Exercise: Creating Mood and Atmosphere

03-09/09/15

Exercise: Creating Mood and Atmosphere

For this exercise you can choose to paint a full figure portrait, a head and shoulders portrait or a self-portrait… should be unusual or expressive in some way. It can be true to life or not, depending on the effects you wish to achieve… Decide what you’re trying to achieve at the outset and make some notes in your learning log. Come back to this when you’ve finished your painting and assess the extent to which you’ve achieved your objectives.

Instead of working this through in my learning log initially, I decided to use my sketchbook and then photograph both notes and scribblings/sketches so that the thought process can be followed in both.

Creating Mood & Atmosphere Sketchbook notes and sketches 1

Creating Mood & Atmosphere
Sketchbook notes and sketches 1

Creating Mood & Atmosphere Own mono print from life model used as reference noted in sketchbook

Creating Mood & Atmosphere
Own mono print from life model used as reference noted in sketchbook

Creating Mood & Atmosphere Ink drawings with stick from mono print reference Sketchbook notes 2

Creating Mood & Atmosphere
Ink drawings with stick from mono print reference
Sketchbook notes 2

Below are attempts (using another life class drawing) to produce a 70s psychedelia mood and atmosphere drawing on the thumbnails in sketch book notes 1.

Wet in wet acrylic inks, figures and motifs building on previous thumbnails. Sketchbook notes 3

Wet in wet acrylic inks, figures and motifs building on previous thumbnails.
Sketchbook notes 3

Rethinking using life figures only are not really portraits, imagined or realistic.

Rethinking composition notes, sketches and thumbnail. Sketchbook notes 4

Rethinking composition notes, sketches and thumbnail.
Sketchbook notes 4

Reference material for inspiration that I looked at and notes in sketchbook notes 4 above.

Reference material mentioned in sketchbook notes 4.

Reference material mentioned in sketchbook notes 4.

Media and colour swatches, objectives and decisions in sketchbook notes 5.

Media and colour swatches, objectives and decisions in sketchbook notes 5

Media and colour swatches, objectives and decisions in sketchbook notes 5

1970s make-up reference photo, colourful, big eyelashes.

1970s make-up reference photo

1970s make-up reference photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sketchbook notes showing decisions made, draft image, review and amendments.

Sketchbook notes and draft image sketchbook 6

Sketchbook notes and draft image sketchbook 6

Although, I appear to have gone to nth degree to plan out my painting, I still allowed myself some experimentation with the final image. Positions were lightly marked in with an HB pencil so that the flowers may be outlined with masking fluid.  I usually avoid using this as it is too rigid, however, in this case, the whole idea was to use the flat, opacity of the gouache for the intended pop art feel of the flowers. I then washed in clean water in the area around the petals so that I could drop in the purple acrylic ink. This, in effect, obliterated the pencil marks which caused mild panic, until I realised that I had drawn the figures several times already so knew where I wanted what, so just painted them in with orange ink. This, into the still damp purple, fused and merge nicely, which alleviated the perceived problem of how to treat the figures with less importance. The face was painted with a mixture of acrylic inks (purple and orange) and some gouache for the nose shape and mouth. Tones were built up wet in wet.  The irises of the eyes, which I wanted to be “startling” in colour were painted with the only blue used – Process Cyan acrylic ink and enhanced with gouache using its opacity. The flowers painted last, with care taken over which colours went where.

Results:

Mood and atmosphere planned – flower power/psychedelia/pop art/happiness/mysticism: Achieved? Absolutely not! I had created an interesting but in-cohesive image that didn’t really say anything. It’s not unattractive but looking back, my objectives were not really moods, they were an era.  I had initially been drawn to a darker subject and should have stayed with that, I had tried to force a feeling and mood onto myself that wasn’t really there. I seem to be drawn to sadness in people’s eyes and even the face in the finished painting can’t be called happy, she actually looks afraid.

Feeling deflated, I went to have lunch and ponder my next move.

On  my return, I picked up my black ink and stick again, looking at Marlene Dumas’ portraits that I was looking to for reference before. In fact all the reference material I was trying to use, should have told me what I really wanted to paint!

I started to draw with the stick and black ink, roughly following the head position of my previous self-portrait, then sprayed the ink with clean water. I worked like this for several minutes, drawing and spraying. There was definitely a mood there, even if the drawing was crude. I decided to let the paper dry completely and then work into the face with pastel and charcoal. Working spontaneously I reformed the features and let it happen, the runs on the left eye (as happened with my own self-portrait) gave a haunted look to the face. I decided to leave this and worked around it.

Glancing down at Dumas’ portrait Julie – the Woman, where only the eyes and mouth are naturalised and the rest of the face is blocked in red, I picked up a dark red pastel and rubbed it all over the face. Leaving the left eye, nose and mouth, I started to see fear and distrust in the expression. Enhancing both eyes slightly and darkening around the head, the hair could have been a head scarf. I decided to leave the ambiguity and let the viewer decide.

Creating Mood & Atmosphere Painting 2 Black & sepia ink, pastel and charcoal on paper.

Creating Mood & Atmosphere
Painting 2
Black & sepia ink, pastel and charcoal on paper.

I now feel I have fulfilled the brief.

Lesson learnt

Just as feelings can not be truly explained in words, mood and atmosphere can not be planned – they have to be felt. It is not just in the imagination, it is in the soul.

 

Still Life Colour Studies. Exercise: Still Life with Colour Used to Evoke Mood

09-10/07/15

Still Life with Colour Used to Evoke Mood

Aims:

  • Attempt to give a smoky, “club room” feel, dusty, oppressive, dark yet comforting and enveloping.
  • Dark, rich colours – exaggerated darks
  • Ground Colour; Rich, nicotine/whiskey/claret – evoke cigars, pipes and musty books – clandestine.
Still Life Colour Studies - Still Life Arrangement

Still Life Colour Studies – Still Life Arrangement

 

We were to use the same arrangement for both exercises. On the right is the group of objects set up.  As you can see it was a fairly bright day with multiple light sources from the open doors to the left and window to the right.  Using the same tonal sketch as for the previous exercise helped me focus in on the objects to remove superfluous surroundings and try to create the atmosphere described above.

 

 

 

 

Still Life Colour Studies - Still Life with Colour Used to Evoke Mood Acrylic on cartridge paper 29x41cm

Still Life Colour Studies – Still Life with Colour Used to Evoke Mood
Acrylic on cartridge paper
29x41cm

Assessment of how well my aims have been achieved:

  • Used  dark plummy brown as the ground colour so that I had to “draw out” the objects from the dark.
  • Started by using fairly realistic colours and gradually introduced more earthy, rich colours for different tones.
  • Painted in the cloth in muted greys and washed over with tones of burnt sienna to give a nicotine stained effect.

I lost my way a little with pre-mixed colours so just went with the flow and used the atmosphere I wanted to create dictate the colours.

  • Made a nice dusty grey with burnt sienna, ultramarine and Naples yellow which was useful to give a dust-like bloom on objects.
  • Mid-painting I switched from using a white to lighten colour to Naples yellow which made the colours more muted.

At the end of day one, I was very disappointed and had decided to start again the next day. However, coming back to it and introducing the dusty greys and Naples yellow made me more satisfied with the end result.

Set out your completed colour still life studies side by side and make notes in your learning log about the different effects you’ve been able to create using the same group of objects.

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

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

Still Life Colour Studies - Still Life with Colour Used to Evoke Mood Acrylic on cartridge paper 29x41cm

Still Life Colour Studies – Still Life with Colour Used to Evoke Mood
Acrylic on cartridge paper
29x41cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Effects created in:

1. Colour Accuracy study

  • Sparkle in the glass
  • Cleaner, sharper colours as were pre-mixed
  • Light – more like daylight even though over head spots were on too
  • Transparency of the glass
  • Crispness of the cloth
  • Bottle and glass are clearly empty

2. Colour for Mood study

  • Dimly lit
  • Enclosed, curtained and private
  • Aged
  • Increased opacity of the glass
  • Dusty
  • A sense of waiting
  • Bottle and glass appear to more related to each other as colours are more reflective of each other

Overall, looking at the points I’ve made for each study, 1) has more factual and specific effects and 2) has more inference, suggestibility and interpretation.  Whatever, the merit of the paintings themselves, I feel that these exercises were successful in achieving their objectives: Observation contrasting with mood.