Last Saturday I visited Trenoweth Quarry with two other Fine Art students, in their second year, hosted by their tutor David Paton.
David is an artist and geographer who is helping me with research for my second body of paintings made with pigments from waste material at Trenoweth Quarry. His studio is outdoors and he makes sculptures with the granite that is processed at the site.
The quarry is working, so the landscape is incredibly different to the abandoned mining sites I have visited for field work before. There was a greater energy at the quarry, an energy that contrasts greatly to the stillness of the Poldice Valley on the Bissoe trail.
Walking around the quarry with David, Charlie and Ross - meeting the owner of the site and the people who worked there - got me thinking about that energy a bit more. I knew it was something I needed to manifest in the paintings - that sense of a place being alive with industry.
I collected granite waste from the huge skip that contained all of the waste 'sludge'. The waste is simply all the dust that comes off the saw when cutting the granite which then turns into sludge when funnelled down into the waste pile with water.
Alongside the granite waste I was also given a small amount of the raw, red material that is used to mark the granite when processing at the quarry. Although not waste material, the red is indicative of the workings of the quarry and visually, gives incredible contrast against the neutral tones of the granite.
Back in the studio this week, I have been processing my pigments from the quarry. From the samples of granite waste I had collected, I managed to obtain a variety of different greys and beige tones.
From the red material I made two different pigments and also an ink - with the intention to make drawings or to add fine detail to the paintings when they are in their final stages.
I have decided to make two out of the three paintings in this series on a new surface; using painting linen rather than canvas. The darker grey/brown tones of the linen gives the limited palette from Trenoweth a stronger voice. I felt that the pigments may get lost on a canvas surface due to their subtle tonal differences.
I did however make a start on a third Trenoweth painting, with canvas as the background surface, just to test it out. The paint certainly is easier to work with on canvas in comparison to the painting linen and gave the colours a different quality. They didn't get lost in the way I had thought that they might. Either way, I think it will be interesting to have different painting surfaces come into play with the paintings I make from now on.
This week I have also been working on a new selection of small canvas'. I have decided to make more of these as they are working well and are a joy to work on alongside the larger paintings which need more time and consideration. The smaller paintings seem to be able to hold more texture, layering and tone without appearing too overworked.
I think I will aim for 10 of these small paintings per location - resulting in 30 8x8" canvas' if I stick to only three field work sites. I can imagine these hung in a grid structure for my degree show, highlighting the colour changes between the industrial sites I have visited in a more intimate and obvious way than the larger paintings.
I also finally took the plunge to do something else with the painting that I overworked and have been struggling with for a while now. I unstretched it and cut up the 'bits' of it that I liked, before stretching them to make more smaller paintings. I think although it is good to let a frustrating painting sit for a bit, to figure out whether or not it is worth salvaging, this one just didn't feel right with me.
Now I have transformed it into smaller pieces that can be re-worked into new paintings, I feel more optimistic about the whole thing. It wasn't that the painting was bad - it just wasn't sitting right as a whole painting. There were individual compositions within the entirety of it that made wonderful landscapes in their own right.
I had my last glaze-making session at Brickworks this week, too. It was an exciting one as I was able to see the results of the mining waste colourant in the glaze base recipe that I had made up the week before - and it actually had worked!
We also learnt about bi-axel line blends, the mixing of two different base glaze recipes and/or colourants. We made a set of test tiles using our own bi-axel blends to figure out what ratios of the two separate elements worked best together. I made a line blend using a transparent base glaze with two of my waste mining pigments - starting with 100% A, then 90% A + 10% B and so on until the glaze was coloured with 100% B.
Bi-axel blend tests like these help to figure out exactly what quanities of a material you might need in a glaze that uses two different colourants or base recipes. I'm excited to see the results next week!
Now that Cornwall has had a rather generous hit of snow, the studios are closed and my week has come to an early end. I did, however, manage to finish up the second Bissoe painting with one final layer before I left the studio last night. I had thought that this painting was finished but after sitting with it for a while, realised it needed just a little something more. As soon as that final layer was applied, it all came together.
For now I'll be enjoying the rarity of snow in Cornwall but am looking forward to next week in the studio, which brings with it the tying together of a number of unfinished paintings and the planning of my third (and potentially final) field trip, to Geevor Tin mine.