part two: project two:still life

exercise three: experiment with mixed media

Feeling a bit ambivalent about mixed media. I’m comfortable with a pencil and charcoal, becoming friends with ink but I didn’t really hit it off with coloured pencils in the last exercise. Now I’m to throw in wax crayons, felt tips, marker pens…

I’ve chosen some ridiculous decorative fish as my subject.

I started out with biro, wax crayons and pencils but found that a mix of coloured ink and felt pens had the intensity of colour and smoothness of these slippery marvels that I was after.

I had the fish on a piece of crazy 1960s fabric but it was competing too hard for attention.  Their original home was in Cannes, right on the coast, and as an Englishwoman away from home, this naturally had me thinking about fish and chips.

Wrapping the fish in newspaper seems the right thing to do. The fish have a touch of sadness to them, having seen the inside of newspaper before; wrapped up and left behind.

Drawing them on newspaper has been problematic. Online research advised priming the paper with gesso but this has dulled the coloured inks and they don’t flow as easily. (I’m using pink and yellow to blend into orange).  A wash of watercolour helps restore the colour but it lacks the gorgeous intensity of the inks on plain white paper.

I’m also slightly bothered that the fish look like they are breaking out of the newspaper rather than wrapped up in it.

I decided to try a more conventional approach and put my fish on fabric but it all looks a bit dull and I’m irritated that the newspaper idea didn’t work out.


I’ve decided on a different tack: Because of the problems I had with the ink losing its vibrancy on newsprint (theoca forum was very helpful on this issue, but I couldn’t find what was needed in the nearest shop), I’ve kept the fish on the plain white cartridge and added the newspaper around.  I am worried that this will end up looking a bit ‘craftsy’ but I needed to get on with the project with what I had to hand.



So they they are: the ridiculous fish

Things I’m happy with:

  • I’m reasonably happy with the use of newspaper. It does seem to add instant interest and texture to the fabric.
  • I’m happy that I’ve let the fabric fade out at the edges – my tendency is to go even all over – this is something I’ve been consciously thinking about.
  • I’ve met the brief by using mixed media: newspaper, coloured pencil, felt tips, coloured inks.

Things I’m not happy with:

  • I don’t really like any of it, though I’m pleased to have tried out the newspaper. At the beginning I was motivated by the fish. Though ridiculous, they are quite satisfying objects, but I think putting them on their own as the star of the show has made them more serious somehow. They’ve lost their quirkiness.
  • It feels crafty and a bit school project. My lighting was quite flat and I think this is part of the problem. If I had created something more dramatic – so the fish could gleam out from the darkness – it may have looked more sophisticated?
  • The fish don’t look that solid, and they are not really sitting in that fabric (though the shadow under the forward fish has worked OK, the other tail was off the fabric and seems to be floating – I think I should have cheated a shadow maybe)

When I look back at the preparatory work I can see how much I have tightened up in the final piece. I prefer my looser ink-splotchy fish of my sketchbook, they have more spontaneity. Not really sure how to get around this, once a certain amount of work has gone in to a drawing, it’s hard not to be bothered about messing it up.

Some time later….As I look at this again, at a later stage, I realise a couple of things I can do to improve the image: the lower lip of the fish is wrong, but more importantly in the sketches I had the fish appearing out of the fabric, but somehow in this final version I became obsessed with having the shadow of the underside of the fish show. If I have the perseverance I will see if I can fix these mistakes with added newspaper.


Ridiculous fish revisited: the joy of mixed media like this is I could fix my problem areas by gluing more newspaper on, however it did create problems with the surface and I’m not sure why. I glued more newspaper, added coat of gesso as before, and the surface became super slippery, not allowing the coloured pencil to stick.

I haven’t done a great job here, the material looks weirdly bunched up, but it was tricky to alter the small area to fit in with the fabric already down.

I’ve been thinking about how I can prevent these kind of mistakes in the future. I don’t know why I became blinded to the composition by my obsession with the shadow under the fish. I suppose I was so determined to make sure it sat properly. Ideally of course I would do more preparatory sketches, but the idea of adding fabric on newspaper came late in the day and my time was up. I hope that each experience will alert me to possible stumbling blocks, and next time I’ll be ready.

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