Assignment 1: Depicting Object(s) with Black & White Paint


PAINTING Objects with Acrylic
Students are required to use Black and White Paint for the assignment.

As an option people could mix a black (or a neutral colour which will be close to black) using either Raw Umber with Pthalo Blue OR Alizarin Crimson Red with Pthalo Blue  Green. The objectives for  assignments will  require the addition mixing of the grayscale or monochromatic range (using white with the mixed black) and considering the range of mark making with various brush sizes.

An example of a white object completed with acrylic paint. 

The above example presents an exceptional depiction of a textured object using paint. Part of the success of this painting was due to the intense layering of paint and editing with the paint. This work demonstrates a combination of the paint being used in a thick and opaque ways with multiple transparent layers (glazing technique) where layered washes of paint are applied often with several layers. 

In some select areas glazing was used on thick areas of paint (once the the thick areas were dry) to either decrease or increase contrast. As well this work above represents an overall excellent example of strategic use with detail, contrast and sharp to soft edges.

Another white object depicted with acrylic paint. The process of this painting was done with a glazing technique that is similarly used in watercolour. The acrylic paint is watered down and multiple layers of translucent tints are used as part of the technique to build up the 3 dimensional illusion in the work. 

Note: this work above did not use black- instead alizarin crimson (red) and phthalo green were used to create black.

An ambitious example of a textured, reflective and transparent objects used in a painted still life. Spatially the depiction of the objects are slightly confused and perhaps more strategic use of detail, contrast and sharp to soft edges should have been considered but in combination overall a very good and ambitious painting of textured, reflective and transparent surfaces.

Setting Up Object to Paint in Black & White:

As discussed in class, the assignment requires at least one object one white object or one off white object. Also discussed in class the object should be set up with a light to create light and shadow.

Thematic Content:
This object should have or be set up in a way to have potential thematic content. As an option anthropomorphic characteristics inherent in an object or created by a certain viewpoint or lighting can also offer thematic content.

Painting Process: 
Initial painting process should lightly depict basic shapes of shadow and light first. Shapes should also  initially be out of focus (soft edges).

Formal Characteristics:
Eventually via a layering process the object should be strategically depicted in terms of ranges of detail, contrast and edges in relation to the progression of space. * 

Figure-ground relationships should be set up as well. How does the background and plane the object is set on become just as important as the object in order to unify the picture plane?

Formal Characteristics in Painting/Drawing and Progression of Space:
* For any assignments regarding black and white rendering (shading) the strategic use in a full range  of soft and hard edges, full range of grayscales, full range of mark making, full range of detail progressing to lack of detail and different levels of high and low contrast will be required. This will help to depict and clear progression of space. As well this expand a person's drawing style.

Strive for a composition of subject matter that is unique and interesting but also integrates all the required assignment objectives in the work.

Selecting an Object:
As well allow for time to choose the appropriate objects. Pick objects that will allow for a clear and large areas of shadows to be present. If the shadows progress from light to dark that will be even better. Picking an object that presents interesting shadows and highlights is imperative to meet the objectives. Often the shadow can present an interesting formal and or thematic element in the drawing. If your object can also be thematic and not cliche while still addressing the objectives that will be a bonus.

Strategic use of contrast, levels of detail and variations of soft and sharp edges in single object:

Note:  Some of these images below are a drawing but the same formal characteristics apply to a Black & White painting.

The above drawing of a white porcelain object is also a good example of a white or an off-white object. With the exception of a vaguely drawn table plane in the foreground area the execution of the drawing fulfills the formal objectives of the assignment. The entire page is filled with various tones and a strong sense of mass (the objects forms) are depicted an atmosphere. Some parts of the above object appear to almost pop out from the page of the paper. This drawing as well demonstrates a strategic use of detail and high contrast in the foreground. As well the drawing progressively decreases in detail and in contrast as the viewer reaches the background and furthest edges of the object. As well the edges in the foreground (center of the object) are sharper and the outer edges of the object progressively dissolving into the background space. Overall this work is an excellent example of strategically depicting soft and sharp edges in relation to space.

The above is an example of a 16 step digital grayscale. All rendered black and white drawings are required to utilize the grayscale for each black and white material used in the course. 

The grayscale in a painting is achieved by by mixing black and white mediums to achieve the range presented in the above grayscale. Some times layering glazes can be helpful as well.

Creating your own grayscale for each drawing medium will assist in learning about each drawing materials characteristics, plus will allow you to practice depicting and to be more sensitized to the full range of grays in a drawing. Once each grayscale is completed it can be used to compare grayscale levels in a drawing ultimately assisting in the overall success of any given drawing.

Other Examples of White Objects (or off White Objects):

Assignment 2: Coloured Grid Assignment

 Assignment 2

Assignment 2  Painting grids. Mixing paint will be the emphasized for this assignment.

Approximately 16 x 20 inch (minimum size) surface that is primed or sealed with 20 squares  

(5 rows with 4 squares in each row or 4 rows of 5 squares in each row)  In order to fit 20 squares on your surface - having a boarder or partial around your 20 squares is completely acceptable.

As discussed in class a minimum of 4 inches in size for each square. Each square must be the same design but individual squares can be rotated. 

Important Points Emphasized during Group Critique for Coloured Grid Assignment:

Strategic use of High and Low Colour Contrast:

Emphasis should be placed on a strategic use of high and low colour contrast. In some areas of the work edges of forms and squares will optically connect or join together due to low colour contrast (colour which is similar)   In other areas colour will optically separate some of the edges of forms and squares using high colour contrast (colour which is different from each other such as complimentary colour and other colour systems). 

Major and Minor Visual Movements Interacting in Overall Composition:

Overall the strategic use of high and low colour contrasts will create major and minor visual movements through out the entire composition of the board. These visual movements will have a combination of minor and major movements interacting within the entire composition with the end goal of presenting complexity but unity with in the overall composition.

Range of Colour in Strategic use of High and Low Colour Contrast:
Using as many of the colours as possible from the colour wheel in all 3 rings is beneficial in demonstrating the complexity of colour for the assignment particularly when being strategic with high and low colour contrast.  

Tinted Colour in Overall Composition:
The use of tinting colour (adding various degrees of white) which could also have a big role or a small role in the overall composition when considering a strategic use of high and low colour contrast. Overall a small or large amount of tinting will bring more complexity to the colour as well.

Neutral Colour in Overall Composition:
Once again try to consider some of the the neutral colours in the two inner rings of your colour wheel to replace the high contrasting effect of black.  Do not use any pure black as the final layer in the work, but  black may be utilized to alter a colour's intensity or alter other characteristics associated with a hue from  the colour wheel.

Designs and Composition of Individual Squares:
Designs in individual squares should be a balance from being to simple and visually complex. Overall there needs to be a combination of geometric and organic shapes and line in each square. In each square there also needs to be some overlapping of the elements (shapes and line) to give a very shallow sense of a progression form foreground middle ground to background. (Progression of Space)

Evaluation Criteria:

Complexity & Criteria in Design of Individual Square  30% 

Sophistication of Colour 70%
Use Colour to Create the following:
-Unified Assymetical Composition 
-Movements and Structures - how does colour create structures and movements that are independent of your original grid design?
-Spaces  - how does colour create spaces independent of your original grid design?

Assignment 3: Thematic Self Portrait

Summary of Assignment (Formal and Thematic Requirements):
This assignment will entail emotive Painting in conjunction with thematic subject matter. Students may use visual references (photos and or mirrors) but will rely primarily on their imagination and or memory to depict themselves in metaphorical, symbolic and or allegorical contexts.  The use of icons, motifs and signifiers may also be incorporated into this work. Using these thematic devises students will depict the self in terms of narrative, which may be theatrical, fictional and or involving a personal history.* 

Ultimately the work’s goal is to present the self in a thematically layered manner that is unique and innovative. As in all the assignments for this course there should be a synthesis of aesthetics (formal visual languages) with concepts/themes. Various coloured media of choice will be explored focusing on formal concerns regarding: colour, space, mark making, figure-ground relationships, soft and sharp edges, and different levels of detail and sensibilities. 

Research Surreal, Magic Realism and Contemporary Approaches to Self - Portraiture (and Portraiture):
This project may entail using surrealist approaches, provided the chosen approach does not use cliched imagery such as melting clocks (like Dali) and other surrealist work which have been over saturated in popular culture and media. Try to look at contemporary artists who use themes of self in their work in a unique, experimental and conceptually more innovative way than the typical historical surrealist work. 

Thematic Content:
Through your research try and think about things and discover concepts that have not been seen before or have very little circulation in popular culture and media. This project does not just have to be the face, as an option the project may also include parts of or the entire body. As well do consider the use of an environment around (in front and behind in the background) of the subject matter (you) Don not use a single sheet of colour as your background, instead incorporate subject matter that relates to your thematic content. 

*Options: Do you dress up, is the project a fictional/theatrical/fantasy self portrait? Or do you discuss a personal history? Or both? 

Using autobiography, dream, confession, fantasy, or other means invent one’s self in a new way, or to evoke the variety of selves in our imagination. Overall the Thematic Self Portrait Assignment experiments with and explores the rich possibilities available to the contemporary artist and their own persona.

Evaluation Criteria  of Assignment
Formal Content 60%
Thematic Content 30%
Connecting Formal and Thematic Content 10%

Ideas Related to Thematic Self Portrait Assignment:

Martin Kippenberger’s Self Portrait explores the idea of the self as clown, fool, self-deprecating and or challenging notions of the idealized classical nude.

Martin Kippenberger Self Portrait (1988 
oil on canvas 200 x 240cm ) 
In Martin Kippenberger’s series of self-portraits from 1988, he pictures himself with a touching lack of vanity. An exaggerated beer belly, folds of fat, a thick neck, and dejected posture present a melancholic, awkward and somewhat grumpy figure. He wears immense white underpants pulled up high on his hips – rather like a well-known photograph of Picasso.

One example of an art historical Icon or motif such as the Halo that may be integrated into a self portrait or portrait

Standing Buddha with a halo, 1st-2nd century AD (or earlier), Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara.

Fra Angelico  Virgin and Child with Saints, detail, Fiesole (1428–1430)

Painting 1 Student:  Thematic Self Portrait 
School of Art, University of Manitoba

In this student work the artist depicts himself in front of a planetarium background. Is this artist questioning his place and or his indecision among the debates between religion and science? Is he attempting to make a commentary on one’s position and relation within an artificial and simulated environment such as a planetarium?

The above student work presents a very good beginning but as one option for the Thematic Self Portrait Assignment this particular work could have explored the relation ship of the planetarium further by perhaps giving the viewer more information regarding the environment. 

Overall the above student work offers a very interesting use of having the globe operate simultaneously as a halo and an object in the background. This subtle reference of a religious motif is a great first step and demonstrates one potential way art students can develop conceptual layers into a class assignment. If an artist researches and begins to investigate various ideas presented in contemporary art practices, the possibilities are endless where an artist can take a work in terms of conceptual layers. For example: what could this artist have done to bring even more conceptual layers into the work? 

One Example of an Artist:

Starting with Page 10 of PDF on London UK artist/photographer Sam Taylor-Wood from link:

Work by London artist/photographer  Sam Taylor-Wood who uses portraiture with had gestures and some thematic environments as content  in her work.

Allegory and Symbolism 
Self Portrait in a Single Breasted Suit with Hare   by Sam  Taylor -Wood         
Personal events are referenced in the work Self Portrait in a Single Breasted Suit with Hare (2001). This image deals with Taylor-Wood’s experience of living through cancer. The work functions on a highly personal symbolic level. She says, “It was a portrait in a single-breasted suit, as I had breast cancer, with hare, I’ve still got my hair after chemo.”The artist resembles an androgynous dandy or a magician in this image. Her gaze directly confronts the viewer’s gaze, as if daring them to confront the miracle of her continuing existence. 

In Self Portrait in a Single Breasted Suit with Hare (2001) the artist appears almost like a magician, the cable release cord in her hand revealing the trick of appearing in her own photograph. Of Strings (2003), she says, “I wanted to make the dancer look effortless…yet reveal the workings of my constructed fantasy.”17

Other Examples of Artists to Research 
(for Portraiture and Self-Portraiture)

Contemporary Artists:

Dana Schutz

Kerry James Marshall

Jenny Saville

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Luc Tuymans

Kehinde Whiley

Kent Monkman

Gina Beavers

Yue Minjun

Zhang Xiaogang

Historical Artists:

Frita Kahlo

Max Beckmann

Assignment 4: Modernist/Pure Abstraction Assignment

 Revisiting the formal, pure and physical languages within the painting discipline 

Assignment and Objectives: 
Complete 1 or 2 paintings that are a minimum 20 x16 inches with 3 small studies that emphasize concepts demonstrating the language of painting. The work should demonstrate a variety of formal concerns in the picture plane such as the use of colour, shapes, scale shifts, composition and mark making (gesture) using paint of choice. You have the option of developing a bit of collaged materials into the painting provided the above objectives and the points below are followed. All attempts should be made in the painting assignment to not reference anything representational.  (No Jackson Pollock dripping)

1) Elements: Your painting should consist of a variety of line, shapes (organic and geometric), colour and spaces. Develop a variety of line and shapes and consider variations of visual weight in the line and shapes. Variety of colour will include  no pure white, or pure black but could use tints and shades. Start with simple colour and gradually work toward the colour becoming complex. 

2) Composition: The arrangement of elements should have variety, complexity but unified in the overall. Consider intervals (negative spaces) between elements and allow for focal points where there are areas of multiple overlapping shapes that interact with each other while simultaneously interacting within the overall composition. How do the various different elements connect and/or interlock with each other?

3) Space: should vary from deep to shallow with elements overlapping and weaving through work. Avoid literal or conventional methods to depict shallow and deep spaces. Spaces and forms can be fragmented and or abstracted through experimentation with painting materials.  

4) Materiality: Consider the reality of the painting medium (language of the medium) on the 2 dimensional surface of your picture plane. Thick and thin applications of painting mediums and mark making and consider your options in terms of a surfaces to paint on. Various types of gestures and brush sizes will be useful for this.

5) Editing Process: Revising and Layering process. Some areas will require numerous layers of painting materials while other areas will work with minimal applications of materials. As well during the painting process some areas of the paintings should involve scraping and covering (materiality). 
Keep the work fresh, intuitive and do not overplay the work.  Document this editing process.

Studies or Smaller Preliminary Works: 
The purpose of the studies is to assist you in the investigation of this assignment. All the objectives do not have to be met in each study but rather should be used to take risks and experiment with paint, colour and composition to find all the required objectives. The studies are not about making something small and then duplicating that small study at a large scale. Instead the studies and the larger work should feed off each other. 

During the process there should be a back and forth of working between the studies and the large work (especially at the beginning stages of the painting) As well studies may include manipulations of digital photos of the large work taken while in progress. In general it is strongly recommended that you photograph the work in progress and periodically make some inexpensive prints at home to work on in order to consider all potential directions to develop the work. Overall experiment and investigate various options thoroughly with the studies and the larger work(s). 

Steps of Process to Consider for Developing Painting(s): 
Avoid having every formal and conceptual component of your painting pre-planned or “figured out” before you begin. This will eventually suffocate any desire to work, because it is almost impossible to pre-plan every step in the process and get positive results for this assignment.  

If you are stuck with no ideas it is best to immediately start painting with vague ideas and some random organic and geometric shapes such as in some of the posted examples.  

Prepare yourself mentally for a process of: 
risk, unexpected direction, layering, reworking, researching, making small preliminary works, applying criticism, generally experimenting with conviction in your painting, and you will have a very successful work. 


40% for the following:
Variation of interesting organic and geometric solid shapes and shapes depicted with line (different sizes)

Overall good visual variety and complexity (using all elements) but also work is still unified

40% for the following:
Maximized layering and editing process in major parts of the painting(s)

Physical presence of materials on surface (Layer drawing materials thickly in some areas of painting)

Variation of mark making and physical textures (organic and straight, short and long, etc)

Variation of Line and Shapes (this is potentially connected to variation of stencils/templates and mark making)

20% for the following:
Experimentation and innovation

Overall uniqueness

Optional Readings (Assistance in developing assignment): 
Also there is the option to consider excerpts from Search for the Real a small book by Hans Hofmann, or excepts from survey books such as Art Speak by Robert Atkins (small book), The Visual Arts: a history by Hugh Honour and John Fleming, 7th edition p 844, and essays: Modernist Painting by Clement Greenberg. Considering the Hofmann, Atkins, Honour/Fleming and Greenberg's readings may assist you when developing ideas in your painting. 

For a broader view outside the Modernist /Pure Abstraction painting assignment objectives other texts such as Art of the Postmodern Era, by Irving Sandler, Contemporary Art: Art since 1970 by Brandon Taylor, Five Faces of Modernity by Matei Calinescu and essay: Action Painting: Crisis and Distortion by Harold Rosenberg. These other texts offer debates, alternatives and opposition to Greenberg’s ideas regarding Modernism.  

Some Contemporary Artists to Research in Relation to Assignment:

Amy Sillman

Elizabeth Murray

Alex Janvier

Lisa Corinne Davis

Rodney McMillian

Jadé Fadojutimi

Dannielle Tegedder

Han Bing

Julie Mehretu

Gerhard Richter

Some Historical Artists to Research in Relation to Assignment:

Helen Frankenthaler

Joan Mitchell

Ed Moses

Lee Krasner

William DeKooning

Franz Kline

Phillip Guston (50's work)

Hans Hofmann

Robert Reed

Cy Twombly

Clyfford Still

Robert Ryman

Amy Sillman
Rodney McMillian
Elizabeth Murray
Alex Janvier
Lisa Corinne Davis
Amy Sillman
Rodney McMillian
Elizabeth Murray
Alex Janvier
Lisa Corinne Davis

The examples presented here for the Modernist assignment are meant as a guide. Not all examples below meet all of the objectives for the assignment but instead offer a range of partial ideas that can be cohesively comprehended, synthesized and applied to the specific requirements of the modernist assignment.  

For additional student examples of a similar assignment from my drawing courses please view the following link: 

Advanced Painting 4 x 4 feet mixed media and paint on collaged paper Spring 2005 

Advanced Painting 4 x 4 feet mixed media and paint on collaged paper Spring 2005 

Advanced Painting 4 x 4 feet mixed media and paint on collaged paper Spring 2005 

Painting 1 course 2003
(the above four images are four different stages of same work)
approximately 4 x 3 feet

Painting 1 course 2003
(the above two images are two different stages of same work)
approximately 3 x 4 feet

Advanced Painting course   2005
approximately 3 x 2 feet

Painting 1 course 2003
approximately 18 x 24 inches

Advanced Drawing (2nd Year Drawing course) June 2002 
Stage 1 of Project  
This work is from a 2nd year drawing class but even for an intro painting course demonstrates an exceptional use of scale and editing in the next 5 images posted below. For the purposes of this particular painting 1 assignment students should avoid representational references or illustrating (no outlines on forms) and no using black.  

Stage 2 

Stage 3 

Stage 4  
An exceptional example of editing and risk taking 


Advanced Drawing June 2002 Final Stage For the purposes of this particular painting 1 assignment students should avoid representational references or illustrating (no outlines on forms) and no using black. As well this assignment will require working on stretched canvases or rectangular/square boards with no found objects inside or outside the picture plane (such as the interesting context of the paint can presented in this example above)  

Fundamentals of Drawing circa Feb 2001     approximately 18 x 24 inches
This small work is from a foundations drawing class but even for an intro painting course demonstrates a very good combination of organic and geometric shapes and some interesting figure ground relationships are demonstrated as well. For the purposes of this particular painting 1 assignment students should avoid representational forms (such as cityscape references in this example) or illustrating (no outlines or using black) 

circa 2002 Above Image is Earlier Stage of Painting Below   approximately 18 x 24 inches

circa 2002 Final Stage     approximately 18 x 24 inches

circa 2002 Above Image is Earlier Stage of Painting Below   approximately 18 x 24 inches

circa 2002 Final Stage      approximately 18 x 24 inches

Fundamentals of Drawing Feb 2002  
This work is from a foundations drawing class but even for an intro painting course demonstrates an exceptional use of scale and a good use of geometric shapes and pattern with some preliminary understanding of gesture and mark making. For the purposes of this particular painting 1 assignment students should avoid representational references or illustrating (no outlines on forms) 

Fundamentals of Drawing Feb 2009      approximately 8 x 4 feet
This work is from a foundations drawing class but even for an intro painting course demonstrates an excellent use of scale and a very good combination of organic and geometric shapes. For the purposes of this particular painting 1 assignment students should avoid modeling forms or illustrating (no outlines or high lights or shadows on forms) 

Painting 1 course 2003
(the above two images are two different stages of same work)
approximately 3 x 4 feet

As well see other examples of Pure Abstraction from 1year Drawing course examples:

Amy Sillman
Rodney McMillian
Elizabeth Murray
Alex Janvier
Lisa Corinne Davis