Tutor formative feedback from my last assignment is so encouraging! I have posted most of the report and made some comments of my own (in italics). I have provided a thumbnail, so I can remember which work he is referring to when I reflect on this later.
Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
This is a good solid third assignment. You have approached this assignment in a thorough and comprehensive way. Your ability to adapt and tackle different subject matter is commendable. Your planning and preparation are very good. The preliminary studies in pencil and charcoal are, in themselves, quite beautiful pieces of work. The charcoal and pencil studies ‘at the table’ are also particularly pleasing.
The success of these studies is due to both the subject matter – the positioning of the figure relative to the viewer – but also the way in which you have rendered the figure with a delicate touch and varied use of mark making. The compositional arrangement, however, would perhaps benefit from a little decluttering. Perhaps focus your attention more on the figure. Then, the narrative elements present would be slightly more minimal and open ended, ambiguous even. For example, there would be a boy looking at something, but what he’s looking at and in what setting, would not be completely clear or definitive.
I can see that the introduction of colour is where, occasionally, things become a bit more complicated, and your confidence starts to wain slightly. It’s worth keeping in mind that colour is relative to the painting itself. We do of course respond to subject matter, but we should also respond to the painting. Therefore, put colour down in a way which feels right for the painting, in response to what already exists on the surface. The point I’m trying to make here is to build colour up gradually on the terms set by the initial preparatory drawing or the underpainting, applying subtle transparent colour which compliments what’s already happening on the surface of your canvas or paper. Try layering opaque colour, where necessary, along the way so that each layer is relative to the preceding layer in colour/tone.
Your natural affinity to veer towards the subtleties of tonal painting is beginning to come through in your work as a whole. This is really nice to see, and I encourage you to fully embrace this. I’m reminded of the work of Patrick Procktor. There are some similarities between yours and Procktor’s approach to painting, such as an economy and a deftness of touch. There is an effortlessness application of colour and pattern in his figurative works, and I can see this coming through in your work too. I suspect there is a direct form of painting at play in Procktor’s approach. There are also, quite often, the remains of an initial line drawing in pencil, left exposed in some of his finished paintings. This suggests to me that he makes an initial drawing in pencil and then dives straight in with colour, similar to the approach you employ. I would encourage you to pay close attention to Procktor’s work. His figures are quite beautifully rendered, and I can see that he might be an important artist for you going forward.
As with some of your drawing studies, I would encourage you to be mindful of leaving some of the objects out. For example, if you were to remove the hand and pen from the finished painting, this simple and selective ‘leaving out’ would change the outlook of the painting, the mood, and the narrative would change too. A more ambiguous narrative would ensue. Similarly, if you were to remove the cup/mug and the light brown of the table, this would also change the narrative, perhaps in a more subtle way. The removal of these two things creates a sense of uncertainty which allows the painting’s narrative to be less literal or illustrative, and more conceptual and open to interpretation.
My comment: I am intrigued by this idea of leaving out the pen/mug in my assignment piece and am considering doing a study or studies to see how this would work.
He is right with regards my nervousness regarding application of colour – specifically in portraits. I understand from this coursework that it is just a matter of practice/experimentation. The more one works with portrait painting, the more you develop your own way of treating the skin and topography of a person’s face.
I am blown away with his remarks about Procktor, who I am currently researching. I am slowly starting to take on board the concept of ‘leaving stuff out’, this is starting to become a mantra I think. .
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
There are some very good compositional elements in your coursework and finished paintings. There is a real sense of identity starting to come through in this body of work. I was particularly impressed by your gouache and acrylic painting ‘Telling a Story’.
I was quite confounded by the illusion of depth and perspective in this painting. Your decision to keep the background fairly simple and minimal works really well. It allows the eye to be completely seduced and drawn in by this enchanting little painting. There is very little colour in the painting, and what colour there is has been applied in a fairly quick and flat way. This flatness and transparency of colour is by no means a bad thing. It’s not completely flat colour either, there are subtle transitions of tone, where the transparent layers of paint interact with the whiteness of the paper.
In addition, it’s worth thinking about ‘what a painting actually is’. It’s a simple notion really, and one which we tend to forget, strangely enough. A painting is of course, a flat surface. I often find that to acknowledge and embrace this fact is to, paradoxically, bypass the burden of trying to create a sense of depth or three-dimensional space, and to somehow open up the painting surface in order to convey physical reality. Hans Hofmann referred to it as the pushing and pulling effect, he also made reference to this thankless task as trying to metaphorically carve a hole in the canvas without actually doing so. My point here is to encourage you to accept, acknowledge and even embrace the flatness of the surface. This acknowledgement relieves us, in some small way, of the task of trying to make something which conveys a sense of depth and three-dimensional space.
The ‘Figure in an Interior’ in gouache is similarly effective in its use of subtle, transparent layers of paint.
Your decision to ‘leave stuff out’ allows the viewer to experience and interpret the main subject matter, without the distraction of miscellaneous objects or illustrative details which distract the viewer and complete the narrative to within an inch of its life.
The painting in the ‘Creating Mood / Atmosphere’ exercise is also a really intriguing painting.
There is an almost collage-like feel to this painting. The introduction of colour here is done really well and with subtlety and nuance. The composition and arrangement of the subject is rather curious too. I can identify the majority of the depicted content, and the constituent parts seem to work together and in unity. They are both detached and connected to each other, but it works, and it is harmonious. The different treatment of colour in the neighboring parts of this painting give the impression of a collage, (as stated above). It may be worth looking at collage and artists who use collage in the work. I’ll include some in your reading list below. The decision to leave the head of the figure without colour seems to work really well in this painting too, perhaps this is something worth exploring further also. Finally, this painting is a good example of where the successful arrangement of familiar objects work together in unity to form a really interesting and rich painting. I like this painting a lot.
My comment – I am really pleased that my tutor liked these three studies, as I also felt they were very successful, so I am beginning to realise that I DO know when I’ve got it right! I am also beginning to understand that the painting process is very much a series of decisions, for me these are done without prescience or analysis, they are subconscious. I think I need to start trusting these subconscious decisions. The fact that I left out any colour on my subject’s face in the third painting above, was done because his skin is naturally very pale and transluscent, so to put colour there would have been wrong. But it is an interesting concept to think about – i.e. using colour or lots of tone on the body and leaving the face devoid of colour. (I seem to recall that I did this with my final assignment piece in Drawing 1)
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
You are involved in effective and productive research, your critical thinking is very good. Your research is thorough, well informed and relevant to your practice. Your ability to acknowledge and understand complex ideas is encouraging and commendable. This ability is reflected in the decisions and choices you have made throughout the assignments more generally, but it is also evident in terms of the artists who inspire and influence you. You have the facility to intelligently respond to, and understand, the contemporary concerns of artists like Luc Tuymans, which is quite advanced at this stage in the course. This will no doubt help you in your practice in really positive ways as you progress further through the course. Your ability to absorb and retain knowledge and information is excellent. You have very good interpretive skills and an ability to analyze and reflect upon your own work and ideas, as well as the work and ideas of others. Your knowledge of historical and contemporary ideas in painting are good also.
You have taken on board comments made in previous feedback regarding suggested reading and alternative modes of thinking in terms of painting. You have interpreted your findings where relevant and applied them to your practice where necessary. Keep going and keep up the good work!
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
Your learning log is clear and easy to follow. It includes a good range of examples of work and research points. You have also presented your work in a cohesive format, so your ideas and developments are sequential and coherent.
Maintain this excellent approach to your learning, i.e. all aspects of what I have discussed in this report, from the technical painting information to philosophical thinking about painting, to artists research. This can impact and strengthen your work and should be seen as part of the practice as a whole.
My comment: I am on the right track with my research and critical thinking. I need to delve more into the philosophical approach to why I do my art. I think I’ve been influenced by watching Luc Tuymans’ and Gerhard Richter’s videos on YouTube in this respect. Particularly, Tuymans, who is very generous when discussing the raison d’etre behind his work and his entire approach to painting. My tutor has given me a list of suggested reading / viewing and pointers for my next assignment, which I will definitely try to incorporate. I have some really interesting artists to research now!