Project 5 – Exercise 3: Working from a photograph ‘Sublime cloud’

My reference photo:

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - Reference photo

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – Reference photo


Final Painting / Works:

‘Sublime Cloud #1’: Painting Acrylic and and found objects on primed canvas (37 x 63 cm)

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - Painting

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – Painting



Contextual research:

For the painting I envision a rather atmospheric painting I can relate back to my site experience as well as using  my painted support on site with encapsulate found particles as the starting point.

Anselm Kiefer comes to my mind as he applied a rather mixed media approach, works often with photographs and at times with an oxymoronic use of materials e.g. heavy lead for light clouds. Example is his work ‘Heavy Cloud‘, 1985. He is using a photograph for this work, what I do not intend to do for this exercise. The title refers to ‘Heavy Water’, a term that Kiefer applies as “a synonym for radiation.” Heavy water is a modified used in nuclear industry in a process of nuclear fission. I find his use of shellac and how this drips out from the ‘lead’ cloud interesting as it leads back to my sketchbook works ‘The Mountain Cries‘ and my painting #1 from previous exercise. What comes now to my mind are the multiple meaning of words: ‘Heavy’ – water, lead and ‘lead’ – lead as metal and ‘to lead’.

I experimented with that idea in my sketchbook and came up with some new ideas:

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - sketchbook 'cloud'

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – sketchbook ‘cloud’

From previous exercises and exhibition visits I understand that verbal expression and words can trigger new ideas. There are two ways of creative thinking for me: visually through constant interrogation of images and brainstorming in words and finding verbal expressions. Both will come together for my work – hopefully.

Instead of writing my thoughts in this post – I link here the pdf document  – Stefan513593_Brainstorming and free associating in words

I used in the past the web based Word cloud creator (funny, now that I am brainstorming on the word ‘cloud’ )( for resumes and profile texts.

See the image with the top 50 words of the linked text.

What do I get out of it – besides a nice visualisation (something that can be modified freely in the app) of words? The visual is matching quite well with the composition of my reference photo.

The importance of certain words – larger means more often written (8 top words): Cloud / virtual / world / physical / space / atmosphere / object / lost. With the emotions of distress and anxiety – quite a sublime topic.

Painting is a physical exploration of space, the cloud a metaphor, the emotions the mood and atmosphere I can convey through my painting. The painting as such is not the external physical reality, but an illusion, a representation. Or a presentation of ideas, feelings and narratives.

I was making a layer collage in Photoshop of my three visuals: The word cloud, the reference photo, and my ‘Artefact #2‘ painting from location.

‘Sublime Cloud #2’: Collage ‘Cloud’ (digital composite)

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - Collage

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – Collage

A mixed media landscape painting by Kiefer ‘Bohemiam Lies by the Sea‘, 1996. A rich textured painting in layers, with symbolic meaning of poppies (dreams, sleep, death) and use of oil, emulsion, shellac, charcoal, and powdered paint. The horizon is very high and the image has a deep central perspective. The title refers to a transferred meaning from literature (Ingeborg Bachmann, 1926-1973, concerning longing for utopia that can never be found as the former kingdom Bohemia) to Kiefer’s intention.

Looking at my reference photo and how to make a strong composition I found Kiefer’s painting ‘Urd, Verdani, Skuld (The Norns)‘, 1983 (Support: 420 x 280 x 6 cm) => low horizon, central perspective, high and expansive ceiling of the cathedral.

The title refers to three female beings in Norse mythology that are thought to represent Past, Present and Future. They are absent in the painting but their names are inscribed at the top and thread-like strings hanging down from the names. The huge architectural space is supported by the very large scale of the painting. This painting is associated with the passage of time, here depicted as the passageway. I find the connection of external space with architectural space intriguing. It brings me back to the essay by J Pallasmaa on cinema and architectural images, and how the depicted space can trigger an embodied sensation.

Translating to my painting and a possible visualisation could be a kind of combination of low horizon, central perspective with the two people in the background at the vanishing point, the trees forming a kind of arch like the cathedral in ‘Urd, Verdani, Skuld (The Norns)‘ by Kiefer. The ground made with found objects (leaves) and my intermediate painting ‘Artefacts #2‘ shining through  – similar to above collage.

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - sketchbook 'space'

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – sketchbook ‘space’

Preparatory work:

I am going to start with my work done during the exercise ‘Outdoor painting‘. I took several reference photos, I made some painting on site in an engaging bodily approach, and I have still a good memory of the location. Besides my reference photo I have various other photos taken that depict mood and atmosphere together.

From my various walks on location I made smaller sketchbook studies in color to depict mood and atmosphere:

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - sketchbook site impressions

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – sketchbook site impressions

Based on my contextual research and thoughts I noted quickly my visual thoughts together.

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - sketchbook conceptual

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – sketchbook conceptual

Instead of worrying about how to combine my various thoughts I decided to keep the collage as such and to work on my painting with the other spatial idea. I could envision that both works would hang together at an exhibition: to reflect on the physical and virtual space, the cloud in nature and the virtual cloud. Both are keepsakes of memories. My painting with found objects painted in site and finished in my studio as the articulation of my embodied experience (on location and in painting). The collage as the articulation of my thought process – rather an disembodied visualisation.  As my painting has dimensions of 37 x 63 cm I would print my collage on same size to show an equal visual impact.

I think that I have enough insight to work on my painting. During the process I will see how close I can keep my initial plan and what else might come up that would make the painting more successful.

Work in progress:

  1. The first work is the collage made within Photoshop out of three images: photo from my pre painted support ‘Artefact #2‘, my reference photos and the word cloud image with associations to the word ‘cloud‘.
    Final image see at top of this post.
  2. Preparing an acrylic emulsion with coarse grinded found objects. Those are actually the reworked leaves and leftovers – at times with paint on it – from my outdoor painting exercise.
Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - sketchbook preparing found objects

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – sketchbook preparing found objects

  • Approaching my pre pained support ‘Artefact #2‘ and to continue with layering overs the image of cloud / foggy day. The canvas is not stretched but taped to a board – more practical to transport outdoors I found.
  • A central perspective with vanishing point on the two people in the background.
  • The trees building an arc to support the focus point – kind o natural architectural image, inspired by J. Pallasmaa’s thoughts and A. Kiefer paintings.
Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - work in progress

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – work in progress

  • First I was careful no to destroy the underlaying image, using very diluted acrylic paint to create the illusion and atmosphere of a foggy day. The original image looks through, although totally abstract painted, it provide a believable sense of the trees behind the fog in the background.
  • Painting the lower side, the bottom of the support and the ground of the image, with a prepared mix of found object emulsion and acrylic paint.
  • Adding shapes for trees to the left and right. Working with additive and subtractive marks, adding more paint to the ground.
  • Modulating trees. Forming the arc, building marks with comb brush.
  • Painting two small human beings in the center, giving scale and focus.

Final image at the top of this post. I feel that the unstretched canvas, untaped, uneven at the edges does gives the picture at special touch. Less formal rectangular, more of an ‘Artefact’ what makes sense to my intention.

Here some closeup views of the painting surface showing found particles and texture:

Stefan513593 - Project 5 - Exercise 3 - closeup

Stefan513593 – Project 5 – Exercise 3 – closeup


With these two works I would juxtapose the difference and associations with the virtual and the physical world.

My physical bodily engaging painting, done partly on site and partly in studio, with incorporation of found objects does relate to my embodied encounter with the physical space in nature surrounding me.

My digital created collage does relate to the virtual space with no physical relationship. Like the virtual cloud space it can be seen as an disembodied space.

Both works do emphasise  the connotation with memory: The visual space as storing data and photos, like reference photos. In IT terms this is also called ‘memory’, date memory.  My physical painting is a painting on site and with my embodied memory. In that sense both are part of my overall memory of site and my encounter with the world.

Overall I do see my painting in the context of ‘sublime‘. In the context of the romantic tradition aft E. Burke and I Kant.  In a more contemporary context I do see my  encounter with the virtual world, the disembodied experiences. The space and size that I can not verbalise, going beyond at times the understandable. And at times there is also fear about lost memories, or even about memories no-one knows what will happen to them.

In that sense I titled my painting and collage as ‘Sublime Cloud’.



  • In what ways did you depart from the photo? The abstract ground shining through makes the image overall different in perception. I modified the sun rays to support my central perspective and I change the position of the two people into the vanishing point making them as ma vanishing point  I worked more abstract on the lower part of the image (fore-and middle ground of the image) not looking at the reference photo at all. Also I used the trees shapes to support an arc perception. Over the process the image became closer to the reference photo. Basically I used the reference photo as a memory and compositional aid to support my thinking and articulation into a visual image.
  • I am satisfied with the final painting, although it became through some element (trees, people) very quickly a representation. At the end I was not sure how to continue with the shapes of the trees. Either depicting them more realistically or to change them completely in pure abstract forms? Should I have placed the ‘cathedral’ architectural lines over the painting as I did in my sketchbook? I was struggling with how far to push thoughts to became illustrative or rather as a help to move away from a photo? Reflecting on this I refer now to Francis Bacon and his illustrative or metaphorical (?) use of architectural lines.
  • I used an unstretched canvas on board for preparation to paint outdoors. Contrasting to the painting I did for the outdoor exercise in project 4, I feel that this uneveneness makes in this painting much more sense. Closer to my original ‘Artefact’ idea.
  • I find the idea of juxtaposition of two ideas – physical and virtual space – intriguing. Due to time constraints I did not elaborate this into a second painting. Although I have more idea. To combine painting with other media (photo) is an avenue that I still need to understand more.

Next time:

  • Push the painting further and move away from the tree shapes. Enforce the central perspective in a minimalistic way (drawing lines)


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