Woodland abstracts – oak

I showed you the final results from taking Judy Woods free stARTs class last week, and I thought it might be interesting to see how one of the paintings developed from start to finish. The class was very much an exercise in letting go and trusting in the process; we only knew what that day’s instructions were and had no idea what the finished result might look like.

Although I forgot to take a photo of the first stage — part black, part white with texture marks — I did take pictures of the other days’ progress as I worked through the class.

After creating the two-colour base layer we were instructed to build a focal area with a masked-off patch of colour and a focal shape.

And then add collage papers — some building on the focal area and some to draw the eye around the canvas.

More colour was added and then came the scary instruction: to cover a lot of what we had done, adding texture in the new layer of paint. The idea was to not be precious about areas that we might like but that don’t necessarily benefit the final image.

The previous step covered up too much of the collage so I added some more, including small pieces of acrylic skins I made a while ago. I also included fragments of a piece of paint that peeled off our bathroom ceiling (I really will save anything that might come in useful).

Then it was a case of refining and working out what else was needed. To start with, I wanted more contrast on the oak leaves focal element, so I outlined them with a black acrylic marker. I also added some mark-making in black and white. That all helped to add interest, but it needed something to pull it all together.

I had the idea to add a large translucent oak leaf over the top, but I wasn’t quite brave enough to take brush straight to painting. Instead, I worked out the best position for it by mocking it up on the computer first — that gave me a lot more confidence when it came to getting the paint out.

This is definitely my favourite out of the three. It just feels more balanced and coherent than the other two, less busy. It was certainly an interesting and worthwhile experience: I’ve ended up with two paintings I am very happy with (and the other can always be reused for collage) and it’s given me the opportunity to try to understand more about what I like in abstract work and what doesn’t appeal so much.

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