The Process Behind 'Stiff Upper Lip': Part 3

Missed the first parts? Click Here.

From the free association phase of the planning process I went through, I knew that I wanted the bathysphere to look like a germinating seed with roots that were reminiscent of the central nervous system. It also needed to have been put under so much pressure that it was starting to crumple. My initial idea can be seen above.

I wanted to work on the area where the cable attaches to the bathysphere to further the idea of a germinating seed. I started by drawing a linking piece inspired by brutalist sculpture but I couldn't get it to work. I was in a minor rut with the problem so I made my dinner: a jacket potato. But my problems continued; when I got the potato out of the bag, it had gone a tad manky in numerous places. I threw it in the bin. Things weren't going well. Then I had the idea of using the gammy potato to make a 3D representation of the bathysphere. I fished it out of the bin and started to carve. I attached the completed sculpture to a large ball of brown paper wrapped in bubble wrap. Photographs were then taken from slightly different angles. In the end, I decided my idea of having a sculpture representing a single leaf wasn't working for me.

This may all sound like I've wasted a lot of time cutting up potatoes and having fun with bubble wrap, but no, it had shown me a route that I shouldn't travel. So I literally went back to the drawing board.

This time I tried to extend the attaching section upwards to suggest growth. After a few thumbnail sketches I settled on this:

As you can see, I've developed the look of the bathysphere itself and the creature within too. One other minor visual addition that adds greatly to the meaning of the painting are the hanging chains. I had the problem of making the bathysphere look like it was descending vertically, rather than swinging like a demolition ball. A factor that made this worse was the lack of as visible horizon. Part one of my solution was to suggest the horizon through the direction of the clouds and then to ensure that the main descending cable was perpendicular to this suggested horizon. Part two was the inclusion of the chains. If the bathysphere was swinging, the chains would be trailing behind in the opposite direction. The chains hanging vertically shows there is no lateral movement. Okay, the bathysphere could technically be ascending, but I attempted to get round this by pacing it in the lower third of the painting. Any ideas on a better solution to show it is descending?

I was happier with this design although I thought the attachment needed to be a little less angular and more fluid to complement the crumpled nature of the bathysphere. So when I transferred this drawing on to the painting I added a tendril that wound its way around the main cable. This was the final piece that made me happy with the overall design.

For a more detailed look at the painting of the brass of the bathysphere have a look at the video below:

One aspect I've yet to touch on are the ghost-like creatures:

Okay, maybe they're not the traditional white sheet type of ghost, but they are certainly ghostly.

Have you ever watched a film and thought, I know that actor from something else? If you're like me, you avoid the easy option of using the internet and think about the problem for a fair few minutes with no success. Then at some point that day or even later that week, the answer pops into your head. The same thing happened with the ghosts. I had been thinking for a while about what I wanted them to look like and then one day whilst talking on the phone, I was absentmindedly doodling and this just popped out of my subconscious

Sometimes it is a good idea to put a lot of thought into something and then leave it for a while; the solution often comes when least expected.

Many thanks for reading about the process behind this painting, I hope it has been informative. My next posts will detail the meaning of the painting.

For a time lapse video of the entire painting process watch the videos below:

Signed Limited Editions Prints of
'Stiff Upper Lip' are available from my shop:

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