On Friday 22 August, the Lemon Timers gathered in the Harnham Scout Hut in Salisbury to tackle a life painting day, looking at Keith Vaughan’s work.
Developed from my June London course here, we set ourselves the task of trying to ‘reveal the possibility of order in areas hitherto seen as chaotic’ and to ‘create order [in paint] by novel methods’ in Vaughan’s own words.
After looking at his drawings, almost always in pencil on a small scale and his paintings, so often revelling in the flatness of paint and an almost Piper-esque joy in overlaying contrasting handling – opaque brights over scumbled brush-drawn areas, for instance, we set to work from John the model, who put his back into his work, straining into each pose for us.
Drawn studies followed (four to a page) first in tone, each one in response to a variation of the pose. Then the transparency of line drawing came into play, and John worked his way through a total of 16 more poses, resulting in four overlaid drawings.
Before lunch, the painters prepared their first painting with black acrylic paint, derived from the last of the four tonal studies. When they returned to paint, they were only mildly perplexed to find that the only pose John didn’t return to was the one they had chosen.
[Diebenkorn wrote that ‘the pretty, initial position is not to be valued.’]
The palette notes aren’t as complicated as they look, essentially being about cool, dark blues set against yellow (rather than orange) to synthesise Vaughan’s habit of only using two of the three primary colours so often in his paintings. We used a blue/orange, red/green cross, rather than the colour circle and allowed ourselves three ‘greys’ too – blue/yellow (green), black/white (grey 2) and black/yellow (grey 3):
These are the resulting tonal paintings:
The black underpainting provided a strong framework for the artists to overcome, amplify or ignore.
The next paintings of the afternoon session were made with the addition of violets and browns and are here: