Slumber is a Journey to the Eternal Return

All pieces in my graduation series “Chronicle of the Woods” are based on the photos I took in Richmond Park.


After the tutorial with Matthew Krishanu, he told me that if I want to make big works, I should do the testing on big canvas directly instead of doing it on small pieces. I think I have done enough test on small pieces (previous post) regarding to the properties of the materials, so I directly make my new exploration and experiment on the biggest canvas I’ve made before.

One of the reason why I run test on small pieces is because big piece makes me nervous. It makes me feel like I am working on a formal piece, I wanted to finish every parts as detailed as I can, and I don’t want to do things that I am uncertain and not under control. I think I was just not brave enough.

To overcome this problem, I tried to treat it as just a giant sketch paper. I found that using charcoal to sketch on the canvas helps me a lot. I remember ‘An Unfinished World’ by Graham Sutherland and attracted by its ‘unfinished’ quality. I want to explore texture of the paint as well. I used modelling paste and gel mediums not only as a ground or a mixture to dilute the paint, but also use them as the paint.

Since the pumice gel I put on was not smooth, this creates a interesting texture after I draw the trees  with charcoal on top of it. This looks like the tree skin itself. I dilute some part of the tree charcoal with some medium before I spray the fixer on it. I then diluted the acrylic with pouring medium, flow aid and drying retarding medium, this extend the drying time and the flow of acrylic and make it more like watercolour but with a thicker texture. I tried to leave the rough stroke of paint on the fallen log by applying only thin layers of colour and let it dropped when the paint is too watery.

The trees behind was too strong and and too tidy on the same line. I tried to weaken it by applying layers of pumice gel medium but still not faded out enough. It was hard because pumice gel is more white then when it’s dried. I have to be patient to wait until next day to see whether it works or not. Having three layers and still too transparent to cover the tree up, I mixed the gel with white acrylic paint to put over the trees behind. It was risky but in the end the effect of it is quite good.


I realise the best method to work on this piece is to paint it layers and layers, from light to dark and thin to thick. This makes me think about water colour and also Chinese painting, especially the ink wash painting. There are two kinds of Chinese painting, one is meticulous painting that is very detailed, precise and coloured, the other one is free hand styled, capturing the spirit of the subject with a simple form. I think that is the drawing quality that I can get inspired from. In this painting, I tried to create the thin and thick effect in Chinese painting by using this thinning layers on the little trees in the back, but still thick and more detailed on the falling log in the front, hoping to create a depth and a variety texture of the paint.
I let the paint dripped if it happened to be, this created kind of old film effect, leading to something about memory, something fluid.
During I work on this piece, my fellow classmate introduced me the tree paintings by Egon Schiele. I think the form of his work always captured the spirit of the subject, that’s why even his painting always left with big blank, we can still complete the line or blank with our imagination.

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