Jennifer Letchet Paintings

My work explores fundamental elements of painting, the relationship between colour and line. I intend my paintings to affect the viewer optically with the illusion of shapes moving and receding. Colour theory is very important to my work. I use specific hues to symbolise ideas or emotions. The contained shapes on canvases seem more like objects than lines. My recent work explores natural and man-made disasters and the impact this has on our environment. I want to record the changing landscape through simplified shapes and colours.

Monday, 28 February 2011

3 (Silver Graphite)

3 (Silver Graphite) is a new painting, which I finished last week.  It measures 32 x 25 cm, and it is egg tempera paint on a chalk ground.  I have used board rather than a flexible surface.  On this surface, I have drawn a triangle.  This shape came from throwing a dice six times to get 3 co-ordinates.  Using these co-ordinates I have plotted a shape.  The process is very precise and almost mathematical.  I have given all control to the die, I have omitted intuition and to some degree, myself as an author.

I plan to let the dice decide my hues as well.  With this piece, I kept it quite neutral, and I wanted it to relate to the shape.  I chose a silver which would associate with a shard of glass or a piece of metal.  I wanted a harsh colour to contrast with the soft ground.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Futura Bold/Futura Oblique

A creative review of the above exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery (03/03/11 - 13/03/11) by Rachel Garfield.  Please see

The artists in the exhibitions Futura Bold and Futura Oblique, at the Nunnery in Bow are at a point of transformation. They have all come together at Wimbledon College of Art. In pursuing their own work in this context, they become as a team to challenge their individual trajectory.  It is an intense moment - and demanding.  Subjecting themselves to public scrutiny mid way through the course ups the stakes further.  That they do so is a sign of their ambition for the work. Subjecting oneself to the rigours of peer learning and critique as well as pedagogical support is a decisive bid for change. The exhibitions therefore will be varied, as the titles suggest both forthright and quiet, claiming many forms and representing the many discussions in the current debates in art.  Boris Groys in Art Power suggests ‘that today’s art operates in the gap between formal equality of all art forms and their factual inequality’[1] These exhibitions are demonstrations of just that – the form and methodology is varied and absolutely contingent upon the structure – the curators Juan Bolivar and Julia Alvarez choosing works from the arbitrary grouping of a student cohort. The exhibitions aims to defy that which it is: the student show.  Yet, the process that the students have undergone is itself a factor that draws conversations between them, challenging the viewer to see it in the exhibition as well as in the individual works.  As exhibitions they will require generosity but once given the rewards will be worth it.

Rachel Garfield, February 2011

[1] Boris Groys, “Art Power”, MIT 2008, p16

Egg Tempera Paint

For my newly primed boards, I am going to paint using egg tempera.  This has been a new exploration for me, making my own paint.  I have long been interested in colour theory, and this style of painting allows me to mix my own colours very easily from pure pigments.  The consistency you achieve is akin to poster paint, and you can make it as thin or as thick as you like.

I have been mixing a teaspoon of pigment with a few drops of water to make a paste.  In a separate bowl I pierce an egg yolk to make sure all the eggy goodness goes into my bowl and not the egg yolk sack.  I mix half of this yolk with my paste using a palette knife.  You need to work it very thoroughly to push all the pigment into the egg.  If you can, by a muller which is more effective at mixing the paint.  The egg acts as a binder, if it is not properly mixed, your pigment will fall off and become unstable.

I have been mixing pearl lustre pigments (from Cornelissen's - with my raw pigments to get a shiny surface.  These pearlescent pigments are even more unstable, so I recommend adding more egg than usual.  The paint is very quick drying - in a bout ten minutes your surface will be completely dry.  I add a little drop of linseed oil to slow down this drying process and add shine.

Tempera paintings on the chalk ground

Chalk Ground

I have started some new paintings on board.  I wanted a completely flat surface which is why I chose board over canvas.  To create a totally smooth surface, I have used a chalk ground.  Chalk grounds are a form of homemade Gesso.  They require multiple layers, painting wet on wet.  It takes two days to dry, and once it has it can be wet-sanded and dry-sanded to give a finish that shines.

It is the most amazing surface to draw and paint on.  I make it using rabbit-skin glue and whiting.  I cannot use oil paint on this surface, it is only ideal for acrylics or egg tempera paint.  I am going to use egg tempera on my pieces.

Before you make the ground, the boards need to be coated in two layers of rabbit skin (one layer on the back as well to prevent warping) glue to size the board.  Allow this to dry overnight.

To make the ground, first I soak the rabbit skin glue crystals in water (14 parts water, 1 part rabbit) for 2 hours until it has expanded.  Then I heat the rabbit skin glue (put the pot of glue in a bucket of hot water, as if you were melting chocolate) until it is smooth, glossy and has an even caramel colour.

Secondly, I take the glue out and spoon whiting in until I have a mound in the centre.  Roughly this is a half glue solution and whiting mix.  When stirred, the ground should look like double cream in consistency and colour.

Next I apply the ground.  It will need 7 layers.  Apply the first layer quickly, and push out any air bubbles (these will create cracks otherwise).  Create texture in this layer using your fingers, to ensure the next layer sticks.  Apply the second layer immediately, working the brush in the other direction (i.e. first layer horizontal brush-lines, second layer vertical etc.).  When the second layer has begun to dull (not dry), apply the third.  Use this technique for the next 4 layers.

Once dry, wet sand using a sanding block (a bit like a sponge, can be easily bought from most hardware stores/ironmongers).  Next dry sand with a fine sandpaper in circular movements.  Finally polish with a cloth.  Huzzah! One shiny surface achieved!  It is a lot of effort, but worth it.

The effect prior to sanding

Wet sanded finish

The final effect - glossy and shiny!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Geometric Wall Drawings

Day 3 - in the Project Space
This is how my work progressed in day 3:

Drawing out Linear Possibility, colouring pencils on paper, 400 x 150 cm

The first (3 dice rolls) and second (4 dice throws) shapes of Layered Possibility, egg tempera paint and graphite on paper, 150 x 150 cm

Progressive Possibility (5 Shapes and 1 Line) , egg tempera paint on paper, 400 x 150 cm.  The shapes get larger and have more sides due to the increase in scale in relation to the increase in dice throws

The next form to Layered Possibility

Linear Possibility (detail)

Two more layers to Layered Possibility

Overall, I think the 3 days I had in the project space were very useful.  I enjoyed working on a larger scale, working quicker (and to a time restriction) and experimenting with different mediums.  I found it particularly helpful in inspiring new ideas and directions for my work to go in.  I think my new style of work, which is quite architectural and has a relationship with space, works better when larger.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

New experimentation

This week I am in the project space, which is a lot larger than my own studio space.  I've been experimenting on a larger scale (2 pieces measuring 130 cm x 400 cm and 1 measuring 130 cm x 150 cm) with my shapes on paper.  I have found that this has led to new ideas about scale, composition.  I have wanted to try out lots of shapes together and explore ideas of sequencing.  In one piece I have been layering shapes to create an intricate web of drawn lines.  On a second larger piece, I have tried evolving orms by increasing die throws and scale simultaneously.  I wanted to convey the idea of creation, of design, of evolving.

This is how the pieces look on Day 2:

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tutorial with Jordan Baseman 03/02/11

Possibility, 2011 (see below photography)
Why is it on a frame?  The modularity of the nine canvases is confusing - Baseman did not like the grid format.  The work relates to space and architecture, but does not own the space it inhabits.  It is too small and looks overwhelmed by it's surroundings.  My work currently relates to colour, space, architecture, lines and form.

Catalogue of shape, 2011 (see below)
Baseman perceived this as a beautiful piece of her work unlike anything else.  He wasn't sure if it was a sculpture, drawing, book or floor piece, and he didn't care.  What it was, was irrelevant, it's content was the attraction.  I should have listened to my instincts, and left the piece on the floor, and not used the plinth.  He wasn't sure if they were islands or shapes or what the concept was.  It was interesting as a result.

Research Folio
Easily navigable, well organised/presented thematically, but too large.  I need to edit my research and works.  Only discuss key works.  Artists to research: Alan Mc Collum, Emma Hart, The Boyle Family (RA Sculpture Show 2011), Deanna Retherbridge, and Christo's film Running Fence.

What to do next...
I need to experiment more, become influenced by my space.  I want to draw bigger, on the wall (directly/indirectly), on to the floor.  Everything is political, I cannot deny or reject, I must either accept political associations or just downplay their importance to my work.  I must enjoy what I do.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Finding narrative

With the crits of last week and my upcoming review on Thursday, I have been thinking about the direction of my work.  I need to make a decision really, I don't like leaving things unfinished, but I must resolve whether I will take the designed shapes further or change my ideas altogether.

Sometimes I think my work would be so much easier if I had a narrative.  This narrative would give motivation for my work (when I say motivation I do not mean that I am lazy and need a reason to paint, but a reason why my work is important; I want it to make sense and have meaning).  A narrative would inform the viewer about what it is my work means.  As a process painter, my work is about art and the making of art.  Artist-narrators' work is about the process of art and they also have another agenda: their work makes a comment, they have a narrative.  Is narrative painting more important or somehow supreme?  Do I need a separate agenda for my work to be deemed important?

At the moment, I feel I have lost the meaning of my work, as I often do.  It's not that I don't believe in it, but I have been bogged down in this whole island saga that I have forgotten why I was drawing altogether.  I need to spend time 'reconnecting' with my work and find out what I want to draw/paint.  It's the ultimate quest for me.