Painting BIG


After my trip to London last week, and seeing so many exhibitions and talks, I felt the urge to dramatically increase the scale I’m working at. I normally work in a sketchbook no bigger than A4 and am starting to feel confined and restricted. I have never really worked to a large scale before, I think because anxiety has prohibited me from doing so. In a sketchbook, I can draw and then close it and no one has to look at it. Working big means that people can see what marks I’m making as I’m making it, and remains in a public space while it dries. This wouldn’t be the case if I was to have a space at home to do this, but I’m currently working in the studio, so others will see. I am lucky that I am sharing a studio space with my friend, so its just me and her. I don’t mind her see what I’m doing so much.

After watching Yve Alain Bois’ lecture on Matisse, I particularly felt inspired to draw bigger. Matisse created figures using the domain of his body, and described it as “one feels miserably in pain” and an “uninterrupted channel of energy”. This is want I wanted to experience. The pain thing is something I experience anyway, but I think this was specific reference to the use of bamboo stick, and that weight will cause pain.

I wanted to create a pain portrait of what I was experiencing during the making of it. I didn’t have a plan, just a collection of materials. I purchased a role of lining wallpaper so I could create full body pieces to scale, so it’s around 5″7. In terms of materials, I had black and white acrylic paint, some emulsion, oil pastels, ink, graphite, markers.

I had to choose what colours I would want to use prior to its creation. I often describe my pain as being red or purple. Red is when it feels like bleeding, hollowing pain. Purple is more like a graze pain, bruising, tender to touch. I used teal ink, and let it drip to create the look of veins; it feels like my blood moving around my body, like a poison, and pulls me down.

I used graphite pencil for fainter more subtle sensations, ones that don’t necessarily have much in terms of physical sensations. Oil pastels were used for a more flakey, textured sensation. White added highlights amongst the black, giving centre points for sharper pain.

When I first started this piece, it felt very odd and I did feel intimidated by it. I’m so used to something being fully realised within a quick period of time. This piece needed building. I was unhappy with it on so many occasions, not necessarily because of how it looked, but that I didn’t feel it was a reflection of how I was feeling. I listened to some music that gets me into the mood to really listen to myself (sounds pretentious I know ). This time it was Daniel Johnston compilation. I did start to get into it, less aware of my surroundings and lost myself in it. I was becoming conscious of using pictoral symbols instead of what I felt the sensations looked like, but feel I started to loosen from that. I didn’t want the sensations to be similes, I didn’t want them to look like something else that resembled the experience, but to be more free. A metaphor as opposed to a simile.

I am surprisingly happy with what I did, and will definitely be doing more. I can definitely see Basquiat’s influence in what I created, but the approach is similar. This is one of just standing. I want to try different positions, make use of gravity more. If I were to create a long piece whilst lying down, how would that look? What marks would I make? What would it look like presented next to this one? I would also like to do close ups. Some of just my head, can focus on what cognitive processes look like. I feel like I’m starting to exhaust pictures of hands. They’re not that much of an issue anymore. I could also just do more of these standing, at different times of the day. Before and after certain activities. They make look similar but never the same.

As the weather gets better, I do feel relief from some of the symptoms I get, as damp is what gives me more pain.


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