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  • Writer's pictureAnna Curston

Week 7: 14th - 18th March

Hello again my friends! It is glorious, sunny day today and I am in a very good mood because of it! It’s just so difficult to be stressed about anything when the weather is so nice! I went for a lovely little walk by the sea this morning, and just breathed in all the fresh sea air and revelled in the warmth of the sun on my face; spring is definitely on the way. The last week has been an emotional one to be honest though, it really felt like the beginning of the end when I resolved my Sagittarius A diptych. Obviously its very good that I’m so organised and my exhibition pieces are complete, but it is also sad. Don’t worry, I still have plenty to do to prepare for the exhibition as well as writing my essay and keeping up with this blog. It does take the pressure off a bit though which is nice. I just wish I could afford to continue to just spend all my time painting more huge boards. I still have painting to do though, so it’s not the end of the world. Enough waffle, lets jump into what I’ve been up to this past week.

The week started with all my focus on Sgr A radio. I was feeling a little adrift with it to be honest and was just trying to find something to work with from the marks I’d already laid down. I played around with it, pushing areas back with purple and blue glazes and blocking out areas in black to calm it down and find a bit of structure. While painting, I was really concentrating on a sense of spin and the idea of a radiating body. A photo edit really helped me in resolving this piece, helping me find the structure without losing too many of the wonderful marks and interesting patterns I’d been building up.

So, it is complete. Sgr A is finished. Honestly, I am so happy. I love the colours and think they successfully achieve the vibe I was aiming for: power and mystery. I also think both paintings are really dynamic and full of movement which I am over the moon about. This pair was all about the crazy, dynamic, complex, baffling and extreme Sagittarius A system and I feel they show it off well. Both have many nods to the science research I did for them, and as paintings they are very exciting too. The scale of the paintings (both together and apart) is also wonderful, allowing you to see the details and the whole all at once. They demand your attention and fill your field of view. I sincerely hope that other people are as excited about them as I am, and I really hope they can spark some people’s interest into astronomy too.

I can almost see a room with soft, low lighting, atmospheric and mysterious music playing softly in the background and my abstract space paintings on the walls bathed in light and jumping out at you, demanding that you stay and ponder them for a while. Maybe one day. That’s the dream; using art to create an experience to get other people excited about astronomy. I know there is a chance I might never reach that point, but I will put all of me into the attempt and enjoy every second of it, regardless of my ‘success’.

I finally got cracking on my additional suite of paintings this week. I’ve decided to use them as an opportunity to push myself further and experiment with new materials; I want to do a masters and starting to explore new materials now feels like a good way to start preparing for it.

I’m experimenting with painting in acrylic and oils. Using the visible and near-infrared Hubble image of a section of the Lagoon Nebula (M8), I put down an underpainting in acrylic, blocking out the main areas of colour and adding a splattering of stars. I’m going for realism in this first painting for simplicity, so I only have to think about the materials and not the compositions or anything else. So far, I’m finding the oil paint applies really smoothly over the acrylic, and I can get some nice soft, misty blends. The size I’m working on (8 x 8 inches) is a bit frustrating though, for the delicate details. It’s a bit blocky at the moment, but it’s still in progress. By the end of today I will hopefully have a vague idea for what I want to try in the next painting.

This week’s research was around space artists and materials. I first looked at Cathrin Machin. With her paint, she explores ideas of density, luminosity and sense of flow. She also contemplates the scale of the universe, expressing it visually by painting on huge canvases that fill your whole field of view. She aims to make space an experience and wants to share with people the wonder of it and how it can change your whole world view. She paints in realism, but her paintings still have lovely qualities of paint: impasto and soft blends. This soft gradient that oil can achieve is one of the aspects of it I wish to explore in my additional suite.

I also looked at Simon Kenny, this time for his use of materials and technique. He uses palette knives as well as brushes to create lovely texture and soft blends. He builds from pale to dark, building up colour over an underpainting (sometimes in acrylic). His paintings have huge areas of blended colour as well as interesting more compact areas of impasto texture.

Next week I want to continue to progress the additional suite of works and hopefully start another one, trying to be a bit more inventive and experimental this time. I’m also considering trying to use canvas again. I love working on board, but when they get big, they get very heavy so canvas would be good if I can get it to work. I would also like to get a solid bit of writing done for my essay. I also want to find some more artists that use oil and acrylic in their paintings.

I’m feeling really positive about it all to be honest, and I’ll be getting one of my paintings photographed for the exhibition catalogue next week, so that’s exciting. I hope you all have a great week, stay creative and curious.


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