Practical Exercise 5 – Artwork – Map

Materials

Paper: Canson oil-acrylic paper, 290g/m² (140Ibs)
Medium: Rembrandt chalk pastels
Colours: yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, pale grey, dark green, pale green
Brushes: Jackson’s – Size 12 round, Daler-Rowney – 1” short, flat
Size: 33 x 41 cm (12½” x 16⅛”)

Aims

This exercise has developed from work done for Practical Exercise 4 – Artwork – Picnic. Research for that exercise into aboriginal art and, particularly, the work of Judy Watson had got me thinking of the concept of mapping out my childhood memories in some way.

A particular work by Judy Watson – The Deadly Bloom –  had intrigued me with the techniques for using pastel and pigments and it seemed to connect with work that that I did in the first part of the course related to stains.

Session 1

Initial layers of chalk pastel

Initial layers of chalk pastel

I wanted this to be a more free-fall experience in terms of approach I so relied on my memory of the aerial photographs of the village where I was brought up. At this stage I was less concerned with any accuracy in terms of the topography and more interested in trying out this way of staining the paper.

To the initial layer I added a layer of pale green by dragging the side of the pastel across the paper. I then used a 1” flat brush and a light wash of water to blend the colour. I added in the burn using ultramarine, the main road to the left, and the path to the right which runs through the park.

Using dark green I roughly blocked out areas of colour for the wooded areas. Onto this I added water and then tilted the board allowing the colour to settle itself. As I continued with this I got a bit bolder and let the water run more freely without trying to control it in any way.

Session 2

Developing areas of aerial 'map'

Developing areas of aerial ‘map’

In the second session I began to build up areas of colour using a similar method of adding the pastel and water. Where the water ran a natural course, I left the marks to allow this to add to the layers and textures.

Addition of more colour and texture

Addition of more colour and texture

While working on the painting I began to remember different things that I had forgotten about such as places where I played and particular aspects of these places including:

  • The rhododendron bushes in the park, so large that we could play at ‘houses’ inside them, creating our own secret places.
  • Collecting acorns from the oak trees that grew along the path beside the burn.
  • The curve of the burn where there was a small pebbled beach.
  • The ‘fairy’ wood where you could hear, but never see, the cuckoo.

Session 3

More detail added and mixed media elements

More detail added and mixed media elements

In the next session I began to think more about the different locations from childhood. I added in purple rectangles to represent our house and that of my best friend. From the houses I added in paths to show the routes that we followed to specific places including, in orange, the tennis courts in the park. My thinking at this stage was about the idea of the aboriginal sign systems and, somewhere in there, that idea of scrapbooks from Part 2 of the course. I tried sketching in pastel acorns on the top right to represent woods where we went to collect acorns and, at the bottom right, chestnuts from the trees on the edge of the park.

At this point I remembered a book of stickers which we had found while clearing mum’s house, something she had used for a craft project. It seemed to tie-in with this idea of signs and scraps and so I tracked it down and added some of the stickers. Not, perhaps, an ideal result but, in turn, it reminded me of Richard Scarry word books which I had loved as a child and I began to think about the possibility of adding text.

At this stage I decided to stop as I wasn’t quite sure how to move forward. I think there are a number of ideas here, almost too many. My aim with the exercise has been to try out a different approach in terms of painting and to explore ideas in a more fluid way way as a step towards a more developed piece of work. Now, I need to step back and think about which of these have the potential for development.

Self-assessment

Technical and visual skills and quality of outcome – On a technical level this exercise is somewhat limited as the approach is about having less control.  The idea behind it has been sparked by work I have been doing related to aerial viewpoints and to the work of Judy Watson. I used chalk pastels that I already had, adding blocks of colour onto the paper and then water to blend the chalk. As I progressed I added greater amounts of water and let this flow across the paper. On the whole I didn’t control the movement of the water and would just leave it to dry where it naturally settled. Using the chalk pastel has not been particularly successful, although I like the element of chance in using colours in this way. The end result though is still a chalky surface where I had thought this might be more absorbed into the paper. For any development of this exercise I would consider exploring the use of other mediums and supports.

Demonstration of creativity and context – I think that there are a number of ideas here which have potential. I like the idea of the aerial viewpoint. As I’ve been working on this exercise I have been considering different ways to develop the initial idea including:

  • Using a different medium to stain the paper and to explore different pigments using a similar approach, initially leaving the colours and staining to an element of chance.
  • Having the map cover a wider physical area and scaling-up. While this exercise has some resemblance to the actual aerial photographs in Practical Exercise 4, I worked instinctively on it with the result that not everything I would like has been included. In another version I would think more carefully about the relationship of the various locations.
  • The idea of adding signs or symbols and to consider whether to treat this as part of the painting or as separately created objects, perhaps in the style of scraps or stickers which are added once initial painting is developed. The reference here is to childhood memories and associations.
  • Think about the addition of text – in style of Richard Scarry – as reference to childhood theme.
  • Use the actual topography and memories to create a more abstract image altogether with focus on colour and texture.
  • Considering different supports depending on what options I decide to develop.

Images

Watson, J. (1997) Deadly Bloom. [Painting] At: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/209.2011/ (Accessed on 06.06.18)

Related Posts

Judy Watson – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2018/06/13/judy-watson-research-notes/

Practical Exercise 4 – Artwork – Picnic – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/outside-the-box/practical-exercise-4-artwork-picnic/

Practical Exercise 1 – Stains – Initial Exploration – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/honing-in/practical-exercise-1-stains-initial-exploration/

Practical Exercise 1 – Artwork – Bees – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/outside-the-box/practical-exercise-1-artwork-bees/

References

Famous Authors (2012) Richard Scarry. At: http://www.famousauthors.org/richard-scarry (Accessed on 25.06.18)

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