Online Painting Class: Week Five

Happy Thanksgiving Week! Before we stuff ourselves with casseroles and mashed potatoes, I want to share how week five of the Premium Painting Track is going. If you haven't read any of the previous posts, I'd go back and start with week one. As a quick refresh, I've been taking the online painting course offered by Art Prof for the past five weeks. Each week comes with a different assignment and two critiques done through voice on Discord. I've been sharing my experience with the class so that others have insight into how the class works and what to expect.

This week's assignment was to create an abstract painting based off a sound effect. I went a little outside of the box and decided to create a painting based on living with chronic migraines. (In case you missed it, you can check out my tips for living with chronic pain here.) While it isn't a sound per say, when I experience a migraine, everything sounds much louder and much more intense. So I set out to make a painting based on how it feels to hear different noises when my head is throbbing.

For this piece, I continued working with my Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics and Liquitex Matte Medium on canvas. I also used a few flat brushes, a palette knife, an old cleaning spray bottle filled with water, and my trusty old gift card to create different effects. I have plans to bring in a couple other mediums later on, but that's what I've used as of now.

I was super excited to get back to abstract work, and I got to work right away. The first thing I wanted to do was plan out my composition based on my physical experience. I personally feel my migraines on the left side of my head and body, so I decided to make an asymmetrical piece, where most of the action and elements are on the left side. I also wanted to use very vibrant, saturated colors to communicate the intensity and feeling of confusion that accompany my migraines. Lastly, I wanted to incorporate the visual representation of a sound wave, with the loudest part being on the left side to support the lopsidedness.

With all of that in mind, I put down the first layer of paint. I started with some blocks of light cadmium along with a big splotch of dioxazine purple and a blob of magenta-tinted white. I didn't like the stark division in this first iteration, so I went back and further defined a more literal sound wave in the next stage. But at this point, I was enjoying some of the more jagged marks and the pops of cadmium.

This where I better mapped out the sound wave and started adding lots more texture. One of my favorite techniques is scratching wet paint with my palette knife. It leaves these really interesting marks, and it's a great way to have previous layers show through. In this case, I wanted to illustrate how painful sound can be when I have a migraine. Even soft-spoken words can cause a pulsating pain in my head.

I also wanted to show that my pain ripples out into other parts of my life, and, as a result, affects everything I do and experience. This is shown in the drips cascading over the white areas. In this piece, everything within the purple section is what I experience physically, while the white areas are those things that are affected by my migraines - like not being able to sit at a computer desk or pull out my heavy Dutch oven to start on dinner. From my experience, migraines are still very much an invisible illness. People who experience them usually look fine, but on the inside it's complete chaos. I wanted to show that this illness impacts my daily life in ways that aren't always visible or obvious. I added the drips by applying thicker sections of paint and spraying them with water.

The next phase was a little more timid, and it didn't fully show what I was trying to say. In critique, many others felt the patterns and marks were a little too playful. They didn't full communicate the pain that comes with a migraine. Prof Lieu even challenged me to step away from my comfort zone and remove the blocky marks completely. She felt it was too orderly and it didn't convey the confusion I was going for. I was nervous to rework it, but I agreed with the feedback. Prof Lieu also pointed out the area with scratch marks as being the area that shows the most pain. Lastly, I was encouraged to make it more lopsided. In this version, it felt too balanced.

After critique, I got back to work with all the comments in mind. I made a bunch of changes to this piece, and ended up completely removing the swirls and repetitive brush strokes. Instead of being careful, I approached this with a feeling of carelessness and decided to see what would happen if I just went for it. I added different splotches of color throughout, still keeping in mind the intensity I wanted within my color palette. I also added another wash of color over the drips to make it feel more connected to the rest of the piece. What I ended up with was something completely different from the original but much more in line with my overall vision for this piece.

For the second critique, I got a lot of great feedback regarding the changes. Prof Lieu felt there was much more weight on the left than the right. And the transparency within sections on the right gave off a sense of deep-rooted pain. In fact, she encouraged me to add some more glazes throughout the piece, especially in the top left corner. Cat also left some good feedback regarding the regularity of the blobs on the left. She felt it needed more variation in size. Lastly, my peers gave some great pointers regarding texture and expressed a desire to see thicker paint built up on the left side of the painting.

After the second critique, I felt like I had a better handle on this piece. I'm so excited to go back and add more to this painting, especially in terms of texture. Because this class is flexible in terms of what each student is looking for, we were able to decide what we wanted to work on for our final week of class. I decided to stick with this painting for my last week. I really enjoy working abstractly, and I want as much feedback regarding my abstract work as possible. So week six - the final week - will be dedicated to getting this piece closer to its highest potential.

Because of the holiday in the US this week, there won't be any class. And, as I'll have family visiting, I'm going to take advantage of the break and relax. So please note that there will not be a new post next Monday, November 29th. I hope everyone in the US has a great holiday, and I'll see you back here on December 6th with another post. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!


If you want to stay up to date with these posts, you can subscribe for blog and newsletter updates with the form at the bottom of the page. I post blogs weekly and send newsletters out once a month!

Thanks for reading and happy creating!