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  • Writer's pictureAnna Curston

Week 2&3: 11th October – 22nd October

Hello again friends! In this blog I will be talking about what I’ve been up to the last two weeks (not as much as I would have liked as I’ve been ill the past week!) Turns out flu jabs don’t agree with me! But enough rambling, let’s get on with it!

I got into my studio as soon as I was allowed and immediately started painting. I want to be more spontaneous with colour choice in my paintings this year and thus this was something I was very conscious about when starting this painting. It soon became clear however that I was approaching this spontaneity thing all wrong; my colours were busy, muddy and confused. They just weren’t working and I felt just as confused and indecisive as my colours. After much thinking and further research into Rothko and Cezanne’s use of colour I settled on a ‘overall’ colour I wished each segment of my painting to be read as. This quietened and improved the look of the piece a lot and also made me understand better that being spontaneous with colour doesn’t mean I can’t make conclusive decisions about it, rather the decisions I make can be based on how that colour is coming across in the painting as a whole. Having a vague colour scheme in mind also does not prevent the application from being impulsive, but can help guide any further decisions and give me some direction in my process. Lesson learned.

Colour is one of the things I want to focus on and improve on this year (and as I think I proved above, there is definitely room for it) … I find Rothko’s play with tonal value and saturation really interesting and it’s an avenue I want to go further down – I could also look at Hofmann for this too. I really wanted to try use a more natural palette this year, but I think I was starting to go about it wrong. Nature has so many vibrant colours, natural doesn’t have to mean muted or a limited colour palette and that just simply isn't me, my colours just have to be found in nature. I’m very drawn to my magenta paint right now and I see this mirrored in all the vibrant pink flowers I’ve seen around this month. If going botanical, the colour opportunities could be endlessly exciting. As well as botanical colours, I could look towards space for my bright colour schemes. I found these colours while researching Udomsak Krianamis who’s work speaks to me of space and astronomy and the glorious night’s sky.

Being in Aberystwyth, the beach is naturally an influence in my work. I’ve made further compositional studies these last two weeks from a rock and a crab shell I picked up from the beach. Both objects had such interesting structures on them, and even as it cracks through drying, the crab shell gains even more interesting features. When looking for an alternative material to experiment with I also turned to sand, curious as to how the rocky sand on the local beach specifically would react with the paint.

To find nature is an interesting concept to explore. I can put nature in my work in the form of scattered rocks or using sticks and leaves to apply paint, or I can find it simply in the random and unpredictable marks on the surface. Using sticks to move the paint creates a lovely scratchy effect, whilst dropping sand onto watery paint pulls the paint around to pool around each individual grain creating an interesting speckled effect when dry. If you then rub the sand off, you are left with intense circles of colour around an empty centre (a bit like a black hole). When it comes to finding nature through expressive random looking marks, I found David Tress and Jade Fadojutimi good examples to look at. Tress’s mixed media painting/ collages on paper hold an energy and immediacy that comes with his process of tearing and reassembling of his work as well as the marks he creates with his paint. He creates vibrant and energetic landscapes. Fadojutimi’s work also holds a certain energy, along with a fabulous sense of light. The ways she builds up her marks with bits of the background poking through gives her paintings such dimension and makes me feel as if I could step right into some of them. She describes her painting as environments and I think it’s a wonderful way to describe them as I do feel like I could exist there.

At the beginning of these two weeks, I painted on canvas. I have not used it since as I found the springy surface frustrating for my current practice and as I wanted to experiment with sticking things onto my surface, I’m worried the bouncy surface with shorten the life of a painting with collaged pieces. Also in a cool studio space, the extra drying time canvas needs is a bit frustrating. I have been working on board and mount board instead. Board is by far my favourite surface, but for wild experimenting it’s a bit expensive. The mount board however has its drawbacks as it bubbles a bit if too wet and as rips under the tapes sometimes.

I’m trying to be more experimental with my process at the moment, I’m splattering, pour and generally aggressively moving around my paint. I painted an A1 sheet of paper with random marks of various kinds in blue and yellow and green and have since ripped it up and collaged it onto various experiments. Again, this is where I find the paper surface frustrating as it bubbles and rips and lift back off the page when too wet. I enjoy the effect and process of this however, so I want to try and improve my technique to eliminate these issues as much as possible.

I mixed some raw pigment with glazing medium and it created (as you might expect) a transparent colour. I also mixed some with an acrylic thickening medium – it dried all crumbly and chalking and matt, like brick – I really like the texture it made but I don’t know how well it will stick to a surface in the long term.

I think Tomma Abts’s use of tonal variation is interesting, creating strange optical effects. I also relate to how she describes her process (although unlike me she uses no source material): “As the internal logic of each painting unfolds, forms are defined, buried and rediscovered until the painting becomes congruent with itself.” This constant losing of and finding of forms and structures is something I find in my own process.

Once I was feeling better enough to work (although not in the studio) I decided to work on the tonal aspects of my paintings from home to help me solve them when I go back in. I find tonal thumbnails very helpful when I’m feeling stuck on a painting, it helps me to think about the composition without the distraction of colour.

Despite being ill, I think it was a fairly successful fortnight. Especially when seeing all the lessons written out like this, I feel as if a lot of progress was made internally as well as in my physical paintings.

That’s all for this blog, fingers crossed for less illness and more productivity for weeks 4 and 5! I’ll see you next time!


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