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.

 

Project: Basic Paint Application – Exercise: Painting with Pastels

02/02/15

Painting with Pastels

Practice making marks and blending with pastels; if you have time, use the techniques you’ve discovered to make a simple picture…

Soft Pastels on Ingres Paper:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Having previously explored soft pastels in the Drawing Skills course, I tried to focus on painterly effects, texture, colour mixing and blending.  Using soft pastel on its side for blocks of colour and thin straight lines. By using a shorter piece on its side, I could rotate it round to produce an almost perfect circle.  Different colours can be layered (either by broad side strokes or narrower end ones), alternately hatched or blended with a finger or rag.

Oil Pastels on Mount Board Primed with Gesso:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

I repeated similar marks to those above, however, the oil pastel was more prone to pick up the texture of the support being used.  This made for some interesting effects when used fairly lightly on their side.  To obtain more solid blocks of colour, I had to use the tip and pressure to work it into the support’s texture.  I actually preferred the blending of the oil pastels as more options were available.  Again I could layer and hatch colour but I also tried using a rag wound round my finger and this softened the oil pastel and produced a subtle, diffused blend of the colours.  I then tried using solvent and brushes, firstly, a hog brush – this had the effect of moving the pigment around a lot more and left  more brush marks visible.  Using the synthetic Mongoose flat, which is much softer, allowed me to fuse the pigment and blend it without it shifting so much.  I also noticed, that with using solvent, the pigment could run and produced lovely drips and pools of colour.

A Simple Picture – Oil Pastels:

After experimenting with the solvent and oil pastels, I was keen to use this to produce a simple painting.  My intention was to let it run and be free with it, in practice it became a little stiff in execution and not as loose as I wanted initially.  I used the solvent in the sky (this is the view outside my window), and combined with a rag it gave a nice base to paint on.  My favourite part is the apple tree and its branches.  By using the oil pastels on their tip and twisting and moving over the support, a pleasing rendition of twiggy branches was created. Doing this on top of the solvent diluted pigment also removed that layer, which worked brilliantly for getting a sharp jagged line, perfect for the branches .  Not a masterpiece but experimental and informative.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on  on canvas board.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on canvas board.

 

A Simple Picture – Soft Pastels:

I was keen to try both types of pastel and found a photograph I took last week while walking the dog early evening.  It was a spectacular sunset and I remember thinking that it would be nigh on impossible to reproduce such vivid and luminous colours in a painting.  Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought I’d try, so soft pastels were probably my best chance.  The most part of the picture was made using the soft pastel on its side.  I was determined not to rely just on blending with my finger and to attempt hatching and layering too. In the main, I succeeded, and not just because of the fine sandpaper quality of the support.  Any finger blending was more of a dabbing motion and I used a dry cloth round my finger if the need arose.  Naturally in the sky, there were horizontal streaks of colour and diagonal cloud formations that also absorbed the last of the sun’s rays, so that helped focus me.  The foreground and buildings were mainly in silhouette but I introduced some dark colours to avoid it being too flat. I was right, though, it’s nowhere near as stunning as real life and, unfortunately, the pinks and corals have not photographed as vibrantly as they are either which is a shame.

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on pastel board

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on pastel board