Hasty watercolour / colouring-pencil landscape + thoughts on the landscape genre

Landscape painting was something I used to be dismissive about – until recently. I have this big art book that I enjoy poring over in my spare time, and the most thumbed pages are the ones about landscape painting. Off the top of my head, my favourite pages in that book are the pages of Constable, Canaletto, Cole, Hokusai, Ruisdale, Cuyp, Hobbema, Cozens, Siberechts, Hodler…. These are the artists whose paintings I always flick to in that book, not the portraits or the still lifes.

This particular landscape I drew + painted is admittedly a hasty one. I’m not particularly interested in producing ‘good’ art these days, beyond how much enjoyment I have in creating the piece. I am still trying to mend my rather estranged relationship with art. I am not as expressive or free with it as I want to be. I just have to keep exploring and see where I arrive.

Part of having a public platform means I am always asking myself, ‘is this good enough to post?’. I don’t like curating how my art appears online. Posting uglier works like this is my way of coming to terms with this. I think.

‘Bad art’ and a baking doodle

I know it has been a while since I’ve posted; I got a job so have been wrapped up in that, AND I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship to art.

I feel I’ve been stuck in a reward loop since my school days, where I was praised for my realistic style of art. Of course, after being praised for one type of art, you don’t wanna try another style of art for which you suspect you won’t be praised as much. The praise inadvertently reinforces one behaviour and discourages another behaviour – that being experimentation, etc etc.

I feel I needed a space to step back from art and become ok with being a ‘bad artist’. Praise sometimes gets to you and you feel like you’re always having to live up to this expectation of being a ‘good artist’. When you are surrounded by people that expect you to produce ‘good art’ (in the narrowest understanding of the term), you stop feeling free. I noticed my relationship with art became rather unhappy. I stopped seeing my personality in my art.

In August this year I turned 23. To celebrate that, from now on you’ll probably see a lot of ‘bad art’ on this blog as I try to free myself from this reward loop. (In fact, I have a strong urge to spam my blog with ‘bad art’ to make up for all the uninspired attempts at ‘good art’ I’ve posted on this blog since its inception.

(drawing: my sister rolling out some puff pastry. Pencil and colouring pencil)

Oil painting: chestnut Pegasus

Oil paint on A3 paper.

This one took a while, I am not yet skilled enough with oil paint to use it fast or economically. The front body of the horse took phenomenal amounts of reworking, but I got in the hang of it by the end. I use photos of eagle wings for reference for his wings and I painted his coat chestnut, because I am tired of white horses with wings. Overall a nice, well-executed piece, if a little generic in style and subject matter.

On another note, I am starting to weary of painting from photographs, it feels very amateurish.

Best practical painting advice I’ve received

I got the two following pieces of advice from Ashley Picanco’s lovely blog. To experienced / academically trained painters, I’m sure this is common knowledge. But to someone like me, this was revolutionary to my painting practice.

The best practical painting advice I’ve received is to never paint onto a pure white canvas / paper. This distorts your perception of colour by making all your colours look gloomy by comparison. It becomes incredibly difficult to judge colour relations with the commanding interference of stark white. It is best to begin with a colour wash, called a ‘ground’ in any colour (beige, grey, green, pink, blue … you get the idea) except white. I have wasted much paint and time trying to paint straight onto white paper, only to have the white thwart all my attempts at seeing colour in life-like context.

The second-best painting advice I’ve received is to always lower the saturation of my colours. Very few colours you encounter day to day are highly saturated, so when used in a painting, they make it look like …. a painting, and an unrealistic one at that. It goes without saying that both these pieces of advice apply to traditional representational art styles, ie. if you want your painting to look like a scene from real life seen with the naked human eye. I don’t really think or talk about modern / abstract art since I don’t consider it a discipline per say, I like to think of most but not all modern art as ‘background noise’.

Acrylic painting: Sir Joshua Reynolds Portrait

This A4 acrylic painting took about one hour. It’s based on one of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ self portraits, but I admit there is little likeness between the face in mine and in his. Regardless, securing a ‘likeness’ wasn’t my primary aim when painting this – I just wanted to paint someone, anyone. I didn’t use a pencil sketch, I just went straight in with paint. I’m quite happy with the result.

Pencil sketch: Las Meninas

I know this is a lousy sketch of Velazquez’s Las Meninas, but I drew it more because I wanted to better explore and observe the original painting, rather than create an impressive copy. I like to think about this painting a lot, it is so interesting. The chemistry of characters, postures, body language, genders, faces, social status’, clothing styles, make for a fascinating piece.

2B pencil on A4. In general, I dislike using rulers for quick sketches. This sketch took about 15 minutes.

Oil pastel: sunset in the trees

Oil pastel on A4 paper. It’s been absolutely ages since I used oil pastel. I’m rather heavy-handed with it, but it can look ‘expressive’ I suppose. Reminds me of the Fauvist painters.

I like the parts where the green and red blend to convey a sense of red, sun-bathed foliage. I consider this a successful experiment.

Acrylic painting: The Straw Hat

Acrylic paint on A4 paper. Original composition and design! This was based on my younger sister, Olivia.

I wanted the hat to be the focus of the piece, and I wanted the overall effect to be a ditsy, mellow sunshine day reminiscent of the tropics, with hazy sunbursts through the patio glass, and a scrawny desert plant.

Some brief thoughts on my art approach

I had a realisation today, as I was watching a Chinese woman on YouTube exhibit her personally curated art collection. She kept up a wonderful commentary on her favourite pieces, and through her loving narration their colours and character were enriched.

I realised that although I have always loved art for being non-linguistic, I rarely trouble myself with the visceral ‘effect’ of my artwork. I am instead overly concerned with either technique, verisimilitude, or concept. A scroll down my blog’s gallery gives evidence to this: there are paintings and drawings in generic, illustrative styles. Even in my art hey-days, my final projects always ended up over-intellectualised, and still in the same generic, picture-book art style.

Of course it is not a crime to have a generic art style, but my own standards for my work forbid me remain content with this. I consider this a ‘blockage’ in my art process. They say the first step towards self-improvement is realisation of the faults/errors that one didn’t know of before. So from henceforth I will direct intentional effort towards studying the visceral ‘effect’ of my art.