Saturday 18 February 2012

Loosely Painted Landscape

Decided to paint today. Started late – only a couple of hours of daylight left – so thought I would just get on with it. In fact something told me that today was going to be a different sort of painting day. So I got the easel out, some paints and brushes, then filled some jars with water.

Square canvas. As for subject: I hadn’t really thought about it. I have a selection of photos and sketches of landscapes which I take regularly when out walking or cycling – mostly fields, low hills and riverside scenes in late winter. In the end I just picked one of them at random and worked straight from it.

To start with I drew a few loose lines across the canvas in charcoal to mark out rough boundaries, but could already notice myself thinking too much about it. So instead I forgot about colours, composition, the ‘correct’ brush to use or any sort of pre-arranged ‘design’ and just grabbed whatever tube of paint seemed nearest – which happened to be Hookers Green. No thought to careful quantities, I just mixed the paints, and then whatever looked like an interesting colour on the palette would end up on the canvas.

It’s good to paint like this for a change: good not to worry about results. In the end I actually quite like the result…but the main object of today was just to paint freely and loosely. It probably helped that the light was running out – no time to think. And choosing colours randomly instead of planning them brought out a few interesting results, especially when I didn’t always clean the brushes properly between application, letting the old colour bleed into the new.

Here’s a list of what I used:

Titanium White, Hookers Green, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow and Raw Umber.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Doing Some Homework...

One area I’ve been meaning to read more about is the Chemistry side of ceramics. Of course it’s perfectly possible to be a potter all your life using all sorts of different clays and glazes without ever needing to know what they’re actually made up of. But that’s not how I do things! I’m one of those analytical creatives who like to know the nitty gritty details of where the materials come from, what they’re called and how they work together. So to brush up on my Chemistry homework, I recently popped into my local library and booked out a rather formidable looking AS level textbook…

It took me a few evenings to read through and gave me quite a lot of head scratching. But once I got past the scientific/robotic language and reassured myself no one was actually going to test me on this (!) I started to get more of an understanding of things. There was even a chapter dedicated to oxidation and reduction featuring pottery kilns as an example, which made me feel justified in making the effort.

Once I got through it, my next point of call was my copy of ‘Minerals, Rocks and Fossils’ published by Philip’s. I’ve had this on my shelf for ten years now and whenever I’ve tried to read it I couldn’t quite get my head around it. It’s full of chemical formulas, geological language and pictures of pretty rocks in crystal form. This time though it all made sense! In fact it read like a natural progression from the Chemistry book and now the poor thing is covered in post-it notes and scribblings about minerals with particular colour properties.

Getting this background information and putting a context to the chemical side of ceramics has cleared-up a lot of vague fuzziness in my head. I feel much more confidant about what the ingredients in a glaze actually are, instead of just taking the names written in a glaze recipe book for granted. I’ve still got more reading to do though before I can start doing some experiments of my own: but it just goes to show that doing a bit of homework really does pay off!

Here are some links to books I was using:

Minerals, Rocks and Fossils (Philip's)

The Glaze Book: A Visual Catalogue... (Stephen Murfitt)