This is a piece about the main stages of grief, in between shock and the final stages of acceptance and healing. I chose to paint it in this way because it can feel like drowning in emotion.
This piece I thought was unfinished, but in all honesty it works well here. Sometimes leaving a piece unpolished adds to the narrative, as I have mentioned before. What this piece means to me is someone remembering a lost one, while also coming to terms with their own mortality. They are holding a rose and looking at it with a sense of pain.
I painted this piece when thinking about the human soul. I wanted the figure to appear elderly, and taking inspiration from my ‘Death and Mortality’ project, I painted the figure with their anatomy exposed. There is a cloud of colour and light attaching to the future’s head and heart- two areas which are associated with the soul.
This is the first drawing I did after deciding I wanted to make a Triptych painting. I decided to go off the 10 stages of grief that I had used for research and then more or less structured this project around. The first panel would be the immediate feelings of death, primarily focusing on Shock, the first stage. The second panel will be most of the other stages of bereavement, a complex painting covering the whirlwind of emotion that comes when losing a loved one. This will include: Denial, The Reaction of Others, Searching For Solitude, Anger, Guilt Regrets Conflicts, Depression. The final slide will be the stages where the person is recovering from their loss- Dreams, Faith Religion Spirituality and finally Acceptence.
I knew the general messages I wanted to portray in the works, but I had to start painting to see what works on the canvas. I started with the first painting, which is focusing on the death itself. I wanted this piece to be stormy and dramatic. I began with a moody sky, and a rough sketchy approach to make up two figures. One person is living, holding the dead body of a friend or family member. This is like a scene out of a film when someone dies in someone else’s arms, I think it is the clearest way of showing personal loss. This clearly shows that the two people are close. I also thought that this was a good centre to the painting, while other areas such as the sky can be built up around them.
After a couple more sessions of working on this piece, details were starting to come through and the composition began it’s long journey to fluidity. As expected with a painting of this size, there were still many areas that I knew needed attention. The living character was one area that I struggled with for a long time, and this is evident in how many times it changes. The dead character on the other hand was just developed from its original state more or less.
The sky was something I knew I had to get right, and it took heavy influence from the painting ‘The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum’ by John Martin. I think the clouds in that painting have a beautiful arch to them that carries the eye nicely round the piece. The colour is brilliant too, a bright fiery orange with pinks and reds.
At this stage of the painting I could see that it was taking shape, I think the addition of the shadows as well as cleaning up certain areas helped achieve this. However, the piece was far from done. In the meantime, I started working on the other 2 pieces.
This painting started life as an incredibly expressive abstract painting. I was applying what I had learned from looking into abstract expressionism. Gradually I turned loose marks into controlled forms. This would be the process I used to eventually complete this painting, after hours of defining the expression but not controlling it too much. It was around this time that I realised how well the painting flowed from left to right, giving the impression that grief is a spiralling journey, which I think it is.
The third piece covers the acceptance of death and spirituality. For this piece I wanted to show a recycling of life and death energy, a oneness with the universe and everything in it, and at the core a peace with both life and death. I included a tree because of its strong connection with nature and life, for example we use the term ‘family tree’s.
I included bones at bottom in the ground, trees, a bright burning sun/flame, a spiralling form, and the subject of the piece which is a grieving person coming into the final stages of their journey. The main focus here was spirituality, a mind-set that I have opened myself up to, but I am a baby on a long journey of self-discovery. This painting is my favourite of the three because I truly meant what I was saying through paint.
This painting was created in one sitting, using thick paint that I applied with in a gestural manner. At this point my Dad had just passed away so it was incredibly raw and emotional.
Working on a fairly small scale, I was able to create this work in only an hour or so. The art came from a dark place and I think this comes through in the work. I meant what I said here and that’s why it came out so effortlessly.
If I were to develop this piece further I think the work would lose some of the immediacy and power. After painting it, I left it and didn’t come back to change anything because its unpolished state is why it works, I think. Applying the paint wet meant that the colours mixed, and I could drag paint over previous layers. The face is a good example of this, which creates a really interesting effect that looks like the face is melting or disintegrating.
I wanted to make a painting about the initial stage of Grief- shock. This is a strange state to be in, where the mind is far from present, and there is an overwhelming numbness. I remember feeling disassociate from reality when I lost my brother, but I think this was down to the suddenness of his suicide. Sudden death is sure to cause shock, much more so than slow and/or expected death.
This piece is inspired by Petr Vnucko- ‘Self Denial’
Upon reflection, I think I should have left the face at this stage. He looks sad, and completely consumed by grief. His eyes look tired and neutral. However the body looks too tight and I also really disliked the ochre shade I had used.
After deciding that the image wasn’t portraying the message I wanted it to, I decided to change up the colours and forms, whole keeping the composition more or less the same.
I changed the single lonely figure into two figures, possibly holding and comforting one another. I wanted the painting to be really ecpressive, as though this news is tearing each one of them apart, and the emotion I wanted to portray is that of overwhelming sorrow and madness.
I began this painting by laying down a dark blue, black and a little bit of white. I then used a large pallet knife tool to scrape the colours around, resulting in these abstract marks. I learned this from the previous experiment where I painted a large black and white abstract piece on the floor. I liked the effect but obviously there was a lot of work to be done.
I added more paint to the sky, and continued to scrape the paint around before adding some solid forms in there. I added a moon and a body. At this point I was thinking about someone realising their mortality, which would fit into the ‘Acceptance’ stage of grief. The idea to have the body lying down is inspired by a couple of paintings: Frida Kahlo ‘Without Hope’ and Anselm Kiefer ‘Sternenfall’. The style was developed in my previous project looking at ‘Death and Mortality’ where I painted similar forms. Therefore, this painting is also partly influenced by Francis Bacon.
Layers later… adding some facial expression and anatomical parts in the body. I think here the person looks more alive than in the previous version because there is some col
The sky appeared flat, so I added white paint with less black and blue, and splattered, scraped and smeared it around to create what looks like stormy clouds. This added a dramatic energy, which changed the flow of the painting. However, with many of my paintings I make sure that the piece carries the viewers eye around the painting and towards the main focus of the piece. At the stage, the clouds point to the bottom left of the piece and the eye is dragged off the edge of the canvas. This looks totally wrong in my opinion, so after some rework of the clouds I controlled the curve back into the painting.
This is the final stage of the piece, as ou can see there is a tree growing out of the torso, with a pocket watch sort of object dangling from a branch. There is also a moon and a sun at the top surrounded by stars or lights. This is all about mortality, our relationship with the universe and the time that keeps track of our aging. This will fit somewhere in the acceptance/spirituality area I think.
The next painting, which represents earlier stages of Grief- namely shock and anger. Perhaps I should’ve put it sooner, but it was actually painted straight after the other painting I written about in this post.
I wanted to represent the initial feelings of losing someone, and I thought there was no better way to do this than have someone clutching a dead friend or relative in their arms like in a film or something. I got the dark green ground down, the red clouds, and the rough outline of the figures. The dramatic sky is used to reflect the emotion of the figure. Red is a colour with connotations of love, anger, passion, blood etc. I have spoken about the power of red before, and it felt right that I used this power to emphasise emotion. The clouds that inspired this are below:
Inspired by the photos I took, I wanted the clouds to be arranged so that they ‘point’ towards the figures. From a visual standpoint, this allows the eye to be drawn to the figures. It also gives the message that in that moment everything is revolving around the death. When someone dies, it feels as though the world is put on pauses and everything gravitated around you and the situation. Arranging the clouds in this way is my way of portraying this.
The clouds take heavy influence from Salvidor Dali and his many religiously swayed paintings. The figures look like something from a renaissance painting, while taking influence from one of my favourite painters Francis Bacon. The head of the living figure is inspired by Edvard Munch’s faces that he paints which are often pale.
As seen in the previous photo, I changed the ground to a body of water instead. I hadn’t even put time into painting water before deciding to change it because I felt it cut the painting in half, and theres nothing I hate more than disrupting the flow of an image. This is where the inspiration from Dali really came in, when I continued the sky below the midline which is definitely surreal. I still continued to centre the clouds around the living figure’s head to reinforce my point about being at the centre of the universe for a moment.
Here is the finished painting, after adding the clouds and the light from the dead figure. The light can be whatever the viewer wants, but its cuteness and brightness could represent the soul, life energy, the spirit, the ghost or anything the imagination can think of, which will naturally be swayed by religious or spiritual beliefs. I wanted this to be fairly ambiguous, because ambiguity allows open ended interpretation.
Overall I would say that I am happy with this piece, but there are there are a few things I learnt upon my own reflection of the works as well as peer review. This painting sways towards representational far more than abstract, as surreal paintings tend to be. The painting is visually pleasing, skilled, and rather beautiful, if I do say so myself. However, I fear I lost some emotion by over developing the work. As I have covered, abstract expressionism and mark making allows for the artist to be present in the work while showing their own emotion in the work. By painting in a more realistic way as I have done, I am telling someone else’s story. I didn’t want to make this project about me and the loss I have experienced, and this painting is made as though I am witnessing a death. Perhaps this is a good thing in terms of swaying towards impersonal input, but nevertheless I feel as though expressive mark making is the rawest form of emotion when painting. I think future paintings will be have expressive marks, because that is where effortlessly beautiful art is born.
After I finished these paintings, around a week later my Dad died. The big C got him, but heart issues complicated it. I couldn’t help but feel as though I predicted his death in a way, considering he died under a full moon just like I originally painted. I felt like he was going to die for a long time. I felt it deep in my gut, where the truest feelings originate. On the night we found out it was likely he was going to die I painted over both of these pieces in a desperate attempt to undo some sort of summoning of Death. These pieces are now buried under white paint, but to whomever is marking this please understand that they definitely existed and were incredibly powerful. Hopefully not powerful enough to alter reality, though. Rest in Peace to a role model of a Father, who passed peacefully and surrounded by the love of his Family.
Shock and depression were the key themes here. I took inspiration from ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch, ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ by Van Gogh and Francis Bacon’s work, especially those of the Pope. The blue tones are inspired by Picasso’s Blue Period. I also used my photos of the chair that I took in my first photography experiment.
I went for a loose and expressive painting style to reflect the emotion of the subject. The twists in the body are primarily inspired by Francis Bacon, an artist I regularly reference. The face is thickly layered, as I wanted the subject’s facial expression to be exaggerated. The layers add depth to the piece which makes it visually compelling.
I added a cloud above the figures head which is supposed to represent depression. In our weather system a depression brings rain, and sadness is often associated with rainy weather. I thought that this addition of the cloud helped to convey the message of bereavement and depression.
As for the back drop of the image I painted it a light blue/green colour. Blue can represent sadness, and I though it was an appropriate colour to use. It also ties the image together well, and the blue lines work compositionally. To me, these blue lines are like rain, but I have left it ambiguous enough so that the viewer can make up their own mind.
This painting is an example of knowing when to stop developing a piece of work. I think if I developed it any further then I would have lost some of the character. This piece isn’t polished, but that’s where the beauty lies I think. Despite this painting not taking me long, I have learned invaluable lessons of critical reflection and knowing when I have developed a painting enough for what I am trying to convey.
Taking inspiration from the moody colours in ‘Oak Fractured by Lightning’ by Maxim Vorobiev, I wanted to make a dark painting that represents depression and the desperate lows of grief.
Using a couple of different dark blues, white and black, I created this painting out of a limited colour palette. The beauty of this painting comes from the many layers I built up, after filling the canvas over and over while leaving only certain areas from the previous layers. This made a painting that has a lot of depth, as well as an uneven surface that I scratched away at with my nails and the back of the brush.
Filling the canvas in this way allows the viewer to be fully ‘submerged’ in the work. I use this word specifically because I think this piece has the energy of a stormy ocean. This could represent anger, conflict and depression stages of bereavement.
I like how this painting turned out, I think the many layers, choice of colour and the physical marks on the piece came together to make a successful artwork that is moving. If I were to do it again I would work much larger, which would mean the viewer would be more submerged, especially if they were stood close. Also, I would add more layers of paint and really build up a three dimensional piece of work to get lost in.
This is the beginning of my medium/large painting after about 2 hours of work. I knew I wanted to portray some sort of message about how we are part of a natural cycle. This is more related to my previous project really, which was about the natural cycle we see on this Earth. I read an incredible quote the other day which summed this up. “We are manifestations of the Universe experiencing itself.” Over millions of years we have become more and more complex, to the point we are now where we are becoming ever more self-aware.
I wanted to paint with a style I’d describe as loosely controlled. I used this method because I wanted the piece to be representative of a human form while also being expressive. I learned from my painting of the humanoid figure succumbing to their death that expressive mark making is powerful and has a wonderful fluidity about it. After many more hours painting, I got the painting to this stage (below)
Here the painting is developing, and the the form isn’t as solid but rather more ‘melty’ and expressive. I like the way I have used brush marks, I think the style suits the narrative here. There are still many aspects I am unsure of, but I stopped at this point to review what I don’t like about as well as the parts I was beginning to love. The head looks like a wolf’s skull, the light violet marks are not fully refined and the body, particularly the left side as we see it, is static and unfinished. The torso is getting there, but it’ll take a few more layers of paint to get the desired effect. This is something that I utilise a lot in my paintings, I think that lots of layers does two things: 1) it creates a lot of depth, where several forms lay on top of one another. 2) if you have ever tried to paint a coloured wall white, one layer only partly covers the previous coat. This is the same with acrylics, especially with some colours (like yellow) and watered down paint. Our eyes can see the previous layer(s) of paint, so adding many layers creates interesting shades or more intense colour, and definitely makes a painting more interesting. On the torso I layered many different reds, so therefore the torso went from a flat form to a multi-layered area, as did several parts. To me, generally more layers = a deeper, and therefore more interesting, painting.
This image is the painting after another few hours of development. I added highlights and shadow, which makes the form appear significantly more three dimensional.
I really like how this painting has come together. I don’t want to explain the painting, but I am trying to represent a natural cycle of life, Birth and Death, and the magic of nature and growth. I think this painting has a lot of movement which is created by the fluid approach which I achieved by applying the paint on top wet paint and sort of scraping the paint. This is most obvious in the purple mist that I have painted. I also used this technique a lot on the body which I think worked well.
If I had more time, I would develop the sky a little bit and maybe add stars, which would connect this cycle to a much larger cycle that is happening in the universe and space. However, I always have to be weary not to over work a piece, as there is beauty and expression in confident marks, and this can be lost when I begin to tiptoe around the piece trying to achieve some sort if visual perfection. These are not paintings that should be over developed, but instead paintings that have an element of myself, the artist, within them.