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An exercise within the project; People in context- part 3.
People in context is about depicting human figure/s with in a particular environment which enforces the figure to become part of a wider subject. When you place a figure in an interior you are looking at a complex form within a more structured area- organic form within the confinement of walls and objects. The meaning that can be taken from the positioning of the figure is important for example the figure in the corner can be though as being a mysterious figure lurking in a darkened corner. The figure positioned close up, dominating the image can be thought as powerful or important. The positioning of other figures can then tell a story within an image. The drawings by David Haines create a strange narrative where boys are forced to smell a range of sneakers. The images convey a thug culture, the harsh reality for young urban men but the medium the artist has used is the soft scale tonality of pencil. Here the objects such as the Bucket of KFC is given just as much importance as the figures as they are directing their gaze at the ‘fast food.’
New Balance Sneaker vs KFC Bucket (2007/8) Pencil on paper 140×216.5cm <http://www.davidhaines.org/work04.html>
The exercise was about painting a figure in a room and the course reader suggested not to complicate things as simplicity allows for the negative shapes around the figure to incorporate the form within a balanced composition. One approach the reader suggested is to place a celebrity within a familiar room, I was intrigued by this as I felt the lack of pressure to paint Graham Norton accurately developed the portrait to be a success.
- New elements within familiar surroundings.
- Use the background to add interest to your subject.
- Skin tones reflect surrounding colours and shades, will you exploit this?
- It standing then think about how long they can keep that pose.
- Experiment with simplifying the background, for example – drape fabric on a chair.
- Light source, direction of shadows and how long will you have the natural light.
- Do you want to suggest depth , so think about proportions, positions.
- Exploit foreshortening of form or objects?
- Eye level position, look down on figure means submission and looking up at figure means authoritative.
One of my all time favourite paintings is ENNUI (Boredom) by Sickert.
Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942 Ennui c.1914 Oil paint on canvas 1524 x 1124 mm http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/walter-richard-sickert-ennui-r1133434>
‘The physical proximity of the two figures supposes an intimate connection between them such as marriage, but their complete disassociation and lack of engagement with one another creates an atmosphere of isolation, indifference and loneliness’ Tate Cited 3.3.2017
I love the warm tones and how the figures are positioned, such as the man sitting and the women standing, slumped over the chest of draws looking into something. The roundness of the table which takes up a third of the painting is a barrier for the viewer from the figures in the room, your eye either has to jump over the table or follow the curve of the table to understand the depth and perspective of the composition. The tension between the two figures, is what I remember the most about this painting, not the objects in the painting. When painting figures they mean more to me than just 3D forms that are organic, they are human and have emotions, feelings, character. To depict tension within the confined space of a room is challenging but Sickert achieves it brilliantly in Ennui.
I tried to set up this pose in my lounge, but the chest of draws were to low and I felt the room lacked light. The figures were going to be my Husband with our daughter, they have a fantastic relationship but are from different times, like all generations. I wanted to depict this relationship, a coming of age daughter and a maturating husband/dad. When I thought about depicting these qualities I looked to Hockney and how he used objects to aid his representation of figures characters such as the white cat (Percy) in Mr and Mrs Clark with Percy. 1970-1.
My painting is from a photo of my Husband and myself in our bay window with a chair that is used as a computer/ desk chair. The chair has significance because we brought a pair of chairs with the money given to us by the Labour government when Gordon Brown paid out a lump sum to couples with new born babies back in 2005. As a nation I think we are still paying for that excessive lump sum, and as a reminder of fortunate events, my husband and I call these chairs the Gordon Browns. I added in the patterned rug and then painted over it, as the design on the rug caused the perspective to become confusing, if the rug had a tile pattern then that would have worked. The light source at the centre causes problems , just so for Hockney as he mentions he had problems with tonal clarification due to the light coming in from behind the figures. I took a long time mixing the correct colour paints. I used the colour photo to aid with the pallet choices. The walls are painted white in our house but the photo is very muddy, grainy due to the light behind the curtains. The paper light shade is noticeable in the left hand corner and is on so gives a warm tinge to the interior. I feel this image is to simplistic but the best solution for a complex exercise.
The progress of learning during this exercise was
- Think about what you want to depict, an emotional response to the figures or objectify the figures? Cindy Sherman parody or a Barbara KrugeR
- What context will you insert this subject into? An interior but what is the atmosphere of this room; think light.
- Size, painting full figures on a small board takes away key features for depicting character, posture and gesturing is valuable here.
- Look to other artists and find out how they responded to this complex study. Find a solution to the problem.
Tate cited on the 3.3.2017
David Haines web site http://www.davidhaines.org/work04.html>
Google search for Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger