Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free Emotions

This where it starts to get serious.

After all my experimentation and dozens of studies my perseverance begins to pay off. It’s as though I have taken all that work into myself and now it is time for it to re-surface.
The previous painting was like a quiet starter to get the juices flowing and the hand moving. The middle ground is there waiting for me and I dive right in with this series of "free" abstracts:

Free Emotion #1, acrylics on paper, 61x45cm.
Vertical strokes of pure colour counterbalanced by horizontals. Lively and bright, happy and sunny.

A change of mood:

Free Emotion #2, acrylics on paper, 61x45cm.
Dark, foreboding, anxious, irritable, sad.

On a roll now:

Free Emotion #3, acrylics on paper, 61x45cm.
A mixture of cool blues and scarlet reds suggesting to me 'embarassment' - a flushed face (yes that's what I see!), and a cold sweat.

Another change of mood:

Free Emotion #4, acrylics on paper, 61x45cm.
I always love yellows combined with greys and blues, they appear to me to be very calm, serene even.
But what is this? Is that yet another face I see?
I am definitely beginning to see subliminal faces, not intentionally, but as Harry Nilsson sang, "You see what you wanna see, and hear what you wanna hear" [from "The Point"].

I can see I am going to have to give in to this directional prodding I am getting and start painting faces again!

Final painting in this series:

Free Emotion #5, acrylics on paper, 61x45cm.
This one took the longest and is much more multi-coloured. Perhaps mixed-emotions? This is my favourite of them all, and sure enough there is a face looking back at me. It's a jolly clowns face, but as is the way with clowns, there is also a sadness. Is that a tear I see?
I will call this painting "Tears of a Clown".

With the completion of this series I felt that I had achieved my aim and that these could stand for this project.

But I still wasn't finished yet. There is yet more to come. Tomorrow.

Automatic Emotion

While there was great energy in the work I posted yesterday I felt as though it was too uncontrolled and haphazard, and in any case, far too Joan Mitchell. I love Joan's painting but she has been there before me and I need to find my own means of expressing these elusive feelings.

A new day, a fresh start.

With a calm mind and a clean sheet of paper I draw a series of free lines "automatically" which wander around the page creating a 'diagram' of how I am at that moment in time - quiet, open to suggestion, determined. Choosing generally sombre colours I paint the shapes intuitively:

Automatic Emotion, acrylics on paper, 59x42cm.

I was very pleased with this at the time, however, for me it is too much like "painting-by-numbers" and also it reminds me of paintings by Serge Poliakov or Kasamir Malevich. Again not such a bad thing but this is not how I want to paint. There has to be a middle ground between this highly formal and considered manner and the wild exuberances of the previous "free" paintings.

And that is where I go next.

Oh, yes, and I know you'll think me mad, but you can see this painting as facial can't you?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Finger Emotion Studies

Time to get down and dirty!

Wanting to create a greater connection between what I am feeling and the paper I am painting on I thought by using my fingers to apply the paint might be the way:

Finger Feelings #1, Gouache on paper, 42x59cm.
I have never tried to paint this way in a very long time. Not since my mother said "Take that paintbrush oot o' yer mooth and eat yer Rusks"!
Lots of fun, but very messy. I used gouache because I thought it would be less harmful to my delicate skin :o)
The intention was to paint negative, say anxiety or depression. Could be.

Something more positive:

Finger Feelings #2, Gouache on paper, 42x59cm.
I don't think the yellow is clean enough to represent something happy. And it's far too agitated without being light-hearted.

Worth a try, but not what I am looking for.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Painting Studies 1

I can assure you all these studies are leading somewhere, just not in a straight line!

After the previous pastel studies it was time to return to painting only this time to a larger scale:

Acrylics Feeling #1, acrylics on paper, 590x420cm.
The intention was negative feeling, but still difficult to actually put a name to it.
As I painted this in a "free" abstract manner, direct from my subconscious, it struck me just how much it resembled paintings by Joan Mitchell. Now that can't be bad, so I continued in a similar vein:

Acrylics Feeling #3, acrylics on paper, 590x420cm.
Trying to be happier with jollier colouring.

Acrylics Feeling #4, acrylics on paper, 590x420cm.
Definitely negative feeling, intended to be 'despair'.

Acrylics Feeling #5, acrylics on paper, 590x420cm.
And then back to being jolly. No wonder I'm confused - it's like a roller-coaster of emotion, one minute high then the next minute deep in depression! Just as well I'm only acting out these feelings and not actually suffering from them. Otherwise I would be getting carted away a jibbering wreck!

Acrylics Feeling #6, acrylics on paper, 590x420cm.
Finally, feelings of love: flushed with reds and pinks with royal blue.

And can you see it?
To me there are semblances of faces rising from the interlacing mesh of these last two.

That's enough for one day, more to follow tomorrow.

Pastel Studies 2

You have at least got to credit me with perseverance. Like a dog with a bone I will never give up if I think there is something more just around the corner!

The day after my lounging around in the garden I returned to my studio for another session with these pastel studies:

Pastel Study #1, pastels on paper, A4.
The intention here was not to try so hard as yesterday but with a lighter touch to draw "automatically" with softer colours that hopefully speak of gentler feelings.

Pastel Study #4, pastels on paper, A4.
Enjoying the shapes that arise but as yet still not speaking of any particular emotion that I can name.

But hard work always pays off in the end:

Pastel Study #10, pastels on paper, A4.
This study generated something I would come back to later, for in it I see a face! And that face appears to be having negative feelings.

These next two studies did not take me forward with that facial idea but I include them here as studies worthy of future abstract paintings:

Pastel Study #11, pastels on paper, A4.

Pastel Study #12, pastels on paper, A4.

Pastel Study #10 put down a marker in my mind. I wouldn't/couldn't yet respond fully to it, but I later saw it as a definite influence in what would follow.

Pastel Studies 1

On a very sunny day at the beginning of June I spent a whole day sitting in my garden, sometimes sunning myself, and sometimes sitting in the shade. But not just lounging about - working as well!

With my painting studies turning decidedly facial, I stopped. I didn't want to get too figurative so early and wanted to explore how to express my feelings only using colour.

So I sat for most of that beautiful day with sketchbook on my knees and pastels in my hand in a meditative state searching within. I thought that by taking the time to quieten my mind and bring all my attention to bear I would eventually feel something.
I can't say that I did especially, but I did make over twenty different studies, five of which are shown here:

Pastel Feeling #1, pastels on paper, A4.
Thinking about what shapes feelings might take. Perhaps that was the problem...thinking!

Pastel Feeling #4, pastels on paper, A4.
Allowing myself to feel lovingly, this one danced around in pink and red. But what is that black shape intruding from the left? All is not well on the love-boat!

Pastel Feeling #7, pastels on paper, A4.
When I think of "Compassion" I always immediately think of a soft green, followed by warmth flooding down. Touches of blue seem to speak of spiritual matters.

Pastel Feeling #21, pastels on paper, A4.
Anger to me is like a red mist descending with hot blood flushing the face and a black knot in my stomach.

Pastel Feeling #22, pastels on paper, A4.
Anger again, this time explosive!

A lovely day in the garden, but none of these studies satisfied me. I needed to try again.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Project 4: Feelings & Emotions

My apologies to those of you who are following this blog for not posting anything for the last 5-and-a-half weeks (has it actually been as long as that?) I have been unable to find the words for something I have been deeply engaged in and trying to make sense of myself.

A reminder of my intentions:
The Course itself is leading towards a painting style I already have in my mind - figurative painting done in a semi-abstract manner - and Project 2 started with a reprise of fairly straightforward expressive figure paintings (Project 1 being designing this Course for myself); Project 3 took me away into the outer reaches of painting "pure" or "free" abstracts, although at it's culmination I couldn't stop myself from bringing in figurative refrences in my "Scherzo"; this Project No.4 was intended to not only continue with abstract painting but to narrow the field down to exploring specifically how to express emotions visually in colour.

When I look at the work of some abstract painters I am moved by their work and fascinated as to where their images come from. In discussion with them over the internet they describe to me how their images arise by simply letting go and allowing their own feelings to surface and in so doing give visual expression. I do not know how to do this, and I wish I could!
So, unless I try this for myself I will never know if it is possible for me - always one for a challenge!

What follows is a description of the journey I have taken, and it will need to be fast because I am going on holiday in exactly one week's time to lie on a Majorcan beach till I am as brown as a berry!

With only the vaguest notion as to what on earth I was doing I spent over two weeks at the beginning of this project carrying out as much research as I could to develop a better understanding of just what's going on with these things we call emotions. It is a well known fact that Scotsmen simply do not talk about "feelings" and "emotions" - far too girly! We would much rather talk about football and hug each other when our team scores!!!
I don't care about what other people think (well not much anyway) and I view this subject as a fact of our lives and therefore something to be investigated.

To begin with, I set down my own understanding of what these words mean to act as a benchmark for future comparison. I then started researching whatever material I could find in books and on the internet turning firstly to my dictionary to establish definitions for the words ‘emotion’ and ‘feeling’. This was useful if not overly illuminating. Then, by using the internet search engine, Google, I systematically worked my way through a plethora of sites related to emotions finding some which provided me with good, if often, somewhat standard views. Psychology sites in particular enabled me to identify and specify a range of emotions. But perhaps the most rewarding source for my purpose was a book by the Buddhist writer, Paramananda, on “The Body”, and his discussion on the connection between body, mind, and feelings. This helped address how feelings and emotions are experienced and how we can raise our awareness of them.
The conclusion I soon came to, however, was that better minds than mine have struggled to describe this subject in words and that it was ultimately much better to explore the emotions directly for myself to see how I could express them visually.

Sketch and Painting Studies:
With so much reading and long periods of contemplation I became agitated for action and started with a series of small acrylic paintings from my subconscious.
I started almost where I left off in previous project by quieting my mind and trying to become aware of what lay within. But after a long period of this 'meditation' I had to admit that I couldn't say I "felt" anything! Nothing particular arose, and certainly nothing I could identify as having a particular colour, a particular feeling, or residing in a particular place in my body. This was to become the focus of intense and constant probing in the weeks to come.
But I still needed to paint to explore for myself and aid the process.
These small acrylics were attempts at painting freely from my subconscious:

Emotions Study 1, acrylics on canvas, 20x20cm.

Emotions Study 2, acrylics on canvas, 20x20cm.

Emotions Study 3, acrylics on canvas, 20x20cm.

Interesting how dark they are! But what specific emotions they represent I cannot say, only that they are indeed quite negative.

During this session an idea arose which was to become my grand concept for this project: "Facial Abstracts". It occurred to me that while I wanted to produce paintings which were largely abstract and expressive of specific emotions this could well be done by also thinking in terms of human faces which is where emotions can usually be seen. This would also provide a suitable link between Project 3: Abstract Painting, and Project 5: Semi-Abstract Figurative Painting:

Emotions Study 4, acrylics on canvas, 20x20cm.

Emotions Study 5, acrylics on canvas, 20x20cm.

I have 11 postings to make on this project and with only six more days till my holidays I will be posting twice-a-day. I know it's a lot but the good news is that there will be little in the way of text to read and more pictures to look at.

I hope very much you will make this journey with me and perhaps even leave a comment or two, and certainly, ask any questions of me. I will be happy to try to explain myself.