Gloria in Natura

For this project we were given a live brief that required making a site-specific piece of work for Alnwick Garden’s Woodland Walk which will be viewed by the general public. This work would be in the form of a banner or hanging so would likely be a 2D surface.

Researching the local area I looked at the shield for the local football club, the arms of the Percy family who have held Alnwick Castle since 1309 and the Northumbrian Shield of Arms to serve as an inspiration of imagery to use for my banner. Looking at Alnwick and the Woodland Walk there was a harmony between the historic town and the surrounding nature and I decided I wanted to create something that represented the relationship between Alnwick and the countryside. Thinking about the Northumbrian coat of arms I decided I wanted to create a piece in the style of a coat of arms that celebrates Alnwick’s historic features and the nature that surrounds the town.

I researched the origins and purposes of banners and flags to give context to the piece, which I believe I found useful because it gave me insight to their historical significance. I looked into banners of arms and found a diagram specifying all the elements in the composition, which helped me in constructing my own which was helpful in keeping my piece relevant to my influences.

I knew that I wanted to use oil paint to make this piece in order to return to my practice, despite it being a challenge to make within a few weeks. I cut a piece of canvas that is roughly 6’ x 5’ since I wanted my banner to be quite grand due to its scale. I primed the canvas with a PVA and water mix to create a good base to begin painting upon. The primer was also to prevent the canvas from absorbing the oil paint so that I could maintain quality.

I decided that the best way to visualise my idea would be to construct my coat of arms on Photoshop. Using this template as a starting point I began to construct my coat of arms using imagery that strongly represents Alnwick and also the Northumbrian countryside.

I used Photoshop to help visualise my ideas and edit the images quickly and efficiently since this project was time sensitive. This method allowed me to construct a reference for my painting with the ability to experiment with positioning before committing. Having the imagery already edited together as a reference was extremely helpful because it meant I had a better idea of how my piece would appear rather than work from separate images and not have the proportions or positioning as exact as I would have liked. This allowed my final painting to look a lot more professional and refined than it could have otherwise.

Version 2

I looked at three artists that have created landscape pieces to explore different styles of work and how other artists portray landscapes. The established artists I studied included Egon Schiele, Anselm Kiefer and David Hockney. Their varying styles gave me an insight to the effects that colour, tone and texture can have on a landscape piece. This research allowed me to consider how I’d approach my painting stylistically as well as to consider creating relief from the canvas by impasto painting or adding objects to the surface. Though these methods could have given more depth to my piece or given a more interesting and tactile surface, I decided to continue with the way I paint in my style so that the piece remained true to my practice and my style as an artist.

When beginning to paint I found the scale quite challenging. Typically working on a larger scale works to an advantage because it gives you a greater freedom of movement and therefore has a loosening effect on your paintwork since you have the space to use broad brushstrokes. However I found with my piece that I did include quite a fair bit of detail that required me to take my time and be quite diligent with details which was fairly time consuming. Alternatively, I found this added a quality to my work because it contrasted nicely with the larger areas where I was able to use broader strokes and less detail, which balanced quite nicely.

There was a lot of symmetry in the imagery of my piece, which was another challenge to keep a visual balance in quality and in colours but I think I managed to complete this well.

After finishing the painting I hemmed the outer edge with a sewing machine and applied eyelets to be able to hang the piece with rope in the Gardens. I then weatherproofed it with waterproof varnish on both sides.

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To hang the piece in the gardens we threaded the rope through the eyelets and hung the banner, which was quite simple to secure, and we didn’t encounter any issues with this process.

Overall I’m pleased with this project. I feel that I fulfilled the brief and created a piece appropriate to the context and one that looks professional and of a good quality. I think the placement of the banner in the Gardens is where it will be out of the way but easily viewed. In terms of the process I feel that managed my time well, which is an area I tend to fall behind in and I managed to complete the project efficiently without any issues. I enjoyed this project and found that it was a valuable experience to create something site-specific as well as in a format I haven’t used before.

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