Today’s view

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what I like is how the mayonnaise lid is colour coordinated.  I believe that jar contains dried up vodka.  In lieu of rubbing alcohol.

So these are a pair of little 6 x 6″ panels.  I have a little fixation with texture, so I had a vague idea to do something with collage and see how it worked.

Where I live the rapeseed fields are coming into their own now, dotting the hills either side of the vale with their vibrance.  I love their yellow and what they do to the landscape, but not so keen on the sneezing.

The yellow in my paintings are cut from a magazine.  I glued and painted and scraped and scrubbed back.  I don’t know what I’m doing, but it was fun.  I don’t know where this will end up.  I don’t even know if I like it.  Actually I just looked up from my desk to look at them – no, I don’t like them.  It could be the colour – I’m working with acrylics and the colour shifts quite a bit, which is why I always go back to oils.  I may even put some oil on top of these.

Time for dinner!

Experiments with claybord: part two

Having spent a bit of time finding out how different mediums behave in this post, I wanted to see how claybord would suit my purpose in creating an abstract landscape.

 

I had a vague idea around creating some translucent loose abstract landscapes – and because of this ruled out oil paints.  Really, I wanted to try watercolour or very thin acrylic.

Here’s the first:

Abstract landscape exploration on claybord by artist Vicki Hutchins
watercolour on claybord

In parts of this painting I used gum arabic to even the flow of pigment – the pooling is pretty but getting an even wash is a challenge I think.  In other parts I used neat vodka to create blooms and movement, as well as tilting and turning the claybord.  Not cheap stuff either, but now we’re not thirty anymore, we just don’t drink it, so it’s been sitting around for many years ( I also use it for wetting in pastel underpaintings – it works great!).

I really didn’t like this when I painted it, so wiped it…..now I wish I hadn’t as there’s quite a bit I do like about it now – the colours, the movement, the darker marks of paint bottom right.

I also tried thinned down acrylic (flow release, water and air brush medium):

Abstract landscape experiment on claybord by artist Vicki Hutchins
acrylic on claybord

I began to fiddle a bit with this, so sprayed the whole thing and gave it a swirl.  I might go back to this and add either additional thin layers or see what opaque marks I can make without loosing some of this early layer.

In conclusion, Claybord is an interesting support to work on, though I suspect it comes into it’s own for very detailed, carefully controlled and not too wet  techniques.  The beauty of it is how much easier it is to lift out highlights.  It also takes pen and ink, and graphite.

Trying to create something in between, e.g. a loose and splashy abstract landscape is perhaps asking too much me, rather than the claybord!

Experiments with claybord: part one

I’m sorry to say I’m still not able to stand at my easel and paint (see here for the riveting reason why).

I have managed a little bit of sitting at my desk though.  Early last week I ordered some claybord panels.  They fascinate me, and one of my favourite things is discovering new painting surfaces.  These claybords are smoooooth.  As a baby’s bottom.  They’re silky clay.  They look a little like a matt tile.

Now according to the blurb, you can put any medium on these: watercolour, ink, acrylic, and oil, though Ampersand, the makers, stress though it can be used for oil, many oil painters find the paint dries too quickly to work with.  You can also scratch it, and sand it back to a bare surface again.  Wowzers.

I’m not sure why I thought I would get along with these.  I mean, I can’t even watercolour on regular paper.  Though that fact still remains, I’m still strangely enamored with this surface.

First, I tried acrylic.  I wasn’t particularly interested in using it in my usual way: instead I thinned it down quite a bit with airbrush medium and flow release, and a bit of water.  When you paint it on, the pigment doesn’t behave as it does on paper.  Clay has a different sort of capillary action (I’m guessing), and being smooth, the whole thing can get out of control very quickly.

Acrylic explorations on claybord by artist Vicki Hutchins
acrylic on claybord

I absolutely love the edges the acrylic created.  I also liked how the pigment granulated in the bottom left.

I also tried a section of the painting with thicker paint.  It did go on, but didn’t cover very well.  The beauty of claybord is it’s surface and the luminescence it can add to a piece, so I don’t see the point of covering over it so opaquely.

Next up was watercolour:

Watercolour on clayboard by artist Vicki Hutchins
watercolour on claybord

 

I love this as a piece of work.  I’m not sure the photograph does justice to the quality and translucency of the watercolour though.  Here’s a close up:

Watercolour on clayboard by artist Vicki Hutchins
Love the way the watercolour has bloomed

The thing I do find a little frustrating about the claybord is though it looks white, it photographs a little on the peachy side.

I did of course have a bash with oils.  My word – oils dry quicker on claybord than acrylics do on any surface.  I was shocked.  I tried to put them on thinly, diluted down with Zest it, then linseed, hoping to keep things luminous, but no.  The thing about claybord, in what ever medium I tried was,  painting over layers that were still wet or damp just meant you went back to the claybord.  It was only when I left the claybord overnight  that I could add more layers – but only very carefully.  So oil on claybord is not for me, but I did quite like this little section here where the Zest it created this pattern:

Oil on clayboard by artist Vicki Hutchins
oil on claybord

I also, naturally, tried a bit of pastel over the top of the water colour and acrylic – no can do.  Imagine rubbing pastel on glass.  It just didn’t cling at all.  Having said that, I didn’t try my very expensive soft pastels, this was my Amazon-under-ten-pounds-set.

Ok, I’m blogged out so I’ll try and post part two later this week, and share my attempts at landscape painting on claybord and how vodka came in handy, but not in the way you think!

p.s. this is not a sponsored post!  Just if you were wondering.

The difficulty of simplicity, feat. collage

I recently wrote this post, explaining my struggle to reduce my landscape paintings to a level of abstraction I crave, and documented a little experiment I did in trying a different approach.

Well, this post is the sequel.  Same drill, different medium.  This time I’m using torn paper, or collage.

As with my previous foray using the humble but oh so beautiful pebble, I felt a little daft.  Actually, I now know this is because this sort of experimentation doesn’t bear fruit in an afternoon, in between “proper” painting and tea time.   I have a fabulous artist friend who explained that in art college, this sort of exploration would be done over a period of weeks, small scale, large scale, using various mediums to come up with various interpretations.

Whilst I wonder if art college and I would have ever got along (due to my impatience), my friend has a valid point, and one that I apply to my art practice in general, but somehow forgot during this process. I can see me revisiting this work again to explore the approach further.

So!  I have a soft furnishings catalogue that my husband thinks is over priced and is outraged you have to pay for it.  You know the one.  Well, that came in handy for this.  I was drawn to the sofas and soft furnishings section…it was the shapes of the sofas and the folds of blankets and quilts that drew me, as they already reminded me of landscapes just being there on the page without me having to rip them up!

Annoyingly, I didn’t take photographs of my collage layout, though I did stick a pretty bit of quilt in my sketchbook.  I found collage, and particularly the images I picked really worked.  Before I’d even sketched them, they already reminded me of the hills to the north of the vale I live in.  I actually enjoyed this.

Sketchbook_collage

 

Though from my notes I think I found the cutting out not such fun.  I should’ve got my son to do it, he’ll cut anything, the edges of the tablecloth, his pyjamas….

Here are the results:

Exploring abstract landscapes by Vicki Hutchins

This last one, I just wanted total freedom:

CollageLandscape_4
I think I like it

Conclusion

The main problem is this: it’s not inspiration I’m lacking.  It’s the ability to refine that inspiration to it’s barest element.  To deftly capture what my landscapes mean to me.  I’m not sure these experiments have helped with that.  What they have helped with though is helping me think about:

  • simplifying colour palettes
  • simpler form
  • doing postcard size studies more often.
  • understanding the exploration process and the benefits of doing this over a long period of time, scale etc

The difficulty of simplicity, feat. the pebble

It is irritating to me that in some situations (usually of course, ones that don’t directly involve or affect me), I can immediately get to the nub of the thing, to distill whatever it is quite clearly in my own mind and to anyone else who’ll listen.

It’s an uncanny trait most of us possess, actually; to be able to know exactly  what we’d do if we were in your/their situation.  Getting out of our own way to have clarity for ourselves however, is something else entirely.

Abstraction and simplification with my art work is a constant rumination lately – I long to take what inspires and motivates me, and reduce it to it’s barest form…and then reconstruct in a way that is more personal to me, hinting at reality but full of feeling.

My current creative process

When I first started painting, I focused very much on painting from life.  This worked well with simple forms (like an apple), but when I took myself off plein air painting, I found I was often overwhelmed with what was in front of me, enslaved by the detail, even if I started out loose.

Out of this I developed a process of painting in the afternoons after my lunchtime walks, and I’d paint from my memory of that walk.  I’d take photos with my phone, so not large or great quality, and I use these back at home to establish composition and value, but that’s the extent of their use.  I found my paintings to be more colourful, looser expressions of my local landscape.

Though I’m mostly happy with this process – a process I now realise lots of other artists use, to avoid become overwhelmed and tight with detail – sometimes it’s still not loose enough for me.

Exploring approaches

So, I began to think what other ways are there that I could abstract my landscape work.  What other materials or objects could I use to construct a composition?  I came up with three (mainly because I had them round the house):

  • beach pebbles
  • collage from magazine cuttings
  • my photographs

I know this last one seems pointless  (given what I wrote earlier in the post), but I have a ton, and if I could learn better how to use them in an abstracted way, it might bring surprises.

In this post I’m exploring my idea with the humble but beautiful pebble

I gathered a pile of pebbles (usually they gather dust in my bathroom), some rough garden twine, and a view finder,  oh and a white envelope I had to hand as my “canvas” and started arranging them.  This is the best (yes really) of what I came up with:

Photo3

The idea was, well, a few things.  One, I was trying to use the definite shapes of the pebbles to suggest something that might pass for a landscape, and that those shapes add interest, particularly to the foreground, two, squinting helps, as always, three, see how I used the twine to make a path! and four , it amused me that I was using something from the landscape to create a landscape.

I did in fact construct several compositions, but they’re really not noteworthy.  And…this is also the stage at which I began to feel a little bit foolish.  I wondered if this was a little too contrived.  After all, this wasn’t purely about enjoying a process as such – it was exploring a new way of getting to a slightly familiar place.  Or, perhaps I wasn’t really open to this concept as I thought.

I did see the exploration through though.  You can see in my sketchbook I have thumbnails of the different compositions I tried.  I thought actually the size of the pebbles too small, so I grouped them into larger shapes, outlined in blue pen, then re-drew them below.

Photo7

 

You can see from those large shapes there is something vaguely landscape emerging from the thumbnails.  I couldn’t resist doing a couple of colour thumbnails at the bottom.    From my notes I seem quite pleased with how things are turning out!  Though I do question whether the approach felt authentic for me.

The thing about this process is that it isn’t, and I suppose can’t ever be, random and therefore abstract.  I arranged the pebbles and twine.  I had landscape in my head.  Perhaps it was always going to turn out like that.  So I’m undecided about the value of this approach, to me anyway.  I also think I need to be clearer in my mind the difference between abstract and simplicity, as I’ve realised I use both words interchangeably and they’re not the same thing at all!

The next part of the process was to do a few small size colour studies of the same composition.  Why I brought colour into it I don’t know – this was about simplifying landscape compositions.  At this point though, I was having a ton of fun…

Photo8Photo9Photo10Photo11

 

I used acrylics for this (not my usual medium).  I used the same colours on each painting, aaaanndddd – I used not only a smaller brush to make lively marks, but it was a filbert!  And I usually use a one size flat throughout, so that was a little experimentation I really loved.

And at the end of it?

The main headline from this little experiment is – where’s the inspiration?  Arranging beach pebbles on the back of an envelope doesn’t inspire me as much as taking a walk then painting what I feel when I get home.  Only I can’t quite manage to paint what I feel.  Which is where this whole thing began.

I’m tempted to by pass the collage exploration and go straight to photographs, as I’ve learned from this that I prefer to feel an emotional connection with a place to paint….and yet, having said that….I really loved doing these little colour studies, and to me they are full of feeling and emotion.  Do I need to stand back?  Get out of my own way?  After all, feelings come from within don’t they?

Hellebores_Master_croppedsmallsq

I just realised what a total whinger I sounded like in my last post.

Anyway, it’s Mother’s Day, which means absolutely nothing to us in our house as we are not religious at all, except for the fact that I like to use it as an excuse to do what ever I want, and  I we buy our respect mothers a gift and this year I made them a card with one of my paintings (this one) on them.

So if you’re a Ma, put your feet up and do something for you!

 

Ok, I’m back

Now I’m feeling better suddenly I have focus (did I bore you with mention I get ill a lot).  Hmmm, so lots of catching up to do – meant to be opening a print shop for hecks sake.  I not expecting a rush of sales, I mean I know the world will keep turning without my art being up for sale, but none of its going to get sold sat in great piles all over my studio either.  So I need to get moving.

 

I’ve cracked open the acrylics lately.  Mainly because I can’t resist buying the bloody stuff in pretty colours.  Usually I get it out and am all “Ewww, this stuff is so plasticky, pass me the oils”.

A funny thing:  I have an uncanny knack of being to mix whatever colour I want from a very limited palette.  I love the challenge of being able to recreate a blob of paint colour that exactly matches something else  in the world.  I know artists are meant to be able to do this stuff, but it’s one of the things I pride myself on, mainly because I found it so easy and could do it with little practice (unlike drawing or actual painting).  And yet, I cannot resist buying up all the teal, all the geranium rose, especially in acrylic, which I hardly use……what’s that all about?  Ha!

I digress.  Anway, I opened the tubes mixed up a gorgeous colour palette of teals, buff and pale dusky lilac.  And because I can’t bear to waste paint, and, more amazingly I managed to keep it wet and workable for aaaages, I got three paintings out of it, all abstract.  Two of ’em I posted already here and here.  This is the last.  And the best I think.  I’m really happy with this – abstraction does not come naturally to me at all.  I have to work really hard and try not to work from any reference otherwise I get all confused and fussy with my mark making.

I use a combination of brush, fingers and my trusty range of painting knives, and I LOVE the texture that gives when dragged over canvas, and to get going I tone the canvas first then use hard pastel to create some marks and divide the canvas up.  Interestingly, I usually have drawn some circles with the pastel at this stage, with good intention to have them in the final piece, but I’ve not yet managed to keep them.

I feel like I want to explore texture more and more, am even considering splodging on some extra gesso for texture beforehand (and usually I’m too impatient for that sort of thing.

This one was painted whilst listening to the selected works of Solomon Grey.  Do not deprive your ears of this music if you haven’t already heard it. I like painting abstracts to music – it sets the mood.

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Porthminster, acrylic on canvas, 7 x 7