Looking at some recommended artists and how they might influence my Approach.
I had a look at Lisa Milroy on lisamilroy.net She went through a phase where she painted fast – finishing a painting a day, painting wet-on-wet. (Mostly still life paintings). Around 1984 she turned to “slow Painting” taking months to finish a canvas. (like Edward Hopper). She painted on a white Background which heightened the effect of the shadows.
“ The objects I chose to paint were usually beautiful or visually attractive and I wanted to celebrate that quality in paint”. Whilst I was painting my still-life flowers, especially the Hibiscus flower, I can remember that I was so enthralled by the beauty of it and attempted to “celebrate” it too. I found that giving it the black background raised the beauty of the flower, making it special. But it needn’t be only “beautiful” objects, I could also paint thrown cigarette butts, squashed cola cans, the litter I find on the street on my way to work.
“While painting one such object I’d concentrate on trying not to think of anything other than pure description and the enjoyment of painting”. Yes, I remember that during the process of painting the still life flowers I was highly concentrated, locked myself into my world and did not let anything distract me. The paintings also took a few days, and I was glad that it was Summer and I had many flowers to refer to. I also referred to my photographs.
She gave herself limits, finding her freedom in limits: She used only eight colours and mixed. – I use only three warm primaries, three cold primaries and white. I also use those wonderful pearly colours which I have in three tones. In the landscape projects, I have sometimes used only tonal shades of grey, which I found quite interesting.
She used only hardware brushes: I have two favourite brushes and resort to using sponges, knives, batter scrapers to push my paint around. For larger paintings I use house painters brushes, mops, tile wipers, bamboosticks or whatever I lay my hands on. I tie the brushes onto broomsticks so that I can gain distance and be less controlled – but of course only on larger paintings.
She tended to paint on canvasses of only one or two sizes: I notice that I love to use small canvasses of 30x30cms, 60 x 60, 80×80 or 100×100. For landscapes I have bought small rectangular ones too. I like the idea of painting in series.
She painted her shadows always falling to the right. I would say that my light source is mostly always to the top right, so my shadows would fall to the left. Funny! I hadn’t given this a thought before.
She made photos of her objects: I too had to photograph my flower. It was an exercise about painting from a photo, so I adopted this method, but also had the real flower before my eyes for reference.
She turned to slow-painting in 1984: My flowers and the dragonfly were works taking more than one day. I don’t think I could do that in one sitting.
Her slow paintings show a closed and melancholic atmosphere: Those flower paintings done on the 30×30 could be interpreted that way too. I had done a very large flower painting , which took me weeks to complete, and that painting certainly had something very melancholic about it. Whereas I had done a flower series on very large canvasses in a very spontaneous fashion and they create an atmosphere of freedom and exuberance, with happy dancing brushstrokes.
I think she has a very interesting artist’s bio and writes interesting texts. Its important to be more open and write more about oneself and one’s thoughts. I am quite a reticent person when it comes to talking about myself, and I find it difficult to talk about my deepest thoughts, as it might bore the others to death. I’m afraid I make too many very deep thoughts. Would perhaps be easier if everything was on a light hearted level.
I found it very interesting getting to know Lisa Milroy’s work. It gave me a lot of insight into how I could further develop my new found affinity (discovered during the Still Life project) to drawing and painting in a concentrated fashion in certain situations. I would like to have the time to paint a series of very realistic flowers, insects, leaves, fruits of my garden – all on 30 x 30cm canvasses.
I also looked at Marcus Harvey, a YBA born in 1963. His portrait of a serial child killer made of children’s handprints created quite a sensation some time ago. “High art with gritty realism”. Not exactly my cup of tea.
Kitaj( 1932-2007) an intellectual artist “of fierce intelligence” who was not understood – or who quoted too many intellectual sources much to the chagrin of some art critics. Was together with Freud, Hockney, Hodgkin, Auerbach. Very intensive colours. I could not relate to his work too much.
Mick Rooney: (1944-) Delightful narrative scenes of poetic dreams. Its hard to believe that those are painted by a man. The faces were all rounded like gingerbread men. Looked at a slide show of his images on www.bbc.co.uk. I liked the Windy Day on Brick Lane on www.fossegallery.com.
ADRIAN BERG: (1929-2011) I am ever so thankful that I have discovered this landscape artist who was inspired by Monet, treating subjects in series like him. He lived overlooking the Regents Park, which proved to be the perfect location for him. He recorded the passing seasons mainly from his window, but also in the park and other famous gardens. According to his website, www.adrianberg.com he deliberately blocked emotional response and forced the viewer to think.
I looked at a wonderful slide on bbc.co.uk and was quite enamoured with his jewel like colours and his paintings of the seasons and even months of the year. This painter inspires me, as I admire his sense of colour and the fact that he spent a lifetime exploring his parks, landscapes and trees in quiet solitude.
I don’t think he was successful in his attempt to block an emotional response – I was absolutely involved seeing his colours.
Discovering him has enriched my painting life. Such jewels! To add to this I love this humbleness – he worked as a teacher and was not keen to exhibit and create a fanfare – “merely” partaking in the annual Summer Exhibition at the RA. He was at the Academy with David Hockney. Personally, I prefer Adrian Berg’s work. I enjoyed his drawings too on his Website. Hope to see his works at an Exhibition. It’s a pity that I did not discover this great colourist before. But I am richer now.
Some paintings of mine where I was engaged in observing trees, seeing why I love his style of painting.
Looked at Craigie Aitchison: glowing colours on minimalistic background. Very austere paintings but a touch of glowing pinks and some lovely blues. He seemed to have a thing about that triangular hill form and also to be quite religious as the crucifix appears as a theme in most paintings.
Fazit: Researching Lisa Milroy and Adrian Berg have given me an impetus into looking closely at more objects of nature and rendering them in a realistic style as I did my hibiscus and the dragonfly. I have already done some roses, an iris and other flowers of my garden. The insect series would also include ladybugs, and other humble creatures. Need more time for all – but its on my to-do list.I also notice that I could do with more serenity and calmness (like Craigie Aitchieson), as looking at my older paintings from last Summer I tend to be very “busy” in my trees. Lines and lines all over. – So I feel that working on those flowers (Hibiscus etc) was a good exercise in working slowly and calmly.
Its always good to take time to distance oneself from one’s work – as the critical eye works better then.