Steven Baldwin: Painted Boxes Project
I looked at a few artists for inspiration. Even though I had never really painted anything on this scale before, I knew what style I wanted to use. I had never worked with oil paint before but I did know how I wanted my paintings to look.
We did a small project in year one in which the whole group painted a plain box in off-white. Some of used a little bit of blue, some used pink, so the boxes were different colours. We were all a little bit perplexed to say the least to begin with. After we had painted the boxes, we arranged the boxes on the wall.
Above Slideshow: Painted Boxes, M.E.A
We were then told to carefully arrange them on the wall. First of all we placed them on the floor and arranged them until the group was happy with how they looked. Then, we nailed them to the wall as you can see in the above photographs. Next, we were told to paint the boxes.
Above: Abstract, Acrylic on canvas, M.E.A
We weren’t told ‘How’ to paint the boxes with regards to style or colour, just to paint the boxes. I used bold colours for my painting and I didn’t stick to the exact layout. I was the only one in the group to do this. Everyone else painted the boxes in the exact layout in pastel colours. I also used a palette knife and I wasn’t particularly concerned about the paints mixing with each other on the canvas. I applied the paint rough with bright blocks of colour. Steve’s ‘Painting Boxes’ project was solely responsible for me discovering what ‘style’ of painting I preferred. Out of all of the projects we did in the first year, I would say this inspired me the most. It made me think out of the box. At first I was worried when I had seen that everyone was doing the same as each other and I worried I had done mine ‘wrong’. But there is no right or wrong way as each person is individual. There were no ‘rules’, this was just a guide. It was a simple but extremely powerful exercise.
Examples of work I did in the second year and how I have progressed
Above” “ABUSE”, Acrylic on canvas, Perspex with Camouflage coating, 70×70, M.E.A
The photographs above are examples of work which I did in the second year. The “Abuse” series 1-4 is about abuse in the British Army. It’s about how soldiers, ‘children’ (in my case, my son) in the military, men and women are being raped and abused.
Above Left: “Don’t Look At Me”, Black Dispersion Paint on Polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A
Top Right: “The Doll Farm”, Black Dispersion Paint and Gloss Varnish on Polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A
Bottom Right: “Untitled”, Black Dispersion Paint, Acrylic on Polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A
Following the work I did last year, I planned to create a large scale painting on the scale of John Virtue’s ‘London’ paintings (examples below). At that point, I didn’t have a photograph in mind. I only knew I wanted it to be large scale and I wanted to push myself. My first idea was using oils (as opposed to acrylics and black dispersion paint as I had in the past) and project an image directly onto the wood boards in our studio. However, this wasn’t possible so as a backup I compromised by using wood frames and the polyamide. Using polyamide allows for the photograph to be projected through as it is a thin material.
Above: © John Virtue. All rights reserved, DACS 2020. Photo credit: Government Art Collection
Mon 3 Jul 2017 to Sun 24 Sep 2017
Above: John Virtue at work in his studio
Copyright © John Virtue. Photo: The National Gallery.
Above: John Virtue’s studio at the National Gallery
Copyright © John Virtue. Photo: The National Gallery.
After watching a dvd following John Virtue and how he painted the London Landscapes I went on to buy the dvd and the book. I was fascinated with the grand scale of his paintings and his painting technique. It is plain to see Joseph Mallord William Turner has influenced his work including the work of Constable. His paintings have this mysterious mystery about them which reminds me of The Great Smog of London, 1952. As a thick layer of smog covered the city caused by a cold weather snap combined with windless conditions and pollution from the usage of coal. It lasted from 5th December until 9th December and an estimated 4,000 people died as a result (later research puts this figure at around 10,000) and 100,000 people became ill as a result of respiratory tract problems.
December 5, 1952: Thousands suffocate as Great Smog descends on London
Above are examples of photographs of The Great Smog of London and this is what immediately came to my mind when watching Virtue paint his London Paintings. I didn’t want to paint mine the same style, but I was more fascinated with the scale of his paintings. I work in a similar way to Virtue, as in, he will go out and sketch his scenes in a sketchbook and carefully outline noticeable landmarks such as The Tower of London or Big Ben for example. I, on the other hand use my digital camera. This is what I did for ‘Deconstruction 15’. The camera is my tool just like Virtue’s sketchbook is his tool.
The Making of ‘Deconstruction 15’
I decided to paint a picture of a street scene of New York City. Whilst visiting New York with university in February 2019 I took a photograph from the top of the empire state building.
Above: ‘New York City, Original’, M.E.A 2019
Above is the original photograph I took from the top of the empire state building. I was using a 400mm zoom lens, handheld. When I returned home I uploaded the photo’s onto my LightRoom (LR) catalogue on my Mac computer. I decided to crop the photograph and I adjusted the contrast, saturation, and I removed all of the grain. Basically I have deconstructed this photograph fifteen times. First, I took the photograph using a natural light. Then, I deconstructed it by using artificial light thus changing the complete impression and appearance.
Above: ‘New York City’ M.E.A 2019 (edited version)
I added more contrast and increased the saturation to make the colours more vibrant and less flat.
Above: I printed the photograph to A0 size and stapled it to the wall.
The photo needed to be split into 15 sections. The photograph was transfered into ‘Preview’ and the original photograph was scaled to 15,000 to 9,000 pixels. Then, a square was made up of 3,000×3,000 pixels. Each section was scanned one after the other and each was put into a jpeg thus ending up with 15 photographs. They were put into 3×5 ‘pillars’. Each frame is given a ‘name’.The first frame for example is A-1, A-2 and A-3. The next B-1, B-2 and B-3. The next C-1, C-2 and C-3. The next pillar (column) D-1, D-2 and D-3. And the last pillar is E-1, E-2 and E-3. Each individual frame is numbered so I know which order to put them in.
Above: Scaffolding (left) and projector (right)
Whilst I was waiting for the scaffold I started work on the frames. I have 15 frames each 70×70 and I bought 15 metres of polyamide from our local market. I began to prepare the frames. I stapled the polyamide to all 15 frames first and then I painted each with Gesso.
Above Left: Frames have been pre-treated with Gesso
Above Right: How the polyamide looks before being prepped with Gesso.
Polyamide is also known as Nylon, Kevlar and Nomex Polymer Fabric and is derived from carbon based molecules which are entirely synthetic. Polyamide fabrics like Nylon were used as Parachute material during World War II. When the war ended, a shortage of fabrics caused many women to make dresses out of recycled parachutes. As a result, the use of Polyamide became popularised. The fabric has low breathability profile and is subject to damage and will melt if exposed to high levels of heat, later on it was blended with other fabrics like Cotton, Polyester and Wool which made it softer to touch. Polyamide fabrics are made with Crude Oil which because of the environmental issues reduced its popularity. However, a number of consumer goods are made with polyamides including Toothbrushes, Some Automotive Parts, Firearm Components and Various Food Packaging.
Above: 15 frames prepared and stored in the scaffold.
I didn’t use Gesso last year as I was using a black dispersion paint and it wasn’t necessary. Because I’m using oils the polyamide needed to be primed as the oil would rot the fabric.
Above: Test for the oil paint
I did a test (above) to make sure the oil would be suitable to use with the polyamide. I needed to make sure that the oil paint wouldn’t ‘run’. The results above proved to be positive, I knew I could go ahead and start the paintings. I didn’t really practise painting anything in particular as I thought this is a learning process, something I could only achieve by doing.
Artist Inspiration Mark Rothko & Piet Mondrian
Above Left: Mark Rothko (1903-1970), No. 16/No. 12 (Mauve Intersection), 1949
Above Right: Mark Rothko, Light Red Over Black, 1957, oil on canvas
I also took inspiration from Mondrian and Rothko, both of whom I admire. I like Rothko’s use of paint and large blocks of colour. Particularly the Red and Black painting as the red border is so vibrant against the black, it’s so luminous the red is radiating light. For Rothko, the goal was to stir human emotions, Joy, Ecstasy, Grief and Depression. I personally feel all of this emotions when I study Light Red Over Black. The red border for me, symbolises both Joy and Ecstasy whilst the Black symbolises Grief and depression. Rothko was concerned that people wanted to buy his paintings because they were “fashionable” and not because they were moved by them. He even refused to sell a painting if the buyer did not show emotion whilst studying his painting. This troubled him, as time went on, Rothko became more depressed and this was reflected in his paintings and he started using darker colours until eventually the whole painting became black.
“The black and Greys do ask us to gaze into the void, to confront the abyss, and there is no view except from the edge of the precipice…” *Mark Rothko, FROM THE INSIDE OUT, Christopher Rothko, page 216.
Above: Photograph taken from my book, Mark Rothko, From the inside out by Christopher Rothko
The photograph above shows you the scale of Rothko’s paintings and his canvases were attached to a frame which is similar to my ‘Scaffold’.
Above: Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-1943
“Bouncing against each other, these tiny, blinking blocks of color create a vital and pulsing rhythm, an optical vibration that jumps from intersection to intersection like traffic on the streets of New York”. MoMA
I saw this painting at the Tate in Liverpool and I was in awe. Mondrian moved to New York City in 1940 and after visiting New York myself, it is easy to see why he loved the city so much. This reminds me of when I was standing on top of The Empire State Building looking down into the streets below and the city somehow becomes abstracted.
Above: ‘New York City’, from The Empire State Building, M.E.A 2019
As you can see above, I take my inspiration from Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie. Mondrian was fascinated with the “…intersection to intersection like traffic on the streets of New York…” Above I have replicated his painting in this photograph using the blocks of colour of the windows in the skyscrapers. The cars and people below become small abstract blocks of colour.
Above: ‘New York City’, from The Empire State Building, M.E.A 2019
These are photographs I took in New York City in which much of the inspiration comes from Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie”. I know that these are photographs and not paintings, but I wanted to reference them as another form of inspiration I use with my Digital Art Practice. Once I have graduated I plan on recreating these photographs into oil paintings on polyamide using the scaffold method. In the University studio I was limited to space so the scaffold was built accordingly. When I eventually leave, I shall be building the scaffold on a larger scale as I plan to exhibit my paintings in an art gallery in Hamburg.
Before I could start the painting, the scaffold needed to be built. This is a wood main frame which allows me to hang my frames ready for painting.
Above: The main scaffold is built, next I need something to stand my projector on.
Above: The drawer lying down needed to be made a little bit higher. See photo’s below.
Above: Metal drawers used as a stand.
The height had to be ‘just so’, for the image to be projected onto the frame. I used two sets of drawers in which to stand the projector onto. The height had to be exact. As you can see in the image above, small lengths of wood were screwed onto the bottom of the top set of drawers in order to get the exact height I needed.
Above: Projector is set up on top of the drawers.
Behind the projector is a slim piece of wood which was put underneath the projector (at the back) giving it the perfect angle for the image to fit the frame perfectly. If needed, by pulling the piece of wood out by a milimetre or in by a milimetre enabled the image to fit square. Sometimes this was needed if the projector was nudged slightly or moved.
In effect, the projector works like a modern version of the ‘camera obscura’, (see below). The camera obscura projects the image upside down as shown in the illustration below. Whereas the digital projector flips the image the right way up. Many 17th century and 18th century painters (Johannes Vermeer, Caravaggio and da Vinci) worked using the camera obscura as this enabled them to paint their subject with much better accuracy and perspective. I have chosen another way to double the light to capture the image twice. I worked on the picture first as a photograph, then I worked on the picture again as a painting.
Above: Camera obscura illustration
Above: The frame is clipped to the scaffold ready for painting.
The scaffold contained storage where I was able to store the frames and I covered them with a plastic sheet to keep them clean and dust free.
Above: The clips are in place.
So the scaffold is built, the frames have been prepped, the projector has been set up and the image has been cut into 15 sections. The 15, (now abstract) images were transfered onto a USB. I was able to plug the USB stick into the projector and project each image onto the polyamide frame.
Above: ‘Projected Image’
The photo was sized perfectly to fit the whole of the 70×70 frame therefore the projector needed to stay in the same place and not moved. If it was necessary to move, it was only a millimetre up or down. Also, when I attached the frame onto the scaffold using the clips, using a spirit level, the frame was always level. Which meant that all of the careful measuring beforehand was essential.
Above: ‘Small glass pots’
I bought a set of 10 small glass pots in which to put leftover paint. As time went on, I put leftover paints in these little glass bottles. If I had any red, green or blues left over I would save them so I could get the right shade of colour the next time I needed a particular shade. This is a useful tip for anyone doing a painting on this scale, especially when you are learning like I was.
Artist Inspiration David Hockney
Above Slideshow: Screenshots,
Exhibition on Screen: David Hockney RA – YouTube
Hockney experiments with his paintings using up to date technology to help him to speed things up by using an iPad to ‘paint’ his views more easily than using pencil and paper.
Above: ‘View from the back of the projector’
Here you can see the projector with the USB in the back in which I stored the sized photographs.
Above: ‘View from the back’
This is a view from the back of the frame where the image is strong.
Above: ‘View from the front’
This is how it looks from the front. The image isn’t as strong as it is from the back but it is definitely sufficient.
Above: The photograph projected onto the frame.
For this, I needed the room to be dark in order to get the best results of the image. I had to wait until around 3.30-4pm in the evening and switch the lights off in the studio. I worked during the weekdays most nights until 8.30-8.45pm in order to get the paintings made as soon as possible. I had to allow for the drying time as oil paintings take six months to dry and I was applying the paint thick, which I shall talk about further on.
Above: A-1, the start of the first painting.
I used a Colour Wheel as a guide to mix the colours.
Above: A-1 Detail.
I mixed Prussian blue with Lamp black and then took some of the paint to one side and added some white, and took some of that to one side and added more white in order to get different shades of blues. As I was applying the paint I would pick up a little bit of red and applied this to the polyamide and I did this with various colours, maybe a bit of sap green or cadmium yellow in order to give the painting depth.
As you can see above with the reds, I mixed Cadmium red with Indian yellow but as I applied the paint with the palette knife in places I would pick up Cadmium red or White in order to achieve different shades of colour.
Above: [A-1] Painting number one, finished. M.E.A.
For the larger blocks of blacks I’ve used a brush… (But I quickly gave the brush up for using the palette knife for the painting in its entirety). For the blocks of colour I’m using a palette knife this is because I want to achieve multiple depths of colour and lots of texture which is easier using a knife… I don’t know if it’s the right way, but it’s the way I find easiest…
Above: [A-2] Painting number two, finished. M.E.A.
Again, using the palette knife to apply the paint thickly. Each part of the photograph becomes an abstract. The buildings become abstract blocks of bright colour careful that each colour doesn’t blend with the next.
Above: Frank Auerbach (b.1931) Mornington Crescent Looking South II, oil on board, 20×22″, 1997
I am particularly interested in how Auerbach applies the paint, quite thick, using long strokes. He is not interested in hiding his technique and he wants the viewer to see. He uses a wide range of bright colour and he is not afraid to use it.
Above: Urban Landscape, Mario Sironi, 1921
Here I like Sironi’s use of blocks of colour in which to paint ominous scenes of factories and tenement blocks. Sironi’s painting style was referred to as “Divisionism”. This is a painting style defined by the separation of colours into individual dots or patches. (blocks of colour) This was useful in exploring ways to express as much light as possible onto the canvas. I tried to imitate this strategy with my ‘Deconstruction 15’ paintings. Each block of colour is defined with sharp edges separating each shape.
Above Left: “Morning Sun”, Edward Hopper
Above Right: (Nighthawks, 1942).
Edward Hopper’s paintings are a prefect example of “Divisionism”. Hopper visited many countries in Europe including, Berlin, Brussels, London and Paris. He later said that Paris had no effect on him whatsoever. He visited Europe twice more with little impact and it was then he concentrated on the work with which he was best known, his American subjects. In the book, Styles, Schools and Movements by Amy Dempsey, Hopper quoted: “America seemed awfully crude and raw when I got back,’ he said. “It took me ten years to get over Europe”.p164.
The making of A-3
Above: The making of A-3
Above: [A-3] Painting number three, finished. M.E.A.
These plants are on the roof of a building in the foreground and I have tried to make them abstract but identifiable. It could be a restaurant on the top floor with tables and chairs, the patrons are able to sit and look at the view. Each frame is a segment, it’s a piece of everyday life, captured in time, on the ‘canvas’.
Above: [B-1] Painting number four, finished. M.E.A.
Here, I become more confident and the mark making mirrors that of Auerbach. I particularly like the ‘Blacks’. I use a mix of Lamp Black, Sap Green, Phthalo Blue and Vandyke Brown for a luxurious rich colour which is only appreciated when looking at the painting in person.
Above: ‘Lamp Black, Phthalo Blue, Vandyke Brown and Sap Green’, M.E.A.
Above are the basic colours I used for the dark bits of the painting. Sometimes I would add some Cadmium Red to the mix. I used a mirror as a paint palette as it was easy to mix and really easy to keep clean.
Above: ‘Mixing the black’, M.E.A.
Above is a photograph to best explain how I mix the colour. As you can see, I barely mix the paint so that some of each colour is visible as I wanted the viewer to be able to see the different shades of colour in the painting.
Above: ‘Applying the paint to canvas’, M.E.A.
The photograph above shows how I applied the paint with various shades of blue overlapping the black. It is similar to how Rothko paints his blocks of colour, a colourfield of black with dark blue hues coming through.
Above: [B-2] Painting number five. M.E.A.
When I finished this painting and stepped back from it I really didn’t like it. I thought what was meant to be a grey area was too dark. The more I looked at it, the more I didn’t like it. I slept on it overnight and when I returned to the studio the day after I decided I needed to change it.
Above: [B-2] Painting number five, again, finished. M.E.A.
I scraped the paint off the area I was not happy with and repainted it with a grey/white which was more in keeping with the rest of the colour palette. But, as I did it, I am still undecided and now I wonder if I should have left it the way it was. As the original represented shadows. The large block of grey/white is part of the road. Near the bottom of the painting you are able to see the red tail lights of the cars. Even though the painting is abstract, it was important to me for the viewer to know that they are cars and see, that they are cars. I know that each frame is abstract, but when put together, it should have some resemblance of reality also.
Above: [B-3] Painting number six, finished. M.E.A.
For me, this was the painting I liked the least. Since it is my first oil painting, or my first what I would call ‘proper painting’, maybe this is due to a lack of experience on my part. I was literally losing sleep throughout and I constantly worried that I wasn’t getting the colours right so that they matched properly once it was finished. Once I had a 1-1 with tutor, Pete Layzell my mind was put at rest. Amazingly, this painting was his FAVOURITE and I must say I was quite surprised. He told me not to worry about matching the colours as the last two will be different from the first as my painting improves. He also approved of the way I had used bright blocks of colour and the way in which I applied the paint in a sumptuous way. This was true. Oil paint is incredibly expensive and I found myself using it in copious amounts. If I said I probably spent around five hundred pounds on paint alone, I’m not exaggerating.
Above Slideshow: Showing a variety of the different paints I used.
The table was my mothers’ table, she used it when sitting in her wheelchair downstairs watching tv. It is ideal as it is on wheels and I am able to wheel it around the studio for doing any touchups etc…
Above: [C-1] Painting number seven, finished. M.E.A.
The painting above is mostly made up of large blocks of colour and so I was able to finish them quite quickly. Compared to the rest of the paintings, this one is quite pale. Whereas the others are more vibrant. I went back to worrying about the colours not matching again, but following a further 1-1 with tutor Pete Layzell again my mind was put to rest. I am always questioning myself and evaluating especially the further I went.
Above: [C-2] Painting number eight, finished. M.E.A.
This one is my personal favourite. Again, the photograph doesn’t do it justice and you need to see the painting to appreciate it. The red car ‘pops’ out of the painting. This painting is also the central one so for me, your eyes focus on the centre. Maybe I focus on the centre because I like this painting so much. The red is really vibrant especially with the splash of yellow against the black. There are quite a few cars in this frame. I find the contrast in colour interesting, the bright vibrancy of the traffic against the darkness of the road.
Above: I used a mirror for mixing paint.
Above: C-3 part finished.
I had to wait until dark before I could paint the paintings so I wasn’t getting into the studio until late afternoon. I knew I had to finish them as soon as possible, because after the New Year it wouldn’t be long before the nights began to get shorter.
Also, I knew from experience that you can never know what might happen in the future. During my trip to New York City with the university, I was only there for four days and it was on the second day I learnt my mum had cancer and that there was nothing they could do for her. I lost my father less than two years before that, and with some serious family problems I learnt that there was no time for being lazy and to finish the work as soon as possible. Since this was my major final piece, I wanted together it finished before anything else. I am glad that I did really, as we are now dealing with the Corona Virus and everything has shut down. My mind is at ease, knowing my major piece was finished. Also, because I applied the paint so thick, it will take around six months for it to dry and this is common with oil paints as they dry from the outside in.
Above: [C-3] Painting number nine, finished. M.E.A.
The cross on this painting is very much similar to Rothko’s ‘Mauve Intersection’. The red part I had to redo as it was more of a salmon colour instead of red so I ent over it with some red oil paint. I am also aware that when the painting is put together that the lines might not match exactly. At this point I am not sure if it will matter or not. I cannot really tell until the painting is finished and pieced together.
Above: [D-1] Painting number ten, finished. M.E.A.
This painting is a totally different colour to the painting that goes beside it. It shouldn’t be bothering me but it is. I am expecting to have to do some retouching so the lines match and readjust some of the colours. It’s like a roller coaster ride really. One minute your’e thinking it’s going to be fine the way it is and the next your’e thinking no it isn’t.
The photograph above shows why I am finding it difficult to match the lines. There is the one inch border around the whole frame and since the projector does not project through wood I am working blind. I didn’t expect it to be as hard as I was finding it.
Above: [D-2] Painting number eleven, finished. M.E.A.
This one was quite a busy piece. I am also not sure about the reddish-purple. I intended to repaint the red-purple part but I haven’t done that as of yet. I have also used smaller palette knives with this painting and this has given it a different texture than when I use the large palette knife. Also, the white block of colour near the bottom right of the painting should have a truck there but this was almost invisible to see on the canvas whilst I was doing the painting which is a shame because the truck was a big part of the original photograph.
Above Slideshow: Detail from D-3, painting number twelve.
I started mixing Cerulean Blue to the Black mix instead of the Phthalo Blue and I liked the effect of the lighter blue.
Above: [D-3] Painting number twelve, finished. M.E.A.
Above: E-1 part finished.
This took me 90 minutes altogether although it isn’t finished… I used a different palette knife for this, a slightly longer knife that bends a bit when applying the paint. I also felt ‘freer’ painting this painting mostly because it was the last column and I didn’t have to worry about it matching up on the right hand side.
Above: [E-1] Painting number thirteen, finished. M.E.A.
I finished this painting the day after. Since time was of the essence, I would start another painting before leaving the studio at around 8.45pm. It wouldn’t have taken me long to finish this off the day after. On this painting you can see either side where the clamps have been holding the frame onto the scaffold.
Above Slideshow: ‘Where the clips have been’.
The two photographs above show how I fill in these gaps once I remove the painting from the scaffolding. Whatever colour the paint should be, I put extra paint onto the side as shown above so that when I remove the frame I can use the excess paint to fill in.
Above: [E-2] Painting number fourteen, finished. M.E.A.
I must say that it was a relief to get so far. Before I started this painting I worried that I was asking too much of myself. I worried that I wouldn’t get it finished in time and I certainly did not expect to get it finished in the time frame in which I did. My tutor Jamie Holman did say that the painting was not compromised by any way with the speed in which I painted it. It concerned me that I was painting it too quick, but actually, I wasn’t painting with speed at all. I took my time and some paintings took no time at all because of the large blocks of colour. Had the painting been more detailed it would have taken me much longer.
Above: ‘E-3 is part finished’, Photo from the studio.
As you can see in the photograph above I finished the last painting on 12th December, 2019. I was able to paint this during the day. Even though it was bright and I wasn’t able to see the projection so well, I could just about make out the outlines of the blocks of colour. I waited until around 4pm to finish the painting off.
Above: [E-3] Painting number fifteen, finished. M.E.A.
I finished the last painting at 5.15pm. I must say I was feeling proud of myself. I eventually stopped worrying about whether the colours matched and I just enjoyed doing it. In the future, I would definitely write the colour recipes down as I did them especially when doing a large scale painting like this. I would also research art suppliers and buy as much paint in bulk as I could. I would also do simple calculations when working large scale so I know it’s going to match up. I learnt from the previous year by preparing my frames beforehand which saves a lot of time. I also bought a colour mixing grid but not until the end. I used the colour wheel but with the you are limited to colours.
Above Slideshow: ‘Hanging the paintings up to dry’.
Above: ‘Tutor Steve hanging my paintings so we can see how they all look together’
Above: You can see where I changed one of the paintings because I was not happy with it. The photograph on the left is how it was, B-2 (second column from the left in the middle). The photograph on the right shows how I changed it. B-2 (second column from the left in the middle is now black instead of grey/white)
I have painted the frame edges with black paint and I have bought some Black Vanta because I want the edges blackest black. The wall will be painted black also because I want the frames to be mounted onto a black background. I want the paintings to seem like they are floating. I’m planning to use a black matt base coat and then a coating of black vanta to make it seem like the painting is floating. The original photograph was turned on its side and this is how I want the painting to be exhibited as it makes people look and try to make out what it is. Just like Virtue’s London Paintings or Hockney’s Bigger Trees Near Water, I wanted my painting to stand out. I wanted the viewer to be able to stand IN the painting and take it in. I want their minds to be blown away by the scale and the details as there is so much to see.
Feedback from a very good friend in Berlin
I sent a good friend of mine in Berlin the link to FIP 1&2 brief because I wanted someone’s feedback from outside and I know that Katinka Min would be deadly honest with me. This is what she said:
FEEDBACK from KATINKA MIN, Berlin, Germany.
OK: What I really LOVE is that your description reads very similar to your conclusion: like a crime story. As you write about painting after painting, how you are battling time, there is a real tension building up of wanting to see the final piece. Great read, really cool project.
What I don’t like is that you start your paper with the statement that you had no idea for a theme and just wanted to do something large. that sounds a) a bit vapid and is b) not true, because once you write about the experiment with the boxes, it is quite clear what got you started on this journey. I would put that at the beginning.
Headers might be useful: Among the description of your process you are sometimes popping in an inspirational picture from someone else. I like that, because it makes for more of an interesting read, but scrolling through this on a screen makes this a bit confusing to ‘read’. I would give these ‘Inspiration Chapters’ a header so someone knows the image coming is from your thought process not your physical process.
The same for that chapter about your feeling of urgency. It’s a bit of a jolt to suddenly read about your mum’s cancer and your dad passing away. Again, I have no idea how papers like this have to be, but your thoughts seem a bit jumbled – and not in a good way. Creating definite headers, even if it’s something like ‘thoughts 1’ ‘thoughts 2’ etc ‘paint’ ‘construction’ ’emotions’ and so on would help the reader to … classify the info you are giving. Just as you named the individual squares of your painting it might be good to name the different sections of your paper. (And it might make it look more poetic, (artisanal).
I don’t know if you are supposed to go into so much detail about setting up the cabinet to put a projector on etc… but it felt a bit too detailed for me. I’m thinking “Ok, ok, so you put up a projector, fine, you didn’t reinvent the wheel”.
Are the explanations of Polyamide and Camera Obscura really necessary? I’d expect any art teacher to know what a camera obscura is and I felt it’s more info than is necessary since I couldn’t see how the info relates to your art. I might have missed something though, I did read this fairly quickly.
Love the thickness of the colour. Very interesting project. One confession: I know you said you want people to still see cars, but I don’t. The photo was already very difficult to understand, for me, the painting is just abstract to my eye. But very interesting abstract. All in all I enjoyed your paper and certainly the final painting. I wish I could see it live. The lush use of colour must look gorgeous!. Love from Berlin, Katinka.
Thankyou! Excellent feedback and I’ll put the headers in. (I put headers in Professional Practice and changed the colours so I’ll do that with this one too). I spoke about Polyamide because one of the tutors asked me during Crits what is Polyamide so I made sure to include it and I spoke about the Camera Obscura for the same reason just to give them the information. I do go on about the Projector, but they want everything in detail. I’m also Dyspraxic, so this is why everything is all over the place. Thankyou very much for your feedback. Michelle.
This painting was done through many ways of work. First of all, I took the photograph. Then I edited the photograph in Lightroom. This was then cut into fifteen sections in Preview. From there it was transferred onto a USB and then used through a Projector. There was a process in which I combined all that I know and I worked to the fullest of my ability and funnelled it down to a painting. The painting is a riddle. When you look at only one part, each of them is abstract until you see the full picture, like a criminal case, seeing only one frame makes no sense. It is an analogy of seeing the world. Seeing only outside the window tells you nothing, reading only one paper tells you nothing and talking with only the one you know tells you nothing, as you are not able to see the full picture. This is ‘Deconstruction 15’.
Above: The Making of ‘Deconstruction 15’ by Michelle Elaine Ayers.
Above: Brief for FIP 2
Responding to the Brexit…
“Cheering in parliament when nurses were refused a payrise. 4 million children in the UK starving 11 million people altogether in poverty. Disabled people dying and terminally ill people dying after being declared fit for work. People committing suicide because of benefit sanctions. Homelessness at a record high”. M.E.A.
Inspiration for “Another Day In Paradise”
I spent time in Berlin during Christmas and New Year and one night I was watching 100 top songs the tv. It was talking about the songs, what they were about etc. Phil Collins “Another Day In Paradise” came on. I was already reeling from coming out of the EU and my photography work often involves taking photographs of homeless people and I have a particularly upsetting photograph of an abused woman who I saw sat down on a step outside a shop in Berlin. I took photographs of her, mostly because I felt so sorry for her really. (see photographs below) I have a lot of empathy for others and I plan to use my art once I leave university to get these issues out into the public, through exhibitions, which I plan to do in Hamburg.
Above: ‘Untitled’, Berlin, Germany, M.E.A
“Another Day In Paradise”
It’s gettin’ cold and there’s nowhere to sleep
Is there somewhere you can tell me?”
‘Cause there’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh, think twice
‘Cause there’s another day for you
You and me in paradise
He can see she’s been crying
She’s got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can’t walk, but she’s trying
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
Oh, think twice
‘Cause it’s another day for you
You and me in paradise
Is there nothing more any one of us can do?
Na, na-na, na, na-na-now
You can see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
‘Cause she didn’t fit in there
‘Cause it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh, think twice
‘Cause it’s another day for you
You and me in paradise
Think about it
Just think about it
Just think about it
This is the cropped version, I only wanted to keep what was interesting in the image. Actually, I liked the image so much that I had it printed onto my business cards.
Above: The photographs side by side, M.E.A
I decided on this photograph of a homeless man sitting on a step of a doorway. His head is downcast, he seems to be sleeping. It’s a stark contrast between the airport photograph as what he wearing is all that he owns. For us, “It’s just another day for you and me in paradise”. This project means a lot to me and I had to do my best to do it justice.
Above: Sharing my idea with the rest of the group, 16th Jan, 2020, M.E.A
I already had the wood frames and I bought more polyamide from the local market stall in Blackburn. I prepped my three frames ready to start work. As we were coming into the last week in January by this point, I had to work quick as by now, the nights were getting longer and it didn’t give me much time in which to paint.
Above: Starting the first painting. M.E.A
I wanted to paint it in the same style as ‘Deconstruction 15’, using a palette knife. This painting was more challenging because it was more detailed.
Above: Finishing touches to do, M.E.A
I circled where the man’s head is, it looks like the line is going through his head so I needed to correct it.
Above: “Another Day In Paradise”, Oil on polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A
I was really happy with this and I couldn’t wait to get the finished painting together side by side. It’s depersonalised the people in the original photograph and painting as they are faceless subjects so there are no issues regarding ethics. I have tried to keep to the original colour palette of the photograph as much as possible. This painting needs to be bright and colourful but you also need to see that it is an airport.
Above Slideshow: The Making of “Another Day In Paradise”, M.E.A
The above photographs show how the image is projected onto the frame. On the wall beside where I stand to paint I have a photograph of the picture I’m painting as a reference.
Artist Inspiration Joy Labinjo
I also looked at artist Joy Labinjo. Her paintings depict colourful scenes capturing everyday, family life and domestic scenes. She creates her compositions by fusing different photographs together.
Above: “Love me like you do”, Joy Labinjo, 2019
Above: “Talking into the night”, Joy Labinjo, 2019
Installation view of Joy Labinjo, Our histories cling to us, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art 2019. Photo by Rob Harris. © 2019 BALTIC.
“…the only people that “make it” are the ones that keep going”. [Community Engagement: Joy Labinjo interviewed by Rianna Jade Parker.
I watched a short YouTube video of Labinjo talking about her work. She says she was on the bus and saw two old ladies sat in the window of a cafe eating egg and chips, and she wished she had taken their photograph because she really wants to paint them. Artists are constantly being inspired by their surroundings. Inspiration doesn’t need to come from looking at art in a gallery or exhibition or from reading a book. For me too, it often comes from my immediate surroundings. People often walk around with their eyes closed and are not able to see what we, as artists, can see. Labinjo takes various photographs of family and friends and pieces them together in a collage. She might see a plant in a photograph and use it in her composition. The figures in her paintings are out of proportion with the reality. Her paintings remind me of Henri Matisse.
Above Left: Red Room (Harmony in Red) Oil on Canvas, 1909, Henri Matisse
Above Middle: “Conversation”, Oil on canvas, 1912, Henri Matisse
Above Right: “Two Young Women The Yellow Dress and the Scottish Dress”, 1941, Henri Matisse
Matisse paints in the same style using bold large blocks of colour. The Red Room has a beautiful deep saturated red background with a decorative table with flowers in a vase and fruits which are scattered around the table as well as in a fruit bowl. The woman in the painting is laying a second bowl of fruit out and there is a window to the outside world with lush green lawns and trees with a clear blue sky. Red Room was inspired by Henri Bergson, a French Philosopher who lectured at the Collège de France. Bergsonian vision is joyful which is apparent in Matisse’ paintings with its vibrant colours and wonderful outside views through open windows.
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
Above: The Painter’s Family, Oil on canvas, 1911, Henri Matisse
The delicate patterned wallpaper and the rich, busy, geometric pattern of the rug are in stark contrast with each other. This paints a picture of a loving family man though Matisse was often away abroad for long periods of time away from his family. His paintings have a flattened perspective, similar to that of Joy Labinjo.
But the Perspective’s All Wrong…
“Matisse didn’t get the perspective “wrong”, he painted it the way he wanted it. He flattened the perspective in the room, and altered it from how we perceive perspective with our eyes.
The question of getting perspective “right” applies only if you’re trying to paint in a realist style, that is to create an illusion of reality and depth in a painting. If that’s not your aim, then you can’t get the perspective “wrong”. And it’s not that Matisse didn’t know how to get it “right” neither; he just chose not to do it that way”.
The Red Studio looks to be simply painted but this is deceptive. Matisse has put a lot of thought into this painting and the faint lines which outlines the table, chair walls etc have been painstakingly painted beneath the red paint with the lines showing through. Matisse has painted this painting as he ‘sees’ it in his own mind.
Moving on to my photography (which is the basis of my painting) I am mostly inspired by William Eggleston. It was in the first year of my Photography Foundation Course at Blackburn College with tutors Shaun McAllister and Carlton Watt that we were shown a video of William Eggleston at work. Most of the group weren’t interested but I was in awe of this man. He made it look so easy and he was so laid back. He would drive around looking for inspiration and suddenly the car would stop, he would jump out and walk up to the object and take a photograph without even looking through the camera! I had always struggled with taking photographs and I came to the conclusion that I was putting too much thought into it. So one day I decided to take a walk to Corporation Park and ‘mindlessly’ take photographs without caring about looking through the lens. I had the photography ‘bug’ and I would be out every single day taking photographs. I couldn’t get enough. I would take photo’s not caring to look through the lens. This is how I work today. I would say at least half of the photographs I take I have not bothered to look. I shoot a lot from the hip, or I hold my camera out at arms length and take the shot. The more you take photographs, the better you become, and the better you become, the more confident you are in what you do. It wasn’t until I enrolled on the BA FA Fine Art course that I realised I wanted to use my own photography as a basis for my paintings. As the quote above says:
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
Above Left: Eggleston’s Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973. Photograph: © Eggleston Artistic Trust
Above Middle and Right: Untitled from The Democratic Forest, c.1983-1986, William Eggleston
Of course my art is my own, but I have looked at hundreds of artists, books, galleries for inspiration. Everyone is inspired by someone. My inspiration covers a wide range of artists and interests and it’s difficult for the viewer to pinpoint me down to one style. I have many styles and my work covers a wide range of topics. This isn’t intentional, it just happens that way. For the moment, my painting style involves large blocks of bright colours, applying the paint thick with a palette knife, maybe this will change the more experienced I become. Interestingly, I painted in the first year of the Fine Art degree and the second year also, but it wasn’t until the third year when I painted these two pieces that I considered myself a ‘painter’. I am always battling with myself in my head and I think that I wouldn’t be an artist if I didn’t do this as it is completely normal to constantly re-evaluate yourself.
Above: “another Day In Paradise”, studio set-up.
Above: “Another Day In Paradise”, M.E.A
In the photograph above you can see how the projected image looks on the polyamide. I was at my most stressful whilst painting this painting. As you can see, I have filled in the large blocks of colour first and it was much too bright for me to be able to carry on painting the smaller, finer details. On the bottom right side of the ‘canvas’ (directly beneath the clip) I was painting the man who was only ‘partly’ in the picture completely blind.
Above: Detail, M.E.A
I took photographs of parts of the painting close-up so you are able to see the way the paint was applied.
Above Left: How the painting looks attached to the scaffold with the lighting off and projector on. M.E.A
Above Right: How the painting looks with the lights on.
I found painting the figures on the plane steps extremely challenging. My tutor, Pete Layzell gave me feedback, telling me this was his favourite part of the whole painting. He said it’s in this section that you have properly ‘painted’, which I took as a huge compliment and valued feedback. From this constructive criticism I am able to move on and grow as a serious painter. The more experienced I become, the more paintings I paint, I shall pick more challenging subjects. I will not lie when I say I was really stressed out to the point that my stomach churned! I was constantly panicking that maybe I would mess it up and have to start over again wasting valuable time I didn’t have. This frame took me the longest out of all of the paintings I had done so far. I had really slowed down by this point and was careful in taking my time. I relished the larger blocks of colour.
Above: Detail, M.E.A
The lady in the hat is my favourite part of the painting. I was scared she was going to get lost in it all.
Above: “Another Day In Paradise”, Oil on polyamide, 140×70, M.E.A
Above: Detail (circled)
I corrected the man in the red sweater as the line was going through his head.
Above: “Another Day In Paradise”, Oil on polyamide, 140×70, M.E.A
The finished painting was hung to dry in the corridor of our Fine Art floor. Along with ‘Deconstruction 15’, these two paintings are my most prided artworks. Though it isn’t quite complete yet! These paintings represent the current state of the UK. Also, I was heartbroken when we left the EU and I couldn’t quite understand why people would want to leave and especially vote for a man who’s party is responsible for so much misery in the UK. It seems that the British people haven’t been punished enough yet and they want another five years of the same treatment. Unbelievable really. It’s hard for me to comprehend. We, as artists must face these issues and through our art we can hopefully make a change but it isa constant battle when most of the general public refuse to listen.
Painting the homeless guy
Above: ‘Untitled’, Liverpool, M.E.A
Above: First Attempt.
This was my first attempt and I knew it was awful. I used the paintbrushes I had but the black paint was mixing with the white paint and creating a mess. The paint marks around his neck were bad and it just turned into a paint slush. I also used white for the large block of colour and I think I started panicking here because I needed to get it finished and I was hardly able to see the projected image due to the light. I rushed it and the white was literally pasted on like a plasterer might plaster a wall with a trowel. The painting was quite hideous really. I showed it to tutor Pete Layzell and he gave me some advice.
Above: Screenshot, ‘Discovering Hog Hair Brushes’, M.E.A
I explained to him that I wasn’t happy with the paintbrushes I was using. I really preferred using palette knives but they were too big for the finer details. Which is why I tried with the brushes, except I found myself ‘dabbing’ the paint on in order to try and not go into the blacks or vice versa, but this happened anyway. The white was too harsh in contrast with the black, so Pete told me to mix the white paint into a blue/grey to compliment the blacks. I mixed the blacks using Lamp Black, Cerulean Blue, Sap Green and Vandyke Brown. I mixed the white paint with a little black and a hint of blue to make a dark shade of grey. Then I took some of the dark shade of grey and placed it on a separate part of the palette and added white to make a medium grey, and I took some of the medium grey and placed it on a separate part of the palette adding more white to make a light grey. I was then able to use the different tones to create shadow. Pete Layzell also advised me to invest in some Hog Hair Brushes, he said I think you’ll enjoy working with them. (he was right) The Hog Hair Brushes were perfect and created the marks I wanted similar to using a palette knife. I even posted in our Yr3 group (above) I wasn’t experienced enough to know how to solve some of these issues so the tutorials came in useful.
Originally, I was going to paint four portraits of homeless men. I think quite honestly, the reason being that I enjoyed painting so much. The problem now was that the nights were lighter and I had only about one hour window in which to paint before I had to leave the studio. This was impossible. I didn’t want to move the whole of the scaffold and interrupt my set-up as it had been meticulously measured, (though it doesn’t look like it) but as I said earlier, I was able to clip a frame to the scaffold and using a spirit level, the frame would be exactly straight!. I didn’t want to compromise my work by moving.
Above: Studio set-up with black sheet. M.E.A
I decided to put a black sheet over the scaffold to try and block out most of the sun. It really only worked to a certain extent. It did improve slightly and I guess I was lucky because a big portion of the next painting was a large block of colour. I think a few weeks went by without me doing any work whatsoever due to illness. I was in bed for three weeks and I wasn’t able to come into the studio and work. I missed it a lot but at this point I wasn’t;t worrying too much because I knew I had the black sheeting as a canopy to block out some of the light. Another two weeks went by and I came into University for our weekly group meetings only.
Then, the Corona Virus happened. We weren’t shut down at this point but looking at the news and other countries like Germany, Spain and Italy I knew it would only be a matter of time before our University would close also. So I came into the studio to finish the last paintings. Like I said earlier, I was originally going to paint a set of four homeless guys. I managed to paint the first. (below)
Above: Detail, Needs Shadowing, M.E.A
I have circled some detail above. The paint was too ‘white’ and his knee disappeared so I needed to add some shadowing detail and some faint outline of his jogging pants.
Above: “Another Day In Paradise” M.E.A
I added some more shadowing using the light grey I had mixed earlier, and applying it with a flat Hog Hair Brush.
Above: Detail Shadowing, M.E.A
In the detailing above I added more grey.
Above: Details Shadowing, M.E.A
His jog pants needed to be more defined. As it was, it gets lost in the painting.
Above: Detail Outline, M.E.A
I painted an outline around the edge of the pants and I added some Cerulean Blue to add some contrast between the grey and black. I took inspiration from Paul Cézanne, (and above from artist Edward Hopper).
Artist Inspiration Cézanne
Above: Monte Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cézanne, 1902-4
Cézanne painted landscapes using geometric shapes, they were ‘Post-Impressionism’ abstracts, in the book, Styles, Schools & Movements, p47 Cézanne is quoted as saying “Treat nature in terms of its geometrical shapes of the sphere, the cylinder and the cone”. he went on to say… “Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes,… I use colour more arbitrarily so as to express myself more forcibly”.
Which is the rule I used for my paintings. I wanted to lavish the painting with paint and apply the paint with no restrictions. Although my style is similar to that of Cézanne’s, I applied the paint more extravagantly. I want the viewer to see the paint marks and see the different textures of the paint.
Above: Detail Shadowing, M.E.A
It still wasn’t right though. Where I circled above the contrast between the white area and grey area needed to blend in with each other.
Above: Detail Shadowing, M.E.A
Was getting there and making progress but it still needed some work. I think I should look at a painting as if I was looking at a photograph. When I look at a photograph I know what needs changing and what doesn’t. I am able to do this light editing in LightRoom. Blacks, White’s, Shadows, Highlights and Contrast. I should use this rule when painting. Had improved however from the year before.
Above Left: “Don’t Look At Me”, Berlin, Original, M.E.A
Above Right: “Don’t Look At Me”, Black Dispersion Paint on Polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A
This is how I have moved on from last year. I was using a Black Dispersion Paint on Polyamide using the projection technique. These paintings were quite simple and I wanted to improve on this for my final year. This is a painting of an Homeless man I took in Berlin. He has his trolley with everything he owns. He will use the trolley to collect empty plastic bottles and glass bottles from the streets and out of bins. Each plastic bottle is worth Twenty-Five Cents and each glass bottle is worth Eight Cents. This is how they survive on the streets by collecting bottles and begging for money.
Above Left: “Untitled”, Berlin, M.E.A
Above Right: “Untitled”, [In Memory of Elaine Ayers], Black Dispersion Paint and Acrylic on Polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A
Above left is a photograph I took whilst in Berlin. There was a fire alarm at The Mall of Berlin and everyone had to gather outside, so I took the opportunity to take some photographs of the crowd. The photograph was elongated in ‘Preview’ so the bodies became tall and thin. I drew inspiration from Alberto Giacommeti’s sculptures (see below) I had the idea that I wanted each figure separated by a strip of colour. I used the colour straight out of the tube and it looked dull. Tutor Jamie Holman gave me feedback, telling me he didn’t like colour straight rom the ‘tin/tube’ so I took that on board for the oil paintings and I made sure that every colour was mixed, with the use of a colour wheel as a guide. “Don’t Look At Me” and “untitled”, In Memory of Elaine Ayers are to show you how my painting has developed.
Artist Inspiration Alberto Giacometti
Above Right: Alberto Giacometti, L’HOMME QUI MARCHE I
Above Slideshow: Details, M.E.A
I added some Blue to the painting just to break up the grey, white and blacks. I like the effect of the blue hues coming through against the dark black paint and grey areas.
Above: Painting In Progress, M.E.A
Although his leg area needed some more work, I was really happy with the bottom left part of the painting. I had added dark greys for the shadows and in places, added some black in a sort of ‘criss-cross’ fashion. I am trying to get away from ‘pasting’ the paint on with a palette knife as if plastering a wall. The Hog Hair Brushes really are a godsend as their bristles are stiff which makes it much easier when applying paint and they are also easy to clean.
Above: Shoe Detail, M.E.A
Here, I used a palette knife to make a faint outline of his trainers so they were more prominent against the black.
Above: “Another Day In Paradise”, Oil on polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A
This is the finished painting. I listened to my tutors advice and added blue grey hues to the painting. By painting the portrait I have also kept the subject anonymous, so there are no ethical issues. Which is ironic really, as this person is anonymous, in real life, he is a nobody. Down and destitute, he is dirt poor, he is depleted and empty of any vigor, either mentally, physically or emotionally. The painting portrays the epitome of his predicament. He is downtrodden, destitute he is the underdog. This painting paints a grim picture of that of the life of an homeless person. Its sombre mood captures the sorrowful hopelessness of his situation, it is in stark contrast to that of the bright colourful airport painting.
Above: One of the airport paintings beside the homeless man.
Above: Homeless Man, Projected onto my door at home.
Above: “Untitled”, Liverpool, M.E.A
This was going to be my second homeless painting. As you can see below, I had already started.
Above Slideshow: The start of the second painting.
I started this painting but I was really struggling by now to see the finer details, so I used a pencil to outline the small detail. With news that our University was going to close down I made a decision that I would only exhibit the airport paintings along with the one painting I had finished of the homeless man. I soon began to realise that there was no sense in painting more homeless portraits as it didn’t really add anything to the story. I realised that one painting was enough to get my point across.
Artist Inspiration Gerhard Richter
Above Slideshow: Gerhard Richter
In the book, Styles, Schools and Movements by Amy Dempsey, Gerhard Richter quotes: “When I paint an Abstract Picture, I neither know in advance what it is meant to look like nor, during the painting process, what I am aiming at. Painting is consequently an almost blind, desperate effort”.
Above Slideshow: ‘Abstracts’, Oil on canvas, M.E.A. Inspired by Gerhard Richter
So, with this part-finished painting above, I decided to turn it into an abstract. I admired the abstract works of Gerhard Richter so I decided to use his method of painting. I used a large piece of a cardboard box and dragged the cardboard over the painting. As you can see in the slideshow above, I added colour to the polyamide ‘canvas’ and dragged the coloured paint along the whole of the canvas. (see slideshow above for illustration)
Above: “Another Day In Paradise”, Oil on Polyamide, 70×70, M.E.A (finished work)
Above: YouTube Video, The Making of “Another Day In Paradise” by Michelle Elaine Ayers