5-3-4 Exercise: Free expression

In this exercise you are asked to draw on subconscious thoughts, memories and associations. You may wish to include objects, but try to ensure that in some of your experiments there is no identifiable object.  Use some of the titles noted in the exercise brief or make up one yourself – paint three pictures using a combination of watercolour and any other medium:

This exercise calls for free thought – your imagination and sub-conscious. To paint a subject based upon a title and what it brings to mind for you with its association from your own personal experiences and imagination.

There were several subject titles suggested or you can draw from your own subject list.  I choose the following as the subject titles for my works.

  • Birth
  • Carnival
  • Desert
  • Exile




The prep drawing for the ideas behind each of these titles are shown in the small sketches.  Each picture had a separate and unique thought process behind it.  The thinking behind birth was the push from dark red infused space to the bright open.  The stress, strain and effort of pushing are indicated by the strong dramatic dark lines that seem to propel the embryonic figure forward.  Detail is absent with colour and line describing the effort and the process of birth.

There is a slight figurative element to the painting – the embryonic figure.  This is in a foetal position and is also reminiscent of a sperm – the spark of life which will result in birth.

The title had me immediately thinking of this image, the colour was also part of these initial thoughts.  The gestural lines where done as the painting developed and flowed spontaneously as part of the process of painting.  The wet into wet paint was developed after spraying/ misting parts of the paper, this allowed segments of paint to mix and merge plus dilute and other to remain strong and boldly coloured. Maybe the painting is a flash back to the births of my three children just over twenty years ago.  I was present for each and nearly had to deliver #3 as he was born about 5 minutes after arrival at the hospital.





The efforts of giving birth then transformed to a more razzmatazz painting.  Carnival was painted after my imagination summoned up the colour, sound, shape and movement of a carnival – think Mardi Gras.  When shown it my son said it was a party, which was the atmosphere I was trying to invoke.

My initial thoughts were a confusion of movement and light and I re-defined that to simpler image of a bright background with spirals, swirls and wheels to depict the movement and shape of the twirling etc. on a carnival float.  Other figurative elements in the painting are the abstract depiction – wheels of the carnival float and the stylised “fleur de lis” to represent ostrich feathers on the sequin clad curvy ladies.  The sounds and music of the carnival are represented by the coloured and shapes of the triangle forms.

Some of the influences for the colours, shapes and movement came from the fireworks which are going off most evening at present as we are at the end of October / start of November.





The barren dry lands of Desert are influenced by some of my travels in the ‘80’s and 90’s where I spend much of my time working overseas.  The rich lush climate of Britain is starkly contrasted with the dry lands of the Middle East and other areas of Africa.  The red and ochre coloured landscapes are unforgiving to both man and beast and many perish in these dry arid lands.

During my travels I was often moving by air and spent many an hour looking out of the plane window to a near featureless landscape where undulating dunes rolled on continuously hour after hour.  The flight from Melbourne to Singapore spends about 7 -8 hours flying over a dry featureless landscape like this rendering both man and beast as specks of no consequence.

The dry skull of the cow indicates that death will never be far away.  Without the skull the painting is essentially an abstract of colour and tones to represent the dry undulating land.  The warm – hot colours of reds, yellows and ochres have been used to depict the heat of scene.

The skull was drawn, this being the only planned segment of the painting.  The undulating dunes were added as the painting progressed backwards from the foreground.  The stark linear quality was reinforced by pen and ink after the painting had dried.





This is a strange land where even a multi-coloured harlequin is exiled.  It has reverse shadows, floating objects and is a deserted barren chequered wilderness, the bright yellow sky is muted and we wonder is the harlequin throwing or catching the ova.  Are the strange multi-coloured geometric shapes objects or the inhabitants of this land.

This pure imagination and I am unsure of the influences.  However, it might be an allegory for the aliens (foreigners and immigrants) so castigated by the Brexitiers who blame their own ills on the stranger in their midst.  There are a few figurative objects from the stylised figure to the sun and the egg, they are not all they seem as the sun casts reverse shadows and the egg floats.  Is it a threat or belonged to the harlequin.


“Exile : The Harlequin is cast out”