Working towards my Assessment Space: Painting with Natural Paints and Tools

Assessment is approaching, and I am starting to think about consolidating my project and working out what I want to show on the wall. I have sifted through my experimentation and come to a conclusion as to how the greatest connection between art and nature is made, simply by being more natural with my materials and more inventive in my approach to how I use them rather than just sticking them to the surface etc.

My project started off being inspired by a landscape painter, I have always been interested in Landscape and producing landscape style pieces with these materials will not only emit a connection with nature but the landscape in my eyes will be more connected to the outdoors as it incorporates items from the environment. I challenge traditional flat landscape paintings and reinvent them using natural materials. People recognise a landscape painting and so using this imagery as well as my natural paints and tools to make art will emit a connection between art and nature to people more recognisably and somewhat expose them to and reconnect them with nature in a world that is growing more and more urbanized.

Triptych Landscape Painting

I have produced a triptych of landscape paintings connected to nature in far more ways than just the imagery. The landscape images themselves are taken from nature, I have referred to the shape of twigs to determine the shape of the mountains and hills. The paints used to paint these are made from natural materials and they have been applied with brushes and tools made from leaves, sticks, grass, pine cones, etc. The colour palette has only emerged from what nature has to offer and so is recognisably natural.

Working with nature is a highly experimental and interesting process, each paint incorporated a different texture into your work and each tool creates a different mark.

I definitely think these pieces are successful in portraying a connection between art and nature. When I started experimenting with these ideas, I would never have imagined I would have ground my own paints and create my own painting tools (inspired by field). Experimentation and trial and error have been key elements in my work and have aided my success.

A relationship between the art world and the natural world is clearly evident here and against a white wall I am confident that the natural colour pallette will stand out and so I have chosen to use these within my assessment space, I feel that the paints I made and the tools I produced are artworks in their own right, taken from nature and utilised as art materials and so I will be displaying these in my assessment space as well. As well as these pieces and my tools and paints, I will paint a line drawing style landscape onto handmade nature paper with each of the 16 of my tools and display those aswell. Mark making has been integrated throughout my project and so showing the marks that the tools can make more gesturally to accompany these more clean final style outcomes could make for an interesting display utilising nature in art.

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MIXING NATURE INTO PAINT: Working on a Larger Scale and Reflection

Continuing my Experimentation creating a connection between art and nature in an urban and technological Society. I have experimented with mixing natural elements into paint and using the mixtures to create landscape paintings to portray a connection to nature and attempt to somewhat reconnect the viewer with the natural world. My thoughts behind this experimentation were that after viewing flat generic landscape paintings of the Brecon Area in Local Galleries, I thought they were nice depictions for someone to hang on their wall and have memories of the place, but I didn’t really think they connected with the place or connected the viewer with the natural world. I decided to experiment with producing landscape paintings incorporating natural matter (from the place depicted) into the paint to connect the piece with place and nature more deeply.

I started experimenting with mixing soil and twigs into paint and applying them to the surface, incorporating colours inspired by my original starting point piece by John Piper. Even though this is only an inital experiment, I don’t think it is very successful, there are too many areas on the surface of the piece that do not include any natural elements and are just painted. I don’t think that this piece particularly emits a deeper connection with nature or place and so I decided to continue experimenting incorporating more nature into the work and attempting to cover the whole surface in this mixed up nature embedded paints.

I do think that these paintings are more connected to nature than if they were just flat paintings and I think they would encourage viewers to think about the natural world and therefore experience a slight reconnection with nature. However, I’m not sure how strong this would be as the natural objects are mixed into synthetic paints that are plasticy and bright. I do think the textural element of the works is particularly interesting but these experiments are quite small, I wonder how the impact would be if the painting was on a large scale and the natural elements were even more prominent on the surface. Would they appear hidden under paint or would they give a new dimension to the painting and a deeper connection with place and nature? I experimented on a larger scale in an attempt to find out.

Working on a Larger Scale

I am pleased with how this piece looks visually and texturally, I think viewers would enjoy looking at it. However that is all I’m pleased with, After creating this larger image I do not think the technique of mixing natural elements into paint is particularly successful in creating a connection between art and nature other than the fact that the materials are put together on the same for surface. I don’t think that this piece would reconnect people with the natural world as the natural elements are hidden under synthetic plasticy acrylic paint. I didn’t really think about the unnatural qualities of acrylic paint but I think it is evident in this piece that there is nothing natural about it apart from the materials that are embedded within the paint. The colour choice is poor as well. I wanted to incorporate colours from the original piece I looked at by John Piper and colours that I had experienced being in the Brecon Beacons but I feel the whole thing is too bright and doesn’t look natural at all. It doesn’t capture the natural feel I want it to and I think this is mainly down to the man made paint use. I think I need to move on from this and progress and physically make my own paints/pigments from natural materials. That way it would be all natural. I also wouldn’t be able to control the colours that occur as they will also come from nature. Displaying the jars of hand-made nature paints with the piece could be interesting, the paints also being artworks themselves. I have learnt a lot from producing this piece and need to create a deeper connection to nature and not combine that with synthetic material because it defeats the object. Lastly, I think the image is too tight, it isn’t expressive or gestural enough.

I am thinking now about making my own paints from nature and using tools made from natural objects to apply the paints. I could display the paints and the tools with the work. Hopefully using the tools will make the work more gestural and less illustrative and also a deeper connection to nature will be evident because nature will have made the mark in the form of applying the paint and in the paint itself.


FINAL PERFORMANCE: The Disharmony between Nature and an Urban Society: PROCESS: STILLS

Here are the photographs captured from the final performance that we produced on Thursday. There will be more to come from other cameras and devices of the university and my peers but these are my personal shots that a member of another group kindly took for me.

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The Performance Piece was highly successful and I feel like we delivered it very well. Everyone was very aware of their bodies and the marks being made whilst having our concept in the back of their minds. We managed to achieve what we set out to do and even though we couldn’t visualise what the outcome would look like, I think it definitely shows disharmony between the sides which represented nature and urban society. 

In comparison to our plan, there were a few things we didn’t do, but I think performance is about what happens in a moment, the here and now and so cannot be too vigorously planned. We set out to swap sides once Sarah had walked along the tight rope line, but we ended up two of us making marks on one side and one on the other. All of my group had never really delved into performance art before and so I think we all successfully managed to learn from the sessions and create a successful performance based both on what we had learnt and the work we were doing in our on subject areas. Importantly, our audience appeared to be intrigued by and engaged with our work.

If I was to do this performance again, there are little things I would change in order to improve it. I think I would have put more organic material at the side of the paper, so I didn’t have to walk up and down the piece as much to get leaves and twigs to add to the piece. Also, I would ask Sarah to walk slower so that we had more time to switch sides and make more marks but these are only small and really insignificant things in comparison to the large successes of the piece. On reflection, I am very proud of what we achieved and how much we managed to take on board from the sessions and apply to our own work.


PAINT PERFORMANCE: Painting with Restrictions on the Body

This session encouraged to think about how putting restrictions on the body can affect both the outcome and the process or a performance or physical piece of artwork. We were put into groups of 4/5 people and our thighs were all taped together as well as a pair of arms in to order to make us consider to concept of restriction. Being taped to others was like creating one large body to paint with but it having more limbs to hold brushes and mark the surface.

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The other group were quite chaotic in their approach to the task of making a painting tied together whereas our group was well organised. We considered composition, form and mark making in painting even with the restrictions. Through good communication, co-operation with each other and my directions we moved across the paper one step at a time as one body. We managed to create a successful outcome containing a variety of marks. We all listened and obeyed orders and suggestions instructed within our group but also out tutor, Andre Stitt was shouting at us through a mega phone. The shouting made us feel under pressure and more vulnerable taped up together. It could also be argued that this added another element of restriction because we were focussing on obeying Andre’s direction so much and less about actually making the marks. We worked better as a team when Andre wasn’t shouting as we could focus on each other.

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Our group were thinking about coordinating our gestures and how we touched the surface of the paper. What happens between people when they are restricted and in this case tied together? Personally, in our group we felt a bond between each other. There was intimacy, we couldn’t avoid touching each other and we could smell each other as well as hearing and feeling our breathing. The paintbrushes restricted us, but also aided our mark making. The other group were in a rush to get to the end and were finding the experience frustrating whereas we were just taking our time to complete the task in hand. Art is a metaphor for other things and time is a key element. The other group were getting frustrated with time  and how long it was taking to walk up and down the piece of paper making marks whereas personally I felt that I got lost in time. Andre informed us that we were making the work for about 15 minutes but to me it only felt like about 3 mins.

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Our groups work was more abstract expressionist, there were more visible passages and more form. You could tell we had a relationship with drawing. From watching the other group, we learnt that composition can come out of chaos, that could be an important factor for an artist.

The process is clear within our works, we were composing as we went along and became more spatially aware and form was being constructed. We were thinking about restriction and control. We didn’t have to listen to Andres chants but we did. It was exhausting being tied together, managing your own body as well as the bodies of others. We can think of this as a new form of collaboration. How would an audience feel about the intimacy of the work? Is it about human contact? There are many different examples of what art can be. Even though there was so much restriction in the exercise, there was freedom in the use of paint which for some encouraged a feeling of child’s play and chaos.

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When looking at the final results, there was a variety of beautiful and intriguing marks creates – Brush marks, foot prints, evidence of shuffling along the paper, skidding, slipping and dripping were all evident. We referenced William De’Kooning’s paintings and Jackson Pollock’s work.This session has made me think about how putting restrictions in place can make an interesting outcome. Not being able to move your limbs here made your approach less controlled and the marks were more free, some were even accidental but the outcome was still of interest and significance. It is usually quite difficult to use your body freely and not having full control of it made this easier. Thinking about how a brush restricts me may be an interesting thing to think about in my subject work. Also,  it has given me a new way of collaborating with people in order to make art that is both enjoyable and productive.


A Connection to Nature: Painting Landscapes onto Leaves

I am highly inspired by the work and the concepts of John Piper. Particularly his views about the landscape work you create having a connection to a place and therefore a connection to Nature. I have started playing and working with the idea of incorporating parts of a place and natural objects into my work with success and I think connecting my painting and drawing with nature itself is an interesting idea to work with within my project. My tutor thought that my abstract drawings were a successful and visually appealing element of the work up in my studio space and I agreed but I felt that they lacked a connection to the place I portrayed.

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Over the Weekend, I went home and collected Ivy Leaves from the area of the Brecon Beacons and primed them and started drawing my abstracted landscape drawings on to them. I chose Ivy Leaves because their waxy quality means they don’t shrivel and die quickly. 

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I think there is something quite charming about these delicate leaf drawings. After producing these three drawings, I experimented with adding watercolour of a similar colour palette to my chosen painting – John Piper’s Rocky Valley, North Wales.

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I am very pleased with these little drawings/paintings. I felt that only drawing on paper didn’t tye in well with my project, especially considering the fact that natural trees are cut down to make it. I was restricted by the surface and so found a new surface that fits in with the concepts of my project to paint and draw onto.

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Using nature as a surface to work on is something I am keen to experiment with further. I am thinking about painting onto stone and drift wood or bark as well. After completing my drawings, I took them back out into the Landscape and photographed them back in their natural environment. My drawings have a strong connection to the place they portray because they are drawn on nature from the place and put back into the natural surroundings. I am moving away from John Piper’s influence and making a current body of work with his in mind but it is not dominating my ideas any longer. This idea was inspired by being introduced to Ian Mckeever’s Painting in a hole in the ground. He made a painting and put it in a natural landscape.  This set of photographs are incredibly interesting and juxtapose the man made with the natural. I have changed the natural environment here. The leaf would usually just blend in with the others but I guess it has a sense of power and importance because it stands out amongst them. I could also experiment with painting abstract Landscapes onto leaves in similar colours to the surroundings so that they do blend in and maybe they may almost become part of nature.


PAINT PERFORMANCE: Working with Sound

This paint performance session was one of the most enjoyable so far in my eyes. I took everything I have learnt into account so far and gave a valid input to the group work created.  We all painted onto paper pinned up on walls that was wired up to a sound system. This meant that the boards we were painting on were amplified, capturing and intensifying the sound of the paint being applied to the surface in various different ways.  Working as a bigger group encouraged us to move more  when painting and to work around,work with and work over each other. Thus a more dynamic peformance was produced where the addition of sound added a new dimension to the performance and also the outcomes because of the influence that the sounds had upon us.

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Taking influence from the session where we had to apply paint with unconventional materials and from the artist Saburo Murakami I applied the paint by throwing, bouncing and rolling a tennis ball. We were all really pleased with the outcome from the first painting performance with sound, where our paint covered stick tapping, surface hitting, ball throwing and splatting of the paint onto the wall was amplified and magnified. Non-intentionally, the colour choices that people made seemed to really work together and an interesting composition was created. Working and interacting in a bigger group, created a sense of community and working together that was accentuated and by the sounds that were made that also worked together. We were almost like an artistic band working with each other to create a sound, a performance and a painting. There was a up-lifting energy and joyus mood and atmosphere in the air that hasn’t been as prominent in other painting sessions we have undertaken.

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Whilst undertaking the production of the second painting the sounds we were making were distorted, sampled and then over-layed and played along side the noise we were already making. This process created a rhythm of sound that we picked up on in and used it to influence the tempo and progression of our gestures and actions of painting. There was a more chaotic, primitive and energetic action taking place that was almost child like. We as a group had gained more confidence and lost all of our insecurities and self concious worries about performance. Everyone seemed to enjoy making movements and sounds. This second piece was far more abstract and wild. You could see some of our movements and gestures but maybe we got lost in the moment a little and overworked the piece.

Here we were creating paintings, performance art and sound art all in one immersive environment. It is interesting to think about the effect sound has on performance and painting and that they can all be linked in a variety of ways to create highly innovative outcomes with different dimensions.


PAINT PERFORMANCE: Experimenting with Paint Brushes, Restriction and Continuation

For the first time, within this session of Paint Performance we were not making art work with our bodies but with the conventional paintbrush. We were asked to pay particular attention to the feeling and sensation of painting of the brush, and taking notice of this made me realise how much more smooth and flowing the painting process is when applying paint with a brush in comparison to the marks we have been making with our bodies.

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Making continuous lines with the brush gently and slowly was both calming and relaxing and I became Immersed, just concentrating on the sensation of the brush and paint gliding across the surface of the paper. However, even though I really enjoyed the process and it allowed me to relax, I did feel as if the outcome was a little impersonal for me. This is a new feeling for me, but because of all the work I have been making in these sessions recently with my body, I felt suddenly quite disconnected from the art work made with a brush after it was finished. I think the brush marks over shadowed the movement of the body.  Some of the group preferred painting with a brush rather than with the body and vice versa, but personally I think both body and brush are valid painting tools and can be used to satisfy different concepts, create different marks and apply paint to surface.

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There were restrictions put in place to create these paintings. Firstly we could only use our right hand in a continuous motion and then only our left hand and then both hands simultaneously. I found it quite therapeutic drawing one long mark with different conditions. However, making the first piece and drawing with my right hand was really boring because the right hand knows how to paint and so I became disinterested quickly but the marks were quite free. When painting with my left hand, I concentrated far more. Some people said their left hand piece was less controlled but I found that mine was more controlled because I was concentrating more. My left hand was not used to the conditions of painting with a paint brush and so it didn’t know how much pressure to put on it etc. So I guess you could say that in some respects the brush controlled the hand in the marks that were made. The third painting, produced with both hands, had a very harmonious feel about it, both hands were working together to create marks. My hands were making a very smooth motion when producing this piece and as I got further into the piece, my left hand sort of started following and mimicking my right hand.

Concluding this session, setting restrictions on yourself when painting can produced interesting outcomes. Work can be more interesting when not produced with the conventional hand and sometimes it can feel like the paintbrush starts to have control over you. The body is a lot harsher when applying paint in comparison with a brush which has a more soothing and relaxing motion of application. The body is more direct, more child like and more primitive. Throughout this option, we are challenging convention and making movement gestures whilst experimenting with ways in which paint can be applied. Also, there are different senses of emotions created in the way paint is applied. In was interesting to directly compare the different between brush and body within the space and to directly observe the difference in marks made with a brush in alternate hands. Painting with restrictions like only being able to use the left hand could lend itself to aiding my producing of abstract landscapes in my subject work. This session made me think about the connection you have with painting as a process and as an outcome.