Saturday, 24 December 2016

Influences 8: James Ensor

James Ensor, The Intrigue, 1890
I first came across the paintings of James Ensor (1860 - 1949) when I was seventeen. The Intrigue, above, absolutely captivated me. How wonderful, then, to be able to stand in front of the real thing over thirty years later! That was a couple of weeks ago and it's still very present in my head.

Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans is an exhibition of work by Ensor curated by Tuymans currently showing at the Royal Academy. There are lots of works on paper as well as paintings; drawings and etchings. I'd only seen his paintings before so it was interesting to see his sketches and prints.

James Ensor, Skeletons Fighting over a Pickled Herring, 1891
What do I like about his work? I like the narrative element of course; the weird symbolism of the images keeps me guessing and wondering. I like the satirical works which remind me of the 'cartoons' of James Gillray and other similar artists. I like his macabre sense of humour (see his self-portraits as skeletons with titles such as My Portrait in 1960). I like the way he composed an image and the way he put the paint on the canvas. And in terms of the man himself, I like the way he started out by pinching stuff to paint from the weird collection of tourist tat his mother sold in her shop below his studio. I like the way he lived in Ostend all his life, a small seaside town on the Belgian coast. Above all, I like the way he just got on and did his own unique thing, and never really fitted into a neat category of style or subject matter. 

The exhibition is on until 29 January 2017.

Palimpsest continued


Here is the first print in my Palimpsest series; three drawings, two of which were the same, the final one made directly on the plate last Saturday at life drawing.

And here's the second plate etched and printed. This is the first stage of the next Palimpsest print. Printed a small edition of four of these, even though this isn't the final image. 

Monday, 19 December 2016


Following on from my post on 7 December where I'd started to burnish back the image and etch over it again, I found that burnishing alone was too laborious and not effective enough, so I had at the plates with a scraper and then a drill with various grinding and polishing attachments. Much fun and some interesting effects.

I drew another figure over this image at life drawing on Saturday so watch this space for a scan when the print is dry.

December life drawing

Charcoal drawing - 3 x 5 minute poses

It was our monthly Saturday life drawing session at the art gallery at the weekend. This month I took along some etching plates to draw directly onto them to capture the full energy of the drawing on the plate. This gets lost when transferring a drawing from paper to plate as you stiffen up and lose a lot of the extraneous marks made when searching for the image. 

The images below show the drawing as made on tissue paper laid over a soft grounded plate (left). The images on the right are the tissue paper taken off the plate and scanned to see the drawing more clearly. 

The first pair of images were made on the plate shown in my previous post so when etched, there will be fragments of the previous drawing. The second pair are on a new plate which will gradually become layered with images; a palimpsest of figure studies.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

New project

Third state - second etching
Continuing to explore soft ground etching as a way to make etchngs with a soft, charcoal-like quality, I'm also exploring layering of images with a process of etching the image, burnishing or scraping it off, then etching the same or another image over the top.

First etching
I wrecked this image from the start by putting the first soft ground on unevenly to see what would happen (and by dropping a blob of stopping out varnish on the subject's arm. In trying to get it off, I took off too much ground so now it just looks like a really bad tattoo). It came out more patchy than I thought, which the initial burnishing back and subsequent etching didn't sufficiently remove. Scraping it off is the next stage.
Second state - first etching burnished back