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Ronnie Ireland, "Drip, Gamble & Splat"
Friday 15 Nov 2013

Visit him at www.rd-fineart.com - Back to History Page

Ronnie's aim was to investigate the relationship between control and chance in painting. Chance can help you to find ideas or to implement them, so it is useful for even the most precise artist.

"If you know before you look, you don't see"
"Chance favours the prepared mind"
"The more you practice, the luckier you get"

Artists use chance in different ways.
For Jackson Pollock (Jack the Dripper) the way it is done IS the painting.;
For Mark Boyle, chance decides his subject, http://www.boylefamily.co.uk/boyle/texts/journey.html. Darts thrown at maps decide exactly what he is to reproduce, but it is then done meticulously.

He had a examples of his work, ranging from almost conventional impressionist through surreal to abstract.

The chance splatters of paint that get you thinking may all have been painted over in the end.

Ronnie introduced a messy black and white canvas that I thought was going to be the underpainting for the demo. There was much discussion about which way up it should go and once this was agreed people said what they saw in it: Trees? People dancing? A windy day? A match-seller with tray? Buildings and reflections? A bridge over a river?

Ronnie did start to draw the curve of the bridge but the point was that he had got us thinking about getting ideas, particularly using chance. So we went on with a stream of more general observations:
If you decide to use chance, you MUST accept what it gives you
If you make a mistake, use it to inspire something different
Use white emulsion and Polyfilla for texture - adds interest
Use failed drawings or paintings: paint over them or tear and restick
Do several at a time - they will keep until you need them
Ideas could come from magazines (what's on page 62?) or from odd things you've seen
Try using Dulux Match Pots (interesting colours)
Don't forget palette knives, and that a brush handle can move paint around.
Originally Ronnie was most interested in the interactions between figures but realised that there could be interactions between objects, too. "Everything is interesting to look at".

In line with his idea that it's best to be doing something that's new for you, to be just outside your comfort zone, maybe almost far enough out to annoy you a bit, he is now enjoying landscape.

After the break the original canvas disappeared, to be replaced by an old one, thinly covered with gesso. He had a few almost all black photos of eroded roadside roots. With imagination you see faint trunks behind and interesting patches of light. We chose one as the inspiration for the demo painting.

The background may affect you, but none of it will show.

It's good to use a bad photo - you're not distracted with detail!
Paint was thrown and dabbed on more or less at random (?) by a couple of members of the audience before Ronnie started in himself.

The process is to look at what you have, maybe compare it with the source photo to see if anything matches up, and modify appropriately. Most of the time Ronnie was using one end or the other of a big filbert, some palette knives or occasionally, towards the end, a smaller (No.10?) round brush.

He attacked the initial blobs of paint with the handle end of the filbert, scrubbed some burnt sienna over much of the background (knife or brush?), dragged the filbert end down with some of the lighter colour to reflect the background trunks, put in a lot more dark (brown and black) into the negative spaces behind the trees and added blue and yellow for interest.
A painting is probably finished when nothing in it annoys you, but this one isn't.
Ronnie did find it was giving him ideas, and that's what it is all about.
(Download pdf for his own summary of this evening's strategies).
Thin multi-colour glazes to get a lustrous black? Some detailed shapes? More contrast?
He sent us three later photos (see below). These showed
he was right to warn us that little of this one might remain.

It was a very interesting evening which got us thinking of new ways of thinking! Thanks Ronnie.

End of demo
Ronnie's photos show what became of it later

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