Exercise: Painting from a Working Drawing

24, 26 & 28/11/15

Exercise: Painting from a Working Drawing

Choose a subject that you’re already familiar with, such as a corner of a room in your own home, or objects on a table by a window, and make three drawings:

  • a linear study, concentrating on the main shapes
  • a tonal study
  • a colour study

…You’ll find it easier  to use the same medium for this study as you will for the final painting as all media behave differently.

I decided to use the corner of the lounge, with both the wall lights and standard lamp on.  It was afternoon, however, as usual for this November, it’s overcast and light levels are low.  Using pencil for the linear drawing to try to keep the shapes clean and clear, I also used pencil for the main shapes then using pen for the tonal drawing. I found the pen useful for describing tone as it was small (around A6) in scale and the pen would not smudge and blur the image.

Pencil linear and pen tonal drawing A6 in A4 sketchbook

Pencil linear and pen tonal drawing
A6 in A4 sketchbook

 

I made a fundamental error with these sketches as they were made on the right hand page of my sketchbook. This prevented me having these and my colour study viewable together whilst making the final painting. To get over this I cut out the page and turned it over to be the left had page and stuck it back in my book. Now all three can be used as reference at the same time!

 

 

Colour study Pen and watercolour A6 in A4 sketchbook

Colour study
Pen and watercolour
A6 in A4 sketchbook

 

For the colour study, I stuck to using the pen to draw out the shapes and watercolour to add colour and tone. For this I used student quality pan colours although, I used artist quality tube colour for the actual painting. Again, as I did for the working outside exercise, I sorted out my colours first.

 

 

 

 

I did not use all of the colours I thought, ie Naples Yellow, Viridian nor Raw Umber, however, having the palette loaded and ready, made it simpler and quicker to paint. I also drew out the main shapes lightly in pencil and resisted the urge to use pen to “tidy” up, it also allowed me to draw with the paint itself.

Painting from a Working Drawing Watercolour on watercolour paper A4 on A3 paper

Painting from a Working Drawing
Watercolour on watercolour paper A4 on A3 paper

  • Did your sketches provide enough information for you to do your painting? If not, what else should you have included? I felt confident with the information in front of me, of course, I am very familiar with the subject so that helped too.  I found the tonal drawing the most useful although, the colour study helped to lay out my palette.
  • Did you find that being away from the subject gave you more freedom to develop your painting style? In what way? To be honest, the subject itself didn’t really inspire me into “freedom”, although, the light and shadows are always interesting to me and I enjoyed trying to show the light coming through the lamp shade and the shadows of the plant leaves. I enjoyed drawing with the paint and using wet in wet technique to achieve the tones.
  • What is your opinion of the finished painting? In the main I think it’s worked although I had to work hard at getting the darks as dark as I did. I don’t love it and I don’t hate it but I think it was good practice to have gone through the process and will be invaluable in future projects.

 

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: 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).

 

Practice of Painting – Assignment 3

26 & 28/09 – 01/102015

Assignment 3

Now that you’ve worked on several figure and portrait studies, consolidate what you’ve learned by working in a more planned and considered way on a portrait or self-portrait in either acrylic or oil paint. In this assignment you’ll be showing how your skills in handling paint and interpreting your subject are developing.

Looking at other artists’ portraiture

Explore some of the endless possibilities for arrangements in portraiture by looking at the work of other artists… Make notes in your learning log, concentrating on works that you find especially arresting or admirable.

Arrangements/composition/brushwork/colour in portraiture:
I have seen some fabulous examples of portraiture over the years that are purely focussed on the sitter. Many that do this use chiaroscuro to draw attention in onto the subject with dramatic effect – Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Da Vinci are obvious examples. A more recent example, both in era and my actually seeing it, would be Henry James by John Singer Sargent (1913). This left a lasting impression for its sheer dominance of a space.  I enjoyed the way the left shoulder was lost into the background with the slightly more unusual light source coming from the right. As most of the background and figure itself was dark, the flesh of the face and hand on the right had significance and you understood the character of the man from this. Using the same artist, a converse treatment is one of the portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife 1885. The figures are contained within an interior, however, neither are centre stage, certainly not “His Wife”, who seems almost insignificant going off the right edge of the canvas. Sargent doesn’t dismiss her completely though, as her clothing is elaborate, however simply rendered. Although we are left in no doubt as to whom is main subject of the painting.

A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to go to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries – there was a wonderful array of styles, subjects and interpretations by current portrait artists. To choose one or two favourites was almost impossible, however for this purpose I settled on these examples. “Norman” by Jason Sullivan is a narrative work showing the man within his environment. The painting is set in the Salt Marshes on an overcast day, all tones are related back to this, even the red windcheater Norman is wearing fits right into the grey tones yet gives the image a lift. Based in Lymington in Hampshire, not so far from me, Norman lives on his small boat (which is in the background of the painting), is in his seventies and has previously cut reeds for New Forest thatchers. He seems at one with his world, we have the sense that he needs no more.

The other painting I absolutely loved is “Fire” in oil by Simon Davis RP RBSA. It measures only 6.5 x 5.5″, yet for me, packs a punch. A simple head and shoulders view of a young woman, a limited palette with bold decisive marks. It has a variety of soft and sharp edges and the face is moulded by its brush strokes – if ever (in my humble opinion) the handling of paint and clarity of colour was an example of less is more, this is it. Simply beautiful.

(NB I was unable to find “Norman” or “Fire” on-line to create a link to the actual paintings unfortunately).

Assignment 3 – Self Portrait

After lengthy consideration throughout this section, I have decided to attempt another self-portrait. This is for two reasons: me being the only model I can guarantee has availability as required; because I find this genre particularly challenging and need to face it (no pun intended) head on (sorry!).

My personal challenges with a self-portrait are:

  1. keeping still as a model yet moving back to assess progress as a painter
  2. portraying my character rather than the grumpy painter that’s struggling
  3. ignoring my perception of what I look like and really looking at what I can see
  4. working the entire painting rather than fiddling with detail – I have less trouble with this when painting someone else
  5. chasing the light – can become so involved in the task, I don’t notice light changing until it’s too late!

Preparation:

Alluding to number 3 above and possibly 2 and 4, I decided to angle the mirror back so that I was looking down into it, thus avoiding the traditional face on, three-quarters or profile views. This is also not an angle I usually see myself from, so hopefully would avoid pre-conceived ideas of myself.

I was hoping to reflect some aspects of my work area in the painting for visual interest, however, the mirror angle just gave a view of the ceiling!

As I wanted to use a mid-sized canvas board and the only one I had was pre-used, I decided to recycle. The board was 38x46cm and had previously been not one, but two quite impasto acrylic paintings, therefore there was a lot of texture on the surface. I had already washed over a warm neutral ground colour, however, it was a little too bumpy for a portrait. I sanded the surface so that some texture was retained but not huge crevices. This, I hoped would compensate a little for having a simple background.

Preliminary Tonal Drawing Pencil in A4 sketchbook

Preliminary Tonal Drawing
Pencil in A4 sketchbook

 

In my sketchbook, I drew a frame 50% smaller in scale than my board to create a sketch to work on tone and composition.  As I was already clear in my mind how I wanted to work, I found this was enough. (In assignment 2, I also thought I knew what composition I wanted but still tried others just in case – this time I am already certain).

We were also advised in the course notes, to premix our flesh colours, this I admit, I don’t normally do. I was conscious of keeping a fairly limited palette so chose warm and cool versions of red, blue and yellow, plus some earth colours and white. ls ten a limited palette?

Colours used:
Cadmium Red (warm)
Alzarin Crimson (cool)
Ultramarine Blue (warm)
Manganese Blue (cool)
Cadmium Yellow (warm)
Cadmium Lemon (cool)
Naples Yellow
Burnt Sienna
Raw Umber
Titanium White

Using varying combinations of some of the above I tried to create dark, mid and light tones in warm, cool and neutral mixes. Retrospectively, the neutral wasn’t far removed from the warm. Making swatches of these colours with mixing notes I taped the sheet to my easel for easy reference. During the portrait classes I attend, we are encouraged not to overuse white as it can cool colours and make them chalky, hence the Naples yellow.

Flesh colour mixes and notes

Flesh colour mixes and notes

Set up for self portrait: mirror, board and easel, preliminary sketch, colour mixing notes, palette and brushes ready to go.

Set up for self-portrait:
mirror, board and easel, preliminary sketch, colour mixing notes, palette and brushes ready to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had decided to use oil paint as, although I enjoyed switching to acrylics occasionally for previous exercises, returning to oil felt “right”. I like to work with dilute oil paint in raw umber and Naples yellow initially to map out my composition and rough tones before getting involved with colour, sometimes rubbing out shapes and lighter areas with a cloth, not something easily done with acrylics and thinned paint dries very quickly. It’s also a more tactile way of working and helps me feel like I’m moulding the structure of the face (in theory).

Below is a gallery of work in progress photos which maps out the highs and lows of the exercise. After day one of painting, I left the work feeling satisfied with progress, thinking, I just need to work on the eyes, clothes and background tomorrow and then I’m done. What a difference a night makes! Next day, work on the eyes I did, and work and work and work – in reality fiddled! Big mistake – I had strayed from the style used elsewhere in the painting and now the eyes were awful! I know I should work all of the painting at the same rate and level but ignored it. I scrubbed out the eyes and went to lunch. Coming back, I reassessed – the nose was too high the mouth too high and the left side of the face too wide. I scraped off all features and returned to sculpting shapes, I finally finished that day at the same stage as the previous one. Lesson 1: Work all of the painting not just one area to the same level, Lesson 2: Avoid detail until the structure is correct, Lesson 3: Light, light light! At this point I closed and locked the door – made dinner, had 3 glasses of wine and tried to forget the whole thing!

I was constantly stepping back to reassess my progress, nearing the end I reconsidered the background. I had chosen to wear a black fleece top, which contrasted well with the red, paint smeared apron and although my hair is fair, there was a good amount of darker tone through it. Therefore, I decided to keep the background lighter so that the figure came forward. As I wanted, as previously stated, to make the background more interesting, I needed to keep the texture visible. Using a mixture of brush and palette knife, colour was added, trying to keep the light tones to the left. I then scraped back so that the relief of the underlying texture showed through.  This seems to have worked quite nicely.

Evaluating the results, I was pleased with the painting close up – however, moving it to another position and standing back, the mouth lacked definition as the top lip should have been significantly darker than the lower. The painting did not reflect that so I adjusted the tones here. I also noticed that the right side of the face was a little flat, so worked a little more moulding with warm and dark tones – this is something I find I often do.  I think I will leave it at that, as I may detract rather than add at this stage.

Assignment 3 - Final Painting Self-portrait Oil on Canvas Board 38x46cm

Assignment 3 – Final Painting
Self-portrait
Oil on Canvas Board 38x46cm

This was to be the final painting, however, there were aspects I wasn’t happy with.

  • The mouth is too harsh and angular
  • The right eye (as viewed) is slightly askew giving a boss-eyed look
  • The general effect is too severe – this is something my husband always points out when I attempt a self-portrait. When asked if I had made the same effect this time, he replied “yes but you always do”.

I resolved to reassess and try to correct these points. This is not a matter of vanity as I try to paint what I see, but more of portraying the person behind the features. I do have my moments, yet generally I am good-natured and approachable – not a terrifying school mistress!

 

Having left a good day and a half to let the painting sit and dry out a little, it was easier to rework and paint on top of what was there. The adjustments didn’t take too long and a fresh eye always helps, if I hadn’t done this I would have regretted it.

Assignment 3 Self-portrait After final reassessment and rework Oil on canvas board 38x46cm

Assignment 3
Self-portrait
After final reassessment and rework
Oil on canvas board
38x46cm

Self Assessment:

Had I overcome my five initial challenges?

  1. keeping still as a model yet moving back to assess progress as a painter
  2. portraying my character rather than the grumpy painter that’s struggling
  3. ignoring my perception of what I look like and really looking at what I can see
  4. working the entire painting rather than fiddling with detail – I have less trouble with this when painting someone else
  5. chasing the light – can become so involved in the task, I don’t notice light changing until it’s too late!

Results:

  1. This still challenged me, although I did try to minimise the problem by placing the easel in most accessible position – I did sometimes, however, return to it and look in the mirror and I wasn’t there! Ongoing!
  2. This one nearly got the better of me, but the final re-evaluation and rework saved my bacon. I reduced the severity of expression and made some tonal value changes more subtle and am happy.
  3. This was one of the easiest ones to overcome because of the angle I chose – it may still be a factor in more traditional poses.
  4. Ah – this was tricky, individual eyelashes? Whatever was I thinking? This journey is well documented above and I won’t dwell on it – lesson learnt!
  5. Again, I did exactly this – trying to get on and finish regardless is not advisable – another lesson learnt.

Successes:

  • The perspective of the pose was a saviour and noted above – using the initial sketch was very helpful although I accept that I have increased the scale in the painting compared with the drawing.
  • The textured ground has made more interesting marks and enlivened the painting.
  • I am pleased with the colours compositionally, they relate well to each other and make a fairly dramatic image.
  • The painting of the clothes including my trusty paint encrusted apron has a realistic appearance.
  • My confidence had grown in what I wanted to achieve especially with my nemesis of self portraiture.
  • Probably the most important one – I think it actually does look like me.

 

Practice of Painting – Assignment 2

28-30/07/15

Assignment 2

Your painting for this assignment should demonstrate your understanding of colour, tone, composition and the development of your technique in your chosen medium.

Set up a still life in the corner of a room or table – somewhere that gives a surrounding context. Alternatively, you may want to develop further one of the sketches or exercises that you’ve done in this part of the course.

I decided I wanted to use the interior of the cottage with its character and homely feel.  I had to remember that the focus of the painting was the still life, and that the surroundings were the context and atmosphere I wanted to give the image, and not to make the interior itself overly strong.

Assignment 2 - Preliminary tonal  & compositional drawings. Pencil in A4 sketchbook.

Assignment 2 – Preliminary tonal & compositional drawings.
Pencil in A4 sketchbook.

I began by taking a few photographs using the “square” option on my iPad to find the view. I am drawn to the square format and made a tonal drawing in my sketchbook in that orientation. It seemed to work well, however, I also tried a more oblong/portrait format with the same focus and felt it did not give me any better a composition.

Using a mix of ultramarine, burnt sienna and a touch of white to increase opacity, I painted my stretched paper with a warm but neutral ground, leaning more to the sienna than the blue.  The paper used was portrait format as I was still a little uncertain about the cropping of the background. I made the decision to draw as much as would be contained in that format and then look at how I would crop the image to achieve the composition I wanted.  I used masking tape to mark out the edges and found I still returned to my original composition of just off-square.

Assignment 2 - Work in progress showing the masked cropping of the larger drawing

Assignment 2 – Work in progress showing the masked cropping of the larger drawing

The drawings and painting were done over two afternoons to try to maintain similar light conditions. The light sources were from two windows opposite to each other in the room, although the sun, (when it appeared at intervals), came from the south window ie offset and behind the chair.  The sun cast the main shadows from the south window and the opposite light gave some further highlights on the crockery and metal tray. I wanted to capture, however fleeting, the feel of a sunny afternoon tea and chat break as opposed to a cold, winter’s afternoon with a roaring fire.

I was also keen to replicate the various textures and surfaces in the scene: The matt leather armchair, the medium pile rug with its swirling pattern in the weave, the slightly different glazes between the teapot/mug set and the not quite matching cup and saucer and the reflections and shine of the metal tray.

On the whole I think I have achieved most of my goals:

  • the background is muted and plays a supporting role to the focal point still life
  • the perspective from a slightly elevated view point, although still seated
  • the textures of the rug, table runner with creases, and shine and reflections of the tray
  • the scale of the small teapot, and supporting crockery is accurate

Things I could have done better:

  • the teapot spout may be a little enlarged
  • the cushion on the chair may be a little too dominant
  • the hand painted patterns on the crockery was quite tricky surprisingly, I needed it to look hand painted yet it was still quite uniform in life, I think my efforts are a little too varied
  • is the sunlight cast on the carpet too strong and distracting?
  • ellipses!!!
Assignment 2 - final work before physical cropping

Assignment 2 – final work before physical cropping

The photograph (left) shows the extended drawing in the portrait format and the cropped painting within it.  This worked well to help me achieve perspective and pin point the composition, although I was 90% sure I wanted a near square format. This brings me to the subject of preliminary drawing and planning. Throughout the drawing and painting courses so far, I have evolved to plan extensively and experiment with different media, views and compositions ad infinitum it seems.  I have therefore, taken a long time to come to the second assignment and now feel that maybe I overdo this stage. With this painting, I made a tonal drawing (which I find invaluable), another sketch and many notes and also experimented a little with the final work. In retrospect, this is probably all that was needed. I must learn to be less regimented, I feel, and be more spontaneous. Prior to these courses, I rarely planned my work and it was a matter of luck as to whether I produced a successful piece. Fail to plan, then plan to fail! However, I am coming to the conclusion that this is a crucial step in creating a process that works for me, and, as I progress, my instincts are becoming more acute in that I don’t need to physically put everything down on paper. My critical process includes the tonal drawing, composition plan and maybe some colour mixes, and not the pages of repeat “try-outs” as in the Still Life with Flowers. This may have the effect of killing off any happy accidents that give the final work its life.

Assignment 2 - Final Work Acrylic on paper 37 x 41cm

Assignment 2 – Final Work
Acrylic on paper
37 x 41cm

 

Still Life Colour Studies. Exercise: Colour Accuracy

01/07/15

Still Life Colour Studies

From one still life arrangement we were to complete two out of the three exercise options. I decided to choose 1) Colour Accuracy and 3) Still Life with Colour used to Evoke Mood. The option I discarded was Still Life with Complimentary Colours, the reason being that I had used this type of colour selection in some previous exercises and wanted to try something different. Having said that, my main objects were green and red in colour.

Colour Accuracy

As noted in the course materials, colour accuracy is somewhat of a misnomer as individuals perceive colour quite differently sometimes, however, we were encouraged to be as objective as we could.

Still Life Colour Studies - Tonal Sketch and Notes 6b pencil in A4 sketchbook

Still Life Colour Studies – Tonal Sketch and Notes
6b pencil in A4 sketchbook

 

Although not overly detailed, this sketch helped me with placement of the objects and tonal contrasts. I used the same sketch for both exercises. Notes made refer to both exercises.

 

 

 

 

Still Life Colour Studies - Colour Accuracy Acrylic on Cartridge Paper 28x41cm

Still Life Colour Studies – Colour Accuracy
Acrylic on Cartridge Paper
28x41cm

Assess colours against subject:

  • Does it stand out? Choosing an empty green wine bottle and an empty red wine glass against a creamy/white cloth, I feel the subject and painting are of equal prominence in colour and tone.
  • Are certain colours too vivid or not bright enough? I am pleased with the glass objects in that I feel I recreated their colours faithfully.  My main area of concern is the cloth.  It had some reflective colours from the glass objects but they were very subtle.  This subtlety was difficult to capture and I found it hard to match the shadow colours. I think I may have overused my interpretation of the colour rather than actually recreating it.
  • Is the painting lighter in tone or darker than the prevailing tones of the still life arrangement itself? The tones of the main objects are very similar to that of the painted ones. This being, I think, because of the tonal drawing I made initially. However, the dark tones I’ve put into the cloth are again a little too strong. I think I have become used to over-emphasising darks for 3D effect – is this wrong??

 

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

 

Exercise: Still Life with Man Made Objects

18/06/15

Still Life with Man Made Objects

Select some man-made objects… Find objects that are linked by common use… spend time working out the format and composition… Make a careful evaluation of tonal variation… Think in advance about how you would exploit visual drama…

Still Life with Man Made Objects Preparatory sketches exploring composition and tonal variations. 10x10cm in A4 sketchbook

Still Life with Man Made Objects
Preparatory sketches exploring composition and tonal variations.
10x10cm in A4 sketchbook

Still Life with Man Made Objects Colour Mixing and Tonal Variation Practice A4 Sketchbook

Still Life with Man Made Objects
Colour Mixing and Tonal Variation Practice
A4 Sketchbook

Still Life with Man Made Objects Colour Mixing and Tonal Variation Practice 2 A4 Sketchbook

Still Life with Man Made Objects
Colour Mixing and Tonal Variation Practice 2
A4 Sketchbook

Still Life with Man Made Objects Acrylic painting WIP - main shapes blocked in, following my tonal sketch as a map 30x30cm square acrylic on canvas

Still Life with Man Made Objects
Acrylic painting WIP 1 – main shapes blocked in, following my tonal sketch as a map
30x30cm square acrylic on canvas

19 & 20/06/15

Still Life with Man Made Objects Acrylic painting WIP 2 - solidifying shapes and reaffirming tones, following my tonal sketch as a map 30x30cm square acrylic on canvas

Still Life with Man Made Objects
Acrylic painting WIP 2 – solidifying shapes and reaffirming tones, following my tonal sketch as a map
30x30cm square acrylic on canvas

Still Life with Man Made Objects Completed painting - Colours brightened and patterns added, final highlights and tonal adjustments 30x30cm square acrylic on canvas

Still Life with Man Made Objects
Completed painting – Colours brightened and patterns added, final highlights and tonal adjustments
30x30cm square acrylic on canvas

When you’ve completed your still life, look at it carefully and make notes in your learning log. Comment on the following:

  • your planning and working methods – after making two previous still life paintings in quick succession, I was more confident about the composition, scale and format I wanted to use. The preliminary sketch confirmed my thoughts but was still very useful, had the sketch not worked, I would have had the opportunity to rethink.  The most valuable sketch because of this, was the tonal “map” of the arrangement.
  • your choice of format and scale – as above. The objects were not large, however, the image benefited from enlarging them, giving them more importance and as they were predominantly spherical in shape, a square format focused in on them well.
  • the composition – following on from the previous comment, I also wanted to put the objects into an interior’s context but liked the way I could actually see the outside through the open door.  This cast some interesting shadows and gave more tonal interest to whole image, along with some contrasting angles and straight lines against the curves and ellipses of the objects. This was something I liked when researching 19th and 20th Century still life painters and paintings ie Table in Front of the Window by Pierre Bonnard.
  • colour interest – I think that this is the first time ever, I have consciously looked at the colours, mixes and their tonal variations.  I have never before worked out these mixes and tonal gradations beforehand – it’s always been a case of pick and mix on the fly.  Whereas that “method” worked at times, at others, I could see a lack of uniformity across the painting and no thought to warm or cool colours or using local colour as shadow. This painting, I feel, gels well in colour because they were premixed.
  • your use of tonal contrast – as this painting was done over two days with varying weather conditions from bright sunlight to dull and overcast, plus light sources from the open door and the window to right, not to mention overhead lighting when it was particularly dark, my preliminary tonal sketch was invaluable.  It truly served as a map of tones across the painting – I was able to follow this directly from the sketch and did not use the fluctuating light sources over the course of the time.  The objects themselves gave me the shapes, angles, proportions and colour but the sketch gave me the tones. As the teapot and teacup are predominantly white, I decided to use a neutral ground colour. I used ultramarine, burnt sienna and white giving a warm neutral.  This worked brilliantly and helped me gauge the tones within the white crockery and door frames.
  • your use of paint handling – from the previous two still life paintings, where I used much more dilute paint and inks, I found I was less heavy-handed here.  I have learnt (as mentioned in my sketchbook) from portrait class that darker tones appear to work much better when thinner in consistency and lights benefit from being thicker. I have tried to sculpt with the paint using flat, reasonably large brushes.  From using the tonal sketch, I also think I applied paint with more confidence than usual and this stopped me overworking it.

Finally, look carefully at all three still life paintings that you’ve completed for this project… decide which is the most successful.

I think as a painting, taking into consideration all the above comments, the final Still Life with Man Made Objects is the most successful painting, however, as an image, I still like the Drawing in Paint still life because of its colours and more loose approach, its flaws have an appeal to me.

What elements have particularly contributed to the success of this painting?

The tonal work, because of the preliminary sketch, is consistent and the use of colour on a predominantly white object to show tone, works well I think.  Also, the fact that the entire painting is made with just three colours, plus white, gives it a cohesive appearance across the whole picture.

Which areas need further development and practice?

All of the elements I have explored, actually using the tonal sketch, thinking about colour with tone beforehand, are new to me and require more practice.  What I would really like to do is to combine the freshness of the “Drawing in Paint” still life, with the techniques of the “Still Life with Man Made Objects”.

If you did a still life painting for Assignment One, revisit this now and make notes on what you could do differently to improve it.

Still life - Assignment 1 Oil on canvas board A3 Session 3

Still life – Assignment 1
Oil on canvas board A3
Session 3

Where do I start??? My main positive is the drawing, and I think that’s it.  From what I have learnt so far over the course of Part 2 I would consider:

  • Being more selective regarding the objects in the arrangement – they have no relationship.
  • Although tonal drawings were done, they do not appear to have been utilised to their full effect. Even though a light box was used, the lighting does not seem fully consistent.
  • The paint handling was a little heavy-handed yet appears tentative in places. The darks, particularly in the bottle and back ground have no subtly and the glass is dull and opaque rather than rich and transparent.
  • This is an example of my pick and mix approach to colour where it has not worked.  By putting more thought into the colours, their tones and transparency versus opacity, I think I would have achieved more freshness.  Rather than thinking on my feet and making the wrong decisions, the hard work would have been done regarding the colour and tone and this would have given me more confidence in placing the paint and making the painting less overworked, dull and heavy.

I have to say that the photograph is also improving the painting by seemingly lifting the colour – in real life, my comments most definitely apply.

 

Exercise: Drawing in Paint

02/06/15

Look around your house for an arrangement of objects that just happens to be there…  Work initially in your sketchbook with a pencil or some other drawing medium…  notice linear aspects… look at hard lines and angles… 

Drawing in Paint Kitchen utensils hanging on a rack in the kitchen. One tonal and one linear sketch exploring composition. Pencil in A4 sketchbook.

Drawing in Paint
Kitchen utensils hanging on a rack in the kitchen.
One tonal and one linear sketch exploring composition.
Pencil in A4 sketchbook.

Drawing in Paint Kitchen utensils hanging on a rack in the kitchen. One tonal and one linear sketch exploring composition. Larger compositional work through sketch. Pencil in A4 sketchbook

Drawing in Paint
Kitchen utensils hanging on a rack in the kitchen.
One tonal and one linear sketch exploring composition.
Larger compositional work through sketch.
Pencil in A4 sketchbook.

NB More notes added within the sketchbook as requested by my tutor from last assignment’s feedback.  This is helping me refer back and forwards over my thoughts and experiments, rather than confining most thoughts to my learning log blog which isn’t always as accessible.

03 & 09/06/15

Decided to use stretched cartridge paper and taped to the ratio 7:10 scaled up to 28 x 40cm.  I stuck to my thoughts in my sketchbook by using a more dilute consistency of paint.  The background wooden unit that the objects were hanging on was painted white, all the utensils bar two were stainless steel, so I decided to play around with the colours a little.  The silicon masher and mini whisk were indeed an acid green, this played off against the steely blue (Daler Rowney System 3 Process Cyan mixed with titanium white), and instead of flat white for the unit, I used a dilute cadmium red (as a complimentary to the green) for the shadows with a hint of the blue to add dark tone.  As suggested I used a more linear way of working yet still added some tone to give form.  This is a completely different way of working for me as I generally use more neat paint, I am happy with the outcome as it gives a fresher image that isn’t overworked and looks more modern and less “traditional”.

Final painting. Acrylic on cartridge paper. 28x40cm

Drawing in Paint.
Final painting.
Acrylic on cartridge paper.
28x40cm

 

Exercise: Complimentary Colours

01/05/15

Complimentary Colours

Complimentary colours are at opposite sides of the colour spectrum. One way to learn about locating and mixing these colours is to make your own colour wheel.

Colour wheel exploring complimentary colours Attempt 1 Acrylic

Colour wheel exploring complimentary colours
Attempt 1
Acrylic

06/05/15

Colour wheel exploring complimentary colours Attempt 2 Acrylic

Colour wheel exploring complimentary colours
Attempt 2
Acrylic

Next, consider the twelve colours from Chevreul’s colour circle and lay each colour next to its opposite or complimentary on a grey ground.  Try to match the darker tone to the lighter by adding white.

and

Make mixtures of each pair of complimentary colours. Make a note of the colours mixed and describe the resulting colour. this is another way of creating broken or tertiary colours.

and

Look closely at the effect that complimentary colours have on each other and try to explain this in your notes.

Comparing and mixing complimentary colours on a neutral grey ground. Acrylic.

Comparing and mixing complimentary colours on a neutral grey ground.
Acrylic.

NB Observations are noted next to examples.