Van Gogh’s box of wool

A red painted box with balls of wool inside. I wondered what the box was used for. Vincent Van Gogh used the balls of wool to consider possible colour combinations.

Van Gogh’s box of wool, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Synthetic dyes were discovered in the 1860’s, influencing both fashion and the colours on the palettes of artists.

Up close to Van Gogh

While in the Netherlands in 2018 we had the opportunity to binge, in person, on the works of Vincent Van Gogh at both the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo.  The latter is the largest private collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world and the second largest collection after the Van Gogh Museum. Unlike the Van Gogh Museum, the Kröller-Müller does allow photography so I was able to take photos and details of some of the works I saw during my visit.

The reason I am posting these photos now is that a fellow blogger, Rose Davies, has been spending some of her recent time attempting to copy Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night. As she commented in her recent post, “it’s so interesting to analyse a famous artwork and see what has gone into it”. So I thought I’d share a few of my detail shots and two drawings I made in the Kröller-Müller Museum.

Please note that these photos were taken standing back and using a close up lens, rather than with my face on the painting. Although I did see a man literally lean over a barricade, place his hand on the wall next to a Van Gogh self portrait in the Rijks Museum and literally stick his face only a few centimetres off the glass!

Enclosed Wheat Field with Rising Sun, late May 1889,

Detail from the left side of the painting (as we are looking at it).

My notes on the painting, Enclosed Wheatfield with Rising Sun.

Wheatfields in a Mountain Landscape, early December, 1889,

Details of the tree from the left side of the painting (as we are looking at it).

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Detail of the tree in the centre right of the painting, (as we are looking at it).

My notes on the colours of the tree on the centre right of the painting

Terrace of a Café at Night (Place Du Forum), circa September 1888

Detail of the street and figures to the far right of the painting, (as we are looking at it).

You can see those black arcs of ‘dry brush’ skipping over the other layers of paint.

Portrait of a Young Woman, late June-early July 1890

Detail of the left shoulder, (as we are seeing the painting).

I love how we are so simply led over the contour of her torso by those blue brush strokes, something that I noticed Van Gogh often does in his self-portraits as well.

Let’s hope that in the near future we will be able to see such art in person again.

 

 

Inky Fingers

I’m not sure if ink is the latest “thing”, but it certainly seems to be on trend at present. Wherever I turn there is a new range of inks and new companies to discover. Alas I am a frail spirit and I easily succumb to the enticement of new art products.

This time it’s ink from Van Dieman’s Ink in Tasmania (Van Diemans Land being the Dutch name given to the island after they ‘discovered’ it several tens of thousands of years after the indigenous Palawa people got there). But I digress. I hadn’t heard of the company but the inks looked interesting and I was able to buy 2ml sample size bottles which inspired me to try 4 colours.

I chose Cradle Mountain Grey, Blackened Seas, Azure Kingfisher and Howl at the Moon. The last two are ‘shimmer inks’, that is they have tiny fine particles of glittery stuff in them. None of these inks is waterproof. The company does list them as light and age resistant. As I am most likely to use these in my sketchbooks that shouldn’t be an issue for me. I have tried the inks out on my 300 gsm cold pressed Arches watercolour paper. Although the nibs that I tested them with really don’t do well on the toothed surface I wanted to see the initial colour and whether bleeding on damp paper would yield secondary colours. You can see the results below.

The Cradle Mountain Grey is the colour I find the most versatile of these inks. It also has some interesting secondary colours when drawn out with water. I really dislike the definite-ness of the black ink line and watercolour approach that many sketchers use. This grey backs off a fraction from that dark insistent line. It will be interesting to see how it goes when I am sketching with it in my fountain pen. The Blackened Seas is also an interesting colour, that I could see myself using.

The two shimmer colours I will likely only use with a dip pen and brush as there is no guarantee that I can fully clean them out of a fountain pen. I can see the silver shimmer in the Howling at the Moon colour, but there wasn’t much obvious gold shimmer in the Azure Kingfisher. It might be that I didn’t shake the sample up sufficiently well, or perhaps my sample didn’t containmuch gold in the first place. If you look at the photo you can see how the shimmer inks settle out after sitting for a while.

The 2ml samples give me plenty of ink to play with. I am looking forward to further expermentation.
Further information about the inks and the full colour range can be found here.

Trees

In the middle of all the hubbub that was Christmas eve I managed to get myself to the Wittunga Botanic Garden in the Adelaide Hills for some lone sketching. I was so shocked at the sight of a koala sitting on the ground just next to the footpath that I almost didn’t sketch him.

Koala and garbage bin. The latter designed with a cover to keep possums and other inquisitive animals from getting into the bins.

Wonderful to see this chap. Probably a male, as it was very big, easily up to my knee in height. That’s a waterbowl next to him so I assume he came down for a drink. The garden is fully fenced and dogs are prohibited, which is why you see this individual being so relaxed.

After obliging me for sitting for his portrait I moved on to the shelter of a small covered picnic table to sketch my main subject of the day the trees.

Here they are in the order that I sketched them. I deliberately went as fast as I could from one study to the next.

Bound shadows

My collection of Loungeroom Residency photos is now flatter and comes with it’s own shadows!

Shadows from shadows, my newly bound photos

My inner ‘neat person’ (who knew I had such a thing) tried to tell me to cut off those wavy edges of paper. I told her to b*gger off.

It has also found a safe home in a box I recently received, which will now be re-purposed into a book case. Peeking through in this photo is a word from my very basic book ends – a recycled postcard glued on either end.

A Loungeroom Residency

Over the next week I will be undertaking an artist residency in my lounge room. It wasn’t planned, but an unexpected injury to my back has made it otherwise. The toughest call was having to withdraw from the formal residency I was about to start under the auspices of the Craft ACT Spring Residency. But then, I realised that I could undertake an artist residency in my own home.

Day 1 shadow photograph.

At this point I have to acknowledge that before I became concerned over my own temporary setbacks, I failed to acknowledge that many artists deal with such problems on a daily basis due to a whole range of physical, social or psychological reasons. I apologise.

A model, a theme

For my residency I have used the model proposed by Lenka Clayton for A Residency in Motherhood. Her model provides both a format and concrete examples of ways to work under constrained circumstances. This excellent resource was drawn to my attention by the fabulous Dr Ruth Hadlow whose master classes have been a major and ongoing inspiration in my work .

At this stage my daily exploration of shadows has become my default theme. I support this proposition by a quote from Ellsworth Kelly who said:

I realized I didn’t want to compose pictures, I wanted to find them. I felt that my vision was choosing things out there in the world and presenting them.

Resources

I have all the resources of my extensive library to select from and all my materials to use. I didn’t have to pack anything to take to this residency. If anything the greatest danger is paralysis from too much choice.

Day 2 shadow photograph.

Limitations

The biggest limitation I have at present is my physical ability to sit up for only limited periods of time and having to be careful not to overuse my dominant arm. I have finally discovered using the microphone on my tablet in order to reduce additional stress through typing. It works! Sometimes.

Interruptions are another cause of problems I would unlikely to experience in a formal residency. Social media management is also a major issue for me.

Work so far

Yesterday I made some collages inspired by one of the photos I took earlier this week. I used a clothing catalogue, which I am inordinately fond of making collages with. I will show you these in a separate post.

Enough for now I need to rest up. I plan to attend a screening of a documentary on Rembrandt this afternoon. Hopefully rest and medication and my wheat bag will get me there.

I would be really interested to hear of your own experiences of working with limitations and constraints in making art.

D3 shadow photograph

PS

I just wanted to say that I’m in good hands and my back issues seem to be slowly resolving so no need for anyone to worry about my condition.