How to Paint Like Frank Bowling | Tate

My name is Frank Bowling and I’m a painter Today, my friend, Spencer Richard, and my grandson, Frederick Bowling will show you some of my procedures Today we are demonstrating some of Frank’s techniques from the artworks in the Tate collection Spread Out Ron Kitaj and Sacha Jason Guyana Dreams We both assist Frank with his paintings and over the years we’ve seen him experiment in many, many different ways. Here are some of the materials that he uses in his paintings Canvas Acrylic paint in bright shades Ammonia Found objects Acrylic gel Water and spray Spatula, palette knives and brushes String Chalk and a file to grate it Glitter in a salt shaker Lots of jars, buckets, containers Ammonia is corrosive and should not be inhaled, touched or swallowed When following these steps at home, please wear suitable protection such as masks and gloves We are starting off by completely saturating the canvas It breaks the surface of the canvas Sometimes it’s treated a little bit We put an extra piece of canvas on the floor to absorb the overflow of at this stage water but eventually paint Squeeze some paint directly from the tube onto the canvas Spread the paint evenly across the canvas Once the canvas has stained, we begin to add multiple colors, paint, gel and ammonia With the ammonia, that breaks down the paint and also the gel so it can flow into each other more so it’s a push and pull The gel is to thicken up the paint to increase and facilitate the viscosity As I pour it onto the canvas, it will bleed into the other colour that’s already there or you could establish your own patterns of what you want to see Geometry is an important feature of Frank’s work because of this, circles and rectangles often appear What I’m about to do is put this gel bucket under the canvas and then trace some shape on the surface of the canvas so we have additional elements for improvisation as the canvas develops In Spread Out Ron Kitaj and Sacha Jason Guyana Dreams you can see that he uses semi-circles This can be achieved by tying a piece of chalk to a piece of string and securing it in the center of your hand or if you can’t reach a pin, or even better a friend who can help you As you move the chalk, the string will make sure it’s always the same distance from the center creating an arc or circle Frank’s paintings develop over many months with many layers of paint and materials being applied to the surface Each application of paint is a new chance to explore Try different colours and concentrations Apply the paint in different ways, such as pouring, using the pallet knife or spraying water so that it runs down the canvas in droplets What we’re doing at this stage is just picking the canvas up and folding it to allow the paint to spread across the surface and then we see where we go from there Frank’s painting work is a sort of diary in his life They often include embedded objects which help tell the story of the time that actually the painting was made We’ve collected a few items from around the studio You can embed these using acrylic gel which creates a thick transparent layer on top of the painting Dollop the gel onto the canvas using a spatula and then place the objects in it We’ve placed these shells in the gel randomly and then the next stage is we smash them up Anything that looks interesting or attractive or colourful, just go and put it in your painting We enforce the composition with some strong mark-making Frank does this in a number of ways In this work, we have sprinkled gold dust on the shattered shells and then we will pour ammonia on it to turn the gold into blue and create another shimmer aspect to the surface In the final stages Frank is still concerned with the element of continuance in spontaneity and as such, any brush that is filled with paint will be flicked onto the surface of the canvas to create punctuation in the conversation that has already been established I guess the key element of all of this is to just go for it


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