Category Archives: Part 2: Close to home

Researching artists suggested by my tutor

  • Jenny Saville
    The skin tone achieved by Saville is unique. Although natural there is something really raw and stripped back about her paintings of the human form. Fitting for her subjects and what she wants to say as an artist. It’s quite poetic to use the paint itself to aid in the story, not just the painted subject.

  • Euan Uglow
  • 1932-2000
    His tonal range is incredible and very natural/ realistic. His ability to create life like dimensions with his paint is one of inspiration.

  • Luc Tuymans
    Unusual skin tone very distinct and quite haunting.

  • John Currin
  • 1962 American based in New York.
    “Best known for satirical figurative paintings which deal with provocative sexual and social themes in a technically skillful manner. His work shows a wide range of influences, including sources as diverse as the Renaissance, popular culture magazines, and contemporary fashion models. He often distorts or exaggerates the erotic forms of the female body, and has stressed that his characters are reflections of himself rather than inspired by real people.”

  • Sally Muir
    Very dull colours. I understand how this itself can say a lot about a portraits subject.

  • Paula Rego</lhtm
    Surrealist and a very dreamlike approach to the human form. Quite reminds me of my approach to eyes.

    I am currently working on some critical readings of some examples and sketchbook work to follow.


Research point: The evolution of paintings (18th century to present day)

Spending time researching this area brought out many interesting changes through time. From imaginary subjects, through biblical times, romantic settings and atmospheres through to modern interpretations of this genre. The following are some that particularly stood out for me representing a passage through time, mainly 18th century to present day:

Cao Fei, The Birth of RMB City 2009. Second life environment. Tacita Dean, Bubble Hose 1999. R-type photograph 99×147 (39×57 1/8). No place Utopian possibility.
Modern contemporary artists such as the example above most definitely voice their environmental concerns through their interpretations of this genre.

Vincent van Gogh 1853–1890
Title: The Oise at Auver 1890
Medium: Graphite and gouache on paper
Dimensions, Support: 473 x 629 mm
Collection: Tate
Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933

Up until the eighteenth century landscapes weren’t seen as important in terms of recording them for historical purposes or documenting them for educational purposes.
“By the late nineteenth century, some of the world’s most beloved landscapes were being painted by artists like Van Gogh and Monet, practising the technique of en plein air, or painting outdoors. Now that pre-mixed boxed paints were readily available, the artists could travel outdoors to paint amidst a more natural setting, further developing the quickly changing social customs and the idea of the weekend. The bourgeoisie could take the train to the countryside on the weekends, escaping the drab of the city. Moments like these were captured by the Impressionists and their contemporaries, documenting this new lifestyle in paintings of landscapes and social scenes. Their modern masterpieces broke ground for today’s contemporary landscape artists”.

Research point: Artists who have sought to express the more emotional and subjective aspects of landscapes:

I had spent a large amount of time researching this area. Here are some of the examples that I have come across:

Salvador Dali (Surrealist – Dream like):

The persistent memory
1931 oil on canvas
9.5 inches x 13 inches
Location: Museum of modern art New York
I love how Dali uses the landscape to express his story: “The craggy rocks to the right represent a tip of Cap de Creus peninsula in north-eastern Catalonia. Many of Dalí’s paintings were inspired by the landscapes of his life in Catalonia. The strange and foreboding shadow in the foreground of this painting is a reference to Mount Pani.”

Gustav Klimt (Symbolist movement):

The birch wood
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Birch Forest
signed ‘Gustav Klimt’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
43¼ x 43¼ in. (110 x 110 cm.)
Painted in 1903

“Klimt’s landscapes express his wider concerns with biological growth and the cycle of life. Their dazzling decorative surfaces and abstracted motifs align him with emergent modernist tendencies. The trees depicted in Pine Forest I 1901 seem stylised, rendered in a strict vertical rhythm with reduced spatial depth, the quasi-pointillist brushstrokes recalling the treatment of costume in his portraits of Marie Henneberg and Hermine Gallia. The foliage in The Park 1909–10 is similarly flattened while his late Garden Landscape with Hilltop 1916 recalls the symbiosis of naturalism and ornament in the contemporary work of Egon Schiele (1890–1918).”

Paul Nash (Emotional and subjective aspects of landscape):


Wood on the downs 1930 (Aberdeen art gallery)

One of the most evocative landscape painters of his generation. Tate gallery says “Nash, however, found his personal inspiration in the English landscape and he saw himself in the tradition of English mystical painters William Blake and Samuel Palmer. He was particularly drawn to landscapes with a sense of ancient history: grassy burial mounds, Iron Age hill forts and the standing stones at Avebury and Stonehenge. For him these sites had a talismanic quality which he called genius loci, or ‘the spirit of a place’, and he painted them repeatedly.”

Landscape painters of this genre really do bring such a greater depth to the world around us. Yet again through art a subject that can often be taken for granted, can be used to express the depths of a persons soul. Beautiful!

Research point: Figures in interiors.

  • Vanessa Bell’s Conversation Piece at Asheham 1912
Can be found through the following link:
This piece had less focus on detail, and instead brought attention to shapes, lines and colours as a means of bringing this piece to life. I have to say that in terms of figures in an interior this approach appeals to me greatly. Although there is plenty of colour, their vibrancy is lost and complemented with each other to portray quite a natural setting within a home environment.
The setting is described beautifully through the tate website: “The setting is Asheham House, near Lewes in Sussex, a rural holiday home rented by Leonard and Virginia Woolf from 1911. Sitting at ease around the fire in vibrantly coloured high-backed winged armchairs are three figures. Despite their featureless visages, the trio have been identified as Vanessa’s husband, Clive Bell (wearing blue socks), Leonard Woolf in the centre, and the lanky figure on the left is Vanessa’s brother, Adrian Stephen. He leans forward as though engaged in intense and animated discussion. Although the three conversationalists are all men, the empty armchair on the left suggests that a fourth member has momentarily stepped away. The intimate atmosphere and domestic informality creates a sense that the artist (and by association the viewer) is looking in without being excluded, and is therefore an equal participant in the proceedings.”
There is a real sincere energy reminding me of a memory from a grandparents home, lots of warmth is expressed.
It relates to my own approach to interior painting. Focusing more on expressing what the situation makes me feel instead of simply what I am seeing.

Research point: Portraits that convey a distinctive mood or atmosphere.

This area of portraiture is something that I am really enjoying exploring. When I first started this course I loved realism, however, the more I learn the greater an appreciation that I have for areas of art such as impressionism. So many of the artists that I am falling in love with convey mood or atmosphere through their paintings instead of simply painting what they can see. Here are some of the paintings that have captivated me.

Picasso’s Blue Paintings are incredible. They are emotion packed and inspiring. Between 1900 and 1904 was when Picasso went through his Blue Period. Monochromatic paintings with shades of blue/ blue-green with rarity of warmer colours. They take us through a difficult period in this artists life and reflect the emotional low that he was going through. Including old and frail, blind, beggers, etc. Showing that portraiture can be such an emotional journey. Brilliant.

Fauve painters

They explored how colour was able to project a mood as well as establish a structure within a piece of art work without having to be completely true to the natural world and create a realistic representation. Artists of this genre were initially inspired by the works of  Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cézanne. They were a group of French painters, some of those included in this genre are Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet and Georges Rouault were pupils of the artist Gustave Moreau, the symbolist, admiring the artists focus on personal expression. The leader of the group became Matisse and the members shared passion and use of very intense colour as their way of describing light and space in their work. They also redefined the pure essence of colour as well as form as a way of communicating the emotional state of the artist. Fauvism as a whole proved important to Cubism as well as Expressionism and a touchstone for future modes of abstraction in artists work.


Research point: Artists self-portraits

Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh wasn’t able to pay for many models to sit for him, so instead spent much of his time painting self-portraits. He painted over 30 self-portraits between 1886 and 1889. His collection puts him among the most prolific self-portraitists.

Van Gogh self portrait with bandaged ear

“Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear is one of his more interesting and popular self-portraits. Painted in January of 1889 just weeks after a portion of Van Gogh’s ear was cut off; the portrait shows him from a slight angle in a room of the Yellow House wearing a green overcoat and a fur-lined winter cap. His right ear is bandaged in the portrait though in reality the wound was to his left ear; the discrepancy is due to his painting while looking at a mirror image.”

Quote and image sourced from:

The impression that this artists tries to convey is an emotional one. He explores colour to the fullest extent through his painting style. The purpose of his paintings are quite clearly suggested to educate himself of colour techniques and to grow as an artist. However there is a real sense of sincerity through his self-portraits. He allows a deep intimacy and vulnerability. His history of battles with mental health are well known and I feel a real privilege to be able to share in his emotions through his work. He opens up a taboo subject to the world in a very successful way.


Self Portrait at the age of 63 (1669), Rembrandt. Oil on canvas 86cm x 70.5cm

Link to to the image:

Self Portrait at the age of 63 (1669), Rembrandt. Oil on canvas 86cm x 70.5cm

He painted more self portraits than any other artist of the 17th century. In the portrait that I have chosen, Rembrandt is wearing a deep red coat and a beret with his hands clasped in front of him. He is confronting us with his steady gaze. Rembrandt painted and etched many self portraits during his lifetime, however, those that were undertaken during his final years portrayed him in a  reflective mood, are said to be (and I agree are) among the most poignant and challenging to whitness.

The painting that I chose after being cleaned in 1967 and x rayed revealed two alterations to the final design. One being a change to the size of as well as the colour of the beret (originally larger and all white). Secondly the hands were originally open and holiding a paintbrush. The infact of how he repainted the hands brought the attention back to the face. Thus taking the focus away from himself as an artist and replacing it with his sincerity and himself as a man.

I chose this particular portrait as he painted it in the final year of his life before he died on the 4 October 1669.

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin's I've Got it All (2000)

I’ve Got it All (2000) by Tracey Emin. Photograph: Neville Elder/Sygma/Corbis


I chose this in contrast to many of the self portraits that I have been studying. I wanted to step out of the norm and look broader in to other ways of self expression in terms of self portraiture. After becoming famous for My Bed and being shortlisted for the Turner Prize, Emin made this piece. It creates quite a playful impression and an emotional reflection of how she was feeling. Quite an alternative to many of the portraits that I have studied but another way of expressing the artists emotions at the time of creating this self portrait. Thus staying true to what in my opinion is the purpose of a self portrait. I have to say however, without a description, the message would of been lost in translation on me sadly. However, makes perfect sense with understanding. Thus showing how important a written description of the artists intentions are with many pieces of modern art.

David Hockney

Self-Portrait With Charlie (1995) by David Hockney

Self Portrait with Charlie 1995

This really intrigued me, it is said that he never poses or attempts to make himself look good. Instead he challenges to record the very act of creating a self portrait (painter looking in a mirror, recording what he sees). He attempts to achieve an awkward truth. It is said that “he paints the ideal of honest observation” according to a source from the guardians website. In my opinion there is definitely an awkwardness expressed through this particular piece. I feel quite uncomfortable, however what he is trying to achieve is successful.


Self portraits are incredibly vulnerable pieces of work. They freeze all of your emotions in time from that given moment and allow them to be witnessed to whoever wishes to experience them. This is a powerful thing. Modern artists approach to self portraiture challenges my more so. There seems to be a need for purpose and impact, also a different kind of vulnerability in comparison to earlier paintings.


Reflection on part 2 as a whole

  • I am literally blown away by the depth that comes from colour knowledge. I feel that I have continuously grown from start to finish, undoubtedly this will continue throughout this journey and beyond. I am enjoying challenging myself through each new skill with painting, as well as pushing past personal boundaries and find whole new ways of expressing myself.
  • I am truly finding a whole new passion for modern impressionism and contemporary art. These had really surprised my and the more I uncover new creative artists, the more that I fall in love.
  • Investigating subjects has really shown itself as crucial. I have had my eyes opened during this section especially. I spend so much time in my home, but I don’t think that I have ever really seen the pockets of beauty within my surroundings until now.
  • Overall colour is so much more than I had ever imagined. It has proved itself to be very personal to the beholder which has given me such a greater understanding of artists expressions and their ways of expressing the subject. Thus allowing me to enjoy and appreciate other creative work at a much deeper level. As well, it has liberated my own expression and choices through my work too.
  • There have been so many enjoyable moments from this part and I am looking forward to taking them further through the rest of the course.