Evaluating how I developed my painting work process in terms of the course aims

I will refer to page 5 in the course, Practice of Painting, where this is discussed and gives me the framework to attempt to critically evaluate the following:Explore and employ key processes for drawing and painting; Explore a range of media to create visual work; Begin to understand how historical and contemporary painters and artistic movements can and have informed your own practice; Reflect on your own learning experience

On March 12 2020, I decided to use this blog for reflection on my learning and as further painting practice up to the assessment in June 2020. I felt strongly to take stock of my learning and look at growth and skills still lacking. I need to understand how I will advance to level 2 and the subjects I will be taking. I have decided on the following subjects , UVC 2 and Studio Practice. During the last 2 years prior to starting this course, I have not been painting a lot. I spent more time with drawing, in particular working with charcoals on paper, and also did some printing.

Looking back at the course aims and asking myself how I am progressing on this journey of analysing and selecting from the visual work in terms of translating it into a painting, I have to look at the visual work I presented during the course as well the learning that came from that process of making and tutoring. In this blog there is work that flowed from this process.

For purposes of my own evaluation I need to focus on the following criteria:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Quality of outcomes

Demonstration of Creativity


My tutor used these guidelines in her critique in a way which actually resonated well with me. She indicated these criteria also to the assignment, the process, the written research, the blog and then context.

I am thoughtful in my working practice and like to develop ideas, many a time intuitively. I should spend more time planning smaller studies and developing these ideas in my sketchbook. I also need to be honest with my own creative practice and spend time on re evaluating these processes and apply learning from others and not be too condescending about my intuitive style. The course in this way showed out how thoughtfulness and focus is important abilities for a painter. I paint expressively and love color. During the course I battled with developing final assignment works. I could not easily relax into the process of making a work as my expected outcomes became my focus, and thus sometimes missing the learning opportunity. I valued my tutor support in this regard and learned that critiques of work done was the best learning opportunities, as it was practical. I joined student and tutor online sessions as organized by OCA and found these groups sessions motivating and inspiring. It was stimulating to share and learn in that environment. My creative writing helped to discuss my subject and I will focus on developing these skills more.

I used my learning blog extensively for my own learning and gathering of materials for continued learning. My tutor suggested I start referencing more thoroughly, as I will come back to these ideas in future. I will also start adding the books I am reading to these discussions.

1st May 2020, I was listening to a conversation of Damien Hirst and he referred to his own struggle with not believing in himself and trying to please people. He referred to amazing artists whom had disappeared from the scene, a fear on the one hand and the privilaged position of being lucky enough to make it in the art world. I think that during lockdown time, fears that hang around all of us with regards to the health and well being of our loved ones and ourselves makes us more question our why, my beliefs in my practice and studies.

After I finished part Five of the course I followed a Coursera practical course on the Abstract Painters. The benefit was in spending time with the working methods of these artists and immersing myself more into the materiality of paint. It gave me a place where I feel I can use my intuitive feelings and apply the learning of painting skills better. I realize that abstract work is a meditative place for me to think and prepare for work. I love the modern and very powerful figurative painting style of Jenny Saville but masters such as Rembrandt, Carravagio, Titian is still close to my heart – there is so much to learn. van Gogh and the modernist abstract painters (de kooning) will be part of this journey.

I like to think that my creative ideas can be developed by just going on journeys and see where it takes me, but in order to develop as a skillful worker in figurative or representational works, I do take to heart the learning that is necessary in terms of representing form reasonably realistic, there is no shortcuts. As my tutor mentioned, I have to be alive to the visual qualities of something, and put efforts into sketching and studying my subject beforehand. At least I can get into a practice of doing more figure drawing and develop skills where I focus on shape, light …

Part 2 was focussed on Still life and areas for improvement was to use cast light in order to represent forms. I discovered how mutable paint is, by sometimes loosing control of this work delivered was not always true to the planned idea. I did research on artists and need to grow in terms of applying their techniques in my own practice. I enjoyed working with a platte knife and using the colors yellow and blue in different mixes. The flatness of the view to the viewer is also effective as a perspective and still life idea.

By the start of Part Three I was interested to develop my outcomes to better understand tone and colour, build with paint and shapes and become more aware of the properties of paint. Importance of looking and using observational skills such as measuring, proportion, volume and structure came into play. Looking back at my body of work in this part I realize the skills of looking analytically at your subject and then interpret that into representational form was not easy for me. I found that doing tonal wash paintings where mid tone is important, added to my learning to represent form and volume.

I think that Part Four of the course should have followed before Part Three, as properties of paint and creative ways to prepare the canvas were explored which could help for the rest of the exercises. It gave me freedom to explore my creative ideas and relate to paint in a very easy way. I feel I should focus more on this style of painting as I love how layers are revealed, and form sits without too much effort. Exploring colors was also great.

My tutor has been encouraging and it seems the value of these sessions comes back to me after a few days of thinking about the process of formal tutoring. I realize that it is important that my critical thinking about my work should reflect my use and like of colour, but how I will develop my need with regards to build form with paint. I need to work longer and with more attention on preliminary sketches where I should be able to establish good form by more investigative looking and drawing/painting. My tutor suggested I look at works by Jenny Eden, Turner, Joan Eardly, Marlene Dumas Genevieve Figgis and Veeja Celmins. Looking at expressive surfaces would also be a nice way for me to experiment with. I have added a blog post in this regard.

In Part One, I have studied the materiality of paint by looking at basic paint application and working on different coloured grounds. Looking at Assignment 1 my tutor felt that I should have stayed on my own route, and not necessary ‘copied’ G O’Keefe as in the final piece. Here it is important to learn that I should stay with the image/subject and develop my own style and maybe then critically evaluate my outcome in comparison with the artists I learned from. My tutor advised me to hold the idea of precision” when painting openly, and how precision of observation should be coupled with a freedom of response. Looking back at this, I realise I have not always exercised this precision of observation – a point of struggle which should be taken into account in my plan to improve my skills. My tutor also advised that I look at painters (she shared a namelist) who paint representationally to find work that resonate with me. I also need to look at handling qualities of light and experiment with layering colours. It is important to extend my studio process so that I develop an understanding of my subject and intent through making.

In Part Two tone was shown as an area of improvement. I need to work on constructing forms representationally using cast light and painted tonality. Outlines could become a problem when they are too visible as they deny the tonal opportunities.

It seems that I need to look at how I depict structure through tone in organic shapes – its was easier to paint it in manmade things. Important to notice this – as we looked at the Ghaf tree in the desert (Part 4) – the painting needed much more tonal gradation. I need to show deciviness about tone. I asked my friend for his raw image of the photo and decided to get more true in terms of color as well as tone. He filtered out any disturbances to keep a low tonal value and create the focus on a lonely tree in the vastness of the desert. I feel this is a good composition, but as a photo to copy I found it difficult to use effectively. I do think too much information was taken away by the photographer. I would have enjoyed more texture and atmosphere in the photo.

I am not sure that I succeeded in creating distance ( lighter values) and the real land form of the sand dune mountains. I tried to look at the sky, the dunes, the tree and the foreground as different planes, almost to simplify it, and deciphering what I was seeing. I see the tree as the focal point in this painting.

On 29 January I attended a Still Life in Oils workshop in order to develop my skills. During Part Two of the course color and color relationships were the undertones of the work and this had to be expressed through works done in Still life and painting of Interiors. We worked with so called Russian palette, Tit white, Cad yellow M, Yellow Ochre, B Sienna, Cad Red, Burn Umber and French Ultramarine blue.The work process was to block in the colours, from the darkest to lightest. I liked the idea to describe form with paint colours and learnt to look at tone and form in this exercise. I added the work I did at the workshop in Part 2.

My tutor expressed that she would like to get a better idea of me asa painter, what I like doing and what I am keen to develop. I realize that creative writing is part of my work process which I enjoy. I would like to reflect more on the work process and less on the desired outcome…. it reminds me of being a student and exploring in order to learn and grow more solid work practice.

Going back to work I like and exploring their possibilities as more developed art works of part of a series of works.

Doing a copy of BOUGEAREAU

I started this copy more than two years ago, but only completed one of the studies. I decided to get back into this study and complete the portrait copy. I worked on a board and colours are limited to white, raw umber, burnt sienna, red. I used OMS to try to bring back the painting as a work in progress and firstly focussed on the negative space around the contours of the face – nose, lips, chin.

My image on my iPad is serving as the only source of information about the work that Bougeareau painted and is currently, according to my google searches in a private owner’s collection. I am trying to describe it as realistically possible. I was not even sure about the exact size of the original work. It is a form of history painting which I use for learning purposes. I did not make any preliminary sketches, or thought about composition; I used line and colour to give appearance to form. The contrast between light and dark around the face helps to make it a realistic work. On the original painting it is clear their is a single light source on the cheek and neckline area of the subject. The model has a soft inward gaze and I would also like to capture this. This is more difficult to do and looking back at the start and progression of the painting, I can see how I battled to find this gaze which is not only in the eyes, but also in the whole gesture. Whilst working I am asking myself what I am learning from this process. It is very much copying and working in a step-by-step process to focus on form and value. One is focussed on representation of what which you see. I am thinking mimesis…is this not what Vija Celmins also does? My tutor gave supportive advice after Part Two as to reminding me to hold on to what I am trying to do on this level of the course; namely to find out about the subject I am painting, to combine my understanding of the working process to get to it – see it as a study before I start. It will take pressure off myself in terms of outcomes. I am learning to see it more as an investigation into my work process, namely to learn to paint, than getting it right.

Other than in a real situation of painting from life, I can turn the image upside down to check for accuracy. I am thinking of why I chose this work to copy. Is there an element of not choosing a life model for the mere fact of not being original….easier to use an already chosen subject selected by a master? I have to admit that composition still feel an area I struggle with. I revisited the mp3 recording of my tutor feedback after assignment 3 and many valuable moments of learning came back. I think about how my tutor described the information processing of painting by describing what you see with paint. We talked about just plunging into painting, seeing drawing as about line, and painting is about patches of space. It becomes so helpful as seeing these patches in space which describes what you are seeing, investigating things, such as where is the light coming from, where is the darkest parts, the lightest parts. This is information processing, looking ,becoming more aware of what is around, and using the palet to mix what you see… and knock that in.

Where I took off again.

I tried to improve the correctness of the mouth and neckline in above painting. I can see many areas for improvement and will use the dark tone of the shadow to improve the drawing of the lips and chin. When I had to almost re think my final series of paintings for the final assignment of this POP course, this gaze was very much part of my thought process. In my tutors final feedback on the work for part 5 of this course she commented that the study is tonally good. She suggested I use a warm brown translucent glaze to improve some of the grayness around the ears and hair. I have not used any gazed or much oil in the painting and will continue this as the last part of work to be done.

I came back to the self portrait in Part Three of this course after my video tutorial with my tutor. I felt I had learnt ideas that had to be tried out and develop my explorations into these studies. I am convinced that using myself is a model to experiment with this painting practice is just about as good as it can get at this stage. I can learn and push the boundaries, get to the sense of myself as the subject. I am reminding myself the reason is learning about my practice and developing my own voice and painting style. I started reading Derrida reframed, by K Malcolm Richards and ideas on mark making as part of one own identity is quite intriguing – it is the traces and touches of the artist left on the canvas. These marks of artists are very individual and can be identified/associated with his/her work when it is sufficiently repeatable. I think about how your painting style is made up of a series of repeatable strokes, which as a cumulative effect reveals the artist’s touch. Here one can get to understand painting techniques when looking closely at art works. My tutor suggested me looking at work of S Sergeant, Rembrandt and Gainsborough. I need to work on the milky areas around the ears and neck and will try using a glaze with translucent warm brown as my tutor suggested.

Self Portrait painting

My tutor was asking about the Yellow in the painting and I could not give her a good reason – I now remember it was because the gray layers was not dry and the wet on wet created these yellowish colours which I decided to go along with. It did influence my colour choices as it created some drama in the painting. By now the paint is much drier and I will have to mix new flesh tones to start working again, and use the learning from the tutorial session with my tutor. I have also gained new insights from looking at the work of Marlene Dumas, and would like to develop these on this painting.

I went back to Part Three of the course and thinking about which parts of this painting was the hardest and the problems I experienced whilst painting. I tried ti stay close to my chosen palette and focus on shaping forms of the face and find interesting areas of tonal difference.

turning 63 soon

Rembrant and I have some things in common and some surely not: below is one of his self portraits. We both made own personal choice about composition, painting style and palet, and we’re both 63 years of age at the time of these paintings, ( on 28 August 2020 I will be 63) Rembrandt paint with exact realism, I paint to express emotion, with spontaneity. He used a limited palette, worked wet in wet, and made use impasto techniques. I learned about his use of reflective light and decided to indicate dark areas with blue. With his mature mastery of the brush and light, excellent skills to capture what he sees, he created a realistic work, which also shows emotion. I will definitely attempt bigger works in this regard and hold onto the learning.

I would easier relate to the painting style of Van Gogh and his use of colour to express emotion by intensifying colours, and placing opposing colours next to each other. In Above self portrait uses yellow and a blueish purple.

Rembrandt at 63

Below is a small playful work after I reworked one of my attempts at a nude into something different; this was a playful attempt at doodling with paint and refer to history of art.

Busy Re working a previous painting of a seated figure into something of an art history comment.

To paint accurately and to present thoughtful work for my course I tried another Still Life. Here I started a still life which I composed on the old wood-fire stove here in the cottage on the farm in South Africa (28 April 2020). The yellowness of the quinces made me fall in love with the composition and it would make a useful painting for the kitchen in our farm house to be. It will also serve as reminder of our stay here in the cottage. I did not make a toned underpainting, but started directly om the white paper to block in the darks with a bit of an imprimatura transparent layer of burnt umber.

My sketchbook idea for the painting

I love the shadows the fruits are making on the black tray and it will form a big part of this dark coloured painting. I have a lot of dark, potentially a complicated colour to work with and can create an almost theatrical scene of these simple fruits, as the light falls onto the different surfaces. The choice of 4 fruits, as well as seeing three shadows can balance the composition, as I do not want to a full tray as it is now used as a container for keeping most of our weekly supply of fresh fruit.

I start by putting in most of the dark shapes of colour first and then placing the fruit. The dark is stained into the white paper with lots of solvent and will act as the underpainting and clearly influence the layers of Color I put on top of it. I also believe it will help me to add the fruit objects into the composition as early on in the painting. I mix some Aliziran crimson to my black and umber paint colours on my palette. Later I added ultra Marine as well as violet magenta. I am reminded of how M Rothko used matt and glossiness of his paints to create works and show layers of paint, which is clearly something I would try to achieve on the areas such as the old stove.

The pears below is now only a photo memory, never attempted to paint that moment.

The contrast between dark and light is what I want to achieve in this painting. I am motivated to see the outcome of this work as an exercise in chiaroscuro and the masters like Rembrandt and Carravagio to be my teachers as their works have great light versus shadows, dark contrasts. I re visit the composition and palette, the fruit has by now been consumed and I need to work with the photo image to work on the fruit shapes, tones and values. My focus will mostly be on capturing light and dark. I have tried to read about Matisse and his use of black and feel strong about black as a colour.

The painting stood unworked for a day or more whilst I managed to borrow a more stable wooden easel. ( wonderful how things can be dropped off on the veranda in these times of social distancing, I borrowed it from my daughter in law, who stay on a neighbouring farm) . On the National Gallery website I read the following on chiaroscuro: This is an Italian term which literally means ‘light-dark’. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted.

Revisiting my exterior space: Whilst I started working more in my own space in our bedroom, I was captured by the views of a group of trees (Eucalyptus) on a windy day. I made quick gestural marks with paint mixed with solvent and linseed oil and worked wet on wet with quick strokes and marks. I have been encouraged by my tutor to use my expressive ideas within the context of learning. This landscape in front of me gave me an opportunity to develop a palette with blues and greens and reminded me of the work process of some of the expressive abstractionist artists.

There are mountains at the back of these trees, which forms a border with the homestead yard and the wheat fields.

Image of trees on vellum paper for Part 4 in the course

As the wind was swaying these trees. Iight was moving between the stems and canopy. Here in South Africa most farmstead have groupings of these old trees which sits on the landscape, even though it is a Australian tree. Stories of sheep farming and settlers comes to mind as to how these trees arrived here a few hundred years ago.

Below and above are earlier works of trees and I think it is important to look at growth in my picture making skills. I see less drawing and better use of brush marks and paint. On the 1st May 2020, I was listening to a conversation of Damien Hirst and he referred to his own struggle with not believing in himself and trying to please people. He referred to amazing artists whom had disappeared from the scene, a fear on the one hand and the privilaged position of being lucky enough to make it in the art world. I think that during lockdown time, fears that hang around all of us with regards to the health and well being of our loved ones and ourselves makes us more question our why. I need to work on my beliefs in my practice and studies.

Trees on vellum paper for Part 4
Desert tree reworked

I look back at the idea of the painting started with the wind as an element that influenced me to make the painting. I look at the painting and think the idea of swaying trees is not strong enough. Some of the tree tops could be more convincing by showing more movement, or have less branches showing in the top part of the painting. .

I also started working on a painting of the surrounding mountains. I prepared a piece of marine ply with layers of undercoat acrylic paint, sanded it in between en then covered it with two layers of gesso. I painted outside in the garden. I started the painting on 5 June 2020 and the landscape is changing by the day as it is now winter, the rains are starting to fall. I only finished it after the rains of the last two weeks. On my daily walks I see the grain is growing and the surrounding fields are turning green. I wanted to depict the landscape as this mass of texture and blocks of colours, and how the light plays on the mountain range late afternoon. The best time of day is just before sun set, when the sky turns a lovely peachy pink display behind the mountains.

Snow started falling, Langvlei Farm, July 2020
Midday looking at the mountains, June 2020
Looking West, Winterhoek Mountains, Langvlei Farm, June 2020.

Above is the finished work. I decided to share this for the assessment as I used a plein air opportunity for a landscape which I came to enjoy in terms of looking and describing. I could use paint in creative ways. My palette is still limited, but could depict the light and warmness in the scene. In terms of composition I thing I should have given more details of the valleys in the mountain, as to lead the eye of the viewer, the left side of the lower mountain area could have more curved lines leading outwards. I have found that I can spend more time outside, even in winter and would like to do more paintings of this landscape. A sense of place and belonging became a good motivator for my creative ideas.

I have more time to attend to my Coursera course and the studio practice learning is great. I was captivated by the work process of Willem de Kooning and would like to explore more of his techniques in my own painting process. Hopefully I will be able to order art supplies I will need, from paint to canvas supports, early next week. Reading and research material was mostly from the Moma website. The in studio sessions with Cory d Augustine was practical and focussed on the artists’ work process. I am drawn to the fleshy paint and curves of his brush strokes. I like how he would reorient his canvas and creating glimpses of his complicated layering of colors and paint. You would find almost awkward transitions, due to his collage technique of using another work on the canvas, drawing with charcoal on it and extending the drawing onto the canvas, then removing the drawing…. leaving these marks and disjunctive pictorial effects.

After Woman VII, 1961

Whilst reviewing my work for assessment, I came upon a work of Matisse, below, which really captured me for how he used colour in this very flat work, and how this interior space is also in away a self portrait. In a video I watched , Khan Academy, they refer to his works of art inside the room, as surrogates. The very fact that he did not draw all the lines and his use of red gives one a sense of movement throughout the room, the space is so greatly organized. It is an almost philosophical way of looking at his studio and his work, due to his style of painting ( color and line) Here he is clearly breaking the rules of renaissance painting.

The Red Studio, 1911, H Matisse

I am considering doing bigger window paintings. Looking at the series of Looking out for my final assessment, I think my compositions were not my strong point. I look forward to my own learning from this and how the assessment will address areas for development.

I looked at work of modern artists and think about the meaning of windows and how I connect it to a theme of my place and space as well as a reaction upon society. The window frame is in a way the frame to the work, like an artwork has a frame. The paintings were done within the limits of the window frame. The worldwide Covid 19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdown and social distancing measures brought about many mixed reactions with severe emotional and financial repercussions. It showed unbalanced social and healthcare support services of governments all over the world, the poor and vulnerable suffers more. So thinking about the work, it says something about how I framed my world….gives context to… ( a little bit of Derrida here, as I started reading Derrida reframed by K Malcolm Richards)

My tutor said that she would like to see more evidence of my own own aims – both through relating to artists I like but also to being a bit more critical of my own work so I can see where you yourself feel you need to develop.

Looking at both Hopper and Gwen John was about how they use people in their work, be it landscape or interiors, to convey a mood and these figures rarely interact with others, I looked at the alienation or loneliness one find in many of their works with figures.. Hopper uses electrical light indoors and the sun outdoors, to show difference in light and shadows, almost like a soft realism. I read on the Tate website that both these artist by 1920 had ‘stretched’ their view of Impressionism to become a realization of image based on an emotional link between the anonymous figures and the painterly style to obscure as much as to reveal.

During a Coursera course I looked at a body of work by Martha Rosler, House Beautiful, ( Bringing the War Home)1967-72. The idea of seeing the war in your living room resonated with me, as I felt the overwhelmed at times by looking at international and local TV stations reporting on the growing Covid 19 infection rates, coupled with deaths and learning about this novel virus all over the world. Being in South Africa one started having doubts about the health system and conflicting views of politicians and academia. Images of masked people were becoming a sign of change in how society will operate. My artwork became a contemplative outward looking onto this world, with myself keeping social distance and withdrawing as a means to stay safe. Isolation was fine at the beginning, but I also realised how impossible it was for people with different living conditions, such as homeless and poor people. Friends who are living completely alone during this time were telling me about their emotions of being alone, longing physical contact and connection and who are experiencing issues regarding their worthiness and deep depression.

I started reading, Pictures & Tears, by James Elkins….only in the beginning and reading about the work of Mark Rothko.

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