Thursday, 27 June 2013

Why and wherefor?

I attended an oil painting seminar with an artist who had been showing off his impressive work at an art store. I think that was the first time I had consciously used runny paint (in this case oils) to start a painting. He used turps (or white spirit) to dilute his paint, and had a well-aired room to dry them in (he needed it - it's unhealthy air if it's filled with turps fumes).
Fantasia was about my first painting that used this technique and I was so enamoured of the poured result that I hardly added to it. 
fantasia - little dragon - oil on canvas 60x90cm
Back home - and in those days I had a studio separate from where I lived - I poured to my heart's content and produced a whole lot of abstract works - most of them adorned with fantasy creatures that I could see through the pouring. Then I had to give the studio up because of illhealth, and was stuck. You can't have stinking turps in your home. Drying outside was dependent on the weather, so I started pouring with acrylics and that worked just as well with no health issues.

beak - acrylics on canvas 80x80cm
Then I started pouring with watercolours, which I diluted in little bottles, so always had a store of basic colours. If you pour with watercolour you can continue with traditional oils, which are not watersoluble so don't disturb the substrate. But now I've changed to water-mixable oils that is no longer really possible. But my painting has changed too. I haven't tried pouring figurative ideas because the shapes I see waylay me. Here's a purely figurative painting done conventionally with oils:

late summer landscape - oils 40x40cm

And that is where the aquadoodling really started! Wet-in-wet is a much-loved technique of watercolourists, some of whom seem to have supernatural control of what happens on the paper. But abstract watercolours are not so thick on the ground, so it's quite fun to explore the medium from the non-figurative angle. By adding other media (dry and wet), you widen the scope of your abstract studies. If you like a bit, but not all of what you've done, try cutting it up (digitally) then print the bits you like and use them to evolve further studies. In other words, plagiarize freely!

You might never use it in aquadoodling, but the technique of removing and moving pigments that was achieved with alcohol (turps) for oil paint and water (for acrylics) is best done on all media with isopropyl alcohol (preferably 100% - at 70% it's called rubbing alcohol). Don't inhale the fumes, though they are not really harmful they aren't particularly nice - isopropyl can be used for many cleaning jobs and usually does a better job than household bleach, which smells horrible and is definitely not healthy. But you are not going to inhale any fumes, are you?

Use isopropyl alcohol very sparingly - drop by drop - it's devastating for pigments! Use a pipette or plastic bottle with a very small outlet. The results are spectacular. In the following aquadoodle, I used a lot of isopropyl to demonstrate the effect it has on wet watercolour (your paint has to be wet for this technique). The whole study is followed by 3 cutouts, each of which protrayed something intriguing in that study, which I describe in the captions.

isopropyl interference on watercolour

interesting cutout 1
See that black moon in a threatening sky.
I don't know where the black dots came from.
They are not raised on the paper.

interesting cutout 2
I can see a swallow flying towards the right.

interesting cutout 3
I can see a woman in a long frock here.

Now I should print the extracts out on strong paper and try to develop them.
A4 is big enough. The painting is about A3. 

Aquadoodling is an exploration of what is possible and how something achieved by chance can inspire.