When I was at art school I made a number of drawings where I masked off with tape a geometric shape on a piece of paper. I then took pure Prussian Blue pigment and rubbed it into the masked off area. I pushed the colour in hard and the result was a razor sharp form (once the tape had been removed) with an inner area of the deepest, darkest quality that absorbed light fantastically and had an almost velvety surface.
Every since I have had a bit of a soft spot for Prussian Blue, I’ve used it from time to time, but as a colour it can have a bit of a tendency to take over. It’s intense qualities being on the one hand really attractive to use, but at the same time you find yourself trying to keep it in check.
Today was such an occasion. When I travel around I often take one of my small drawing books with me. These are mostly filled with rapidly made watercolour sketches of landscapes I encounter. These in turn feed into my studio work, recently in an increasingly direct way.
I don’t pretend to be a great watercolour painter. Generally I only use the medium on a very small scale in my notebooks. Today I found myself on the Dutch north coast on a somber day, with grey clouds racing across a heavy sky. The paints and notebook came out of my bag. It set to work on a series of rapid sea horizon sketches. I love making these sorts of images, fluid colours and flows, held in place by the taught horizon line across the double pages of the drawing book.
Today though was different for one small detail. Yesterday, my much preferred Ultramarine ran out. In my small box of paints, just twelve colours, I was forced to dip into the rarely used Prussian Blue. Cautiously at first I mixed. The first painting reflected this caution. In the second the depths of the blue started to become more apparent. In the third it threatened to get completely out of control and had to be quickly neutralised with some Raw Umber.
The results are a set of paintings that took perhaps twenty minutes to make, but are surprisingly different to those I have recently made. They are also paintings that I think may well end up being useful once back in the studio. Today, necessity was the mother of invention and Prussian blue crept back into what I am doing.
I’m busy working on a commission for a painting. It is a larger version of the circular ring formed paintings that I have been working on for a while now. For me it is also a fairly large-scale work, measuring 120cm across and that hole in the middle being about 62cm.
The most recent smaller versions have often been essentially the bringing together of two colours, built up in numerous layers to gain an intensity of colour that causes the optical effects of the composition to work best. The initial layers being put on with acrylic paint and the later ones being oil for a better surface finish and greater depth to the colour.
For this larger work I decided to continue with the dark blues that I have been experimenting with and rely on Windsor Blue being layered on top of Cerulean Blue and just a touch of Phthalo Green. The green part though has been something of a new area for me. I’ve been working this area up with a mixture of Permanent Green Light and Cadmium Yellow.
So far so good, but then comes those final layers of glazed oil paint to bring the surface quality to where I want it to be. This has sent be deep into the bottom of box of oil paints looking for the appropriate shade of green. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t often use green. A fact that was confirmed by the discovery of the 37ml tube of Cadmium Green made by Windsor and Newton that I plan to use. The paper covering of the tube has yellowed with time, it took a while to get the cap off the tube, but inside the colour was fine. I’ve bought many tubes of paint over the years, most of which I can’t remember where and when I got them. But this one is an exception, it is a last remaining tube (along with a tube of violet, what I also rarely use) that remain from a set I was given when I started my Fine Art degree at Wimbledon School of Art in 1987.
Thirty-two years on this Cadmium Green is finally to see the light of day and edge my painting towards its own finishing line in 2019.
From time to time I post things about apps that I am making use of in the classroom on the iPads that the pupils I teach all have. One of the limitations I have in this area is that the apps essentially have to be free. Generally the school has a policy that if the app is one that is likely to be used by multiple subject areas they may consider buying a collective license, but if on department, and certainly if it’s just one teacher who’s involved it has to be a freebie!
The art department this understandable policy often presents a problem. There are many good drawing and painting apps out there, but most have restrictions and limitations with the free versions that simply make them less interesting to use. But one that doesn’t suffer from this problem is the truly awfully named MediBang Paint. Whoever thought of that name!
Aside from the name though, this really is an excellent app, with a tremendous range of well-organized possibilities. I’ll be using it during the coming weeks as an extension of an abstraction project that I have been working on. For this application I particularly like the guided drawing tools that allow you to work extensively with concentric circles, parallel lines or with a vanishing point (see the example below).
When my pupils have had a go at producing their own designs I’ll post more.
I’ve been working on a project that focuses on abstraction with my third years (15 year olds). The direction of the various parts of the assignments touch on a number of issues such as design principles, dynamics in an image, colour and draws a parallel with the abstract nature of music.
Some years I have made three dimensional work during this project, but this time round I have chosen to focus on the two dimensional image and try and push the creativity of the pupils as far as I can using simply drawing materials. As we near the end of the project (and the school year), I am certainly not unhappy with the results and the pupils themselves seem to be feeling a sense of achievement, certainly when they see the work they have made grouped together.
I’ve been also trying to encourage the class to mix up the materials, look for interesting combinations, get the class to ask themselves ‘what else can I use?’. For the most part I had in mind a little collage in combination with the more obvious pencil or pen work. But as the photo here shows this has extended to some of the girls reaching inside their bags and pulling out the make-up and working the pearlescent and metallic colours into the design. I’d been showing plenty of Frank Stella’s work in the build up to the project, that may have influenced some of their choices. I’m sure he would approve!