I had a google chat tutorial with my tutor yesterday, and she shared the MP3 recording of our discussion. Apart from me realizing that I did not make my whole learning blog on all the exercises for part 3 available to my tutor, we could discuss the work as well as going on to the final parts of the course.

Figure painting

We discussed the difficulty of some of the poses that was asked of in the exercises. My tutor gave supportive advice 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. I can work on big patches within the pictorial space – mark that in, start with lights and darks. If I want to spend more time with my palette – want to explore tonal values/colour more, I could limit the colours, keep it simple and think more 3 dimensional when I am putting shapes down to get to the ‘humanness’ of the subject whilst doing an underpainting. I would also like to look into working in more translucent layers, warm and cold.

My tutor felt the tonal study of Tienie’s legs were good. She saw the use of a Sienna as useful for a midtone with oils and that sets up a space around the figure (white paper is flat) Tone was now easier modulated – more free and edges forms naturally. Look at Holbein – the opposite, but doing it brilliantly – outlines and egdes is where things can go wrong – I so did experience this. She suggest I understand why there is such a big difference in the way I apply paint – the system differs. I am still not feeling comfortable and sure in the way I apply paint – loose form. She suggests that the value of these attempts, hinges on my own ability to evaluate them…dead on I say! I need to make time for reflection in this process, and should look at my work, pick for example 3 works which I am drawn to and look at why. I should look at edges, layering up of tone, and focus on my relation with painting….which is learning, an investigation into painting, and finding out about my subject.

Effectively start with a loosely modeled face, dark and light side, hair – patches of paint. Use information processing at this stage of the work. Mixing the palette, be conscious of what is behind me, mix the colours in my face with a small core of colours. Use a large and wide brush, plenty of turps – keep things open. Think immediately in 3 dimensions. Suggest I look at work of Rubens portrait of his daughter – pink just dotted on to warm up the cheek – again palette and tones right.

Looking at the painting of Tienie Sleeping – brush marks are discussed. I did define the form, but then took it away again. Look at Nat Gallery website – enlarge paintings. Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Seargent – degrees of refinement in the brush markings. Will see paintings in progress to see in the finely worked areas, it began life the others bits – boldly marked in, brush marks almost woven over. To improve my painting – remember the skull again. Sliding the brush marks – the expressive open marks and the underlying constructions. Look at the cheek that is not on the pillow, becomes a bit rounder and a little work on that eye socket – rounder? Again remembering the skull. Look at the painting in the mirror would help – see it as someone else would see it. One can also use a photograph and reverse it to help. I am encouraged to read a letter of a painter, Vigee le Brun here she talks about observation during painting – using a mirror. We also discuss using a photograph and turning it upside down in order to see. I did a search about the artist, Vigee le Brun as was intrigued by her skill and role she played in the artworld, when women were not regarded as able to be skilled as artists. One cannot be but proud as a woman to look at this self portrait below – she had the guts to through something back at art history – at Rubens. According to the National Gallery, s he saw the famous “Chapeau de paille” by Rubens. This canvas by Rubens clearly inspired her to the painting of the portrait of herself in a straw hat, where she stands bathed in the sunlight, her palette in her hand. Rubens’s lady wares a black hat – not straw! The painting of flesh is exquisite and the work is rich and glowing in colour. The picture has the added interest of revealing to us how Vigée Le Brun set her palette. I could not find the mentioned letter during my google search.

Self portrait with straw hat, 1783

On the painting I call Tenacity – we discuss the use of patches that can be seen and some dramatic moments created with the colours. I should address the background space – more of the sage green. Then think to glaze lightly over the top, warm it up by using translucent paint, but careful not to flatten it too much. Think of using sandy flesh tone and dots of pink – warmer on the left side. I will continue. Look at the lips – too simplified as is.

I am encouraged by the use of tonal studies – my tutor reminds me of the sensitivity of the Sienna painting with tonal variation and prompted me to use this in order to embrace painting as a process – using the whole space and tonal drama. The idea is not to over state outlines and think about things disappearing from view. Talked about two technical terms, grisaille and ebauche as underpaintings and its value to ease into colour. I do not know anything about Ebauche, and will research. (Definition on internet: “It is a form of underpainting that uses a thinly applied lay-in of dominant colors that describe the major forms. As an underpainting “the ébauche” is used to approximate the qualities of color and value in their true relationship and quickly establish the overall appearance of the painting’ )

We look at the painting for the assignment – tutor is happy with it. Happy with background – gives is a nice quality – layering of the paint (white) and modeling of neck and mouth is well. She comments on the warmth of the eyes. I agree – portrait painting is hard. I have learned a lot and will continue – learning is a process. I will have to learn and understand my palet – start with colours that are low key, mix a dark green, pale sandy vanilla. It is about easing myself into it. Look for a little dash of colour that can warm it up.

I must stay mindful of what I am doing. I want to remember that my focus along this process is to find out what paint can do – to experiment in my working process.

My tutor also send a written formative feedback on the work done in Part 3. I like her encouraging words – seeing that I set out to learn about the interaction between colour and tone. I need to use constructive reflecting and her words validated the value of being mindful in what I set out to do and see the learning that happens in the process. I am looking back at the learning from the audio/visual feedback and the work I have done so far in this course, and really feel that I have reached a place in my studies where I am comfortable at being the student, taking risks and learning , rather than look in a critical way at the outcomes of finished assignments.


To learn about colours I am definitely going to look at using washes in my painting process.

Carefully consider spaces around form and reconsider edges in the process.

She suggested reading/viewing within the context of my practice and suggested the following artists to look at: Michael Borremans, Kay Donachie and Lynette Yiadom-Boayke. I enjoyed looking at the works of these artists and there are a few things I can take away from it: Borremans works intuitively and uses mostly film or clippings, I like the incompleteness of the work – the viewer can define the work.

I would very much prefer a video tutorial for the next part as well. I value the interaction and guidance.

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