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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Research 2.2

Lucy Austin

There is something about Lucy's work that I love. Through watercolour and acrylic paintings you can see how she may develop ideas and inspiration towards the printmaking. The way she layers the paint down with translucent effect seems to be a response in how a print may work. Some colours respond differently when overlapping others, and so the geometric line work and shapes that Lucy creates, in my opinion, is like an experiment of opacity.

Lucy is very much inspired by the urban surroundings, from scaffolding to roof tiles, from hazard tape to traffic cones, these symbolic shapes are a reoccurring pattern in Lucy's work. What is admirable is the skill in which Lucy simplifies the surroundings in to shapes and patterns, then abstractly treats the paper as a mind map to what feels like a reaction to the surroundings rather than a realistic view. I feel that Lucy creates 3D images in her style, like the cube doodles you would scribble in notebooks during a meeting, the type of doodles that absorb your stress or anxiety and mindfully creates a comfortable space for yourself.

Apart from the translucent consistency of the paint Lucy uses, I am surprised to learn that it is watercolour. My mind wanders to classical watercolour styles when I think of the medium. It is a medium I have the least experience in, however I am amazed at what is possible with control and admire the works people create. A particular moment where I found myself both surprised and amazed by watercolour, was through a series of Portrait Artist of the Year in 2014 when Aine Divine had impressively made her way to the finals. I was also fortunate to have seen the collection of works Aine had created during the series when the finalists work was displayed at the portrait gallery in London. In complete contrast to Lucy's work, Aine watercolour paintings look incredibly complex.

Aine Divine, Sky Arts Portrait Artist Of The Year 2014, Sir Ian McKellen

In some respect, it is difficult to compare Aine Divine with Lucy Austin, as both artist use the medium in very different ways. Not only that, but the subject matter is completely opposite to each other. I guess one similarity I can pull from each would be the almost experimental appearance. Aine Divine has a clear confidence in how to manipulate the paint to work in her favour, yet allowing for bleed and drip of the paint to naturally stay part of the piece, as she makes no effort to correct or cover. These marks, I find, make the painting so much more raw and beautiful. Divine captures incredible details and texture in her complex paintings by understanding watercolours and how they work, the way it dries and the effect that can be achieved when adding water or taking away the paint with a cloth. It feels experimental with the bold use in colour in the areas with less focus, such as clothing of Sir Ian McKellen's shirt, which suggests the tones without investing too much time on detail (like a reminder that this is a painting, and not a photo). The depth in the face and details caused by the drying paint and layers, really draws your eye. What is admirable is the level of care that would need to be involved for a painting of this complexity, the watercolours, in my opinion, can be a very daring medium in the sense you have one shot to make it work. Divine's build of watercolour creates a very pigmented and dense style in her paintings, balanced with the use of space that frames the sitter, which I find throughout her work.

Of course the huge difference would be the subject matter, as mentioned above. I would consider Lucy Austin abstract, painting from the urban experience, and simplifying that to its most basic form - often not resembling anything at all, but a pattern. Aine Divine, who not only paints portraits but also flowers and landscapes, often works from visual reference, be it from life or photo, creating realistic paintings. The use of opacity is evident in both artist work, which is an effect best achieved with watercolour. Divine is organic with the build up of paint and uses the qualities of watercolour as part of the overall effect, where Austin is deliberate with creating blocks of colour that overlap, sometimes allowing for some bleed to occur in background washes.

Something Extra

Darren John, an artist I discovered during lockdown, came to mind when researching artist Lucy Austin. During Lockdown, Darren began a series called Creativity under Quarantine, whether this was his own created series or a trend on social I’m not sure, but it really grabbed my attention. Forced to leave his studio and bring art home, he documented in short videos several processes to which he would use household items to create art. From a banana to blowing ink bubbles, he really explored the textures and possibilities of so many random objects that would be accessible to everyone. Of course he made it look super easy with achieving great results, but I definitely felt inspired to try it. Sadly I didn’t, though now faced with a task to explore materials, I feel this is the time to get stuck in to explore the obscure!

LINKS - 03.02.21, 19:30 (frequently visited from December 2020)


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