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Experimenting with my work setting

Updated: May 4, 2021

Keeping to the theme of atmosphere, I wanted to see how my setting would affect how I would draw something. I did various self portraits while media played in the background to see how the ambience would change how I composed the image. I tend to work with the sound of rain playing out my speakers as it helps me concentrate, so I wondered how music and film could change my approach. I did not try to make work based off the music, but rather to focus on my reflection and the image itself - while being mindful of what was playing, of course. I still would like to do more of these to see if patterns emerge.

The first drawing, which I ended up “ruining” out of frustration (although I really enjoy the scratchy lines now) was done while listening to electronic/hyper pop music, SOPHIE and 100 gecs. The next was drawn to drag queens Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova’s show UNHhhh. The third was done while watching an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I would like to repeat this exercise this week, with more thought given to what I play. On Wednesday, I took part in a critique/discussion session with Delia Baillie for which we had to read a conversation between artists Nicole Eisenman and David Humphrey as a starting point. I found te following passage really relevant to this exercise.

DH You were saying earlier that somehow content leaks into your work without you actually willfully putting it in. I feel that way too. I guess it comes from listening to instincts, impulses, and intuitions with the faith that somehow your decisions are going to mean something eventually. In the process of working something will emerge—almost always an aspect of yourself that you weren’t conscious of. NE Yeah, it’s not even subconscious. It’s down there below that. Your brain allows you little peeks into your subconscious via dreams. But what filters into painting is like sub-subconscious. You don’t know it’s there until you’ve painted it and, even then, it can take years to understand and see what’s there. I think you are right to use the word faith.

I’d say that painting often leads me to a type of meditation in which my subconscious comes to express itself. It also reminds me of something that Philip Braham told me during our open tutorial: no matter the subject you are painting, what you are thinking about will somehow make its way into the page. I think this is especially the case when painting brings us to that mental state. And this is something I want to focus on achieving more often, through listening to interesting podcasts on what I want to focus my art on - dissociation, mindfulness and the sublime - but also through focused meditation in which I delve into those parts of my psyche. Rain noise helps me reach this, but so can classical music and other ambient sounds.

Next week, I would like to start a painting of the snowstorm I talked about last week. I’d like to use watercolours and masking fluid/tape, since so much of the image will be white, and try using a limited colour palette (maybe burnt umber and ultramarine blue?) to emphasise the starkness of the snow. I read my flatmate Leo’s essay on the sublime which gave me great ressources and references. I have also ordered The Sublime Reader, which should arrive soon (and why not throw in Žižek’s Sublime Object of Ideology as a way of tying it all together!).


100 gecs, 1000 gecs (Los Angeles: Dog Show Records, 2019).

Clewis, Robert R., The Sublime Reader (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018)

Eisenman, Nicole and David Humphrey, ‘Nicole Eisenman and David Humphrey’, BOMB Magazine, 6th July 2015.

SOPHIE, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides (Los Angeles: MSMSMSM, 2018).

The Twilight Zone, created by Rod Serling (Cayuga Productions, Inc. and CBS Productions, 1959-64).

WOWPresents, YouTube, UNHhhh (2016-Present).

Žižek, Slavoj, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso Books, 1989).


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