As all of the prints I have done so far are black and white, I felt that I needed to work over some of them to incorporate colour to see how they fit in with my other work and since my project involves a lot of colour this was very important. I will be doing some coloured prints once my ink arrives but until then I felt like I should keep my project moving rather than coming to a stand still. As the inks I have used are water based, I couldn’t paint over the prints as this would have caused the paints to combine and create very muddy colours which I do not want. After some consideration I came to the conclusion to try coloured pencils over the top of the prints which worked really well, particularly over the black ink areas. Pastel pencils seemed to work the best and so I decided to go through all of the prints adding colour to them. I kept some of the original prints black and white as a reflection to show my progress and because I feel that the black and white prints are very effective on their own, they just don’t fit in too well with my project as they are.
These are the sheep print manipulations I did using pencils. I was experimenting with different colour combinations and seeing what works the best. I didn’t worry too much about staying in the lines of the original print as the border will be cut off as soon as they are complete. I feel that the prints on the top left and middle left row are the most effective in terms of colour combination (green, oink and yellow & light green, dark green and blue). I feel that this is because they have a big area of contrast while the other colour combinations have colours that are similar tones or similar shades in terms of warmth of coldness. This has really helped me to identify key colour combinations to consider as my project progresses as well as colour combinations that don’t work well.
These are my chicken print manipulations in which I explored different colour combinations. Again, I didn’t feel the need ti stay within the lines as these will be cut down later on. Although I feel that all of the designs are effective, I feel that the colour combinations on the top row are the most effective due to the right tones of each colour being used. There are some positives in the bottom row and I would like to see where I can take the brown shade one. This design made it easy to apply the blocks of colour and rhe pencils add texture/pattern in areas which is interesting. I wonder if I would be able to work over the pieces with another medium but it depends if the pencils I used were too waxy as I used a range of pencils including watercolour pencils, pastel pencils and oil based pencils. I may try this out to see if I can develop them further.
These are the cow manipulations I did. There is a much bigger quantity of these prints as I generated a lot of these prints at the start due to me wanting to experiment with them. I like that I did some prints involving the simplified version of this print, although I with I had done more of them so I could experiment more, I could always photocopy them if it comes to it and then work over them. In my opinion the simple version involving the red on the middle fourth row ( red, orange, yellow, blues and pinks) is the most successful out of the two as I feel that the tones of this all work together nicely yet contrast with the bright yellow and orange. For the more detailed prints, the orange and blue/green and red pieces work really well (first and middle pieces on the third row) as they are simple yet complementary colours so they balance each other out yet attract your eyes. I am happy with the outcome of a lot of these manipulations but some were difficult to work on due to the ink of the print being really thick (first and third on the first row) and so I feel that I should work onto these some more with different mediums to see the outcomes I can achieve.
When I was walking to my CPS lesson, I came across these paintings done by a previous student at DMU featuring crows. There wasn’t any information about the artist but I still feel that the art itself is interesting enough to consider in relation to my own work. These paintings are quite realistic and muted in colour which is very different to my own work but these paintings are very effective and could be a good colour scheme to explore in my own work – it won’t hurt. I like that this also demonstrates how different people’s approaches can be to animals with people having their own styles and particular focuses.
Linocuts As I am hoping to do clusters of different farm animals in my degree show, I decided to do more lino cuts of different animals including a chicken and a goat. I tried to use a range of the lino cutting tools for variations of marks and detail. As soon as I get a range of prints, both black and white and colour explorations, I hope to work into these more to develop them further.
This was the chicken lino cut which I did. Focusing on just the head of the chicken was a good idea to give variation from the other chicken paintings I’ve done. I tried to keep it quite simple but wanted variation in the thickness of the lines cut out. I found the thicker line was hard to control and I sometimes very easily cut too deep into the lino creating a horrible texture and feeling like I was damaging the lino. I tried my best to avoid this but I can only get better with practice. Overall I love the design of this lino cut and I like its simplicity yet its varied line. I look forward to seeing what this lino cut looks like printed.
I did a rubbing of the linocut to see what it would look like by using a piece of lined paper, which was all I had on me at the time and a pencil and rubbing over the linocut. Although this wasn’t a perfect execution, I feel that it helped me get a sense of what if would look like printed.
This is the goat linocut I did using different line thicknesses for the goat and the enclosure. In this example the mess up of the thicker lines of the enclosure is more obvious and I wish I could rectify this somehow. Though I tried to build detail using repeated lines, I feel this linocut is really simple and I will definitely work onto it more soon to build it up and make it look better.
To print my linocuts I used a roller, some water based printing ink and a range of white papers. Applying the right amount of ink isn’t always straight forward but once I get the hang of it, it is an enjoyable process and very satisfying. I have ordered some coloured inks to work with and I look forward to seeing the different effects I can achieve in the future.
Chicken Lino prints:
These are the chicken lino prints I did as a collective. I didn’t want to do too many as the black ink can be quite limiting but I am hoping to work over these prints with pastels or crayons to incorporate colour which is vital for my project. Overall I’m really happy with the design but feel that I could do something with the background to make the chicken stand out more. I also need to add the enclosure but I will do that later on.
Here is a better picture of each chicken lino print. I feel that the two prints on the right side had the best outcome as the other four are quite faded due to not enough ink being applied. Though this could create a cool effect with coloured inks, I feel that the block effect is the most effective for the black and white prints. However, this doesn’t matter too much as I will be working over these black and white prints to incorporate more colour and make them fit in more with my project. I really like the design of this lino cut and how simple yet detailed it is.
Goat Lino Prints:
These are the goat l prints I did photographed together. The two prints on the left were the most effective in terms of ink application. I feel that the general design definitely needs to be worked on more as I feel that it is lacking a great deal in comparison with the chicken lino print.
These are the individual prints and I love how crisp the lines are. I hope working over these will give me insight into how to improve and make me see the positives of these prints. Adding some mark making and pattern could be interesting but I worry that I will overdo it and make the print worse but it’s a matter of trial and error and I can always do another goat linocut if the worst case does happen.
From the feedback of my crit, it was suggested that I do some printing, specifically lino printing. I decided that this would be a good idea to allow me to generate a lot of works in a small amount of time, and I have a lot of experience with lino printing from college and my first year of university, as it was a process I enjoyed I figured I would have nothing to lose by doing it.
My Lino Cuts:
The lino I bought was extra soft grey, double sided and 3mm in thickness. It has a size of 10cm x 15cm which I felt was a good size for my project.
This linocut had a lot of fine lines and I decided to completely cut out the background so that the cow stood out. I may work onto this more in the future to add more details but I think the use of lines and pattern will work nicely.
This is another Linocut I did of a sheep which has a lot of interesting mark making which I think will make it a successful lino print. I made the darker areas more blocky with only a few lines cut out whilst the lighter areas had more cut out to create an illusion of lots of hairs.
My Lino Prints so far:
These are some of my black and white cow lino prints in which I was getting used to how much ink to apply, which is why some of them look quite faded and others (in particular the one in the middle top row is too dark as I applied too much ink). Some of these prints were from before I added the intricate lines and I forgot to take a photo of the lino cut itself at that time which I now regret. I feel that I was starting to get used to printing the image but would like to incorporate more colour to make them fit in with my project more. I also didn’t include the enclosure in this lino cut so will have to add that down the line.
These are some more lino prints onto better quality paper than my first prints which allowed the ink to sit much more nicely on the surface and I seem to have got used to how much ink to apply. However, in some areas, I didn’t apply enough or too much due to not being able to see very well whilst rolling the ink on but I feel that washing the lino after every print would be too much hassle so I will deal with this for now. I like that the background is cut out yet not perfectly as I feel this adds to the prints overall.
Working onto Lino Prints:
These are some of the first lino prints I did in which I decided to paint over the top to incorporate more colour. However, as the printing ink I used prior to this was water based, the paints that I applied on top got quite dark unless I applied several layers of paint which on silks, particularly the one that includes yellow, has a lot of texture. I am going to continue working on these to see what effects I can achieve but I feel it would be better to work onto another colour of prints that is lighter so the colour blending isn’t as noticeable.
Sheep Lino Prints:
These are the sheep lino prints that I have done so far, starting to experiment with different colours being used to print with and to print onto different backgrounds. I feel that these prints are a lot stronger than the cow prints, most likely due to the fact that I was familiar with the printing techniques when I did these prints. I feel that the print onto the red and yellow background works really well and could be just as effective if it was red and yellow ink printed onto a black background which I am hoping to try in my next prints.
I am focusing on capturing farm animals within their enclosures to explore farming ethics and how this affects the welfare of animals.
I use acrylic paints onto small scale board as I love the process of layering paints to create different textures. I have been using small scale board partly because I am used to working small scale from lockdowns last year, but also to emphasise that animal enclosures are often too small, and the animals are trapped within a space. I have started to incorporate abstract colours in my work, even adding unnatural greens to my realistic paintings to show how unnatural it is to keep animals trapped for a show for humans, especially since they are the animals which are killed for food consumption. I am focusing on creating a large amount of paintings as often farm animals like sheep are grouped together in flocks so this, though unintentional at first, works well with my theme.
Within this work, I hope to make the viewer feel empathy towards the animals and make them consider how it would feel to be trapped within a space. Since the lockdowns last year, people will already have some experience of feeling trapped which could affect the ways people interpret my work. By focusing on farm animals, I want to demonstrate the fact that they are deemed unimportant, either being used for show or slaughtered for food for a large amount of humans. The animals featured in my work have different expressions and look directly at the viewer which is ironic as it makes the viewer feel like they are the ones in the cage. This also demonstrates how farm animals have become domesticated, relying on the presence of humans to be fed.
When presenting my work, I intend to have an irregular arrangement yet place them close together to emphasise the confined space that most farm animals have. Going to different locations of farms or animal sanctuaries to collect primary evidence in the form of photos and drawings is important as places use different materials for the enclosures, which is why my work features both standard wooden farm enclosures and wire enclosures. Although both create a sense of being trapped, the painting of the goat behind the wire enclosure is a lot harder hitting and menacing, creating a sense of isolation. My work effectively portrays the confinement that farm animals experience in their lifetime that the viewer can hopefully sympathise with. To develop this idea further, I need to paint a lot more paintings of animals in their enclosures to create a herd of animals so that I can make my ideas more obvious to the viewer. I want to consider my uses of colour more as making my work too abstract can distract from the seriousness of the subject.
I have done research into a range of painters including Henry Moore, particularly his sheep paintings as that subject relates to my work a lot. The works of Franz Marc and Andy Warhol were vital during my colour exploration stages and could help develop my work further provided I am more selective. I like the idea of presenting my work within a gallery on a white wall so that the viewer can fully focus on the work without too many distractions.
Short artist statement for website:
I am currently focusing on exploring the ethics of keeping animals, particularly farm animals, in captivity. This topic is so normalised in day to day life through farms and even animals in the countryside which we see when driving to places. I am hoping to give a voice to animals and allow them to communicate how being in captivity makes them feel and impacts on them. Colour is an important aspect of my work to represent how humans are often hypocrites who claim to care about the welfare of animals but don’t actually do anything to better the situation. Subtlety is important to me as I want to make people see through sympathy rather than disgust or outrage from violent imagery, the innocent imagery is very important to me. The idea of humans being regarded as more important than animals has always saddened me as we are similar in so many ways and animals deserve a lot more respect than we give them. There is more to animals than becoming a food for us to consume or a form of entertainment.
Short Artist Statement for Degree Show (3rd person):
Gemma Sly is exploring the ethics of keeping animals, particularly farm animals, in captivity. This topic is normalised in day-to-day life through farms and animals in the countryside which we see when driving. She has an intention to give a voice to animals and allow them to communicate how captivity impacts them. Colour is an important aspect of her work to represent the humorous irony of people who claim to care about the welfare of animals but don’t do anything to better their situation. Animals are more than food for us to consume or a form of entertainment.
Jackson Thilenius is an artist and architect who has explored a range of topics in his work including still lifes and portraits. I am mostly interested in his works involving the meat industry which show the suffering that animals go through. Although I am not exploring the meat industry specifically in my work and my work isn’t as brutal or serious, I feel that looking at the way he has depicted farm animals could influence me to try to make my work more serious to see the outcome and then if it doesn’t go to plan, at least I can say I tried.
This is a zoomed-in painting of a cow’s eye which shows cows being slaughtered in its reflection. This is quite a distressing and sad image which shows that not only are animals subjected to immense violence and brutality, they also have to witness members of their family or herd being killed before them. The title ‘next’ implies that the cow who is the main subject of the painting is going to be slaughtered next and it creates a sense of impending doom with no way for the cow to escape. This is definitely a message about the meat industry and makes the viewer feel a lot of sympathy for the cows. The details of the cow’s fur work really well and the colours are used to contrast with the silhouette of the slaughtered cows in the eye reflections.
This painting shows pigs in their individual compartments in a slaughterhouse. The main pig is making direct eye contact with the viewer which evokes a lot of sympathies as it seems as though the pig is asking for help. This is made worse with the other pig-sticking their nose through the bars as if they are trying to escape but there is no way of escaping. This could also be an idea of how small their individual compartments are. The blood on the bars adds a sense of brutality which again creates sympathy. I feel that my work resonates with this piece as I do paintings of animals looking/staring at the viewer although my work isn’t as violent or brutal as I am trying to be more subtle with my outcomes. However, I feel that it is important to see how the brutal side of the subject could look, most likely making the viewer a lot more uncomfortable than my own work. Also, this painting seems to be an idea about the meat industry and although my work may be interpreted as that, it is not a direct message about the meat industry.
This painting shows a lot of brutality and violence which is a norm in the meat industry. This painting reminds me a lot of the first painting of the cow’s eye and the reflection of other cows being slaughtered. However, this painting is a lot more graphic and shows the harsh reality of the production of meat. Although this is known by a lot of people, the actual depiction of it would make a lot of people very uncomfortable. It creates a lot of sympathy for the pig that has been killed as well as sympathy for the pig that is still alive who was a ‘witness’ to the brutal murder and is going to have the same awful fate as nothing it does will save it. The hooks and wires in the background make this painting a lot more sinister, even though that is what slaughterhouses look like (not that many people are aware of this other than from films).
Reason that I decided to research into Jackson Thilenius’s work:
I feel that the subject of Thilenius’s work links to mine effectively, although a much more violent and brutal story is told while I am trying to be more subtle in my approach. I find it interesting to see how many different parts there are go animal rights – predominantly being the meat industry and animals living conditions before slaughter. My own work is trying to create sympathy for the farm animals using emotion and the animals having a direct eye contact with the viewer – I hope that the animal itself can get the message across with their cuteness rather than doing art which is too violent or shocking. However, I feel that seeing other people’s approaches to the subject is vital in allowing me to develop my own work.
Thilenius’s work is very realistic and mine is more abstract but I like the smooth appearance of his paintings and the way that the pigs make eye contact with the viewer. A key theme in his work is a sense of impending doom with animals being aware of the violence that their herd or family have been subjected to and the sad sense that there is no escape for them. Their main purpose is meat despite that they are living animals who deserve more than that.
Dana Ellyn is a vegan artist who explores a lot of controversial topics and challenges social norms from religion to not wanting kids and our relationship with animals, particularly in the contexts of which animals we decide to eat. Although I find all of her work interesting with powerful messages being presented within her art, it is the animal subject that draws me in as it is relevant to my subject and her unique ways of working could allow me to develop my work in ways that I haven’t thought of yet.
As well as subject matter, her bold choices of colour interest me as the uses of abstract colour seem to take away from the subject, maybe as a way of showing how the animals are often overlooked by society and not deemed as important, which is something I have been exploring in my own work – although not to the same extreme levels.
This is a fairly large painting of a cow and a dog staring at the viewer. Although the animals are painted in a way that makes them look distorted and disproportional, I feel that the painting is very effective and unique. Since they are painted in a similar way, Dana Ellyn is showing the viewer that there isn’t much difference between them at all. I find the fact that they are staring directly at the viewer very interesting and this is something which I have been exploring in my own work but seeing it achieved in a different way is very inspiring. The green background works well as it reminds me of a field or a park, areas in which cows live and dogs go for walks. This painting raises the question of how can we choose which animals to eat and which animals to have as pets.
Dana Ellyn has had trouble eating meat since she was a child, often feeling sick at the thought of it and having to have her meat well cooked or she would refuse to eat it. Chicken, in particular, seemed to be a big problem for her – reminding me of a phobia that some people have of eating undercooked food, chicken, in particular, being a tough food. She was unaware that being a vegetarian was an option and so only took that step during adulthood, eventually deciding to go fully vegan.
In some of her work, she places animals next to the foods that they become after slaughter, for example, a piglet near a piece of bacon, to make people think more about where their food came from. This is an interesting concept as although many people do know where meat comes from, they may have never been confronted with the animal and byproduct side by side. To Ellyn’s surprise, meat-eaters were more interested in her work than vegans/vegetarians and so she hopes that her art can encourage people to eat less meat or become completely vegetarian/vegan.
In this painting, I love the fact that some of the bare cardboard has been left in the background and the floor as this looks incomplete and careless which could be a reflection of how humans can be careless towards animals. The colours used work well together and the different textures created with brushstrokes are effective. The gaze of the piglet evokes a sad feeling, which is made worse with the bacon next to it as the piglet could be looking towards the viewer for help so that it doesn’t have the same brutal outcome. When I first looked at this painting, I didn’t realise that the words bacon and pig were added beneath but when I looked closer I realised. I believe that this was added in such small writing because it doesn’t matter, people know what they are and still engage in eating meat.
Some of Dana Ellyn’s more controversial works involving the meat subject including ‘Baby Back Ribs’ are images that people do not want to see or think about. This shows that sometimes people who consume animals are content with doing so when it is out of sight, out of mind. But they don’t like to be confronted with the brutality or a dynamic shift that evokes disgust. Due to the outrage that some of her works got in the past, Ellyn tries to get her ideas involving animals across in a more subtle way with animals gazing directly at the viewer in a cute manner to try to get viewers to sympathise with the animals.
This is the painting that was mentioned above which shows a role reversal between humans and pigs. It shows a human baby which has a lot of its back flesh missing with pigs’ portraits hung up like humans have. Though I understand why this painting can be hard to look at as it creates a lot more uproar since it is humans being tortured, it also shows how brutal humans can be. This shock factor could be enough to put a lot of people off of meat, especially since the baby has such a pained facial expression. There is a large contrast between the light wall and the red table/bloody baby and flesh tones. I believe the colours used are to emphasise violence and brutality. I find the dark border – sort of reminding me of a vignette effect works really well as it makes the viewer zone in on the image depicted.
The two paintings above demonstrate some of Dana Ellyn’s paintings in which she paints one animal on one side and one animal on the other. Though they are both painted in different styles, with ‘pitbeef’ being realistically painted and ‘pug/pig’ being painted in a more abstract style with lots of mark-making and pattern, they both show how animals are quite similar and it is unfair to worship and care for some (the pets) yet not care and slaughter the others (farm animals). These paintings remind me of the ‘staring contest’ which I wrote about at the start of this blog post, however, I feel that these paintings explore the ideas in a more interesting way which captures my attention more. The choices of animals used work very well, as Pitbulls and cows both have long faces so their faces fit together well and pugs/pigs both have quite rounded faces. I love the fact that the animals are making direct eye contact with the viewer as this evokes a sense of sympathy yet also makes the viewer uncomfortable which is essential in exploring such topics.
Full time painter based in Washington DC.
In the video she is talking in her studio
Best known for her paintings concerning vegetarianism/veganism and animal Most current series called ‘look me in the eyes and tell me I’m delicious’ where she paints cute animals looking at the viewer with the intention to make the viewer not want to eat the animals as they are too cute
Shows some of her vegetarian themed art works – pig painting inspired by the mcgreet painting that says this is not a pipe. In her work she put the text ‘this is not bacon’ in French underneath a pig painting on a bold pink background. Ellyn sees animals and just sees animals but some people see animals and see food which she is hoping to change with her art
‘To bee or not to bee’- concerning the death of bee colonies and how when bees go away we’re in big trouble as we won’t have any food
Inspired by tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, ‘Goldilocks and the three meals’ – pig head is too fleshy, fish head is too fishy and the plate of fruit is just right
‘you’re gonna eat that?’ Little girl licking her fingers thinking the chick is a chicken nugget and the child on the right represents Dana Ellyn’s complete horror of ‘no it’s a cute little chick, why on earth are you going to eat that’ and then the child on the left represents people who are too young to understand.
Reason that I researched into Dana Ellyn’s art:
I decided to research into Dana Ellyn’s work as she explores animal ethics subjects which is related to my own work. Some of her work is quite extreme whilst my work approaches animal ethics in a more subtle way focusing more on emotion rather than violent imagery. Despite this, I still feel that it is important to explore how this imagery can affect an audience and see how Dana Ellyn’s experiences with feedback could make a difference. Ellyn’s work is more focused towards the meat industry since she is a vegan but she also explores how we treat the animals we eat -farm animals- so differently to the pets we have -dogs and cats- even though they are so similar. These paintings really make you consider how similar all animals are and how we as a society are so disrespectful to certain animals as we have always seen them as animals we eat rather than seeing them as having a right to live.
I also like Dana Ellyn’s uses of pattern, detail and colour as these are important factors in my own work and so I could adapt Dana Ellyn’s bold colours to see how they affect my work. Colour is such a vital element of my work to draw on the humorous aspect of people who claim to care about animals yet don’t do anything to better their living standards or make any sort of change. Dana Ellyn’s paintings have animals which make direct eye contact with the viewers similarly to my paintings which I find captivating and make you feel sad for the animals – which is an interesting concept in my opinion.
For my crit, I decided to present a cluster of cows arranged in a regular way and a cluster of sheep presented in an irregular way. I did this to see what my peers thought was the most effective and to determine what route I should take my work next or develop towards.
This is the cluster of cows I presented. Due to a bit of a rush getting work finished for the crit, I didn’t have time to get them hung up professionally and so I used double sided tape which was a mistake on my behalf, I should know better by now but stress took over. I also wish I had used a spirit level as I can notice in the pictures how uneven and slated the pieces are. I wanted to create a uniform pattern to experiment as the layout of my work last term was very uniform. It was harder than I expected to arrange the diamond and triangular paintings as they were all different sizes which made mounting them quite difficult and so I feel going forward that I need to be more creative in terms of displaying them.
This is the cluster of sheep I presented. For these paintings, I wanted them to be completely slanted and scattered to explore layouts snd hopefully get feedback on what works or doesn’t work. I arranged them in a way so that the lines of the enclosures in each piece connected and so it created a link between each piece. I included the painting of three sheep in one enclosure to see if people would feel more sorry for the sheep being cramped in a small space together or separately.
Relating work to other artwork/contextual sources?:
Pop Art – colours used and the combinations/sequences of paintings
Andy Warhol pop art
Stained glass windows
Consider taking work down lino cutting due to the blocks of colour used
Henry Moore’s sheep drawings from observation
Questions about the work, feelings:
Makes someone feel like the animals are locked in as some of the animals’ eyes look sad and they are staring. Is this the intention of the artist?
Why are the cows uniform and the sheep scattered?
Is the colour suggesting something about how people feel about animals in captivity? (it’s unnatural) or the meat industry?
Someone likes the different shaped works, could there be more and a bigger sequence?
Do the colours mean anything?
Why the arrangement of triangles?
Since the animals are confined, it makes you question if farming animals is ethical
Why the colour choice?
Is there a reason why only cows and sheep are shown?
Feedback from Crit discussion:
Small painted mdf boards, layouts noticed – uniform one side, scattered on the other side
2 separate paintings or 11 combined?
The cows are separated but the sheep touch in areas
Sheep/cows – different vocal points? cohesive pieces
Irregular shapes and unnatural colours – surreal, uncommon
Some of the paintings look like camera filters
Bright vivid colours show a happier side than black and white
The vivid colours used show a happier side but the animals gaze looks sad, contrast
Humorous, not reality
Cow side is more brutal through the uses of barbed wire
Sheep are more free, more subdued and pastel colours used
Cow paintings look like grids that are overlaid
Intimidation through animals staring at viewer
Cows reminded people of stained glass windows, mosaics, transformers, power rangers, birds, shaped like an animal
Not uniform, uneven, lacks precision
Explore my subject in lino print for blocks of colour
Zoom in on elements of a cow rather than just their faces
3 sheep in one piece makes it look like a happy family – prefer them as individuals
Sheep look happier than cows – sheep are more free
People feel strange about colour scheme, baffled by it. confused by it. Bad confusion, feels uneasy and takes away from actual painting
Purple cow painting most successful as it is simple but more complex way of painting
Shows how animals are more commercialized
Size is successful, no need to go any bigger as it will lose the confined aspect
Interested in seeing a whole wall of them grouped together, accurate depiction of a group of cows, herd on a wall
Not about individual paintings, eyes move from one to another in a sequence
Colours, forms and shapes are important aspects of the work
Feel sorry for the animals – people can be ignorant, guilt trip, animals vs humans
Captures your attention, go in more, subtlety is important
Reflection of the crit:
Although initially I was happy with my crit, after the feedback I just felt that nobody understood my work and a lot of people didn’t like it even though I had worked from feedback on my previous terms work and where I was holding myself back. I feel that during my degree I have felt stuck and unsure of what to do, almost burnt out as I feel that the work I do is never enough and that I am always trying to please everyone but myself. I have to learn to change my view and just take it where I want to take it, criticism is there to help me develop and I just hope that I can pull myself together enough to get a good grade for my degree show. I will take all the feedback on board and try to improve my work as best as I can.
The Blue Rider Group consisted of a range of artists located in and around Munich. It was founded in 1911 by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. The group represented part of the German Expressionist movement. The group was around from 1911 – 1914, cut short due to members of the group, Franz Marc and August Macke being called into the military for World War 1. The after-effects of the war completely shifted the art scene in Germany.
The Blue Rider Group made art to explore relationships between art, colour, music and spiritualism. The group was formed in rejection of another German group called Neue Künstlervereinigung München (Munich New Association of Artists). They were interested in presenting art that showed their emotions rather than just doing literal scenes or realistic art. Although members approached their work using different techniques or subject matters, they all expressed spirituality through their uses of colour.
Information about the different members of the group:
Wassily Kandinsky – He was the focal point and intellectual head of the group with his work becoming semi-abstract in 1912. After the war, he moved back to his home country Russia and was considered the inventor of abstract art over there as he introduced the idea. Although the name ‘The Blue Rider’ was believed to have derived from a 1903 painting by Kandinsky, at that time he hadn’t developed his colour symbolism theory yet and so this is rather unbelievable. Kandinsky was very important in the group as a theorist, publishing essays and an experimental theatre piece for the group, as well as his other visual offerings.
This woodcut, the cover for ‘Der Blaue Reiter Almanach’ portrays the groups’ aesthetics and ideals in an effective way. The use of the prehistoric woodcut technique shows the groups’ interest in the direct representation of Primitivism. The use of the colour blue represents spirituality and the rider symbolises mobility making this woodcut a visual manifesto of the groups’ important concepts (since the blue rider group didn’t have an actual manifesto).
Franz Marc – He had a preference for environmental themes in his work – with a particular fondness for animals in their natural environment. His paintings became nearly abstract at the end of his life, sadly lost due to World War 1. During his artistic endeavours, Franz Marc developed a colour theory that ran parallel to Kandinsky’s, yet the two overlapped at points with the pair doing some collaborations together. Spiritualism was something Franz Marc explored in his work throughout his life, with a key idea of his being that animals were much closer to a natural state of spirituality due to them being at one with nature, while humans were too civilised to reach the same state of spirituality – animals were purer in spirituality than humans will ever be.
“Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay, and spiritual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color to be opposed and overcome by the other two.” – Franz Marc. In ‘Yellow Cow’ pictured above, Marc through his colour choices was demonstrating femininity resounding in spirituality not being able to be silenced by the opposition.
Gabriele Münter – She became companions with Kandinsky and they spent a lot of their time at a house in Murnau outside of Munich. This house became a common meeting point for the members of the Blue Rider group. Locals called the house the Russenhaus (House of the Russians) as a lot of the members came from Russia originally. Münter’s work often had black outlines with bright uses of colour and often have a compact perspective which creates a flat effect. The uses of simplistic shapes demonstrate her influence of folk art and children’s paintings. She never went completely abstract as she enjoyed doing figurative art that showed the reality of life.
The colours used in this painting by Münter are very delicate yet have a completely different effect when viewed against the black outlines. The black outlines and bold colours make this work similar to a colouring book page. The application of paint holds texture which with the colour selection works well. Different tones of colour in each section create dimension and make the work more realistic.
August Macke – He was close friends with Franz Marc and went on various trips to different places with different members of the group. He also sadly died during World War 1. Macke was critical of the blue rider group in a humorous way.
Macke often painted forms cut into sections/fragments with common angular shapes and often focused on depictions of women doing different things. In the above painting, four women are gathered in a forest with high amounts of contrast between the subjects and the background which pushes them forward and makes the viewer focus on them. The use of the shapes in Macke’s work is often linked to cubism.
Alexej Jawlensky – His style involves broad brush strokes and strong colours. At the end of his artistic life, he suffered from arthritis which made painting difficult for him.
The works of Alexej Von Jawlensky, including the painting above, have similarities to a colouring book due to the heavy black outlines and bold solid areas of colour to create contrast. He focused on head portraits a lot in his artistic endeavours to portray emotion, often using bright colours to show how colour can become the essence of one’s being. Expressive brushstrokes are shown throughout a lot of Jawlensky’s work. Although I know this is created using paints, the textures created do remind me of oil pastels which I find interesting.
Paul Klee – Until 1914, Klee mostly did watercolour paintings and graphics in his very unique style. He loved to explore form and colour, both figurative and abstract but reduced to the essential. He did small scale work, sometimes miniature. Paul Klee’s exploration of colour began with the Blue Rider group. He became inspired by Kandinsky’s writing and so started an intense study into abstraction and colour, with the two going hand in hand at times. This made him a central member of the group.
The painting above is considered one of Klee’s first fully abstract works and exchanges familiar imagery into a balanced composition of different shapes coloured in a variety of mixed hues that make the piece very eye-catching. Although this piece is rather simplistic, the colours balance yet contrast in areas which makes the viewers’ eyes travel along the painting rather than just staying in one area.
Alfred Kubin – His works were much different to the rest of the groups’ colourful explorations. His work is nightmarish and apocalyptic. His preferred medium was drawing ink mixed with watercolour. Out of all the members of the group, Kubin was the only one who wasn’t outlawed by the Nazis.
Marianne von Werefkin – She joined the group at a later stage than other members. She focused on women and the impoverished in her work, showing how differently people were treated at the beginning of the 19th century. She often depicted the women in dark coloured clothes to demonstrate the harsh reality of women in her era with a splendid landscape.
This painting demonstrates the experimentation of the blue rider group that was semi-abstract explorations of colour and forms. Werefkin often had loose brushwork and uses of random colour which showed how artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch influenced her. I feel that the bright yellow highlights on her face work really well to draw the viewer in as a lot of the other colours are quite muddy and dark, so the highlights stand out and bring the painting together.
Albert Bloch – He was the only American member of the group who moved to Germany in 1909. Kandinsky and Marc visited his studio and convinced him to join. He developed his own unique style, often incorporating harlequins and clowns dancing and playing instruments in his work.
This painting shows Boch’s connection to the Blue Rider group which has no visible foreground or background and makes it seem like objects are floating. This is to show the combination of the physical and spiritual world. The fruits have their own auras which shows how Boch was giving life to inanimate objects. The fluid and wavy lines also link to spiritualism. Albert Boch continued this style in his work even after the Blue Rider group ceased to exist.
Information learned from the YouTube video above:
Many artists during the early 1900s wanted to take their art in a different direction, they didn’t want to just paint and sculpt realistic images. They wanted to express their feelings in their art and make viewers feel the same emotions when looking at their work
The blue rider group came together to rebel against the way art was created and created a new art standard of creating work from within rather than from external sources
They were a part of the art movement called German Expressionism
They expressed feelings and abstract ideas that paved the way for Abstract Art. They wanted to express spirituality in their work, beyond reality and life as they knew it
Blue represented a spiritual colour, part of the reason for the name of the group. The action of riding a horse represented the fact that they were riding beyond realism in art
In 1912, Kandinsky and Marc produced a collection of art essays with a woodcut cover created by Kandinsky. This was titled ‘Almanach Der Blaue Reiter’ and the name has only been explained with speculation, nothing was confirmed by the group. Franz Marc has always had a fascination with animals, in particular, horses which he painted a lot through his artistic career and Kandinsky had always been fascinated by riders on horseback, with one of his paintings in 1903 being titled ‘The blue rider’.
Influence of colour on the group:
Each of the members of the group had their own individual applications of colour but all used similar colours in a lot of their works, with blue being a popular colour for all of them. Colour allowed the group to be more expressive and allowed the artists to convey their spiritual feelings in their paintings. Their work was freer than other artists at the time and very eye-catching, no dull work was created.
The colour of music:
Synaesthesia – the ability to hear taste or smell colour introduced Kandinsky to the idea of using colour to represent physical senses. Each colour represented different parts of an orchestra to create a colour symphony in the painting. This was significant to Paul Klee in his progression to abstract art. Yellow – earthly colour, brighter yellow = chaotic feelings. Blue – calming and created balance with the yellows. Reds are powerful to represent drums or trumpets. Green – calmest colour to represent violins. Violet – melancholy and sad to represent horns or bagpipes. Black – represents the finale. Every placement of colour in Kandinsky’s musical pieces was intentional with some pieces taking him years to complete due to the deep considerations.
Artist and movement inspirations of the group:
Robert Delaunay/Orphism – influenced Franz Marc and August Macke, particularly the way colour was fractured into different fragments of colour
Fauvism – Gabriele Münter and Alexej Von Jawlensky
Music – influenced both Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee
Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh – Marianne Von Werefkin, influenced by their use of colour to demonstrate the soul
My reasons for researching The Blue Rider Group:
I decided to research into the Blue Rider Group as colour is an important part of my project and so since each member of the group explores colour in different ways, I felt that this would be good to inform some of my colour decisions rather than just making the colour choices up as I go along. I got encouraged to research the Blue Rider Group as a whole by my tutor after they heard that I was being inspired by Franz Marc and I feel that this was a good idea as although the group all have used colours to express particular emotions, they all have very unique styles and relationships with colour which is something that has always fascinated me – two artists focusing on the same subject with the same colour palette and materials very rarely, if at all, produce the same outcomes, each person’s art is completely unique and new and this is a concept which I love about art.
Have the enclosures going in different directions?
Goats facing different directions
Have enclosures meet in certain points but not all to show different enclosures
Things to consider about Cow paintings:
Do the boards have to be square or rectangular? Triangles or irregular shapes could work
Add enclosure to the painting on the left
Things to consider about chicken paintings:
Could explore making the bars meet at certain points like a puzzle
Have some chickens facing different ways?
I printed out my work so far on A3 sheets of paper in which I annotated about different aspects or areas that I am contemplating at the moment. I decided to print these out to inform my practice as I often take my work home to get more done and carrying my work to and from uni can be quite a hassle. It also shows how I have been developing my ideas and gives an idea of the final result I would like of clusters of different animals in which colour is explored in a variety of ways.