Category Archives: Course work

Assignment 5 update

To be honest, I have got Lost in my work. I have been working with how different colours and types of enamel paint (work together or not work together) flow together, how fast they move along different surfaces and the quantity of paint needed to get a formation of paint that is dripable. The process has been very technical and absorbing, I have had to work in depth with a new medium in a dense space of time. Luckily the paint can dry much faster than Oil paint. This has caused variations in perception as the paint tends to crack if not enough oil mixed or to much oil . This cracked surface is interesting in itself so trying to recreate this again has been difficult. The variables and uncontrollably associated with using Enamel paint enforce a culture of accepting the inevitable, tolerating the accidents or as Pollock (1912-1956) said in his interview with William Wright in 1950.” …with experience-it seems to be possible to control the flow of the paint, to a great extent, and I don’t use – I don’t use the accident- cause I deny the accident.” Harrison and Wood. pg 585.

“Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement”POLLOCK p.586

The statement that I am making with this new found technique is of ‘letting go’ and ‘being free’ to work with the paint. In my earlier work I can see my battles with ;being restricted to paint a representation of nature, my environment as a subject and  following the classical tradition of obligation to the standards of painting. My statement is not about expressing my feelings in the form of Enamel Paint. I used my experience of the familiar surroundings of the Park to decided on what colours to pour onto the canvas as a way of transcribing the composition of the park. My technique is deconstructing previous paintings ( the more traditional compositions) of the park to simplified shapes of trees, lumps of park land and distant perspectives. I then decided what colours to add together and how much paint to use of each colour before poring it onto the canvas. Then I would wait to see the paints marble around each other and decide to move the canvas so to affect the marbling of the paint to allow more patterns to appear or start moving it directly with a cotton wool bud stick and dragging the paint to where I wanted it to go.

Before I worked on a canvas I did tester panel’s, These have been a fantastic resource and I return to them frequently when mixing the enamel paints. These panels also have other things stuck to the surface to analysis the reaction the paint has with textured grounds.

I had spent a few weeks mixing paint and experimenting with different grounds such as shaving foam, Grass, pva and sand, but felt I needed to focus on the completion of the immediate assignment. I stopped working with paint and started reading and taking notes which was a reinforcement of the experience of my practice. From my readings of Clement Greenberg(1909-1994), and Harold Rosenberg(1906-1978) I have realised the following;

  • The American action painters correlated with American politics at the time. The power granted to American after the 2 world wars was knowledgable world wide. The connotation value the Americans exchanged was ‘larger than life’, bold and liberalising. Similar values to the Abstract movement where artists were liberated  and free from traditional aesthetic values.
  • This Post war condition became a culture. Avant-gardism was about ideas, a subject matter, not content and not just creating vessels of communication.  Greenberg writes that Courbet is called the first avant-gardian  and Manet is responsible for the spectators attention given to the problems of the medium ; paint.
  • The concept of the arts intertwined with one another; for example the Impressionist suggested their images were like listening to Romantic music. Greenberg asks…, “Since art was the only validity left, what better subject was there for each art than the procedures and effects of some other art?”  The individual and the social. p. 563-568.
  • Music is a sensory experience, it conveys mood, it can be abstract of meaning and pure in form. “But the other arts can be also sensuous if only they will look to music, not to ape its effects but to borrow its principles as a ‘pure art’, as an art which is abstract because it is almost nothing else except sensuous.” Green berg p.565. The word ‘Ape’ is relating to others words , such as mimic, copy, impersonating.
  • The status of ‘pure art’ is a confusion as to prove purity we direct ourselves towards something primitive, childish and something less detailed. This is a process of differentiating and a way of becoming objective or taking sides. Greenberg wrote…”To prove that their concept of purity is something more than a bias in taste, painters point to Oriental, Primitive and children’s art as instances of the universality and naturalness and objectivity of their ideal of purity…” p.566 Picasso has a well known quote -‘ every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’
  • The impact of Abstract art is the explanation for its superiority, The historic point where art moved away from traditional naturalisation to form abstract, its conjunction is justified.
  • Pollock says in his interview p.583 that…”My opinion is that new needs need new techniques, and the modern artist have found new ways and new means of making their statements.” he later adds that modern day artist are living in an age of mechanical reproductions where nature can be captured by cameras, so the new work is about expressing an inner world, energy and the motion of other forces. The classic artist represented the world around them. The Modern artist is representing the effects of the world around them. The visual language it the same, the medium and technique has changed, But they were both expressing themselves.
  • Pollock works directly, no preliminary drawings, drawing is a direct practice.
  • A point made by Greenberg ;about abstract work within a square frame has a tendency to be seen more abstract as its not a realistic shape, interested me as much of my assignments were painted on square formats. On reflection I wonder if I knew subconsciously that I was working towards abstraction?


  • A final Quote from a book I have been reading about the capitalist markets and the  devastating effect they have on climate change. “In the experience ( the call centre business) of a system that is unresponsive, impersonal, centreless, abstract and fragmentary, you are as close as you can be to confronting the artificial stupidity of capital in itself.” Mark Fisher .p.64. The reason I mentioned this quote is that Greenberg asks in his essay that we have to assimilate abstract art and fight our way through it as to return to representation would be a disaster for painters. The message is that there is no way back (from a capitalist society and from abstract expressionism), we have to move forward into the unknown. This is my statement, Letting go of capitalist reform (work/job for jobs sake) and naturalisation representation in paint (art for arts sake). I have found this painting technique so valuable and I find myself wanting to surround myself with more of these paintings. They have petrified into valuable possessions, they make up for the loss of wealth which comes with being a full time student. 

Tester Panel



Capitalist Realism, Is there no alternative? by Mark Fisher. O BOOKS publishing 2009 Hants UK

Art in Theory 1900-2000. An anthology of changing ideas. Edited by Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Blackwell Publishing 2003. Oxford UK.



P.5. Different ways to apply paint.2

Exercise; Dripping, Dribbling and spattering.

Look at the work by Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) whose paintings are explosive in effect. How have they been applied? And how could you create the same effect. Prepare a large sheet of paper and newspaper, mix up severally colours into diluted solutions. Lay this on the ground and work from above. Apply the paint in several ways such as dripping, throwing, spinning and any think about how some colours recede and others dominate.

Do you feel at any time finished? I think you get to a point where you wonder what is the point. At one time a just raised the paint off the card because it became dull, messy. The water cleaned away the paint and left behind a dry residues which were far more interesting. I stopped when is became interesting to look at.

How could you exploit any of these effects in future work? I think these are very good exercises to help loosen up and to stop your self looking for the obvious for example a tree, leaves, branches and generally all things that we know are there but our automatic thought process hinders what we really are seeing at the time. It helps to look at what is happening to the paint, how the oil and water react with one another and how the glue acts as a partition and colours gather creating a marble effect. Pollock said ” I don’t paint Nature, I am Nature…I work from the inside out, like Nature.” COLLINGS 1999. P.44 I think therefore that this exercise was productive in reminding me ,or any painter, that we are nature creating nature, not a machine that reproduces nature like the camera. Our creating is our rendition of our nature. So- don’t just copy what you see, be creative and express what you see or how you feel or both.

I worked on certain colours of grounds cover painted on A2 paper,  yellow ochre, cadmium orange light hue, burnt Siena , primary blue and black. I took these into the garden and laid them down from light to dark with stones to keep them in place. I flicked the White paint in a circular motion and the green paint was spattered over all the sheets from a higher level. The smaller dot patterns were from Indian inks and sprayed from a syringe  and then diluted with water. The black card was folded together to imprint the paint and mix the colours directly. I wanted to see what effect the black ground would have on certain colours as yellow can look green when painted on a black ground. I blended some of the colours on the page by Tonking. I wasn’t expecting to paint something, I was just playing with the paint, thinking about how to move my wrist and how hard to throw the paint tube. I was cautious not to use to much paint as I still wanted the ground colours to show. It was fun and playful and I was interested with the outcome as I didn’t expect anything so the paintings were a pleasant surprise.

I feel that you needed to be rather aggressive and chaotic  with the paint throwing to get the same effect as Jackson Pollock. He was nick named ‘ Jack the Dripper’. His drip and splash type of painting was named Action painting around 1947 . He used enamel paints , metallic paints and commercial paints as their texture suited the technique of action painting. He added materials to his paintings like sand and Broken glass and used non conventional tools such as knifes, garden trolls and sticks to manipulate his work that was fully abstract, no composition. Sometimes the canvas was later cut or trimmed to size influenced by the painting , he didn’t paint confined to the shape of the canvas. His most famous supporter was the critic Clement Greenberg (1909-94) who wrote referencing Pollock in his essay ‘The Decline of Cubism’ March 1948. Wood .2016.p.577.

‘Art has risen in the last five years, with the emergence of new talents so full of energy and content as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, David Smith…-then the conclusion forces itself, much to our own surprise, that the main premises of Western art have at last migrated to the United States, along with the centre of gravity of industrial production and political power.’ Wood.P.579.

Sand on Gold card with rubbed back Acrylic and Indian Ink.

Enamel Paint mixed with punched hole paper on canvas


Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artist by Ian Chilvers. Fourth edition. 2009 OXFORD university Press. Oxford.

Art in Theory 1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Edited by Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Blackwell Publishing 2016.

The Encyclopedia of Oil Painting Techniques by Jeremy Galton. Search Press.  Tunbridge Wells Kent UK 2006

This is Modern Art by Mattew COLLINGS. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. London  2000

P.5. Different ways to apply paint-1.

Exercise; Impasto. PVA and other gels can be added to Acrylic paint to add volume to achieve an Impasto effect.

Work on prepared grounds to produce experimental paintings and try as many different ways to apply paint, such as-

  • Using a brush, variations of brushes such as a feather. Wet and dry brush work.
  • Using a painting knife and the different effects different blades can have. The effect of pressure on the blade and how this effects the flattened and blending of colours. Good for areas but can be overwhelming if used as an entirety.
  • Scratching. Sgraffito. Scoring is a technique to depict hair, wrinkles, a lace collar. Scratching on board is better than canvas.
  • Tonking which is where to much paint is on the surface so to remove some can create an interesting effect if you use newspaper. Good for portraits as the details for the facial areas can become loaded with paint.
  • Scraping back , selecting areas to thin out on can create an area in the distance so ideal for perspective enhancement.
  • Add layers by paining brush strokes in different directions and then using a glazing technique/ diluted paint is then caught on the rougher paint surface which is ideal for sky or water.
  • Dabbing with a sponge, rag, paper towels and cotton wool buds.
  • Texturing with added materials such as sand, cement mix, pencil sharpening waste, sawdust and fillers or shaving foam.
  • Imprinting. Good for oil paints as the drying time is longer so greater variety of materials or objects to be pressed into the paint. Things such as spoons, forks, saw blades, comb, toothbrush or leaves. I used this technique with the exercise of painting a ‘portrait that conveys mood and atmosphere’. The painting needed texture so I ragged over it to give texture to the over all image, by doing so the colours merged and every brushstroke was less detailed, precise and softer like the candle light used to express mood. Good technique for depicting concrete walls and also use ‘Scratching’  the paint to depict the blocks.

How could these techniques enhance some of your previous work?

The exercise ‘ scaling up’ was taken from a photo where I laid down on the grass to take a picture of the Manor House, the foreground is all grass. Knife painting used in the foreground to depict the grass would have worked well here as this technique leads itself well to grasses and foliage where movement is associated with it.

Scraping or scratching/ sgraffito would have been a technique I could have used in one of my early still life exercises. Most of these earlier paintings are very flat as I wanted to concentrate on depicting form with tonal colours so texture was something I didn’t consider but I did scrape back to allow underpainting to show though.

The exercise ‘ painting from a photo’ could have been enhanced with some of the above techniques to deal with the rock face. I think that the idea of Imprinting or Tonking would have worked well here, but the paint is now dry so I can’t use those techniques but something for consideration.



Tonking, Imprinting and Glazing.


Scraping away to show the ground colour, reminisent of Hockneys water pattern.


Feather painting, masking tape, cork bottle and black pepper used to apply paint



P4 exercise:Painting from a photo

Choose a landscape with plenty of space, trees and hills. Find from a magazine or the internet then look at it critically and decide how you will interpret it. Make some quick drawings of the shapes within the composition. Your aim is an interpretation , not a faithful copy so pin up your drawings and photo but only reference them occasionally. Add to the painting with materials such as sand. dirt or anything that refers to the place.

In what ways did you depart from the photo?

I didn’t paint a composition that was suggested, I like this photo of the beach and the red wall and I was tired of painting trees. I am lucky to have a variety of landscapes on my door step and looking at all the paintings I had completed so far for part 4, I found they were all similar, because of the trees and the sky line being interrupted. I didn’t like the sky in this photo so I painted sky taken from another photo, which is far more angry and turbulent. This would of course change the colouring of the rocks, but this is the beauty of painting which is; I can interpret the image how I want. The painting is of sun warming the rock face and an angry sky brewing above, looking out towards a magical purple sea line.

Why did you make that choice?

My painted colours and contrasting tones are more severe than the photo, but that’s my way of defining texture. I wanted the tones to be similar to the two photos to suggest the surreal. I made the rock face more clumpy because , that is how I interpret this rock face; like its about to crumbly down to the beach. I am also suggesting that something else is around the corner, you would have to walk further to see because the rocks are in the way. I think this makes it more interesting and the rock face looks less normal.

Did you produce a painting that you are satisfied with or were you over influenced by the photo?

I had taken so much time in getting the rocks to look similar to the photo, so wish I had not become so influenced by the photo. I tried to lay the paint on thickly to give a more solid textured paint work, but it just looked out of place next to the soft purple of the low tide. I had to scrape this paint work off and start again. I need to find a balance of working from a photo and just letting the painting practice take over.

On reflection, most my paintings look stiff other than the more abstract ones. I plan to start using photos as a reference only, as I have noticed from this exercise how influenced I am by the photo.

P4 exercise: Squaring up.

I enjoyed this exercise, even though I though it was a waste of time because most the time, people use technology to enlarge pictures with the use of a projector or other various apps. What I think I liked was doing something different, similar to the last exercise of painting a corner of the room which was a change from the landscape. I don’t mind landscapes but painting them for a period of 3 months can become methodical and tend to loose inspiration. The way exercises can remove you from a way of doing something or looking  at something and thinking differently is when you know the experience has been influential and the process is important to entertain.

P.4 exercise: Painting outside.

I had been thinking about this exercise through out this part of the course. Every time I went out , I was scouting for locations and views that I though would be enjoyable to paint. I was anxious about this exercise as I have only ever painted in the studio or with other painters inside and when I have painted outside it was on my isolated farm in New Zealand. I saw someone painting at Government Acre recently and he was disrupted by people walking by and commenting on the practice of painting. People don’t comment on people having a picnic, or playing with a football and they don’t stop to talk to you in general. But when people see a person with a easel or paintbrush, suddenly its an opportunity to converse, as if its a performance. I am an approachable person as I have worked in retail for the last 28 years, but when I’m concentrating on a task, I preferred no interruptions. This is why I choose to paint somewhere that was private so I decided to paint at the Allotment which is situated by the grave yard on a hill. This location has privacy, has a view out over the busy allotment and over the Ramsgate rooftops, out to sea. I felt very comfortable in this location as it’s very quiet other than a squirrel fighting with the tree above my head and some strange bird songs.  The practice of painting I find must be completed within the environment that is creative. I feel this exercise of ‘painting outside’ was more about capturing a feel for a place/landscape, not so much replicating the view on canvas. The experiencing the moment and presenting that feeling within a canvas directs itself as an abstract association with a place.

On the first visit I looked at different angles of views such as low down as if sitting on the grass or standing. The first visit I didn’t take enough water pots with me so the colours became dirty and I lost depth of tone. Then I painted a wash of colour to block in the variations of colours. This aids composition as the first drawing had to much foreground and not enough back ground so it was to green. I balanced the colour blocks for the next painting. This time I spent to much time on details. Then I saw an Art tutor of mine and we got talking and then I had to go home so didn’t finish the painting.

The Second visit was more successful as I took my Oil paints and 3 small square canvases. I was more prepared but should have taken a heaver pallet board as this kept flying off in a random gust of wind. Unfortunately I left my hat at home and this did give me problems with adjusting to distance of view to canvas and the light, the colours of the paint would glare in the sun light . The changing colours and tones were forever moving, but instead of getting frustrated with this constant change of perception I become selective. When the sun was bright I would take in the colours and work from memory, knowing a cloud would soon positioned itself above, darkening the perception of the landscape so I ignored this view. I think the experience and the practice of drawing a moving figure is helpful when trying to capture a changing landscape. I had to sit and wait sometimes, knowing the image I wanted to capture would soon return and I needed to be ready to capture it. The sky is very white around the seaside as its either low cloud in from the sea, or damp misty sea air and can be very moody but its mostly white and dense. I choose not to correct the paintings later in the studio, but the colours do need attention as the light outside was much harder to understand than when you see the paintings inside. For example the tree in the middle ground is very prominent so this needs toning down so to reposition it into its correct location as its sitting severally dominate.

What I learned was that I prefer a location that is private as I need to concentrate and don’t like interruptions. The place where I paint effects the work that I create; if I’m in a peaceful location, where I have all my equipment to hand, I can focus. I enjoy painting in my studio because everything has its place, its comfortable. But painting outside is enjoyable as its experiencing the moment and working within a natural environment to create and represent that experience. As a society we relay on materials to aid us with living. Artist use equipment such as as IPad and cameras to help them replicate a digital image. On the TV show called’ Sky portrait artist of the year’ we see most competitors utilize the IPad technology to help them, even though the model is sitting a few feet from them. Here we see artists experiencing the intense moment of a competition , faced with a celebrity model, being interrupted and surveyed but they feel comfort sitting along side trusted technology such as the camera. We have the opportunity to have the moment of reality and the virtual moment captured in the past as a photo, simultaneously. We live in a technological era, and are encourage to embrace it positively as we will be more fulfilled apparently. I’m very cynical about this but I identify the positive side of photos, for example, I cant expect sitters to sit till I have finished or sit for long periods on the wet grass. Technology is beneficial but cant replace the experience of creating spontaneously.


P.4: Painting from a drawing


Choose a subject that is familiar to you like a corner of a room, window or a table with some objects. Make 3 drawings, tonal, linear and colour. Look for dominate colours and any effects of light that interests you, don’t get bogged down in the details. Pin the studies up, away from the subject and paint from the drawings. Its fine to use your memory to guide you. Make your painting larger but the same format such as rectangle.

  • Did the drawings provide enough information? When I enlarged the image, I found that I didn’t have any information about the floor such as shadows, tonal definition and where that related to other details in the over all picture. Because this was a drawing of an area I spend a lot of time around I was able to make it up and sometimes I wondered if I had really used the drawings as this was the 4th studies, it almost became robotic, automatic and autonomous.
  • Did you find being away from the subject allowed you more freedom to develop your painting style? For the painting , I just wanted to get the details down so used a linear style to inform the viewer I understood the surroundings. I wanted to show that I had taking in information to be able to depict a feel for a corner of a room. The colours are thinly applied and it was completed quickly like the drawings. I wanted to see the different medium within the same subject. I wasn’t concerned with experimenting with another way of painting. So I think that the freedom came from getting the painting down quickly and confidently.
  • What is your opinion of the finished painting? I like the feel of the painting because it explains a drawing in paint. This seems illustrative as a painterly style but that’s what painting is generally; illustrating a subject in the medium of paint. The bottom part of the picture trails off due to this are not being captured in the drawings. I could have worked this painting into something more than just a wash of colours but decided to leave it in a state of ‘ the start of something’.
  • I liked the idea of developing a painting from a simple drawing. From my drawings while out dog walking, I remember the trees in the park with different coloured leaves, almost like big blocks of random colours. The blobs of yellow, deep burnt reds and dark violets greens, bouncing around within the confines of the local park was something I wanted to capture in paint. My drawing wasn’t tonal or colourful, it was just a linear drawing of the trees sitting against each other with a metal fence. Because I didn’t have much information I had to work from memory and the colour blocking was inspirited but by all  the trees in the park. I started with a yellow background as this is a calming ground for me to work with and added in a dark red and blue together for the fore ground. The mid ground was blocked in colours of reds and the background was dark again which is against the law with regards aerial perspective, but by using a fat vermilion hue on the tree in the foreground , It creates a hierarchy of colour and therefore perspective. I dry brushed the grass in the foreground because it needed texture. The outcome of this painting reflects the research I have carried out so far. For example the portrait of Lytton Strachery 1914 by Henry Lamb. The colours of the massive elongated solid trees which fade away into ghostly illusions are within a calm warm colour pallet. Wassily Kandinsky paintings are representative of German expressionism and his work call ‘Autumn in Bavaria’ 1908 shows beautiful foliage distinctions between light and dark. Yellow sunlight is strong brushwork, the flesh tones of pink in the wall and the blue cool shadows explain the variety of colours found within a landscape scene.
  • Henry Lamb, ‘Lytton Strachey’ 1914

    Lytton Strachery 1914 by Henry Lamb.

  • Autumn in Bavaria, 1908 -  Wassily Kandinsky

    ‘Autumn in Bavaria’ 1908 Wassily Kandinsky