Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Although all my final paintings for this project were effectively finished I still felt that one of them, "Compassion", could be interpreted better.

Co-incidently I recieved a letter from the OCA advising me of a change of requirements to submissions for assessment. Basically they were asking for all paintings to be presented flat, mounted on black or white card and held in an A1 portfolio. Initially this seemed to cause me a major problem since all my work has been done on hardboard panels. However, they do allow for students already engaged in this course to continue as they have been. Phew!

I had a choice whether to continue as I have been, or change to the new guidelines. It set my mind thinking: I like painting on hardboard panels because they give resistance to the brush or palette knife but, even when primed, they are a bit smooth initially for applying heavier impasto layers of paint. And they are fairly heavy for posting! I decided I should trial painting on sheet canvas pinned tightly to a supporting board which would give me both the resistance and some texture.

Returning first of all to my sketchpad I made yet another sketch study with colours that suggested compassion to me: soft greens, yellows, and blue, with a touch of gold/orange as well:

"Compassion Pastel Study", A5.

Then, with the already primed canvas pinned to the board I marked out my painting size (leaving some space all around for stretching if I so choose at a later date) and then masked it off with drafting tape to create a sharp edge if I decided to present it that way. Finally for this first stage I gave it a liberal acrylic undercoat of strong blue:

"Compassion: Stage 1", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
With the undercoat dry I started with some tentative marks based on my pastel study.

Then with bold layers of impasto oils I blocked in my main shapes using palette knife technique pushing and pulling the paint around to satisfy some internal prompting:

"Compassion: Stage 2", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.

Finally, trimming around to show the final image:

"Compassion: Final", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
This will be what is sent for assessment with the canvas sheet pasted to a board and perhaps with a mounting board matt.

That definitely is the end to this project and to my mind one of the most satisfying pieces of work I have done: the colours are good and the painting technique pleasurable and suited to my personality. I will now use this way of painting for all my future paintings in Project 5.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Facial Feelings

This set all came in a rush, one after the other. It was as though all the previous work that had gone into this - pastel studies, collages, acrylic painting studies - had built up a head of steam and needed to burst out in free expression.

I was eager to get back out into my studio to carry on from where I left off the day before and so I started with this dark painting:

"Facial Feelings #3", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
Not the actual mood I was in but imagined and felt. Dark greens, mauves and acidic yellow representing "Envy" or "Jealousy". A dark brooding cloud descends over the brow; cheeks are flushed green, with yellow all the way down to the gut contrasted with purple to heighten the effect and intensify this most negative of feelings. Here I was trying to make the face part of, and arising out of, the background by blurring the edges.

Very uncomfortable for me. I needed to lighten the mood before I sank into this dark horror myself!
With peaceful thoughts I now try to engender a calm "Serenity" with neutral soft greys, pale yellows, and light spiritual blues:

"Facial Feelings #4", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
I was hoping, of course, to to create these peaceful feelings purely through the chosen colours but with definite facial features arising out of the paint I can't deny it and therefore allow it to happen.

Another change of mood now, not too dissimilar from the soft colours of "Serenity", but deeper to suggest the negative feeling of "Anxiety":

"Facial Feelings #5", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
Black/dark background, blues, yellows, mauves, greens, and greys flitting across what has become a very definite 'face'. When I showed this painting to a friend she immediately declared that she couldn't look at it, it was too horrible for her. I, of course, was very pleased to get such an intense reaction!

But what about the King of Strong Emotion - "Anger"?:

"Facial Feelings #6", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
This one definitely took on a new life of it's own. It started very similar to the original pastel study but as I painted new ideas began to emerge. I tried to be open to these new directions and simply followed where they led. This painting, in certain ways, has become less facial although there are various ways of looking at it as a face and a head. That's for you to determine, but I like the ambiguity. What I hope is not ambiguous is the feeling of anger - a hot head in confused and agitated mental state; a red mist descending; the blood rushing up from the lower and bursting out of the top of the head; a black background enveloping around.

Final painting to express "Fear":

"Facial Feelings #7", Oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
The blood has drained from the face and there is a dark pit right down to the stomach!

This was at the end of the day the most fantastic painting session I think I had ever had. I was totally exhausted having worked from early morning right through till night but when the juices are flowing you just have to keep going. It's not as though I was having to start from scratch with each painting since most of the hard work had already been done with each of the pastel studies.

I am very satisfied with what I have achieved here and look forward to carrying this experience on to Project 5.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Facial Feelings #1 and #2

And now to the 'end-game'.

While I was extremely pleased with the previous series of five "Free Emotions" painted in acrylics I felt that there was still yet another step to take. I wanted to go further. I wanted this project to end with a series of paintings which would bridge the gap between Project 3: Abstract Painting, and Project 5: Semi-abstract Figurative Painting. And I was still attracted to the idea of using figure elements, ie; faces, to express those emotions.

Some of the pastel studies I made were tantalising - they looked like they could be translated into paintings which would complete the project in the way I wanted.

Choosing one of the studies which was intended to represent "Happiness", or "Joy", and using oils, which I think I prefer to acrylics, I started with this first "Facial Feeling" painting:

"Facial Feeing #1", oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
Started laying-in blocks of colour which roughly corresponds with the pastel study, but then, of course, the painting takes on a life of it's own. Allowing myself to feel 'happy feelings' with thoughts of past pleasurable experiences and occassions I paint freely and totally immersed in the painting. I am also trying not to be too descriptive, or prescriptive, of what a face actually looks like preferring to let the emotion come through by the use of colour. Facial features cannot be suppressed for too long and these are suggested with a horizontal stroke here and a vertical stroke there, and the curving side of a cheekbone.

Pleased with this, and somewhat excited, but having taken Number #1 about as far as I can at this moment I decide to make another attempt just to see if I was able to do it all again:

"Facial Feeing #2", oils on primed hardboard, 61x40.5cm.
This one was intended to suggest "Compassion" but it doesn't quite do that for me. I will make another attempt later, but for now these two paintings are a bit of a revelation - I think I may be onto something.