The Body in Paint

studio coursework created for DRPT-3014-001 SU 2020

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Process Study # 1

memoryscape study ii, watercolour on paper (image 5x8in, paper 7x10in)

The second (more successful) study.

I created a small diorama using some of my previously collected two-dimensional collage materials and incorporated three-dimensional objects to force depth in my perspective. I knew I wanted to make it in a small box (about 5x3x1 inches when closed) so it could hypothetically be closed up and tucked away carefully. Each item included (both printed material and three-dimensional objects) are associated with memories of family members that have passed, so this box is basically a small trinket box of memories!

I made an initial study with a straight-on view, which I wasn’t very happy with. From this experience I made a second study on paper that I had applied a watercolour wash to, which I definitely preferred. I find that working on a toned surface rather than stark white increases my confidence. I also cropped the field of view and adjusted the angle.

memoryscape study i, watercolour on paper (image ~7x7in, paper 9x12in)

This image is of the first (unsuccessful, in my opinion) study I painted. 

Images of the diorama I created.

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Process Study # 2

hazy summer nights in the city iv

As a car-less person in Toronto, during this pandemic I’ve had to rely 100% on my body’s ability to move me places. As the summer gets hotter it becomes more difficult. I am physically disabled by two different work place back injuries amongst other things, and as such, over the last few years I’ve had to more carefully consider the energy costs of “functioning” in society on a daily basis. The overarching results of the pandemic show me personally that many of the accommodations disabled people have been asking for for decades are indeed possible! Regardless of what employers may say: We can work from home! We can get deliveries! We can respect the space of others around us! But it has also shown that our built environment is certainly not built for this. It’s frustrating that only when something affects enough able-bodied people is there cause for change within these built structures. 

I recorded myself moving my legs in a very casual, relaxed movement. It’s not one that exerts much energy but within the image, the implied movement: that of these shoes over a period of time (also suggesting the movement through time) holds much energy. I have had these shoes since before my first workplace injury. They have attended concerts, spent hundreds of hours in the painting studios and printmaking shops at OCAD, they have carried me throughout the streets of Toronto and Montreal and beyond. When the off-white canvas became more and more off-white through the years I dyed them a beautiful blue. Now that too is wearing away and fading in the sunlight. These shoes remind me of the ability to move and travel— something that is very very limited for my body in this time.

hazy summer nights in the city ii

hazy summer nights in the city ii, detail

hazy summer nights in the city v.i

hazy summer nights in the city v.ii

hazy summer nights in the city  v.iii

hazy summer nights in the city i

hazy summer nights in the city vi

hazy summer nights in the city vii

hazy summer nights in the city iii


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Process Study # 3

where did all the good plans go? (what do you feel, i know you know)

6x8”, watercolour on 300lb cold press paper

My tragic flaw without a doubt (she’s wearin’ joggin’ pants n she’s buyin’ sweat shirts)

4x6”, watercolour on cold press ground skin, wet media duralar, and appliqué pins

For this process study I set myself two guidelines. The first, to paint the other part of my body that is tattooed. The second, to experiment with making skins with the cold pressed watercolour ground. 

The first is important to me because my arms and hands are primarily the first point of contact I have with others: through art-making, handshaking and handholding, coffee-pouring, and long embraces. When I first began getting tattoos my mother constantly reminded me that “you can’t get a job with your arms covered in ta-ttoooos.” It didn’t phase me much, but I realized that I was using them as a way of reclaiming both control over and appreciation for my body. I hate my body (skin) less when it is adorned with images I love. The second was important to experiment with because I wanted to use the texture of the ground (poured, or brushed in various thicknesses) to create skin. 

It was an interesting experiment, and I found that manipulating the skin as it was drying resulted in ridges and valleys similar to the way stretch marks are created in human skin as we grow and change. The flexibility of the material varied depending on the thickness and application of the ground to the palette paper. 

I also toyed with wet-media duralar which is a glossy transparency that is coated with a film that makes it receptive to water based mediums such as water colour or ink. I used it to create a layer of just my tattoos— to separate and emphasize them. I used appliqué pins to attach the transparent layer to the skin— this created some distance between the layers as well as a move-able shadow beneath the lines.

the staircase (this house isn’t even my home)

digital photo, self-portrait (2019)

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Self-Directed Project


“this is the moment, this is the time / peel back your layers, have a look inside ya / this is reality, this is the start / no way around it, find who you are”

Watercolour and ink on cold press ground skin, 300lb paper,  cotton rag paper, cotton thread, sewing needles, appliqué pins

Statement of Reflection

For this final self-directed assignment, I opted to combine concepts from all three of my process studies. I particularly enjoyed creating the collaged environment within the diorama and using lighting and shadow to change the way the scene is viewed. I also wanted to create more work that dealt with my relationship to my own body and the modifications I’ve made to it by way of tattoos. Finally, the materiality of the third study— using the cold press ground to create “paint” skins and layering.

I created several smaller paintings that come together within an assemblage held together by needles, pins, and cotton thread. My previous work (prior to this course) focuses primarily on familial textiles and a specific knitted quilt my Oma created in the 1980s. This quilt, a fixture in my mother’s van became a protector and source of comfort for myself as a child and continues as an adult. When I acquired the yellow sweater in the works, it began to function in a similar way. Using the cotton thread to hold layers together on top of the sewing needles then provided a further tangible connection to the texture + textile. 

The layering of skin on skin and transparent film on skin created a dynamic environment in which to explore what each layer represents both together, and apart. Each layer covers what is below it, even if it allows the viewer to see through it. I want to continue to investigate how these layers— protective (masks, gloves, PPE), comfortable (blankets, sweaters), and the very skin we’re in— will influence what it means to be a human being moving throughout the mid-COVID world. 








watercolour on 300lb cold press paper

watercolour on skins made of cold press ground

Left: (combination) thick brush, thinned pouring 

Middle: unpainted, thinned pouring

Right: thinned brush

watercolour on thinned brushed on watercolour ground skin


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All artworks © Bri Vermeer 2014-2023
Using Format