Exercise: Creating Mood and Atmosphere

10-13 & 17-18/11/15

Exercise: Creating Mood & Atmosphere

For this exercise, either create a completely new painting that evokes a powerful atmosphere of some kind or re-work one of your earlier paintings. First identify clearly what you’re trying to achieve… However you choose to approach this exercise, make extensive notes about the techniques you’ve adopted to achieve your stated aim. When you’ve finished, reflect on the success of your completed work.

Original sketch from Drawing 1 Pencil A6 in skechbook

Original sketch from Drawing 1
Pencil A6 in sketchbook

 

 

Looking at previous paintings I wasn’t particularly inspired, however, I also looked back through my old sketchbooks for ideas. I came across the Sketchbook Walk exercise in Drawing 1 where I had made several sketches of style separating two fields and hedgerows. I like the overhanging trees and various angles of the style. I tried to decide between two different views and tried a couple of watercolour sketches in my sketchbook.

 

 

Preliminary watercolour sketch View 1 A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary watercolour sketch
View 1
A5 in sketchbook

 

This view is interesting but did not evoke any mood to speak of within my mind.

Notes for prelim sketch 1 View 1

Notes for prelim sketch 1
View 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercolour sketch View 2 A5 in sketchbook

Watercolour sketch
View 2
A5 in sketchbook

I  was fairly certain that I would use view 2, however, I wasn’t sure what mood I wanted to illustrate. The original sketch was made in the summer with the trees in full leaf. I was keen to change the season to autumn yet that wasn’t enough of an atmosphere. Whilst pondering, I had the radio on, and as it was Armistice Day coming up to 11am, the two-minute silence began. Whist thinking in that quiet moment of how life would have been in the World War 1 trenches looking at the drawing, it struck me how I could make the foreground dark, wet and miserable reminiscent of the trenches. The style and fence could be symbolic of the obstacles in the way of a peaceful future and the distance could be brighter and light to show hope. Notes next to sketch indicate my thoughts at the time. I began to add the colours that I thought might aid this idea into the watercolour sketch.

Tonal and compositional sketches View 2 A5 in sketchbook

Tonal and compositional sketches
View 2
A5 in sketchbook

 

 

I felt I needed to work out the tones further and wasn’t happy with the horizontal lines so tried to add more diagonals to give more interest.

 

 

 

 

 

From my research into expressive landscapes, I was very enthusiastic about this exercise. I was particularly taken with the Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland paintings for their shapes and colours, bordering on the abstract at times – and also Emil Nolde’s work for its expressive colour that was allowed to flow and create wonderful effects. I could see how these influences could be incorporated into my painting. As noted in my sketchbook, I wasn’t feeling that oils were the right medium for my purpose. I had bought a watercolour ground that is painted onto a support and makes it react in a similar way to watercolour paper. I was hoping to incorporate texture with wet in wet watercolour to evoke the atmosphere. Below are the stages taken to try to achieve my vision:

 

It was going so well until the details were added. Up to and including picture 5 in the gallery, the painting was full of atmosphere, albeit not quite the one I was aiming for. I kept going with adding a few objects and details with watercolour and at this point it may have been rescued, however, adding oil pastel at this stage killed not only the painting but my enthusiasm also. I over did the pastel and attempted to wash it out with thinners, this just muddied the whole thing and I left everything and came away. The choice of oil pastel was made to work into the watercolour and avoid the necessity for fixing, this proved to be a mistake. The next day, I decided to try again and prepared a fresh support, without the textured acrylic this time – this had made the watercolour pool in an unattractive way the first time round. I had to wait for the ground to cure for at least 24 hours so had intended to start the next day – I was very disillusioned and despondent so didn’t feel creative for a few days. Three days later I was back. Plan B, was to continue with watercolour but to change to soft pastel, a more appropriate pairing of media.  Trying hard to create the atmosphere I had planned I spent a couple of days working on the second painting below.

Creating Mood and Atmosphere 11th Hour 11th Day 11th Month Watercolour and pastel canvas board 60x40cm

Creating Mood and Atmosphere
11th Hour 11th Day 11th Month
Watercolour and pastel canvas board 60x40cm

Again, the colour in the photograph is not closely representational of the actual painting. My tutor has often commented that the photographs are more successful colour-wise than the paintings. With this one, I initially thought this too, however, after looking at the photo for sometime and then glancing up at the painting, I changed my mind. The camera on my iPad seems to enhance blues in particular, which I must be aware of until I can source a better camera.

When you’ve finished, reflect on the success of your completed work.

  • Generally, I think the composition is a little empty – I tried to address this by making more of the middle distance.
  • I think the combination of media worked better than the first attempt.
  • I am happy with parts of the painting ie the puddles, the overhanging branches.
  • I am not convinced that the mood is successful – it’s partly there but would need explaining, which in itself is a fail.
  • To me, it’s not a wow and maybe the size and scale of the support was the wrong choice.
  • A lot of effort but minimal progress.
  • Wish I could have stopped at the fifth photo of the gallery but that did not fit the mood intended.
  • Lots of hard lessons.

 

Exercise: Aerial Perspective

09/11/15

Exercise: Aerial Perspective

Paint a simple landscape in which you exploit these three devices of aerial perspective. Which device do you find most effective or is it necessary to combine all three to achieve the desired effect?

Aerial Perspective Oil on board Approx 12x10"

Aerial Perspective
Oil on board
Approx 12×10″

I found it a challenge to take a photograph of my painting above due to my iPad enhancing the colours. I have tried tweaking the settings for the photo and got so confused I reverted back to the original as the best of a bad lot. I had tried overhead artificial lighting, a daylight bulb and fading natural light – all were “enhanced”. Having said that, the photograph is more true to life on my lap top – even more confused.

My thoughts on the three devices of aerial perspective:

  • Controlled loss of focus (in terms of sharp delineation between different tonal areas) and fading outlines are rendered through progressive loss of contrast in the distance.
    This does give a haziness that implies distance as things further away are more blurred.
  • A loss of colour saturation, ie a fading out of bright, saturated colours going into the distance towards more muted, faded shades.
    This also works as generally, things that are not so intense in colour recede.
  • Distance can also be achieved by colour temperature. Warm colours painted in the foreground will automatically achieve a sense of closeness against colder colours in the distance.
    A muted blue/green hue does imply distance too, particularly in a UK light.

Generally, I would think that a combination of these devices is probably required to give an illusion of distance for locations further north. Mediterranean and hotter locations may reduce the need for this combination. I think it really does depend on what atmosphere the artist wants to convey.

Added 23/11/15

Looking at the painting I thought there wasn’t enough contrast in the foreground so just added some splashes of colour.  This worked in the actual painting, yet again, the photograph is so far removed but here goes anyway.

Aerial Perspective Final Painting reworked.

Aerial Perspective Final Painting reworked.

 

Pre-exercise Research: Perspective

04/11/15

Pre-exercise Research: Perspective

Make sure you are clear about the distinction between linear and aerial perspective before you start work on the exercises. Collect two or three examples of each and store these in your learning log.

Linear Perspective

 :

 

The Fever Van by LS Lowry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 :

 

 

 

 

Perspective drawing for the Church of Santo Spirito in Florence

 

 

 

 

 :

 

 

An example of linear perspective using natural elements.

 

 

 

Aerial Perspective

 :

 

 

Example of aerial perspective – contrast and detail gradually diminishing into the distance.

 

 

 

 

 :

 

Scene from the Last of the Mohicans paintings by Thomas Cole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 :

Pieter Brueghel painted many scenes like this – distance is illustrated by increasing the blue/green hues the further you look. There is also an element of linear perspective in the river so the sense of distance is further heightened.

Exercise: Hard or Soft Landscape

03-04/11/15

Exercise: Hard or Soft Landscape

For this painting exercise, choose a view of either a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ landscape; this could be interpreted as urban or pastoral… You may find it useful to work using the view from a window or doorway. A window could help you to isolate a single area for your painting…

As the weather is being less than kind at the moment, (thick pea soup fog or pouring rain), using views through windows is making sense. As I have in my mind to use a soft landscape for a future exercise, I decided to try a more urban view – well as urban as a small village can be. From an upstairs window I can see over neighbours’ rooftops and gardens with sheds and outhouses and the odd tree and shrub.

I had intended to make both a landscape and portrait orientation sketch. However, as I progressed with the landscape version, it actually worked as the window frame helped to form landmarks to position elements of the view.

Preliminary sketch Pen & watercolour A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary sketch
Pen & watercolour
A5 in sketchbook

 

 

As this method worked well for the previous exercise, I decided to use watercolour again. The result is a little messy yet does give me a lot of information. Outside was quite cloudy and overcast so I had to have the bedroom light on to see what I was doing.

 

 

 

Preliminary sketch Pen A5 in sketchbook

Preliminary sketch
Pen
A5 in sketchbook

 

As the colour sketch gives me a lot of detail, I decided to make a line sketch to simplify the shapes. This clarified a complex view in my mind and I then felt confident that I could recreate the view in my painting. I don’t allow myself to use oil paint in a bedroom – I know how easy I find it to make a mess, it would take just one brush to fly out of my hand and land on the cream carpet and I’d be in serious trouble!

 

 

Work in Progress for Final Painting

The light faded very quickly today, so mid afternoon I employed a daylight bulb so I could see my board properly.  This made me realise that I had started to introduce brighter colour in the buildings and gardens, whereas I had intended to keep the outside tones muted as the weather was dull. I used the “tonking” trick again with newspaper and this worked a treat. It brought some texture into the outside and played down the colours and intensity. Pleased so far, I needed to pull everything together with the interior of the window and the foreground neighbour’s garden. I had used the negative shapes between buildings and the dark and light shapes to bring out the structures, trying hard to ignore too high a level of detail.

Final Painting

Final painting Oil on A3 board

Final painting
Oil on A3 board

This photograph (and the others to be honest), is a little grainy due to the low light levels, however, it still gives a good representation of the finished painting. I am pleased with the muted, simplified outside view, although I think the window may be a little inaccurate. Having said that, I like the mood and atmosphere I see in it, the interior is brighter due to artificial light, which makes it cosy and the outside looks a little dismal. Definitely a day to be indoors and looking out!

Exercise: View from a Window or Doorway

29 & 30/10 & 2/11/15

Exercise: View from a Window or Doorway

For this exercise, choose a view onto the world. Decide how much of the interior you wish to include and where the main focus of the picture will be… It may help you to look at some of the ways in which other artists have tackled this type of composition… Make some preliminary drawings in your sketchbook, trying out a variety of arrangements and viewpoints…

Before starting I had a look at some work of the artists suggested. I had always been drawn to the paintings of Edward Hopper, particularly those with windows and the transition between interiors and exteriors, even those with no figures just the shapes of shadows on walls. Gwen John is another artist noted, her paintings are so subtle yet dripping with atmosphere. She used muted colours and relied more on tone to tell her story and her paintings are very engaging. The third artist we are asked to look at is Raoul Dufy. I confess that I had not come across this artist before but particularly enjoyed the loosely drawn and painted watercolours. I have created a board in Pinterest to record my findings, a few examples are below:

 : Office in a Small City by Edward Hopper

Office in a Small City by Edward Hopper

 

This example gives more focus to the outside view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interior by Gwen John:

Interior by Gwen John

This beautiful painting gives the interior more importance but the window plays its part with its cast light.

Bassin de Deauville, 1935 by Raoul Dufy:

Bassin de Deauville, 1935 by Raoul Dufy

 

Here Dufy has given, if not quite equal, but a level of focus to both interior and exterior, using both colour for the interior and an extensive view to the exterior.

All of these artists’ work helped me focus on what I wanted to paint. After gazing out of several window views at home, I decided on a couple of views that had colour, perspective and simple compositional elements.

 

 

 

 

Preliminary Work

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 1 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 1
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 2 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 2
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above sketches use the interior to frame the exterior and the tones emphasise the shadows for a 3D effect. The window is also at an angle that exaggerated the perspective. Making notes about the weather conditions and pros and cons helped me decide that the portrait orientation was the more successful. However, I chose to make a couple more sketches before deciding finally which to take forward to the painting stage.

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 3 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 3
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway - Prelim sketch 4 Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

View from a Window or Doorway – Prelim sketch 4
Pen and Watercolour in A4 Sketchbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These sketches, although still framed by the doorway, concentrate more on the outside. There is less perspective as the doors are front on, although externally the decking planks do indicate linear perspective. Deciding which view (narrowed down to both portrait sketches), was difficult for me to choose. The first view seemed the most interesting and I liked the shadows on the interior, however, I was, as noted in my sketchbook, seduced by the colours of the door view. Colours aside, I finally convinced myself that the first view would make for a more successful painting.

Final Painting

The day dawned when I intended to make the final painting. Typically, it was covered with a thick layer of fog. By 9.20am it still hadn’t cleared much at all so I ploughed on as visibility wasn’t too bad for my purposes luckily.

View from a Window or Doorway - Work in progress Oil on canvas

View from a Window or Doorway – Work in progress
Oil on canvas

My initial thoughts were to make a watercolour painting as I liked the colour sketches in my sketchbook. However, as I prepared the paper in its enlarged size, I began drawing it out in pencil and just couldn’t get it right. It then struck me that I was beginning to make the kind of painting I didn’t like ie a line drawing coloured in. Overnight, I changed my mind and prepared to make an oil painting. I struggled to find the right sized board to use, until I found an old oil portrait painting that wasn’t up to scratch and just painted a neutral, mid toned ground over it in oil. I had always worried about doing this in case the previous painting showed through, this doesn’t appear to have happened. Now I have lots of supports I can re-use!

A tonal under-painting was laid down in a raw umber/ultramarine mix, putting in muted colours to map out the composition. This is the stage pictured at lunchtime.

 

View from a Window or Doorway - Work in progress Oil on canvas

View from a Window or Doorway – Work in progress
Oil on canvas

I decided to continue in the afternoon, as to be honest, the light hadn’t changed overly as still no sun had appeared. I also used my sketch to help with tonal selections. I continued until I felt the painting was finished and took a photograph for my learning log. This photograph highlighted that the right hand wall had gone a little askew and that the shadow at the top of the window was not strong enough. I then tweaked the painting to hopefully rectify these points.

 

 

 

 

 

View from a Window or Doorway Oil on canvas Approx A3

View from a Window or Doorway
Oil on canvas
Approx A3

My thoughts on the outcome:

  • Am pleased with the exterior tones and the lack of detail as a result of a looser application of paint.
  • The composition is successful and I think was the right choice.
  • There is no jarring in the colours as a fairly limited palette was used.
  • The mood has been lifted just a little to avoid the blanket fog yet is not too sunny.
  • I struggled with the wet in wet sometimes as paint was lifted off as well as laid down.
  • Pleased with the scraping off of paint to give some texture and the blotting of excess paint with newspaper to knock back the strength of colour and tone in the distant trees. (Reliable informed as a technique called tonking invented by Henry Tonks!)
  • I will review again after a few days so that the paint can settle and dry out a little to see if any adjustments are needed.
  • Noticed that the prior research had a significant effect on how I worked through this exercise ie have used the interior shadows to give perspective and mood (Edward Hopper), tones and colours are fairly muted (Gwen John) and the preliminary pen sketches loosely toned and coloured with watercolour (Raoul Dufy).

 

Research Point: Linear Perspective

17/07/15

Before you attempt the next exercise… research the basics of linear perspective.

Linear perspective helps attain the illusion of a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional surface.

Parallel lines appear to meet together in the distance at a vanishing point, this point may or may not be within the actual image but should the lines be extended they should meet at this point.

Perspective when recreated on a two-dimensional surface gives the illusion that objects close to the viewer are larger than those further away .

Objects that are pointing directly at the viewer are foreshortened to give this impression ie a finger-pointing straight forwards appears shorter than if pointing left or right.

To assist in creating linear perspective it is helpful to establish a horizon line or eye level. Lines below the eye level with angle up towards it and lines above will angle down towards it – this is the vanishing point on the horizon or eye level.

Most commonly used are one, two and three-point perspective. This relates to the number of vanishing points in the image.

One point – a simple or single view disappearing off into the distance eg road or railway track.

Two point – for two receding views, eg corner walls equals two vanishing points

Three point – views from above or below, where there are three vanishing points, those as in two point and those receding upwards or down.

There is also zero point perspective where no parallel lines exist and therefore no vanishing point. This is where scale comes into play as in the third point above. Aerial perspective also assists by less contrast in colour and tone to depict distance.

Dynamic Acrylic Landscapes (part 2) – Lynda Appleby

29/05/15

Dynamic Acrylic Landscapes with Lynda Appleby (http://www.lyndaappleby.co.uk)

Following on from our first workshop on 23rd January this year, we invited Lynda back to cover the initial brief.  Previously, as a group, we were concentrating on some colour theory and became engrossed in this leaving no time for the “dynamic” stuff.  This was great timing for me as I was about to embark on the Painting 1 Colour Theory section!

Lynda returned and demonstrated her technique and methods before leading us through the workshop.  As a collective, it was agreed that we would follow a more prescriptive course, step by step, as our group has a cross-section of experience and some have not used acrylics very extensively. We began making a tonal drawing in our sketchbooks – we all had the same photographic reference – using the photo upside down to get past the detail. We then gathered round for a demonstration from Lynda, exploring using coloured acrylic inks wet in wet, letting them run, drip and disperse as they wished.  I enjoy this kind of thing and have to confess got a little carried away and made quite a mess, both on the paper and off!

After letting hers dry, Lynda returned to colour mixing and adding dark areas on her painting following her tonal sketch as reference and then building up her painting from there. We followed suit and luckily most of my “dynamic” inks (or muddy mess) was covered as the painting progressed, although some colour and drips were visible at the bottom of the picture.  The painting is yet to be finished, when I do return to it, I intend to leave some of these spontaneous marks and drips visible to hopefully add drama to quite a serene scene.

Acrylic painting in progress Lynda Appleby Dynamic Acrylic Landscapes Workshop 29/05/15 Acrylic ink and paint Approx A3

Acrylic painting in progress
Lynda Appleby Dynamic Acrylic Landscapes Workshop
29/05/15
Acrylic ink and paint
Approx A3