Oi Oil… Still life gone a little awry

So my strengths clearly do not lie in still life drawing and painting. I can see perfectly clear what it is I’m meant to be drawing or painting, but somewhere in my brain the message that’s sent to my hand gets mangled and it doesn’t come out right. I know this can be remedied with practice, I am impatient though. And I prefer things a little more abstract anyway. I prefer there to be something open to interpretation within a piece of art, something that can make it personal and unique to each person viewing the piece.

As luck would have it, the BBC have just started a Bake Off style show but for painters. The first episode was the day before our first still life painting lesson, so it was good to get a few tips and to thoroughly judge and rubbish some, actually quite decent, painters. I went into still life painting class thinking I was about to create a modern masterpiece. No not really, but I thought I’d be better than I was. The BBC documentary is worth a watch by the way, you can find it here.

So, still life’s started as a way for artists to display their skills. A way to show off more than just painting a portrait or a landscape. Artists could experiment with painting different objects and surfaces.

This was what I’d intended to paint…

And this is the process, and what I ended up with…

As you can see, it sort of went a bit awry mid-painting and I ended up with a dark and demonic looking abstract version of the objects I’d intended to paint. I’m rather pleased with it though. I completed the painting within the workshop, so it was done in less than 2 hours. I generally try and complete whatever we do in a workshop, in the workshop, just so I can fully understand the whole process and then create something else in my own time. Painting is no exception. I wanted immediate feedback on my work, so rushed a little. I need to work on my perspective work, as the book in my painting looks nothing like the book in reality. Also the skull was very very difficult for me to paint, I need to concentrate more on detail and layering up colour to get the different shades and tones. I spoke to a tutor and also the studio technician, who were giving me advise on slowing down with each painting and looking at different artists who specialise in oils. layering up colour is the key though, and looking at which colours complement and contrast each other. oil paint has a wonderful way of reflecting the light, so when layered with other colours it can produce some beautiful colours that look very lifelike.

I’m fascinated with colour theory and how we perceive objects and their colour. We may look at something and label it as green, but when we look closer there are yellows, browns, greys, and in contrast shades of red and orange in the shadows. Colour can be used in many different ways to give the feel of the object even if it isn’t the true colour of it. I need to experiment more with shading and colour use, but also work on my still life and drawing skills.

I prefer an abstract approach to painting because I can sort of let go. When I stop stressing about getting it perfect and just enjoy the process or putting paint on a canvas, I’m free to create anything and that’s what I love about it. I use art as therapy, and so I like to vent my emotions though whatever I’m creating. Oil paint is a fabulous outlet for this, not only can many different subjects and objects be painting but it’s a brilliant medium to use. It’s thick and textured, and can be watered down with white spirit (giving the lovely drips on the canvas as seen above), it can be mixed on canvas, and also colour removed and painted over if mistakes are made. It’s very versatile and I look forward to including more oil paint in my work.

I’ve been working on some concept ideas for my final piece, or final pieces. I was going to concentrate on mental illness and explore the idea of split personalities but I’m thinking now I might create self portraits based on emotion or feelings. Or self portraits at different stages of my life. From an abstract perspective of course!  I’ll elaborate more on that in a different blog post though!


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