It’s taken me a while to get started with Part 5 as we are preparing to rent out our main home in Suffolk and move to Colchester. This means I have been doing the wrong kind of painting – walls and woodwork! And even worse, I’ve had to do a lot of cleaning and try not to make too much mess. Much progress has been made and we’ve found tenants who wish to move in end of April. So now is my chance to get immersed in Part 5 before everything has to be packed up and moved.
Paint a still life with fruit… initially this did not excite me but as I got into it I started to get pleasure in experimenting and observing the different impacts the various techniques have.
Using a brush
Looking at this it feels as though I have been a bit mean with the paint. I didn’t find it easy to apply a lot of paint with a brush. I didn’t have any gel to mix with the acrylic but used PVA glue instead but didn’t like the way it slowed down the brush and made it drag. I will look out for gel when I’m next in an art supplies shop as it sounds like useful stuff. This first still life of apple, lemons, oranges and strawberries was painted on a vibrant pink ground.
I decided to be bold and work with bright colours as I’ve been quite cautious with colour recently.. In terms of impasto effect, although there is texture on the fruits it is too subtle to have much impact. There is more texture in the background brush strokes and I have highlighted these by putting a wash of white over and then sanding back. This is effective and could be useful in future work. My fruits were looking rather pale and featureless and so I sanded back to the bright pink ground in some selected areas and this has lifted them up. They look a bit surreal, kind of half peeled, but that’s OK, this is an experiment. Bringing back some of the pink has helped to pull the various parts of the image together.
Using a painting knife
I used several different palette knives and a chopped up credit card to scrape paint across the canvas. I then used the edge of the credit card to break up the edges. It looks a bit mad and busy and a little difficult to work out but the essence of the fruit is there. I like the way the lines applied with the credit card have broken up the outlines. feel these lines give energy to the picture although I’m not sure how much energy a pile of oranges and lemons need! This technique might work well with figures to to convey an unsettled mood.
I did an underpainting (see left) with some distinctive colours and lines – I used the paint thickly, particularly on the green and red. I then painted black over the top. I scratched out the main shapes using a wooden skewer but the black was getting very messy so I decided to let it dry.
Later I scratched out part of the still life using a scalpel. It was effective as the very bright colours under showed through, but it was a bit neat and precise. Because I had used cartridge paper primed with just one layer of gesso I found myself scratching through the white and tearing the paper here and there. Actually I felt this improved the painting as it made it look a bit old and distressed. I took this further and sanded parts of it down and this started to reveal both the colour and the texture of the lines below. This made the whole image more interesting and gave a kind aged wood texture. The background is quite dramatic and theatrical looking and may be for the final assignment.
Find out about sgraffito…
Sgraffito, (Italian: “scratched”), is a technique used in painting, pottery, and glass, which involves putting down a preliminary surface, covering it with another, and then scratching the superficial layer in such a way that the pattern or shape that emerges is of the lower colour. During the Middle Ages, especially in panel painting and in the illumination of manuscripts, the ground was often of gold leaf. In wall painting, or mural painting, two layers of different-coloured plaster are usually employed. In stained glass, the scratching is done through a top layer of coloured glass, revealing clear glass beneath; in pottery the pattern is incised through a white or coloured slip (mixture of clay and water washed over the vessel before firing), revealing the body colour beneath.
I’ve put together a Sgraffito Pinterest board here and it makes me think that I should explore this more… particularly to expressive line into my figure drawings and also to consider including some words of Shakespeare…