This is part of the series ‘My journey with the Masters’
The workshop description: Caroline Chappell: Abstracting the Landscape: A mixed media painting workshop designed for people who would like to work in a more expressive way or want to ‘loosen up’. I will show how to make quick visual ‘notes’ while experiencing the landscape, then help to develop them into abstract landscape compositions.
Regardless of the weather which was miserably cold and misty, but not raining, we had to begin our plein-air sketching. Except it really doesn’t work like that, (thank goodness – because it was cold) and Caroline taught us that instead of sitting down to draw, we should walk around taking visual notes, gathering information through mark-making’. The information could be visual responses to sounds, smells, feelings or actual visual data. A shed could be represented by a few horizontal lines in a square.
Here are my sketches – there are enough clues for you to see that there were allotments nearby:
I found it hard to stay with the brief of collecting snippets rather than making compositions. I struggled with the same issue in the next stage as well…
Stage Two: Because the initial visual notes were limited to dry materials which you can manage if you draw while you are moving around, they were open to re-interpreting with wet and dry materials.
Using strong white cartridge paper and wet monochromatic materials – with perhaps a touch of colour (a colour pop!) we painted and drew, interpreting the mark-making as a source of inspiration.
I should have had plenty of quiet space or white space instead of building these up into compositional sketches. Adding the walnut ink was a mistake. I had made a jump from stage 1 to stage 3, )sort-of skipping stage two).
Stage Three: Cut and combine the images in a way that pleases you, keeping the white space active (Arrrgh, I had none). Make a few compositions for your sketchbook.
Because I had so few white spaces and was already thinking ‘composition’, there wasn’t much scope for combining images – although I glued some white paper here and there to simplify my over-complicated images.
Caroline then demonstrated how she created her painting starting with using one of these studies.
Throughout the process you don’t really know where you are going as the painting takes on its own life and dictates to you. The compositional study of stage 3 was merely a starting point and would not necessarily define the outcome.
You are lost the minute you know what the result will be – Juan Gris
You can see the final outcome in the image below right; and you’ll notice that Caroline had added a piece of artwork torn from another of her pieces.
I’m not sure if Caroline felt that the final result was resolved or was a study for a future artwork.
Below is a piece she worked on during the two days.
She showed us examples of work in a book about Nicolas de Staël (1914 – 1955), a French painter of Russian origin known for his use of a thick impasto and his highly abstract landscape painting. She also had a couple of books by another inspired abstract landscape artist: Kurt Jackson.
Having got to stage 4, the collage pieces are still just inspiration for final work. You can use or lose anything from the sketches, as the process dictates.
My stage four paintings have ended up as recognisable landscapes – but that is the beauty of this course of landscape abstraction. You can embrace any degree of abstraction within this spectrum. The landscape above represents the yellow rape fields and the pink poppies of Chilton. The poppies are opium poppies, grown under licence for morphine and in summer they look like a pink lake shimmering in the fields.
You can see how clifftop was derived from the right hand collage. I used the colours from a Mediterranean seascape I had painted recently.
Gallery of work by other participants:
This was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative workshop and I really hope that I take on the habit of keeping a sketchbook of ‘visual notes’. I have recently started learning to use a digital app which may be useful when I don’t have a piece of charcoal and paper handy.
I think the concept of visual notetaking and drawing on the move could be a very art-changing moment!
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