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  • Writer's pictureAnna Curston

Week 9: 28th March - 1st April

Hello! It’s a beautiful, frosty morning here in Aberystwyth and as I’m writing this, I am watching the sun light up the wispy clouds in gold as it slowly rises. I do love a morning, it’s a really magical time. The last week of term before Easter has come to an end, and I can’t believe there are now three weeks ahead with no university (though not with no work). Given how the last nine weeks have flown by though, I have no doubt that I will be writing, I can’t believe Easter is over already, in no time! It will be the degree show before you know it, and then… I will have finished my degree! How scary is that?! That reminds me of something very exciting but scary that happened this week, I finally submitted my Masters application! So, I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed for that. It’s also one more thing ticked off my to do list, so that is good. So what else have been up to in the last week?

At the beginning of the week, I was working on resolving The Orion Nebula (M42). Last week I was debating saturating the colours from the original image, but I decided against it as I wanted to stay true to the colour choice of the people who took the photo rather than use colour for my own ends. The focus was on adding details and putting in the dark silhouetted areas. I am not aiming for photorealism to the point of erasing my hand from the artwork, I like that you can still tell it’s a painting; a creative object made by a person.

Why/How is my additional suite of works different from my exhibition work?

  • Firstly, colour. For the exhibition work, the way I used colour was threefold: to describe the relative energy of the wavelength of light I was depicting it in, to show visually (by using a single colour) that the object is being viewed in a single wavelength of light, and also to express feelings and emotions and ideas around the object to create a specific atmosphere. For the additional suite, I am staying true to the colours chosen by the scientists who took/edited the photo. The colours were chosen for a reason and I am respecting that reason and not altering them for my own differing purposes. (They are also full colour unlike the single colour exhibition works.)

  • The second thing that makes them different is my application of paint. For the exhibition work, my mark making was experimental and varied, aiming to say something about the subject matter with the marks themselves and drawing parallels between the paint application and science. The additional suite is just uses the brushes to recreate the image, I'm not hiding the brush marks, but not emphasising them either – they are just there because I am painting.

  • I am using the photo source differently: in the exhibition work, the source is a guide, a skeleton to flesh out with additional research and my own feelings. It is the initial inspiration for each painting. In contrast, for the additional suite, I am copying the source as accurately as possible (colour, form, etc.).

  • An obvious difference is with the paint I am using; just acrylic for the exhibition work, but experimenting with acrylic underpainting for oil paint for the additional suite.

  • Last but not least, the scale of the surface I’m working on is vastly different. The exhibition work is big. It is big to create an immersive experience; huge colourful and energetic paintings that fill your whole field of vision and take you to new worlds. The additional suite of images are small and simply decorative objects that depict a little corner of the universe, they are not trying to be anything other than what they are: little paintings of space.

This week also saw me getting started on the oil painting of the Pillars of Creation (Eagle Nebula). I thought the acrylic underpainting was a little dull, but it was only an underpainting after all, and it only took a fluffy application of some thin pure colour to brighten it up and bring it to life. A thin application of some paynes grey also helped to make it pop, pushing some areas back and adding dimension. I also blocked in roughly where the highlights were before starting to build up the silhouetted area on top (the famous pillars), focusing on keeping it delicate as nebula have many delicate wispy filaments.

Should I have the time to explore it, I had a new idea for a different way to explore this terms concept (wavelengths and diptychs). For this idea though, instead of each board showing the whole object in a specific wavelength, what if each board only showed half the object, joining in the middle; an object painted half and half in different wavelengths. I do hope I have time to at least start exploring this variation, but obviously my essay and additional suite of works must come first as I’ve already completed my body of work for the exhibition. But this would be a bonus!

I have been working a lot on my essay, and re did the structure and then reordered the new version. I’m starting to plan and write the sections now and I want to make sure I’m thinking about illustrations as I go so they fit properly with the text. There is still much to do for it, but I’m feeling really positive about the progress I’ve made.

Next week is the start of the Easter holidays, how crazy! Over the next three weeks, I would like to finish The Pillars of Creation and start (and hopefully finish) the final painting in the suite, The Ant Nebula. I also want to test out varnishing so I can decide whether or not to varnish my exhibition works. By the end of Easter, I ideally want to have a completed draft of my essay with a fairly solid layout plan.

There is a lot to do, but I do also think it is important to rest over this period too. As such, I won’t be posting another blog until the end of Easter, but don’t worry, it doesn’t mean I won’t be doing plenty of work!

I hope you all have a wonderful next few weeks, stay creative and curious, and I’ll see you next time!


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