Research Points: Interiors


Research the work of the Dutch Realist genre painters and choose two or three paintings that particularly appeal to you. Look at the devices employed to draw the viewer into the experience of the occupants of the room.

Johannes Vemeer (1632-1675)

A fairly obvious choice for looking at interiors, Vermeer was famous for his scenes of 17th Century domestic life.

The Music Lesson by Johaness Vemeer. The Royal Collection at St James' Palace

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vemeer.
The Royal Collection at St James’ Palace


Vemeer has used perspective to show depth and space in the room. His subjects appear to be unaware of his gaze and the interior itself is almost as important. The light from the window illuminates the figures and elevates them as the focal point, as does the tiled floor guiding the eye towards them. Adding in the table with its detailed cloth and jug, chair and cello gives a narrative to what could have been a static pose.





Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684)

A contemporary of Vemeer, de Hooch is not so familiar to me.  However, he also was known for painting interiors, with the specific device of looking through an open door.

Card Players in a Sunlit Room by Pieter de Hooch The Royal Collection, Windsor

Card Players in a Sunlit Room by Pieter de Hooch
The Royal Collection, Windsor


This painting is a realistic looking scene of a group of card players.  The light is expertly and convincingly painted from the outside to in, the sheen on the door and the cast sunlight coming in through the door on to the floor points to the room’s occupants. Again the chequered tiles draw the eye to them and also on out to the courtyard, introducing the advancing figure to the story. The offset placement of the key figures give it a realistic composition, with one figure standing adding to the scale of the room and its contents. The more I look at this the more I like it. Its colours are fairly neutral but for the few flashes of red to lift its impact.



Look at interiors that have been painted by various artists from different periods. Look especially at how illusions of space have been created, how doorways and windows form a part of the composition and how furniture and objects are depicted either as a central focus for the painting or as secondary to any human drama.

Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-71) by David Hockney (b 1937)

This painting is a portrait of the artist’s friends, however, it says so much more. It is well documented that the sitters were not getting along too well at the time and the placement of the figures in their setting does give the impression of division. The open door not only creates a barrier but seems to be offering a means of escape – if only for Percy the cat! Placing the figures against the light of the open door does not throw them into the spotlight but seems to make them become part of the interior being contre jour.



Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife (1885) by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)

Sargent has given a sense of space through open doors in this painting and then taken it away again by adding the gloom of the hallway and the seemingly unobtainable exit by the front door. The direction of the floor boards lead away into the dark, foreboding, hallway.  I always forget that this image includes Stevenson’s wife as she blends into the interior so well I think she’s part of the furniture – she almost appears to be hiding! The rug on the floor is horizontal and Stevenson is pacing (I imagine) back and forth deep in thought and has been caught mid ponder.

Richard Diebenkorn – Royal Academy of Arts


Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)

I just caught this exhibition before it was due to close on the following Sunday – I had wanted to attend the OCA study visit but was away at the time. I am so glad I made the effort to visit under my own steam as this is, probably, an unlikely to be repeated opportunity.

I have to confess that I had not been aware of this artist until his exhibition was publicised through the OCA and on Facebook groups to which I belong. I also admit that I know little or virtually nothing about abstract art other than I like a piece of work or I don’t, it speaks to me or it doesn’t and if it does, it usually has the colour red in it. There, a total philistine! I remember many an occasion at the tea-table (we had tea in those days, not dinner!), with my mum and dad watching the news when some art work was causing a storm at the Tate Modern – prime example was the “pile of bricks”, or even a Picasso or two. Its fascinating what you absorb when you’re young from those around you. My mum was as proud as anything with my school art works, I remember catching her trotting round to my neighbour’s one afternoon after school, with a painting I’d done for my O Level course work to show it off to her. Both parents were very supportive of my endeavours, with dad taking me off to town and buying me all the materials I would need for my art lessons – a small fortune in those days. However, back to the tea-table where everyone said “Look at that! A five year old could do that!” – including me! So, there I was in front of quite a lot of abstract work at this exhibition and all these memories came tumbling over me – quite emotional! Is that what abstract art is about – making you feel not just see, or is that all art???

Anyway, my first thought was, I thought that there would be more – I had decided to go round quickly first and then go back to those works I particularly liked.  However, after discovering it was only three rooms, I went round again slowly looking at everything carefully, and then again. My second main thought? I wish there was more!

Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy

Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy

I have to admit, I am true to my roots, in that I particularly loved the representative work, the life drawings, the figures, they all had so much energy, I enjoyed the workings over and over. I thought the still life in interiors were great (maybe because that is where I’m up to in my course – the negative shapes that built the structure and the patterns that weren’t ignored but celebrated as an excuse for more colour).  I was drawn to the “Ashtray and Doors” 1962, such a simple, almost throw away subject but it was beautiful and had narrative (no smoking ban in those days!).

In my humble opinion, I came away thinking that Richard Diebenkorn was a master in composition and colour, my example would be “Cityscape #1” 1963.  It has pattern, light and shapes that are recognisable yet don’t have to be – it makes sense to me, the flattened perspective works and still somehow manages to represent distance.  The seemingly cross over work, abstract-representative-abstract, is accepted by my brain, I’m getting a few steps closer! Looking at those of the Ocean Park series that were displayed, I did struggle, I warm to curves rather than angles and straight lines. However, I was drawn to the Ocean Park #27 painting for some time – there was more to it than geometric shapes, I liked the under painting and reworked lines and shapes – I felt absorbed but am not sure why.

Works I returned to for second or third viewings:

  • All the monochromatic life and figure drawings, I could see the struggle and observation in every mark.
  • Cityscape #1
  • Ashtray and Doors
  • Interior with View of Buildings – a large work that took a little “looking at”, so I did, for what felt like at least 10 minutes!
  • Girl on a Terrace – mesmerising and a little uncomfortable in composition (not as in disturbing but as in making you work to see it).
  • I even went back to the Disintegrating Pig!!

Research Point


Research Point

Find out more about the golden section.  Find at least six examples by a range of artists and look at how they have used the golden section in the composition of their pictures.  Work out what is good about certain compositional arrangements and what works less well.  Make notes on your thoughts.

The golden section has several aliases such as the golden ratio, golden mean and divine proportion. It’s a proven mathematical ratio that is seen in nature and repeated in architecture and design.  The ratio being 1:1.618…, where 1.618 is infinite and denoted by the Greek lower case letter phi. I must be a bit slow as it took a while for me to get this. If an area is bisected at the point of this ratio, this produces a square and a rectangle, the resulting rectangle can then be bisected at this ratio again and so on.  An area can be repeatedly sectioned like this and elements of a composition may be placed in this golden section, which has been said to be aesthetically pleasing to the human eye, it has been proven that we are hard-wired to recognise such patterns.  It is loosely equivalent to the rule of thirds, which I understood much more easily, where elements are placed asymmetrically to avoid centring which is deemed to be less pleasing.  However, the golden ratio is more complex and therefore more varied, for example it can even be applied to creating spiral in nature as in a snail’s shell etc.

Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci – The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci, not unsurprisingly with his scientific approaches, was known to make use of this compositional aid.  With the Last Supper, he has on the surface, placed his main focus directly in the in middle. The image may be divided in several ways using the ratio, something is happening in each section – length and width ways. Although, again to me, the rule of thirds is more obvious.

Seurat - A Sunday on la Grande Jatte

Seurat – A Sunday on la Grande Jatte


In this example, it is more obvious to me that Seurat has used the Golden Section.  The figures on the right are placed in the rectangular segment widthways and the reclining figures on the left are in the rectangular segment top to bottom.  A slight spiralling effect can be seen where the ratio split is repeatedly around the canvas.



Ingres - The Small Bather

Ingres – The Small Bather



Initially, I looked at Ingres – The Small Bather and thought yes I see the ratio at work here, yet again, when I try to put it into words, what I really see is the rule of thirds.  Why do I struggle with this? Maybe it’s putting a natural inclination into a scientific formula and it just doesn’t feel right.





Dali - Sleep

Dali – Sleep


Salvador Dali’s The Sleep, is a simpler composition and I can see that the main structure of the face is in the square and the “tail” end is in the repeat of the ratio split.




Corbusier - Red Violin

Corbusier – Red Violin


Botticelli - Slander

Botticelli – Slander









The more complex a composition, the more difficulty I have in explaining how the formula fits, yet I can see it working. I think the conclusion I must come to is, I see but can’t explain. The feel of a composition with a good sprinkling of the rule of thirds is more understandable to me. I have had another look at my final assignment work and, I think, the golden ratio formula may be applied – this made me chuckle as I certainly didn’t consciously work this through – I think I may have just proved the hard wiring theory to myself at least!


Assignment 5 – Option 3: Drawing Outdoors

27/11 – 08/12/14

Assignment 5 Option 3 – Drawing Outdoors

Process and Progress:



Fig 1 – Watercolour wet in wet washes

Fig 2 – Building watercolour layers and defining the middle ground trees

Fig 3 – Adding in acrylic inks and building tone and colour

Fig 4 – Adding definition, tone and colour to focal point iron work.  Washed out the indigo blue watercolour as seems too strong

Fig 5 – Middle ground woodland still too strong.  Added creased tissue paper with 50:50 PVA glue and water – fresh start but with some colour and marks showing through. Began adding texture, colour and tone to the concrete buttresses.  Adhered torn hand-made paper to the bottom left corner and added inks and watercolour for foliage

Fig 6 – Adding brighter ink to the woodland and watercolour washes into  the river

Fig 7 – Using water-soluble Derwent Graphik pens, sepia drawing and brush pens to draw into the under-painting, bringing in the details and building more texture with mark making.

Fig 8 – Addition of more washes, completing all features, building tone in shadow areas, adding colour, definition and texture with oil pastels and colour brush pens.

Fig 9 – Working in the texture in the wooden plank walkway, increasing tone in the middle ground taking down the brightness. Worked into the foreground foliage increasing darks with dark blue brush pen, working negative spaces to bring out natural shapes of leaves with highlight of Graphik pen.

Fig 10 – Water built up with ink pens, oil pastel and washes.

Final work

Final work

Self Assessment
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
material, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
I continued experimentation with different media and drawing tools and tried to push them and myself by letting them find their own way in a sense. As well as inks, pens and oil pastels etc.  I tried textural effects with different papers and salt.  Compositionally, careful planning and the trying out of different views made it easier to be free with how the work was made within a considered design.

Quality of Outcome content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
Initially, I was excited to try all sorts of ideas and techniques and if I hadn’t gone through the lengthy process of experimenting and trialling effects in my sketchbook and elsewhere, I think there would have been a definite lack of coherence.  By following the process, I achieved a loose and fluid under-painting which I feel has been successfully pulled together by drawing and mark making with detail and accuracy where necessary yet the image remains lively.

Demonstration of Creativity imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.
I used my imagination to create a version of the scene that I hope has enhanced an autumnal feel by my use of colour and texture.  All of the planned elements are there, yet I was determined to avoid a photographic representation, the feelings that the location evokes in me are demonstrated by the treatment given.  Textures, smells and sounds inspired the work and helped develop a representation of a favourite walk.  I didn’t want to rely on laborious, detailed and intricate drawing of branches, mosses and foliage but make the best of what the media and techniques gave me and work with whatever effects occurred.

Context reflection, research, critical thinking (learning log).
I have continued to use my blog to record my reflection of progress and exercises.  I have learnt lessons and recorded them clearly, together with the research undertaken this has informed my decision-making and direction in the making process.

Reflection of Final Work

I have left the assignment drawing for a couple of days and returned to it to re-evaluate and decide whether I am entirely happy with the result.  My thoughts:

  • From a distance the trees immediately to the left of the iron girder appear too vertical and are not distinct from the girder itself.
  • The whole image may need more “pulling together”.
  • The texture and tone in the foliage in the foreground is too flat and indistinct.

Rework to Address the Above

Assignment 5 Option 3 - Drawing Outdoors Final and Complete Piece of Work

Assignment 5
Option 3 – Drawing Outdoors
Final and Complete Piece of Work

Points Above Addressed by:

  • Lightened the end of the iron girder to bring it forward
  • Added more tone and texture to the offending group of trees, plus made them less vertical by adding tonal branches.
  • Brought colours across the drawing to unify and using oil pastels on their side to bring out the relief of the tissue creases to indicate branches.
  • Added lights and darks to the foreground foliage with oil pastels and worked into the negative shapes with dark brush pens to bring the leaves forward.

Detail Photographs

As this particular assignment is being assessed purely on-line due to time restrictions, I have included close-up detail photographs to further illustrate the textures and details.

Detail 1

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 2











Detail 3

Detail 3


Detail 4

Detail 4










Detail 5

Detail 5









Assignment 5 Drawing Outdoors – Media Experimentation and Selection

17 & 18/11/14

Assignment 5 Drawing Outdoors – Media Experimentation and Selection

In my mind I wanted to use water based media to produce washes particularly with wet in wet effects. The following experiments were mainly focussed on the woodland in the middle ground of my composition and which colours to use for what.  I was also keen to try out salt effects both with sea salt and table salt to disperse the ink and watercolour to produce texture. I’ve taken some work in progress photos to show how the layers were built up.

Colour media experiments with notes

Colour media experiments with notes

A mixture of watercolour, acrylic ink and oil pastels.

Sketchbook page showing the colours I intended to use following the colour studies. Also, the adding texture with screwed up tissue and hand-made paper,
A mixture of watercolour, acrylic ink and oil pastels.


From the above studies and playing around with colours and media, I made a rough plan in my sketch book of the colours of ink and watercolour I wanted to use.  I had seen some mixed media work using tissue paper as a textured base so thought I’d try this, plus I had some hand-made paper that was very absorbent and frayed freely at a torn edge. Texture is a key part of this drawing so I also wanted to try using salt  sprinkled onto wet media and see how it reacted, I used large grain sea salt and fine grain table salt.  I imagined that the larger grain would be useful to describe the moss on the

Further experimentation with textures using: Oil pastel as a resist Salt to diffuse pigment Hand-made paper to use wet in wet pigment.

Further experimentation with textures using:
Oil pastel as a resist
Salt to diffuse pigment
Hand-made paper to use wet in wet pigment.

concrete and the finer grain would give a diffused effect to show rough texture.  I could, of course,

have used rough watercolour paper to show this, However, I made a conscious decision to use smooth hot pressed paper as I can add roughness but not take it away and be more selective in where this was done.






Exercise: Detailed Studies


Exercise: Detailed Studies

… Explore all of the features of your subjects in detail.  Alternatively, could you present these objects in a simplified or less focussed way?  Beware of sentimental or fussy elements.

As I have narrowed down my composition to a specific sections of the gates with a back drop of receding trees, bushes and foliage, I will be relying on enlarging all aspects to at least an A2 scale. This means the details of the mechanics and the natural forms will be important regardless of the expressive nature of the treatments and techniques I hope to use.  I have tried to make studies from differing angles to help me understand the three dimensions, shapes and forms.  The pencil drawings assisted with this and the limited palette colour studies aided the tonal considerations.

Exercise: Detailed Studies 4B Pencil - A6

Exercise: Detailed Studies
4B Pencil – A6


Exercise: Detailed Studies 4B Pencil - A6

Exercise: Detailed Studies
4B Pencil – A6


Exercise: Detailed Studies 4B Pencil - A6

Exercise: Detailed Studies
4B Pencil – A6


Exercise: Detailed Studies Graphik Line Painters & Dark Sepia Artist Pen - A6

Exercise: Detailed Studies
Graphik Line Painters & Dark Sepia Artist Pen – A6


Exercise: Detailed Studies Watercolour - Indigo & Burnt Sienna - A6

Exercise: Detailed Studies
Watercolour – Indigo & Burnt Sienna – A6

Now, and before I begin the final piece, I want to fully explore colours, textures, materials, tools and mark making options to decide on the overall style and atmosphere I want to achieve.


Exercise: Composition


Exercise: Composition

Exercise: Composition Study 1 - Landscape Orientation Looking North Study 2 - Portrait Orientation Looking North Water-soluble Graphite Stick (plus pen on study 1)

Exercise: Composition
Study 1 – Landscape Orientation Looking North
Study 2 – Portrait Orientation Looking North
Water-soluble Graphite Stick (plus pen on study 1)

Notes:  Having already explored a portrait orientation for my view, I may struggle to incorporate all the “required” elements.  It was good to explore the landscape possibility too.  This may, however, include too much.  With the portrait version, I have to be careful not to give the tree too much prominence and move it away from the central position it occupies here.

Exercise: Composition Study 3 - Portrait Orientation Looking South Study 4 - Landscape Orientation Looking South Water-soluble Graphite Stick

Exercise: Composition
Study 3 – Portrait Orientation Looking South
Study 4 – Landscape Orientation Looking South
Water-soluble Graphite Stick

I still haven’t quite let go of the possibility of using the South view for my final assignment work.  As I was unhappy about including the mill houses in the background, and I had already decided to zoom in on the sluice gates in the North view, I thought I should do that with this one too – just to be sure.  My notes are written at the time of drawing and are interesting to compare with my table of assessments against considered criteria a while later – see below.

Exercise: Composition Study 5 - Portrait Orientation Looking North Water-soluble Graphite Stick

Exercise: Composition
Study 5 – Portrait Orientation Looking North
Water-soluble Graphite Stick

Not entirely satisfied with the variety of composition studies so returned to the North facing view and zoomed in even more.  The tree is less centre stage and the mix of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines are more interesting.  The criteria I felt were important to me are listed and have been incorporated into the upcoming table, checking each composition against each point.


Atmosphere & Appeal Opportunities for Media Effects Representational or Abstract Perspective – Aerial and/or Linear
Study 1 Traditional not overly appealing Features may be too small to work on the iron rust etc Too representational – boring Good for perspective, both aerial and linear
Study 2 Middle ground could be atmospheric, has more appeal as more focussed on subject Able to use effects in wooded area, plus some on sluice gate features Quite design led – abstraction could come from the media effects Linear and aerial perspective
Study 3 Atmosphere low, although subject does have appeal for me Success would be purely down to media handling Definite abstract possibilities Linea only – not a bad thing but may be better to illustrate both
Study 4 As Study 3 Opportunity for effects but think a flat approach may be better Definitely abstract – from a distance this looks an interesting design – a completely different direction Linear only
Study 5 Both – softening of hard structure with mid and back ground trees Opportunity for effects to show textures etc An element of both – the patterns, shapes and lines of the interest have shifted to the right Both incorporated but to a lesser degree – yet doesn’t detract from the view

This was a good process to go through – I left it over lunch to be able to come back with fresh eyes and stood my sketchbook up on an easel to view from a distance.  This clarified the whole effect of each study – taking each in turn and applied my assessment of my criteria.


My favourites were between studies 4 and 5 much to my surprise.

Study 4:  An interesting composition for abstract treatment.  Something I could revisit but for this assignment, I’m thinking it could all be too new and would not demonstrate what I have learnt over the duration of the course.  I will, however, have these sketches and studies in my sketchbook, should I want to develop this further.

Study 5:  This has all the elements that would show progress and learning eg:

  • observation
  • mark making
  • perspectives
  • atmosphere
  • composition

I think that this study, compared with number 2, which is similar, has shifted its focal point to the right hand side with interesting shapes.  It is simplified with less elements ie no water to speak of, less vegetation but enough to soften the overall composition.  Some interesting effects clan be added for textures without throwing the “kitchen sink” at it and making the overall result incoherent.  I hope this will produce a pleasing, interesting and engaging take on the subject I’ve studied a lot over the last couple of weeks.