Saturday, 5 April 2008

A flat black sky

... occupies the top third of Nicholas de Stael's Agrigente from a couple of posts ago.

A few weeks ago I took a couple of de Stael's paintings and copied their composition. It's something I hardly ever do, taking someone's else' art to work from directly. But trying to unpack composition and markmaking for some of Joan Eardley's landscapes back in autumn has proven extremely helpful in understanding the strength of those paintings and compositions - and in learning a little bit about Eardley's work process.

I had started to use both oils and acrylics a bit more in the sketchbook, - not getting too worried about oil on paper was actually quite helpful for that.

I begun with my usual water-soluble neopastels, took what I thought to be two of the simpler de Stael's - the already posted Agrigente was the first one. And ended up with this sketch:

Sketch in Moleskine, approx 18x12cm
Based on de Stael, Agrigente 1953
Graphite, Neopastel 2
[well: a photoshop mock-up of it]

Ok... but not really there, is it? And that is nonewithstanding the skewed proportions.

Attempt no 2: Take some acrylics - don't mix black but take black out of the tube.

Sketch in Moleskine, approx 18x12cm
Based on de Stael, Agrigente 1953
Graphite, Neopastel 2, Acrilics

Just as much as I shied away from using white (until the Winter Field paintings) so I did with black - I would go as far as Payne's Grey and then leave it, try to mix darks otherwise or so.

Although the first sketch is a photoshopped approximation of the colour I had initially used, the flatness of black - coupled with the quality of acrilycs - flat and plasticky - made this work much better and took it closer to de Stael's original. It's a good example, I think, of how a simple composition relies on effects of medium, support and application to work; and that other media don't get you there.


Casey Klahn said...

I like your project. Interesting discussion re: medium.

Gesa said...

Thanks, Casey - the contrast look better before my photoshopping experiments. But that's just how it is, sometimes it's difficult to rewrite that 'oh - that's what it does' moment. :)