Exercise 4.3 Reconfiguring

This exercise follows on from exercise 4.2 which considered analysing a composition – the aim with this one though is to analyse one of my own pieces of work with a view to re-configuring it and improving it.

I decided to choose a painting or drawing rather than two-dimension piece of textile work due to composition in my sketchbook work being a weak area.  I have a small portfolio of paintings and drawings which I will be adding to my sketchbooks for this course – some have been done with the course in mind and some I just did for fun over the past year or so but they tie in with my themes almost perfectly although most are floral pieces worked from the blooms in my garden.

I narrowed the portfolio/sketchbook pieces down to two – the one on the left which was done as a quick basic sketch using pen and Inktense sticks and was done to get an impression of the shapes and colours of the tubs against the harder architectural elements of the shed and the soft form of a Japanese maple.

The second was a simple watercolour of some of my fushia blooms – I am entranced by the shapes and strong lines of the petals as well as the glorious vibrant colours.

My first thoughts – the practical response/action stage – was to choose the simpler image of the shed but I am heavily drawn to the colours and delicious shapes of the fuchsias so feel I want to concentrate on this art work although I will over the course of the next week apply the same working methodology to the former image to for my own satisfaction and practice.

So what do I see in my original piece seen above and in the smaller image to the left?  What immediately draws my eye is the strong use of colour with my eye being led into the work by the strong linear shapes of the sepals. The two main blooms in the upper half of the painting take your eye across the page horizontally but the work is unbalanced and chaotic due to the blooms in the lower half and the rough impressions of the leaves – it was done more as a study and an experimental investigation with a slightly looser watercolour technique as I tried to work wet on wet to create the impression of shadows and forms.  The stamens which are done in coloured pencil I feel draw your eye down and out of the image rather than up and into it and this for me creates a jarring impression or uneasy emotion – the colours of the stamens are too stark and almost feels like they are architectural lines rather than the natural ones they in fact are.  I am not skilled with painting leaves yet and find them difficult to question whether in fact it would be better to create a background of soft greens that complement and enhance the blooms themselves and are not part of the main focus – the leaves go out of focus as the camera lens concentrates on the details of the blooms and creating the impressionist feel that I see in this piece by Nancy Goldman (seen on the right).

Nancy Goldman. Fuchsia Fuchsias. Oil painting

One thing I do like about this painting by Ms Goldman is the contrast of the background against the detailed blooms …. the lighter bluish background area highlights the darker purple petals whereby the darker green sets of the sepals and really highlights them.  The blue/green colours also pick up on the blue tones of the magenta and purple and both this and the contrast is something to bear in mind as I start to refine my own piece.

Fiona Kane – Fuchsia “Royal Velvet”

I feel I want to zoom in on the main blooms and place them so that there is either a diagonal line created or add additional blooms spaced at different heights but going horizontally across the page with perhaps a simple light branch connected them all.  My original piece lacks any connection between the blooms – with Ms Goldman’s painting the stems go off the edge but give the impression they are connected.  A painting by Fiona Kane, a botanical artist illustrates how the eye is drawn both diagonally and horizontally across the page  by both the blooms and the connecting leaves and stem  – the fuchsias are clearly at different heights and there is a feeling of depth to the piece created by careful use of colour.

Overall my original piece of work lacks a focal point and although your eye is led to the main blooms I also feel the eye is led of in different directions without a place to settle – the piece lacks harmony and barely has a compositional element of any note.

So my plan for a way forward – a complete reconfiguration is a start!  I do not feel I want to concentrate on a singular bloom but would rather have my original 2 placed so that the eye is drawn horizontally along the page but with the stems appearing to give the impression of coming together just off the page.  The other option to consider is whether to zoom in on one of the blooms and let it almost fill the page and set the bloom so that it is diagonal – the tube and stem being in one corner with the stamens going out of the page from the other …. something to play with as I could subtract the other elements of the original picture and just purely concentrate on the linear qualities combined with the colours to create a more abstract but refined image.

The actual colours I feel I want to keep relatively simple and the same although I am considering making this a mixed media work – the background perhaps in soft watercolour with the foreground blooms in stronger acrylic but still keeping the colours slightly softer than I normally use  The magenta and reds of the bloom serve as accents whilst the background enhances and creates a soft gentle atmosphere as if seeing the blooms in a softer dappled sunlight. I do feel I want to create an impression of calmness and serenity and have a desire to soften the tones which I usually use to create something that has a slightly romantic feel but at the same retain the vibrancy of the original piece of work.

At this point I do feel I want to do two refined pieces of work – the synthesis/refinement part of the exercise that may then take me back to a practical response/action stage and start the process again – for this chosen piece of work I question that it is going to be something that I continue to work on after submission of the assignment.

Sacha Grossel – Fuchsia Macro painting. Watercolour

So the synthesis/refinement stage did not quite work out as planned – my first attempts ended up in the bin in truth because I could not get the planned softer coloured version to work as I would have liked using acrylic paints and now feel that the way forward with that idea is to stick with watercolours or pastels.  I discovered the work of Sacha Grossel and fell in love with her boldly coloured and vibrant macro style of watercolours and felt that this style could really work well with the refinements I wanted to do from my original piece of work.

Initially I decided to try a mixed media approach  using a mid-toned ochre yellow watercolour background with bolder and vibrant acrylic paints for the fuchsia flowers – the watercolour looks very light in the photograph but is an almost gold colour in real life.  The only issue I had with this refined version is regarding the stamens as they are too thick and also the wrong colour. I took a step back and considered the piece critically (critical reflection stage) I felt I wanted to somehow change the stamens and also to get a bolder background in a colour that really enhanced the colours of the blooms – I felt the colours of the fuchsias jarred a little against the yellow and the image lost some of the richness I realised I was looking for.

The composition of this version I am relatively happy about – the two blooms are set slightly diagonally with the stamens also being diagonal and hence the eye is led into the work and gently from one area to another without zooming off the edge.  I do feel the horizontal nature of the sepals also leads the eye across the image and there is a real feeling of energy and life – I veered more towards something that felt dynamic and lively rather than calming and peaceful.  This version of the original piece of work also feels more balanced and less chaotic – the eye does not have to work so hard and is able to concentrate on the two blooms rather than moving between several.

I decided to try a second refinement – I changed the background colour to a more citrus green with tonal variations from relatively light to dark using acrylics instead of watercolours.  I also changed the colour of the stamens to a salmon-ish pink which cannot be seen clearly.  I felt the change in the background colour to a really rich tone punches out the blooms much more than the paler yellow – it really enhances and complements the cadmium red and deep purple colours used.  The red and purple were  mixed to create a mid-toned magenta on the petals or with the addition of white to create high-lights on the sepals – my only change here would be to add some additional highlights on the lower flower taking into account the direction of the light.

The composition again I felt relatively happy with – the fuchsias are set slightly diagonally drawing your eye in and letting them rest on the vibrant and energetic colours … that sounds like a slight misnomer if I use the term ‘rest’ but I feel my eye does indeed rest on the vibrancy or richness of the blooms and there is no need for such details as veins on the petals themselves.  I am aware I wanted to keep the shapes/forms of the flowers combined with the colours from my original piece of work as they are what drew my attention when the buds first started to open and is the reason I love this particular genus.  I purposefully worked ONLY from my original image despite the fact my fuchsia bush is now in almost full bloom so it was incredibly tempting to combine the refined work with a new details …. something that perhaps I could consider as part of a critical reflection stage with other works.

I have taken a step back on this second refined version of my fuchsias and note that my eyes are drawn down by the stamens of the top bloom towards the second and back up again by the tube and stem of the bottom one before coming to rest almost centrally.  I did feel however though that the final image could be cropped slightly particularly at the bottom  to add emphasis and a dramatic quality to the overall image.

The cropping at the top and bottom draws the eye into the image just a bit further and adds the sense of theatre that I feel when I look at the stems of the bush as the individual flowers drape almost majestically …. some of the blooms are large and pull the stems down emphasizing their curvaceous and full bodied forms and the richness of the colour palette of that particular species.  If I am to be critical again and refine this piece I would like to refine the stamens further – I question if a pale grey tone may work slightly better when combined with a finer line …. I really need to look closely at the plants to see just how thick the stamens are and how many there are to create a more realistic impression.   Another refinement may be some detail on the petals – a little subtle veining would potentially add emphasis to the form.

I decided to try a different version of the original image but this time changing the orientation of the paper and using 3 identical blooms.  I decided to place the blooms so that they drew the eye diagonally from either the bottom left to the top right or vice versa with the intention to create the impression that they are hanging from a stem or branch.  The original intention of this image was to use watercolour for the background in a mid-slate blue with the fuchsia blooms being worked in acrylic but I simply did not like the watercolour when it had dried so overlaid it with two different green Inktense sticks before adding a water wash to blend.  The blooms have also been done using Inktense sticks  primarily in a red, magenta pink and white plus a lime green for the stem which I have again washed over with water to blend.  The overall result of using the Inktense sticks with water has been a very matt finish which is almost chalky which I do quite like as it creates a slightly textured impression.  The background green Inktense ‘wash’ I decided to make darker at the top as I took inspiration from Nancy Goldman’s oil painting and this has further emphasized the complementary reds and magenta colours of the blooms.

For this version I decided to use a white Inktense pencil for the stamens and this has worked considerably better than my previous acrylic painted lines as they really draw the eye upwards and along the image.  This version I do feel is calmer and less energetic than the acrylic painted ones – the greens are slightly more muted with tones ranging from a blue-ish green at the top to a mid-toned leaf green at the base with both having textural elements giving the impression of the different green tones of the leaves on the fuchsia bush or of the grass beneath.

I find my eye resting on the central bloom as I am drawn upwards to the right from the left hand side and downwards to the left from the top right and then again vertically from top to bottom and vice versa due to the stamens and stems – there is a natural resting place which creates the aforesaid calming and gentler impression.  If I was to further refine this particular version I would take it back to the original watercolour with either a pale Payne’s grey wash for the background or perhaps a very light sap green which would complement much softer wet-on-wet sepals and petals – I would attempt to try a very soft watery and very calm impression and emotion which could at a later date potentially be transferred to a silk painted item.

Lenore Crawford

Overall this has been an incredibly useful exercise and possibly even the most useful and logical one of my studies thus far – this research methodology makes complete sense and I find myself wanting to further explore this image and discover where it could go …. perhaps even tipping over into abstraction.   I can see that both of my acrylic refined versions have the potential to be vibrant and dynamic textile works – I am thinking of quilters such as Caryl Fallert Bryer-Gentry and Lenore Crawford or the work of Velda Newman with their exuberant or exaggerated flowers that give an impression of close up photography.


Crawford, L. 2017.  Lenore Crawford [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from:  http://www.lenorecrawford.com/

FineArtAmerica.com.  (2017).  Nancy Goldman – Artwork [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from:  https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/nancy-goldman.html?tab=artwork&page=1

Goldman, N. (date unknown).  Nancy Goldman art [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from:  http://nancygoldmanart.blogspot.co.uk/

Grossel, S. (date unknown).  Sacha Grossel art [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from:  http://www.sachagrosselart.com/bio.html

Kane, F.  (date unknown).  Fiona Kane Botannical Paintings [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from:  http://www.fionakane.net/photo_13820294.html



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