Assignment 1


I loved doing this assignment, I felt that I built on some experimentation from previous exercises, but also kept trying new things. I painted 20 backgrounds  using some grounds used before, and also bright red and blue ones.

I found inspiration in current news events, mainly of Brexit which could not be avoided at the time of these paintings. I wanted to try subjects that I don’t particularly like or have an affinity to, because previously I’ve been painting things I do like. Boris Johnson I wanted to paint on a black background with as few brush strokes as possible. The acrylic sank into the watercolour ground and left him looking quite yellow. Hair more successful. David Cameron has too close set eyes and looked like a caricature which looks alright but hadn’t been my original aim. I left his body blank because it made his head look floating and I liked that.

Kanye West was built up with white acrylic ink on a black acrylic ground. It is not as successful as Roy Hodgson because of weak drawing. It looks brighter in the photo as well, in real life the effect of the ink is more subtle. Roy turned out well, I wanted a thoughtful loose style, he’d just been kicked off the England team. I think this quite ruddy aged face was successful.

More acrylic on different coloured acrylic grounds. Chris Evans had just resigned from Top Gear so I didn’t want his usual grinning pose. I wanted to use minimal thin layers for his face so the ground would show through making him ghost like. For Nigel Farage I used thicker acrylic paint and made him more solid. Painting on the yellow ochre ground made getting skin colour easier. He’s come out slightly caricature like David Cameron. Painting an open mouthed expression is harder than closed. Painting political and news worthy figures is new for me. Documenting the contemporary scene was inspired by the Ruskin drawing prize OCA visit [1] this year recording contemporary life, and by Elizabeth Peyton [2].

These are paintings of photos I took on  holiday in Wales. I used black and white acrylic for the tomb statue which I think was successful as the tones make it look 3 dimensional. The wet on wet technique left it loose. The style was influenced by the paintings of Alli Sharma [3]. For the castle I used gouache which I’ve only just started using. Instead of black and white I wanted to experiment with warm and cool greys using the 3 primary colours. I think it worked, although it may lack an overall coherence.

The stained glass was influenced by a John Piper [4] painting. However, I don’t think mine was successful because I tried to paint too detailed sections on the small paper and used a brush too big so It lacked the delicate touch of John Piper’s. Theresa May was a bright blue  ground and I did not want to paint that out on her face so some would show through. Maybe depicting the Tory colour? She is in mid speech and I quite like the expression I captured.

These are watercolours. The first is a vintage photo of a speed breaking motorcylist at Pendyne sands. I liked the casual fag he was having and managed to paint this in a negative shape which I had forgotten to do in my sketchbook version. I think w/c suits the subject, as well as the loose wash ground. The chicken was w/c on acrylic because I was experimenting with painting feathers and I left it quite simple.

These are both gouache on acrylic ground and the first was experimenting with 3 primaries to make grey again but I used different ones to the second which I think worked better. The first the greys turned quite corpse like purples! The second is better. I kept layering on the paint, maybe I need to approach with ‘less is more’ like I do with w/c.

More people in the news – I wanted to try a face on a black ground to improve on the similar one of Boris Johnson earlier. I used more paint for Vicky Mclure , theres not much shadow as there was a lot of light straight on her face. I think the second of the Turkish soldier and policeman in the recent coup was more succcessful. I think I managed to capture some drama and despair. I wanted the background figure to be more muted. I’ve enjoyed painting current news stories, even though they feel painful sometimes. Marlene Dumas [5]has been an influence here. Her paintings of terrorist and victim influenced a later painting in this series.

I made this composition of Sid Vicious deliberately fading out on a bright red background. I wanted to capture some expression of his impending traumas. I used gouache but not as thickly as in previous paintings which I think was more successful . Sometimes I can over do it with detail and clutter. Luc Tuymens [6] has interested me with his simple but effective composition sometimes leaving much of the canvas devoid of subject. The second is with my new Atelier interactive acrylics and I wanted to try a blue-black tonal painting instead of the usual black I’ve used before. I think this was successful and looks brooding. I t has a strong tonal look.


This was from a recent tragic new story where this man committed terrorist atocities in Germany and was then shot dead by police. The news story contained this sneering pose which I feel I have captured. I used a large brush so as not to be able to get bogged down in detail. I washed it with an acrylic weak wash in red and then went over it in the black and white paint again. This was a difficult subject to paint, but one that Luc Tuymens and Marlene Dumas do not shy away from  – as I witnessed on my recent Tate Modern visit.

My last two are a complete experiment with watercolour and a palette knife – I had seen some flowers done in this way and decided to experiment. I find it difficult to be neat. The bird was probably more successful than the face in terms of drawing. But I quite like the wonky face. Marlene Dumas and  especially Chantelle Joffe [7] use slightly wrong features for effect.

I tried them out in two orders and prefer the first, but as they are not a linked series I’m not sure they work as whole. I was enjoying painting faces and contemporary themes and i wonder if this is the way my development will go? I started the OCA liking landscapes best, but I think this was down to poor drawing skills and avoiding portraits! Since D1 I’ve found a great love of portraits and figures, as this links with my job as a GP. I’m privileged to have a unique insight into people with that work and I wonder about using it in an anonymous way in the future. I want to develop figures into capturing something that a photo misses. Luc Tuymens and Marlene Dumas certainly capture that in my view.

Further review against criteria;

Demonstration of visual skills; I’m only a beginner painter really but I feel I’ve made huge improvements since starting with the OCA a year ago. My next improvement is to really get into colour theory and I”m working through Betty Edwards’s book for that. I carry my sketchbook everywhere and try to be more experimental in there, which was a point raised by my D1 tutor.

Quality of outcome; Experimenting means some things work and some don’t and I’ve found that I have to accept that or my work becomes too safe. Maybe too many of these worked and that means they weren’t experimental enough which is something I need to work on. I liked using the W/c with a palette knife for instance.

Demonstration of creativity; Drawing famous figures and news scenes is completely new to me and I’m finding trying to put identity into people is a development path for me. Looking at contemporary artists work on this has been a huge influence as I discuss above. I keep more photographs now, and have been influenced by looked at Gerhard Richter’s [8]’Atlas’.

Context; I’m visiting as many contemporary exhibitions as I can, including ones that I don’t think look that interesting to me at first. Its best to visit as much as I can at this level to develop a critical voice later. I’ve become far more open minded about contemporary art this year and now find I prefer it, in general, to the famous Old Master’s  I used to visit. Just starting to write for a new OCA student started art magazine has helped me look in a deeper way at a broader range of art.

Link to Pinterest board of found images; [this is the first time I’ve collected images this way and has been very useful]





4 thoughts on “Assignment 1

  1. Arlene Sharp

    Great work Catherine – love what you have done here and the strong contemporary theme of people in the news – the portraits are excellent. I particularly like Sid Vicious he stands out really well as a small figure on the background and also the German killer – the red ground really adds to the intensity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cleveyart Post author

      Thanks so much Arlene. The terrorist was awful to paint but been inspired by artists like Marlene Dumas and Luc Tuymens not shying away from these subjects!


  2. jen3972

    I love your portraits! They are so interesting. The different coloured backgrounds form a pleasing whole when they’re put together en masse. Charicaturisation is probably entirely appropriate given the farcical state of our government at the moment….;-)

    Liked by 1 person


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