not the answer that is wrong but the question ;)
2. I could spend endless time with yet more sketches; treating it as a geometrical probem (and feel like I was back in secondary school with some architectural drawings to do, see here). I don't think that that's time well spent. This is primarily an EMPIRICAL problem: I need to go to the beach again and watch, observe: what does the shoreline look like. I'm sure that will sort it.
So, while I have plenty of good sketches on wave patterns, my sketches miss the detail of different view points, distortions resulting from that, and possibly much more.
To the beach, then...
Saturday, 25 October 2008
The latest addition in Lindsay's 'Maps and Destination' book are two seascapes in oil/coloured pencil by Vivien. I am so pleased to have them for the time being... By now the oils are pretty dry but when I first got a couple of weeks back, they weren't. There's a lot of detail in these sketches: water colour, changes, movement, spray, some rocks.
Oil/Coloured pencil in Moleskine 18x14cm
See here for Vivien's own discussion on this entry in her blog
And here for the Moley exchange blog entry
Neither of them has a horizon line. But, structured by lines they are nonetheless. This one has a strong foreground with rock and plenty of spray. Yet, what intrigued me most was the water in the middleground: there's a wave on it's way, not quite built up yet, nowhere near breaking but it's rolling. It seems to me that Vivien's achieved this effect by line work and colour change.
Have a look at this detail: Clear linear marks in oil mark the advancing wave; in front of it, thinly applied oils with most of the colour (change) achieved through coloured pencil. It seems so much more still and calm in comparison to the line behind it that keeps moving forward.
So, do other structuring lines take the place of a clear horizon line to help make sense of a painting? Perhaps the horizon is just the most obvious, clear, understood way of demarcating heaven/earth, up/down, inside/outside and also indicate a piece as in fact a landscape?
A piece by August Strindberg that confused me when I first saw it:
As with the Strindberg piece, there is obviously also something about perspective and view point, and I've done some work on changing perspective and viewpoint on the shoreline sketches. Something is fairly straightforward, technical: as in vanishing points, angles and so on.
And, while I was stumped for a bit of what do with my entry in Lindsay's moley, I have a plan: I'll take it travelling with me... maps and destinations need a bit of journey, I think...
Thursday, 23 October 2008
So: I am doing landscapes - in fact, I kept thinking of Casey's post a while back: what is your subject matter? [see link here]
In fact, landscapes matter, they are important. Seashores, moorlands and hills. Oh, and don't forget woodlands and fields. So, nothing trivial. But they are not pastoral, serene, idyllic. I think that is what I was in part trying to get at with the construction of landscape in a few posts back.
It's the kind of stuff that reminds me of several visits I had from German friends years ago, when I was in Scotland 'only for a year'. One of my friends, in fact, loved the idea that it was me who know was in 'her Scotland'.
Her Scotland was a year spent after school somewhere in Aberdeenshire growing organic herbs. Her Scotland were the wild, rugged and yet innocently beautiful landscapes of the Highlands. So, she came to visit. We went up North - Portree in fact, where my flatmate was from and we stayed with his sister. So, we went to the pub, or in fact every pub in Portree. She didn't like it. Not the pub, but the stories people had to tell, the stuff that happened and how suddenly Highland Scotland looked far too much like rural north west Germany: plenty of insiders/outsiders, plenty of alcohol and drugs, plenty of sexism and general boredom.
Where on earth did the beauty go?
Yet, she even liked Glasgow much less. I was staying on the 13th floor of a 1960s high rise flat, now scheduled for demolition in 2011. With friends we argued over how to share the three bedrooms among four of us; the plumbing for the washing machine didn't work with the low water pressure, neither did the shower; the firebrigade came once in a while - either my drunk neighbour had fallen asleep with the grill on, or on a different floor someone was throwing out furniture after setting it alight; the lift wouldn't work when it was stormy - safety mechanism kicked in then.
So: Where on earth did her Scotland go? - And I think my great friends whom I was living with, the balcony and some very nice neighbours didn't make up for it in her mind.
Landscapisms... important to keep that all together when the waves break on the beach in high winds and rain; or even in sunshine.
... On a more practical front I am trying out the no background, different perspectives; also been finding some very good books etc... but let me play with that a little longer while I generally think.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Well, so the jury's been out on a number of pieces.
Firstly the St John Art Sale - glad that part of me treated it as a piece of social experiment: how do art sales go if people are losing their pensions, worry about their homes and jobs, etc... So, while I remembered a good sale last year, I was kind of cautious when we went to pick up the paintings.
And indeed, not one of them had sold; being curious, I began to quiz people a bit about the sale, but I didn't get very far - 'oh, not too bad considering...'; 'ach, ok... we sold quite a few pieces'. Watching the pages of the entries as she was flicking through them to find mine, none of the 5-6 pages I saw had any sales recorded against them - last year they had sold about 25% of the paintings and weren't too ecstatic about that.
So, the fluffy pieces are on loan to a different friend this time...
Secondly, I got mail - I've been waiting really on two pieces of mail - one job related, one art stuff; I did get two pieces of mail, both art stuff.
One was a rejection letter from the Royal Glasgow Institute for the two collages I submitted earlier the month for their Annual Exhibition. In many ways I'm not too sad about it. It was one of the weirder experiences handing the pieces in. There was little info on the website, so we went - and rightly I had suspected that no info was communicated because the ones in the know already knew procedures, hanging mechanisms, conventions, abbreviations and much more. I didn't. So while I was battling with my nerves and tried hard to fill in forms without any mistake... 'Degree? Does my PhD count?' 'Nope: art degrees'; 'Which of the letters W O P A S etc stands for mixed media?', M. was observing.
So afterwards, as my adrenaline was returning to normal levels, she commented extensively: did you notice this, that, the other? I hadn 't clocked anything, but just felt that I was part of some art event that - if it would be something to do with academia - I would go to great lengths to avoid being part of it. So: a pretty alright outcome. And: I love my two collages! Pah!
But: the second art letter was unexpected. And it was handwritten on the outside... from the Pastel Journal.
Remember my struggles to find a painting that consisted of 80% pastel back in September? It is going to be printed in the April 2009 Pastel Journal. - As an Honourable Mention in the Abstract/Non-objective category, they chose Three Three One as one of 100 pastels to feature in the magazine. They claim they get about 4000 submissions. That is pretty cool. I like it. What a good thing to do. And did I say: they will print one of my paintings! A painting in print! Now I need to figure out how to get a good transparency done of it.
So, I happily pick up my rejects on 3/4 November.
And I figured that the kind of art I would go and study would actually be quite different to the stuff I'm doing now. What intrigued me most, and what it would probably be about for four years would be life drawing and painting; portraiture; figure drawing: exhaustively, excessively, single-mindedly.
I may run into problems with my quickly lost patience and interest. But nonetheless, there was something terrifically exciting in this thought: to have all the time in the world (well: near enough: four years) to do one thing and to learn one thing so that it becomes part of you and you find your way around it, intuitively, with your eyes closed.
And that it is about stuff that matters: people. Which are generally left out of landscapes...
On Sunday I remembered a conversation on my favourite radio show: Guy Garvey's Finest Hour on 6Music Sunday nights 10-midnight is my radio highlight of the week. His choice of music is a bit too folksy for me generally, but there is something wonderfully irreverent and all the same comforting about his show. In Spring, he had a conversation with Hal Glebe about the role of music for politics (small p, mind you); and while I was drifting into sleep, they talked about how a good song gets at the things that matter: they called it something like the molecular structure of something just before it turns into being political, but also the moment a kiss turns into a kiss. Guy continued to play a song by Jesca Hoop - Love is all we've left, which she wrote about Hurricane Katrina.
Now, this Sunday, I missed Guy on the radio because we had gone to see him and Elbow play at the Carling Academy. We missed half of the support - and it was only in the end that I realised it was indeed Jesca Hoop who was supporting the band. So, I went back to look for the song after - here is a clip of how she plays the song in front of an audience in New Orleans - she stops several times inbetween, overcome and wrestling with what she's doing.
I'm not too sure if it's a bit cringey/worthy, but maybe that doesn't matter?
Have a bit of Elbow too - here's one clip - that was the best one in the show - Weather to Fly, but also have a look at the very cool official video of A day like this, where a guy has some fun with an obviously redundant sign, advertising condos for sale.... hahaha...[see link here]
And thinking about it: there's of course some of this, that needs to make it into here:
Monday, 20 October 2008
Landscape paintings: Does it matter where YOU stand? As observer, onlooker, artist, master of the painting to be? Because, eventually, you don't stand anywhere yet everywhere: all that anyone looking at the painting can see is the vista constructed by you, but you being left outside the frame (literally so).
I'm transposing social science arguments on reflexivity, standpoint and a critique of the all-knowing scientist onto my paintings. And I'm struck by the actual process in which in particular that God trick as Donna Haraway talked about it is at play when I paint - only what I see and regard as important makes it into the painting and yet I am not there.
Well, I am there only by proxy: sloppy brushwork, poor composition, shades in the wrong places etc.
But back to the God trick: this ties back to the critique of the construction of landscapes as 'naturally there', well, that's nature, what you see, what is, stupid! - nope, they are not, they are made - by onlookers, often powerful ones, to turn rural poverty in pitoresque pastoral scenes; or construct Williams' knowable communities as those which consist of the right people living sort of nearby.
This leaves two further items to examine:
- nature without people? nature v people? naturepeople? As something about subject matter. [discussed in this post here]
- something much more mundane: how to translate a 'not-framing' into composition? Into composition of landscapes in particular - rather than action painting a la abstract expressionism or similar (that is clearly one answer, though, isn't/wasn't it?); and to explore how paintings without background could counter such framing? But then there are lots of more questions:
- Would that not merely mean that the middleground becomes the background?
- How does dis/orientation work between different planes?
- What role does perspective have in this?
- Viewpoints? Angles? Distortions?
Saturday, 18 October 2008
But I've also known that I don't want them to be pretty or fluffy. And I think I now am getting a sense how that can be avoided:
- focus on lines and markings not fields/shapes of colour. I want to try and build up fields/shapes much more strongly through lines and textures: layer them more strongly and busily
- don't do landscapes, i.e. to enframe them as beautifully constructed views.
The making of landscape in culture takes me right back to Geography (yes, academic discipline and thus capital G). I just had a little look on my computer, as I was sure I would find some writing done on a critique of the construction of landscape in Victorian England. But instead, I found something on something not so different, and for the moment, that should be sufficient:
The British Marxist historian and literary critic Raymond Williams wrote succinctly on the construction of rural communities in Victorian novels as visible, or as he calls it as knowable.
Williams finds that most novels operate with the concept of a community that is knowable, meaning that people, and their relationships can be easily communicated to the readership. More importantly, however, is that the knowable community is highly socially selective, as, for instance in relation to Jane Austen’s novels:
It is outstanding face-to-face; its crises, physically and spiritually, are in just these terms: a look, a gesture, a stare, a confrontation; and behind these, all the time the novelist is watching, observing, physically recording and reflecting. That is the whole stance – the grammar of her [Jane Austen’s] morality. Yet while it is a community wholly known, within the essential terms of the novel, it is an actual community very precisely selective. Neighbours in Jane Austen are not the people actually living nearby; they are the people living a little less nearby who, in social recognition, can be visited. (Williams 1975 203)
In contradistinction, the city in English literature became the place where such knowable communities were hidden from view and easy visibility – but had, as in Dickens’s work, to revealed and teased out. So similarly to Austen's seemingly 'simply there' rural communities, 'landscapes' are also made: produced, conveying particular views of what is contained within a vista, what isn't - and it's usually the stuff that doesn't fit that is hidden.
Good... so, there's my essential ambiguity with landscape painting. Doesn't stop me from doing them, though.
Now, one way I try to address that (and surely won't resolve it) is by foregoing the distance.
Foreground, middleground, finish. No background to enframe. It's a concept that keeps fascinating me, but also one where my intuition on reasonably good composition so quickly leaves me. Where is the horizon line to orientate? To know, to see where you stand?
Now, this sketch does look pretty dumb as photo, it doesn't do that badly IRL, but yes: middlegrounds confuse the heck out of me, generally, and need some more attention. Well, I better just call that sketch 'sketch' rather than shoreline, so that there is no confusion ;)
Well, the past couple of weeks, I've been spending saturday mornings at some mixed media experiments with this.... VEEERY variable success. [But yes, the Eldon Group is back in full swing, and very nicely so).
But, at least today I took out the oils, gave Irene the challenge to pick three colours for me, and I chose a fourth and so the palette for the series of paintings is going to be:
- Naples Yellow Light
- Raw Sienna (yes, again)
- Prussian Blue
- Cobalt Green
And this is where they get me to colourwise:
Well, there's a start, I need to make sure I've got at least two canvasses ready for next Saturday and then it'll be all good (at some point along the line)...
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Das Meer und das Leben,
Monotype on Blotting paper, 40x30cm
Letztens lief ich nach Hause nach dem Shoppen bei Marks und Sparks und erinnerte mich an ein Gespräch. Draußen vor Karstadt Sport. Du meintest, ich würde mal Bücher publizieren. Ich war 22, lachte lauthals und zeigte dir nen Vogel. Du spinnst ja, du Träumer!
Dann dachte ich mir ein ähnliches Gespräch aus. Dieses mal im T-Keller, du mit Rioja, ich mit Bier und es ging darum, dass ich malte und Bilder ausstellte. Für einen Augenblick sah ich dein Gesicht, den Kopf leicht schräg gelegt und hörte das langsam lauter werdende Lachen. Ein subversives Gurgeln. Und dann entspann sich ein wenig Geketze um solch bürgerliche Aktivitäten, die die schwarzgekleideten Straßenkämpferkids, deren Eltern samt und sonders der Toskana Fraktion angehörten, ja ganz und gar nicht akzeptabel fänden. Voll die falsche Moral. Und wir lachten und du kippeltest hingebungsvoll auf deinem Stuhl. Ich zeigte dir noch nen Vogel.
Morgen gibt's ne Vernissage - das hört sich auf deutsch tatsächlich unsäglich an. Ich werd M. von dir erzählen, dann machen wir ein wenig teilnehmende Beobachtung zusammen und trinken warmen, süßen Weißwein. Was meinste? Ein date? Kommste mit? Auf dich dein Leben La'haim! Immer wieder, anders geht das nicht - aber auch das wusstest du damals schon, oder?
The tide moving in, Singing Sands, Eigg
Monday, 13 October 2008
I had ordered the wrong size of frame for one of the paintings for the June exhibition (as I lamented here); full of optimism that I would not only sell one of them but in fact both, I had quickly reordered the correct size. Nothing sold, I never unpacked the parcel and it entertained itself in my office until today when I took it home. While taking it home, I wondered what I may have ordered alongside the frame... I usually sneak in some paints, brushes or similar things.
So, I unpack. And indeed: there is another box inside the parcel. I see from the outside that it's some Old Holland oil paint. 'How nice' I think to myself. Unpack it and it is some cobalt blue. 'Wow - with that you went a bit overboard, Gesa', I continue to think to myself. It's a large tube. I check for the delivery note - Cobalt Blue is pretty much in the most expensive price range of any pigment, Old Holland is so for any brand of oil paint. But no: it says only £20 - och, that's ok then. I grin.
A second later: this is never 40ml, though; I take out my kitchen scales: 500g - hm, 40ml of paint weigh 500g? No way! I check the website for other sizes the supplier sells the paint in. Well, they also sell paint in 225ml. That looks more like it.
225ml of Old Holland Cobalt Blue comes in at a bargain price of £105.
Jammy cow, I think to myself. I think I won't have to buy any cobalt blue for a year or two. Plus: I got a cheque for the first painting from the June exhibition - I mentioned that I loaned them to friends? Good strategy that is! One can sell paintings that way, too.
Lose some? Win some!
Sunday, 12 October 2008
In the process, I noticed pencilled addresses, phone numbers and details on the back of my favourite painting in the lot. And remembered, that it is already in its third incarnation: firstly, a rather shortlived attempt at a cityscape in acrylics; that got whitened out, acquired some raw umber oil underpainting and a rather unfinished male torso for last year's GSA evening class exhibition - well: mine is the most unfinished, unframed one at the far end, bottom row.
I just couldn't get myself to spending several weeks at painting one shoulder, and was indeed a bit upset that they chose that painting - which was clearly so far from finished - as part of the exhibition. But never mind.
The painting didn't survive long after the exhibition: whitened out again it became part of my winter fields in oil series. I like it a lot better that way. The nice thing of this recycling however is that the surface by now feels very rich and dense. Nice to the touch, so to speak, really: the whole point of any painting, don't you think?
Here are the details for looking at it (and the other three); possibly even touching it? If nobody else is looking, that is.
St John Art Sale
Friday 17 Oct 4-8.30pm
Saturday 18 Oct 10-5pm
Sunday 19 Oct 11-4.15pm
Pollokshields Burgh Hall
BTW: there's a coffee shop with home baking, says the flyer... and you can of course buy the paintings :)
Friday, 10 October 2008
Well: today it's my granny's. And as a present, she gets a seascape in mixed media printmaking. She loved travelling - not only did she have plenty of wanderlust but indeed experienced curious and incurable Fernweh - far sickness. She clearly didn't suffer from it, it wasn't an illness but something far better and more delicious than that. On that count I'm glad I'm her granddaughter.
Happy birthday, Anni!
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
She looks at you from the wall at the Museum Berggruen in Berlin Charlottenburg. No - not really. She doesn't look at you.
She simply looks. Observes. All around her, her eyes surveying not one direction but several at once.
She was a woman who always saw a lot - so says the commentary.
For most of Picasso's distortion of female figures I do not care all that much. In particular the double noses (as in smelling a lot???) are weird.
But Dora with green fingernails... I like her, like how her eyelid becomes part of the outline of her face. How it emphasises her eyes, beautiful eyes, matched with eyeshadow and bright green nail varnishes. How 1980s in the 1930s.
She made it into my sketchbook, next to Paul Klee's Die Zeit. With that she's only one of two of Picasso's women - alongside the wonderful melancholic Woman with a Chignon I met in Harvard.
And funnily enough - the sketch is just of her face, so when I tried to look for the painting again I got struck by that starched, stiff and downright scary dress she's wearing. Maybe that says even more than her all observing eyes?
And I think it's time now that Dora made it out of the sketchbook and into print - the figure tasks for the monotype projects are the difficult ones; so I'm circling around them, thinking one up, trying a bit, dismissing it again. But I think I'll stick with Dora, not sure how yet, but that'll be freestyle no 3, I think.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
That was a line of the text that accompanied Laurie Anderson's Fully Automated Nikon (Object/Objection/Objectivity) project at the Tate's Modern recent exhibition Street and Studio: An Urban History of Photography.
Anderson, in 1973, made an analogy how a photo - or rather: a camera stuck into someone's face - really does resemble an assault, when she got fed up with the chat she got off blokes on the streets of NYC. So, Fully Automated Nikon is the result of her asking for a photo, in response to any stupid/aggressive/annoying chat up. So, there's a series of guys, white guys, black guys, young guys, old guys, with other guys, with their girlfriends; and a couple of lines of how they responded to her assault of taking a photo.
It stuck - or rather linked up with a series of other things: notably, my hesitation to take pictures of strangers. Something my PhD examiner remarked on in response that photos labelled 'young skaters in the city centre' don't really have that many young skaters in them, similar 'builders during a break' requires the onlooker to look hard for the builders. LOL.
Now: a picture, a snapshot is really something done reasonably quick, inconspicious.
But, what on earth about a sketch, a portrait??
My parents fell victim in August to my determination of sketching people. And after my mum was mortified about my (admittedly poor) sketch, I deliberately did not try to sketch my brother when sketching him... so as almost on purpose not to produce any similarity.
Now, a long lead-in to this: stealing sketches of unsuspecting people. I still - and in fact probably before I stumbled across Anderson so wonderfully single-minded let's turn the table kind of take on mugging - think of taking something not offered by sketching strangers.
But: here are some takings: at the train station on the way to the sea a few weeks back; and this afternoon while waiting on an appointment.
The woman on the bench in profile found her way into my printmaking project: it needed some life drawing; and the outline worked reasonably well, it probably needs a bit more colour (how about a trusted orange); but the backdrawing - sketching on the back of the surface which lies on a thinly inked print plate - works well. It effectively produces an old-fashioned carbon copy of the sketch.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
is now being finally represented in three-colour, varied textured, monoprint.
I tried out a fourth mask to see how the shapes translate into print. And it works:
I had experimented with a number of colours - a green/blue, orange and lemon yellow seemed a good combination.
Print Project 1.4 Avocado leaves
Multi-coloured, masked, and textured monotype
Tosa shi paper, 20x25cm
So, this morning I finally had two prints which satisfied various criteria:
- good registration
- good composition (colour/form)
- at least two different techniques for texture/printing
Initially, I had planned to use this thin Tosa Shi paper of this print from the back, i.e., print on the back rather than the front of the paper so that it shines through somewhat muted; that didn't look right and so I sprayed the paper - while lying on the plate - with water, quite a bit of water, some of the ink blurred, and it generally mottled quite nicely.
I overlayed with the orange leaf - again, initially wanted the negative shape of it printed rather than the actual leaf, but that didn't look right; I finally overlayed with the lemon yellow and imprinted tin foil on the ink plate before printing.
Both the water and the tinfoil textures are rather subtle textures - but I like the way the shapes are bold and then the actual print surface is quite subtly marked.
I'm chuckling away at the awkward way of writing down these things, and think of a friend's recent remark of better not to talk about some things; but I think it's more a matter of having someone 'talk printmaking' to me - some specialist vocab that so clearly isn't mine yet (in either language, really), but never mind.
Off to Edinburgh now to see this. And I need to run now not to be late...
Thursday, 2 October 2008
The marks? String wrapped round the plate, then inked - a bit of embossing results, some white - some of it masked off.
Seascape in red, 25x20cm
Monotype on blotting paper
Masked plate and string for marks
Seascape in red, 25x20cm
Monotype on blotting paper
Masked plate and string for marks
Seascape in red, 25x20cm
Monotype on blotting paper
Ghost print on wet blotting paper
Masked plate and string for marks
This is the print order. Some serious serial experimentation: note the marks of the string as they change; note the intensity of colour on the wet paper; note the embossing on the dry ghost print; etc. etc. etc...
So, this is the technique of my seascape project. Now I just need to overlay different colours