Monday, February 13, 2017

Leafing through the Archive 3

Inspiring Innovation in Composition

A response to the requests for the earlier classes in composition of leaf paintings

Much of the work in the Kew classes and the Masterclasses at the Cipriani in Venice and the USA were focused upon bringing in the use of innovative compositions that were suitable for various plant elements. 

These were first shown in earlier versions of this blog in 2005.

The studies of leaves, broadly painted in watercolour, were a case in point and were painted to encourage the students to free up their working process and think more laterally about how a leaf could be displayed as a solitary icon in a composition. 

The light of each leaf also enters from beyond the edge of the paper and this was indicative of the way this element could be seen as emerging from another place and space.

The bringing of a leaf into the composition from the outer edge of the paper was the most popular modus operandi and students delighted in what could be achieved with this simple approach using both light and composition.

The use of this method can be found in art history, and is distinctive as a pictorial element growing inwards from the edge of the paper. 

This is separate and different from the creation of an element that is growing outward from the composition, and beyond the edge of the paper. 

The students were asked to fine tune their understanding, and for many this was a moment of realisation in how light is used in composition, as part of the composition.

This had never been pointed out to them before. I have often been asked since why I would give it away so freely. I leave you all dear readers, to answer this for yourselves.

Importantly, the leaf has been displayed not to appear as being cut by the edge, but as moving into the composition and towards the observer. 

The students were asked to think about this as an idea, seeing it in light of their own awareness of how they wanted the viewer to react to the work. 

This way of bringing in elements has perhaps not surprisingly become a major influence on many botanical painters since that time. We used what has been used before in art history, and made it work in a larger format, taking something old and bringing in renewal.

This idea was to foster an approach that looks at the work in a brand new way.

It simply reveals a window of observation to a part of the leaf, without creating a cliche.

Here are a couple of the freely painted and large compositions, done for fun for the students, showing how this could be achieved. 

Vine Leaf in Noon Light 
Study work
watercolour on paper
90 x 60 cm

Water Lily Nymphaea 'Fosita'
Kew Lily Pond 2002

Rapid Study Work 60 x 30 cm

Sketching in the Field  Workshop at Kew 2002

Monstera deliciosa

Shirley Sherwood Collection

This elemental composition using a leaf, can again be seen on the right side of the composition of the Monstera deliciosa commissioned by Shirley Sherwood in 1997.  

It shows the leaf emerging into the composition from the right side, beyond the edge of the paper. The sense it offers is a kind of paradox of awareness, where the viewer is not sure where they themselves are placed. 
This work is on currently on show at the British Artists exhibition at Kew.