This follows on from ‘Planning towards a series of works‘.
preparing panels with gesso
panels painted with gesso drying in greenhouse
I used the opportunity of a hot, dry day to prime the canvas boards with 4 layers of gesso primer- the limitations of my indoor space would only allow for me to do 3 at a time, so saving a lot of time. The greenhouse was a sheltered place for them to fully dry.
Once inside I could only work on 3 pieces at a time. My first task to sand each board before giving each a further 2 coats of gesso- I knew they would need a substantial base as my intentions included a certain amount of sanding back later in the process.
I started each piece with the photoshop ‘stamp’ image and the original photo of the shadow I was working from, along with charcoal I have made myself.
Working with these sketchbook images, I trans-scribed them onto the prepared canvas board in charcoal. As it is a multi-stage process it has been useful to be able to work on 3 at a time.
This detail shows how in making the lines the charcoal is liable to fracture leaving splinters and dust on the surface- this illustrates the uncertainty that is part of this making.
In order to fix the charcoal I have used an acrylic medium that I have diluted in water so that it can be sprayed through a small spray bottle (available at chemists or supermarkets). I use this to spray along the lines, which also spreads some of the dust, and goes some way to capture the moment. This is then left to dry for at least 24 hours.
These works are about absence-in the next part of the process I use sand paper to rub back the surface. The very nature of charcoal makes it quite textural, particularly once fixed with the medium, so I wanted to take away part of what one might expect. Again the nature of this process is full of uncertainties which is something ‘absence’ brings with it.
Whilst gradually working on other pieces that would make up the series, I lay them out to consider how they might appear together. I soon realized that the 2 previous works that had been part of my initial idea (at the bottom of the photo) and that I had intended to be part of the series did actually have a very different finished surface. It’s funny really because part of the idea was that there would be a sense of ‘wrongness’ about the work, but some how this felt too wrong. I decided I would go back and look at my archive relating to the willow sculptures that these 2 were based on and select other images. It did produce what seemed an interesting dilemma.
Another thing that I noticed was that by working on 3 at a time, each set I had finished to a differing degree which was very noticeable once they were side by side. The more I worked, the more I sanded back- I can remember thinking about the idea of charcoal being an embodiment of ‘absence’ through the way it is formed, and in some ways I was trying to remove the ‘absence’. There were moments when this made me quite emotional- the idea of physically acting out what is inside. However, this recognition made me think that I need to return to some of the earlier works and sand them further so that, what might be construed as expressive marks disappeared. It was this attention to the surface that also made me decide to order some more boards and make a selection of further works- there were one or two where the acrylic medium had pooled and despite sanding left marks that didn’t sit comfortably. I could then make the final selection of 11 paintings from these.
When I had 12 pieces (not all completed, I have to add) I laid them out as best I could to give an impression of how the grid might appear. I asked my 18yr old son to look at them- his comment was ‘is it a puzzle, do you have to match them up?’ I found this quite interesting in the light of my idea to make a work that has a sense of ‘wrongness’ about it, the fact that his immediate response was to sense that there was something that wasn’t quite right, but surly there must be some way to make things right. ( Do we all have an intrinsic need to create order?) My response was, ‘no, that’s just how it is’. I asked him what he thought of it- he said ‘I have no strong opinion, its art, it is what it is’.
From this little encounter I decided that the series would be called, ‘That’s just how it is’, which in many ways relates to our lives too. I still have to go through all the works, recording them individually and making my final selection for the series, but currently feeling satisfied with what I have done.