the language of painting and more about my degree course

Masquerade and Albertine (detail) copyright Vivien Blackburn
oil on canvas approx 4 inches

Marion Boddy Evans in her newsletter (you can subscribe to it on ) showed this quote:

"My aim is to escape from the medium with which I work. To leave no residue of technical mannerisms to stand between my expression and the observer." -- Andrew Wyeth

It's so utterly opposed to the way I work and the artists why really appeal to me! :D Not wrong or right - just a very very different viewpoint. He certainly achieved his aims. His work, for me has a remoteness, a certain coldness, a lack of passion.

I love to see the marks, the language of the paint - exciting swirls, lines, blobs, splatters, free expressive marks that create movement and drama - but based on keen observation. I love the work of Kurt Jackson ( ) in a variety of media - he catches the spirit of place, the light and the colour of places in a unique way. Or the work of Shirley Trevena ( ) who does the most amazing free watercolours with a terrific sense of colour, composition and drama. Both use keen observation but then move on to make a 'Painting' rather than a picture. On my website are links to lots of other artist I love who all work in this expressive way.

Marks are really essential to me - it's the visual language of painting/drawing and provides a rich 'vocabulary'.

Looking at past masters - Rembrandt for instance - stand back and you see a weary old man, beaten down by a tough life - walk up to it and there are swirls and dabs and globs and trickles of paint - almost abstract in places. Monet of course is the same, waterlilies dissolving in light and reflections - marks and dabs and globs of paint - luscious :D - too many biscuit tins and chocolate box reproductions can make you forget how wonderful the originals are.

Expanding my 'visual vocabulary' was just one of the things I gained from the degree. Learning from tutors in classes and fellow students as we experimented.

One module started with us having to take in a roll of Fabriano paper - nearly 5 feet wide - and work on large sheets with black and white emulsion with anything we could come up with that would make an interesting mark. These weren't meant to be finished Paintings (capital T!) but learning curves. We used rollers, sticks, combs, cotton reels, hands, fingers, feet, jugs to pour paint, splatters, string, scourers, corrugated card, card to print with or mask shapes, sponges cut to shapes or not - the list was endless - anything except brushes or traditional tools in this exercise. I loved it!

All of this fed into my paintings, observational or abstract.

The detail from a painting shown above (done without brushes) relies on paint scraped on, scratched through and small blobs of paint. The whole thing is only about 7 x 5 inches on canvas and shows a tangled section of the roses that grow over a fence in my garden. The roses had the feel of chintzy Ye Olde Tea Shoppe fabric to me and that was the aspect that interested me, rather than a botanical image of the roses when I did this small painting. You can see the whole canvas on my website

I don't see the marks as 'standing between expression and observer' because when I look at the works of expressive artists I'm drawn in by exciting marks - I want to stay looking longer, walking close, standing back, looking in detail.

So many philosophies of painting - it makes for interesting work :)


Marion BE said…
I also like texture in a painting, a feeling of the materials with which the painting was created. Maybe that's why this quote caught my eye as I was browsing around some of my books looking for a quote for that newsletter, as I just can't imagine not leaving "a residue"?
vivien said…
Hi Marion - thanks :) I'll be interested to read the article you said you may write on the subject.
Little-Duck said…
I've been flipping through your blog today and all I can say is this....there's peace in your brush both digital and hand held. Your floral pieces especially move me.

F. Magdalene Austin

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