Sunday, 21 May 2017

Agnes Martin - fathoming out by experimenting

A lot of modern art, especially abstract expressionism, leaves me cold - literally. A room full of stripes has me shivering! Mind you, so does the work of John Constable. It's me, I know it is.

So in an effort to try and understand and make life a richer thing, I've been doing a search on You-tube for inspiration. I could read about it, but I find a lot of art books a bit hard work.

I recently found a video about Agnes Martin, who said (and I'm quoting the Tate's website)

‘Without awareness of beauty, innocence and happiness one cannot make works of art’.

Not sure I agree, but I'm told that Agnes Martin is perhaps most recognised for her evocative paintings marked out in subtle pencil lines and pale colour washes. Although restrained, her style was underpinned by her deep conviction in the emotive and expressive power of art. Martin believed that spiritual inspiration and not intellect created great work.

OK, so here's the experiment (thank you MOMA for your explanations and processes)

My finished pieces


I started with the yellow version.

I didn't use a canvas for this but 2 A4 sheets of mixed media paper. I put 2 layers of gesso spread thinly and at 90 degree angles. This was topped with a layer of acrylic paint.

I marked the aperture of my mount, and then put a layer of masking tape around the marks about 1/4" in from the edge. I then used a ruler to mark on the masking tape a grid. This was drawn at 2cms x 1 cm in soft pencil (Martin used all sorts apparently. The marks are part of the painting)

I then sanded the grid very lightly. This smudges the lines slightly in places. Martin often did this.

 I mixed a bluish grey by using the base colour with white, black, ultra marine, burnt umber, and gloss gel medium.

 I used a round brush and made strokes half way across each box on the grid. I believe the idea is to concentrate on the grid and the strokes, but not to rule out any mark making. It is what it is, and the paint shouldn't be fussed with.

I then went through the painting again to mark the other side of the grid. (nb turn the paper - don't try and paint with the left hand!!) I reloaded the brush every second stroke.

The Blue Version

I then reversed the colours and did the blue version. I mounted them in white mount board frames.

Click here if you'd like these 2 pieces.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Jenny Wren portrait

We have a pair of wrens in our garden, and they often flit about just the other side of the window in an old honeysuckle. If I stay really still, I can see them at close quarters from the settee.

I'm not a good enough drawer to catch their likeness whilst they're flitting about, so I've copied an image from a book. I had no idea how complex all those feather patterns were!

I drew the wren onto caligraphy paper (a new purchase - I was eager to try it out!) but I think I used the wrong side as it has a slightly rough surface, whereas the other is smooth. Never mind, it still worked well with pencil.

Having stuck the finished paper to my canvas using acrylic gel, I thought it needed something else. I drew a circle and used gold acrylic paint to infill. I could have used gold leaf which would have looked even better I think, but I couldn't get the lid off the size.

I liked the sparseness of the white and gold with the pencil drawing, but decided to be reckless and add a spot of blue.

Of course, once the blue had dried, I decided I preferred the white!! I compromised by putting a coat or two of white acrylic over the blue except for the bottom right hand corner. Why did I leave that? I have no idea - I just liked the weight of colour at the bottom and the design made by the blocks of colour.