Assignment 5: A Series of Paintings on a Theme

Assignment 5: A Series of Paintings on a Theme


My initial thoughts over the last few days have been to create a series of paintings of a similar subject, becoming progressively more abstract. I am unsure what the subject should be, although I am leaning to a more organic theme. That may be a natural still life, a figure or figures, or a landscape.

I am being influenced by other areas of art such as music and dance, and am gaining an understanding of evolving styles from the traditional and classical inspiring experimental interpretations to create something original.


Have been struggling to decide on a subject still:

Have now discounted still life and although was seriously tempted to use a figure, maybe a life model – it was not to be overly practical as my life classes are every 2 or 3 weeks and on a Saturday. I do have many life drawings for reference though and I have sifted through them, considering how I could elaborate on them. However, finally, I think I will use a landscape. I think this will give me more freedom to experiment. My thoughts regarding the series of paintings are still focused on progressively working from realism to abstract, how to do this is another choice to make. We are asked to make a series of 3-5 paintings so I could go from realism to impressionism to expressionism to abstract giving me 4 paintings. There are various ways I could attempt this, the mark making, the paint treatment, colour variation, distortion, changing balance in the image and many more I am sure.

Whilst I was away over Christmas and New Year I visited another attraction designed by the Canarian artist, Cesar Manrique. This was the Cactus Garden on Lanzarote. The garden itself is extraordinary, I felt I was moving between Africa, the Wild West, the tropics and deserts in relatively small area. The shapes of the cacti along with the natural volcanic made elaborate shapes with dramatic shadows in the early afternoon. There were also a few paintings by the artist on display which was timely, as they show how he used splatters and splashes to recreate the “spikeyness” of the plants.

Although the paintings are behind glass and it was difficult to avoid reflections, the techniques used can still be seen. Something to bear in mind.

Now I’m almost certain to use landscape and natural forms, I need to decide which scene to use, I think it is important to use the same scene throughout the series to fully appreciate the intended evolution of each style. Do I use sketches I already have or something completely new?


What a journey my musings over this assignment have travelled between the beginning of this post and now. It seemed that not a moment past when I wasn’t running through options and ideas, from waking up in the night to doing the ironing!  I have gone through this section’s exercises and experimented extensively which has informed my decisions on how to proceed. I have:

  • chosen my subject – a series of paintings of my local market town Fordingbridge
  • chosen my supports – canvas board 24×20″ – 3 of
  • given myself an option to add 2 smaller paintings if time allows
  • decided to explore a) the decline of the small market town, b) the picturesque façade or “first impression” c) the regeneration of the town in modern times

I had previously made some sketches of my intended picturesque scene in the Landscape section of this course. These were not used for a final painting at that stage, however, I had noted that I would like to revisit it at a later date – this seemed the perfect opportunity to do so.

My initial plans and a tracing of the map of Fordingbridge, as noted in my sketchbook, showed my first idea was to have a textured large-scale map as the ground for each painting. As the first one took all afternoon to create I decided that this would be impractical. In addition, as I had planned to use painting knives to make at least one of the series, the map would have been obliterated. Therefore, I decided to adapt my plan to use the map as a painting in its own right. This worked out well as I was struggling to create a coherent image for the regeneration painting. My sketchbook scribblings confirmed that this would be a forced image and would not say what I intended so I cut this from the series.

Sketchbook plan for the Fordingbridge series with revisions.

Sketchbook plan for the Fordingbridge series with revisions.

Map Painting

I made a larger, freehand drawing of the traced map from my sketchbook onto the first canvas board – this was to loosen up and not be a slave to the original ordinance survey map. I used string to denote the main A338 road in double width and other B roads with a single strand. For the Avon river that runs around and through the town, I used impasto gel in a textured fashion to represent flowing water. I also had some large gauge embroidery “canvas” which I cut into shapes to represent rows of buildings, which was added to the town. Once the PVA glue and gel was dry, I painted over with gesso to create a matt, uniform effect. I left this over night to dry and contemplate how I was going to move this forward. As I initially intended to use this as a ground for another painting, I had to let my ideas simmer and come to the boil. Whilst this was evolving in my head, I began plotting my plans for the next painting…

Returning to the map, with some half-baked notion of using thin acrylic washes, I added a watercolour ground over the gesso to enable some wet in wet washes. This again had to dry overnight. Again I returned to the other painting…

Maps should give an idea of the terrain of the land, so in order to achieve this, I added a wash of acrylic and laid cling film over the wet paint. Moving the film around created creases, this was left overnight again to dry. In the morning, I removed the cling film and a pale landscape of fields, tracks, streams etc was revealed.  I repeated the process to deepen the colour, and then added more washes of green, burnt sienna and ultramarine to build up the geographical features. I also added blue/sienna/green to the river to bring it forward. This was a long process and I continued to work on the other two large paintings in tandem. I also had to take my time to assess where I was going with this. Finally, I grazed over some oil pastels in places to bring out the relief of the raised features – this is where I left it as complete.

This was definitely an organically evolving painting – it wasn’t originally supposed to be one of the series but claimed its place. I think it works although, it does look tentative which is probably because that’s how I felt making it. It does give the series some introduction and it is subtle in the way that an introduction is not supposed to be the main event.

Final Painting Oil pastel in greys, blues, greens and browns to bring out the relief of the texture

Final Painting 24×20″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas Board
Oil pastel in greys, blues, greens and browns to bring out the relief of the texture

Decline of a Market Town

This is actually an idea I’ve had bubbling around my brain for some time, however, I wasn’t entirely sure how to execute it.  I had spent a very cold but sunny afternoon wandering around Fordingbridge taking photographs of anything that caught my eye. It was a sad reflection of how many closed shop fronts were evident, those that had been re-used were for charity shops, estate agents (ironically) and new clinics for various ailments! Fordingbridge is not a complete ghost town, it does have top quality family run shops such as bakers, butchers, seven hairdressers/barbers (!), a little exclusive boutique and a few shabby chic home-ware shops plus your obligatory mini-supermarkets and post office, a couple of banks – recently reduced by three. It did strike me that two of the most well-kept frontages were funeral directors – it seemed I should include at least one of these in my painting to make a point. Instead of creating a high street of boarded up windows, I decided to create collage of shop fronts albeit painted. I experimented in my sketchbook and added crumpled tissue over the painting with succeeded in giving the image a run down, abandoned effect which I liked and decided to use. I set out to paint pretty much straight onto the board and concentrate on perspective and tone rather that a perfect rendition of the subject – this also helped with the neglected effect I was after.

This was a departure from my usual carefully planned composition, in fact, again the composition evolved. I was really pleased with the experiment in the sketchbook but am not sure if the final work has that same sense of abandonment – should I have done less shop fronts? One thing I am unsure about is whether I should have put washes over the tissue – looking back at the sketchbook, I think I did there.

Decline of a Market Town Final painting

Decline of a Market Town 24×20″ Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas Board
Final painting

Picturesque Fordingbridge

My rough idea for this assignment was to produce this image in several differing techniques and styles. I decided not to do this as this is a complex subject and to be honest, I probably would have become bored with doing the same view several times in one week. As alluded to earlier, I had wanted to revisit this from the Landscape section previously. This time, however, I determined to produce a looser, more expressive painting instead of becoming embroiled in details. To achieve this and keep me true to my intent, I opted to use painting knives for the entire painting. The only brushes used were to lay down the bright red ground and a rigger brush to branches on the trees and some grasses and reeds in the foreground. I used a red ground to have some show through and give uniformity to the painting, however, most of it was obliterated with the amount and free use of paint.

This was great fun to do and real antidote to the other two large paintings. I literally scrubbed, scratched and smeared paint all over the place. I did adhere to one main rule though and that was ensuring the tones were working in all aspects of the painting. I think it works as when viewed from distance it looks right. This one helped inform my process on the small Down River painting by pushing me to avoid detail.

Picturesque Fordingbridge Final Painting

Picturesque Fordingbridge 24×20″ Acrylic on Canvas Board
Final Painting

Plan for small paintings and overall layout

Plan for small paintings and overall layout


After completing the three large paintings in the series, I was more determined to include the smaller two – I felt that their inclusion would give a fuller impression of the theme as a whole. I also wanted to give these a different treatment, yet still keeping them unified with the others by using the same palette of colours.




Town Hall Clock Tower

Whilst taking photographs of the Town Hall, I framed a composition of the various pitched roofs around the clock tower. Although it was only a quick snap, it was strong in my memory too and an idea was already forming. In fact, the memory was so acute, I didn’t recognise the photograph straight away as my basic composition was already set in my mind. I wanted to produce an abstracted version that was still recognisable, yet, could fool the eye.

I actually quite like this technique for abstracting a subject and I think this works in its own right, however, my doubt is whether I have done enough to integrate it into the series of work. I used the same palette although the colours are flat, maybe, just because it’s a series it doesn’t have to fit? I suppose that’s down to my objective. Although I have to admit my objective was to have the series work together and for each painting to work by itself.

Town Hall Clock Tower Final painting with revised colourway

Town Hall Clock Tower A4 Acrylic on Paper
Final painting with revised colour-way


Down River

The second small painting was pure indulgence, I stood for some time on the little bridge watching the offshoot stream from the river. It was sunny and cold, which made the light bounce of the trees and bushes beautifully. I was, as seems to be usual, drawn to the long shadows across the water and I chose to paint this just because I liked it! I made explicit notes to treat this simply when painting and although I started well, I began to fiddle with detail – so having a strong word with myself, I painted over the fiddles with flat brush marks and just about pulled it back.


I am pleased with the tonal treatment of this painting, and am getting better at keeping detail to a minimum. I never thought I was a detail person – yet I think I like to “tidy” up a little too much so I made myself stop before it looked too neat.

Down River Final painting

Down River A4 Acrylic on Paper
Final painting

Arrangement of the Series

I had a few ideas on arranging the paintings and although I didn’t commit to producing 5 paintings at the beginning until I knew I had enough time, most of the plans involved 5.

I considered putting the paintings together as if they were one large painting in a group, (see first sketchbook plan). After completing them all, I preferred them in a line and played around with the order. I was certain that the map should be in the centre so that the others radiating out from it. I also decided that I wanted to break up the urban/abstract with the landscape focussed paintings, so the final layout would be:

Self Evaluation

This last section of the PoP1 course has been very enlightening for me. Previously, I felt I lacked creativity, I was comfortable drawing or painting what I saw in front of me, yet I felt totally unoriginal. In fact I was starting to despair – any exercise that said to evoke mood and atmosphere, left me cold. I couldn’t get in the zone and any attempt looked forced. The different techniques here, although I was aware of them, made me lose my logical head and allowed me to just do. I enjoyed all the dribbling, splashing and pouring, absolutely loved using painting knives instead of brushes and the abstract exercises were a revelation. I felt I was being creative and artistic not just copying and reproducing. I absolutely understand that I need to learn all the usual drawing, tone, colour mixing, perspective etc but it’s been great to have that underpin such freedom. One small step…


Exercise: Preparing a Textured Ground

13 & 14/02/16

Exercise: Preparing a Textured Ground

Prepare one or two grounds in some of the ways suggested or use your own ingenuity to create textured grounds. Then prepare the whole surface with the appropriate primer.

When you come to devise your textured ground, you may find it helpful to have a title in your mind to help you select materials and effects. Think of your own or use one of these:

Urban Jungle  –   Rough Sea  –  Autumn  –  Ghost Town

I decided to use the suggested titles purely for speed and convenience as my assignment deadline is looming over me and I’d like to put my time into experimentation at this stage.

Preparing a Textured Ground Selection process for subject of a painting

Preparing a Textured Ground
Selection process for subject of a painting

After reviewing the thumbnails and going through the process I decided to go for the title Rough Sea. I prepared some acrylic paper with gesso mixed with impasto paste and attempted to put in the texture of rocks, waves and sky. However, I was unprepared for the amount of time it would take for this to dry – considering how cold and damp it has been and my studio space is in the summerhouse at the end of the garden – I had to leave it overnight. In the meantime I began the next exercise “Mixing Materials into Paint”.

So next day, I returned to the textured ground much more informed by the leaping ahead and experimenting with adding in other materials. The following gallery shows the progress of this exercise – materials used were tissue paper, fruit netting and handmade paper stuck down with PVA glue. I have to admit that I missed the instruction of using a primer over these before painting, however, as I was using acrylic paint, hopefully nothing untoward will happen.

I decided to play with the perspective slightly as the painting progressed.  There is a feeling of looking down onto a beach from cliffs, yet the sea is being thrown up as high as the cliffs.

The final painting enlarged to show the texture.

Adding colour, deeper tones and more mood

Adding colour, deeper tones and more mood


Exercise: Aerial Perspective


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


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


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
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: Evolution of Landscape Painting

Research Point: Evolution of Landscape Painting

Do your own research into the evolution of landscape painting from the eighteenth century to the present day… Note particularly some of the ways in which modern and contemporary artists have chosen to interpret this genre. To what extent does contemporary landscape painting reflect environmental concerns, for example?

I have begun to use Pinterest to collate my research as suggested by the OCA.


18th Century Landscape Painting:

Francis Towne (1739 or 1740 – July 7, 1816) was a British watercolour landscape painter.:

Francis Towne (1739 or 1740 – July 7, 1816) was a British watercolour landscape painter.

This is a charming watercolour landscape and am probably getting ahead of myself, but is a great example of aerial perspective.

Haytley, Edward. “The Montagu Family at Sandleford Priory.” 1744.:

Edward Haytley. “The Montagu Family at Sandleford Priory.” 1744

What I would call a  traditional landscape by a painter I am not familiar with. Personally, it leaves me a little cold as a picture, however, I see skill and aerial perspective and elements of the use of the rule of thirds or golden ration. It is also a falsely romanticised rendition of 18th century rural life.

Thomas Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with Shepherd Resting in a Sunny Path and Sheep, c.1746, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Netherlands:

Thomas Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with Shepherd Resting in a Sunny Path and Sheep, c.1746, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Netherlands

This has much more life and movement than the previous example. It has a softness of colour and brush strokes that evoke a quiet moment on a sunny day. The play of light seems to be the focus and although, it is again a romanticised image, it has more reality as just a moment in time.

19th Century Landscape Painting:

‘Märkisch Lake in the Evening, 1890s - Lesser Ury (1861–1931):

Märkisch Lake in the Evening, 1890s – Lesser Ury (1861–1931)


















A beautiful, atmospheric painting showing a gentle evening light. Not overworked, just lovely.

John Constable, Weymouth Bay from the Downs above Osmington Mills, about 1816, 22 x 30 3/8 in.:

John Constable, Weymouth Bay from the Downs above Osmington Mills, about 1816, 22 x 30 3/8 in.













A small oil sketch of Weymouth, which appears to have been painted in situ, I like this because, there are still stretches of this coastline that still has this desolate feeling. I think it’s almost a shame that Constable has added the figures into the picture, although it does give a sense of scale.

20th Century Landscape Painting:

This is going to be difficult to choose from this century, two world wars, women coming into their own, industrialisation, intensive farming, urban planning – the landscape itself changed so much in this century not to mention the variety of painting genres!

'Monte Oliveto' (1912) by English painter & interior designer Vanessa Bell (1879-1961). via Miss folly:

‘Monte Oliveto’ (1912) by English painter & interior designer Vanessa Bell (1879-1961).

An artist that my tutor has told me to look out for (along with Duncan Grant) and after scouring the BBC Your Paintings website I totally understand why. Both are very emotive painters and this landscape is warm and welcoming as I’m sure this place was. It’s a happy place with good memories for the artist, I’m sure. However, I can also see that it could be painted very differently with cooler colours and evoke a menacing, almost claustrophobic mood with those imposing trees.

The Village, 1918. Jean Dominique Antony Metzinger was a major 20th-century French painter, theorist, writer, critic and poet, born in Nantes, France, who, along with Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Albert Gleizes, developed the art style known as Cubism.:

The Village, 1918. Jean Dominique Antony Metzinger was a major 20th-century French painter, theorist, writer, critic and poet, born in Nantes, France, who, along with Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Albert Gleizes, developed the art style known as Cubism.

I decided on this example as many others I had “pinned” will crop up later. I really like the sense of pattern in this painting, yet it is still clearly a landscape with both natural and urban elements.

Richard Diebenkorn:

Richard Diebenkorn

I am unsure of the title of this Diebenkorn painting but I like everything about it. It’s abstract, yet to me, I see the ground laid out beneath me as if in a plane with the clouds parting to reveal my destination. Clearly a landscape and I see the warmth of the sun casting its colours on the hills.

21st Century Landscape Painting:


Volcanic painting by Diane Burko


Tracking the melting ice caps – Diane Burko

Diane Burko is an American artist and photographer renowned for her natural landscape work.  She is committed to raising awareness of the impact of climate change on the planet and has been working on a major project regarding the melting of the polar ice caps.

Alexis Rockman at Sperone Westwater | New York Art Tours:

Alexis Rockman at Sperone Westwater | New York Art Tours


Alexis Rockman

Alexis Rockman another American artist who has used his art to inform and educate on environmental issues such as climate change, pollution of rivers and the suggested dangers of genetically modified food.


Exercise: A Figure in an Interior


Exercise: A Figure in an Interior

…Another approach would be to work from a photograph which you can then locate in an interior that you’ve imagined or that you can paint from real life. You could paint a very interesting painting by depicting a stranger or a celebrity in your own living room… Skin tones reflect surrounding colour and shades… How will you locate your figure in the space? How can you suggest depth?

My initial thoughts as noted in my sketchbook were to portray the Queen doing the washing up in my kitchen, Marigolds and all, but decided against this. Another scenario sprang to mind, maybe she could be sat in our lounge in a fluffy dressing gown and slippers reading the papers, as if on a lazy Sunday morning? It then struck me, that she is never really off duty, so I thought I’d replace the papers with a lap top as if catching up on official correspondence in the modern age – after all, one is never away from the office with the internet nowadays, is one?

To achieve a rough composition for the painting, I found a pink fluffy dressing gown and tried out several poses that my husband photographed for me. I am a similar height to the Queen so this would also help with proportions whilst sitting. From these photos I chose a couple to sketch out as trial compositions, altering them slightly to make more sense for my imagined image.


A Figure in an Interior Preliminary compositional sketches Pencil in A4 sketchbook

A Figure in an Interior
Preliminary compositional sketches
Pencil in A4 sketchbook


The first sketch, I thought, was less interesting and the background was not complete enough to give a coherent image.  I preferred the second drawing as it seemed right in its situation. The head position was changed from the photograph to look to the figure’s left and at the lap top screen.





Next I had to find suitable images of the Queen in order to make the pose believable and in proportion. This proved harder than I thought, because of the thousands of photographs and images out there, they all seemed to be looking left of centre or were straight profiles. I wanted one of the Queen wearing her glasses as she uses them for reading, and of her wearing a tiara. I had to settle with a compromise, of the two sketches I made of her head, one was looking the wrong way but had glasses and the tiara and the other was looking the right way without the accessories.

A Figure in an Interior Preliminary sketches of the Queen Pencil in A4 sketchbook

A Figure in an Interior
Preliminary sketches of the Queen
Pencil in A4 sketchbook


I found the almost full face image more difficult to obtain a likeness, although it was useful for the glasses. The 3/4 to almost profile was easier, however, it was more severe an expression than I wanted. Many of the photographs I studied, and there were a lot, showed the Queen to have quite a mischievous smile and that would have been nice to use. However, in reality, if someone is reading, they will usually have an expression of concentration, which is what I went for in the end.


A Figure in an Interior Tonal sketch Pencil in A4 sketchbook

A Figure in an Interior
Tonal sketch
Pencil in A4 sketchbook


I then made a tonal sketch from the photograph, as parts of it were over exposed and therefore, lacking in information to paint from directly.








I actually remembered to take photographs of work in progress (see gallery).

The final painting when photographed, is a little harsher in colour than in life.  Some aspects I added are: enhancing lights and darks; adding red, white and blue pyjamas for more colour; a vase of flowers on the window sill – this added more interest on the right hand side of the canvas and lifted the whole painting; the tiara and reading glasses. There was a sense of the head being “stuck on”, this I rectified by lightening the neck and giving a cohesive look to the figure as a whole.  The lighting in this room is complex, with slightly off-set opposing windows, however, as it was morning, the window behind the figure let in the most light and the other, a more subdued light. I did find myself giggling whilst doing this and at the same time, hoping that they don’t still throw people in the tower for treason! On the plus side, I think I achieved my aim and although much more complicated that I had envisaged, was very enjoyable.  This is the first time I can remember, where I have used such a multitude of reference material plus imaginary aspects – great fun.

A Figure in an Interior Never Off-Duty Oil on canvas board 16x20"

A Figure in an Interior
Never Off-Duty
Oil on canvas board


Practice of Painting – Assignment 2


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


Exercise: Simple Perspective in Interior Studies


Exercise: Simple Perspective in Interior Studies

Focus on creating an illusion of space. As this is an exercise in drawing with paint, keep your colours muted or within a very limited palette. When finished,  look at your painting critically and make notes in your learning log. Are any areas of your painting particularly convincing? Does any part of the painting look wrong? Why do you think this is?

Simple perspective in interior study - thumbnails

Simple perspective in interior study – thumbnails

Simple perspective in interior studies - painting in line Acrylic on A3 paper

Simple perspective in interior studies – painting in line
Acrylic on A3 paper

Are any areas of your painting particularly convincing?

The ceiling beams seem to work well, they give the impression of a low ceiling that recedes to the far wall. I am also happy with the general perspective, both of the units and the floor tiles. (In the photo above, the floor appears arched but that is the paper curling.)  I think the general scale is also fairly accurate.

Does any part of the painting look wrong?

I am not convinced on the doorway into the next room. I also feel the height of the dresser against the far wall is too tall.

Why do you think this is?

Looking at my thumbnail, the door appears to be the door in the opening but actually I now realise the door in the painting is another door to a room off the next room, so maybe it is correct! I do think there is something wrong in that this is not obvious.

As far as the height of the dresser is concerned, I did measure constantly, but a recurring problem when I measure is not returning to the exact same spot, so the measurements are off. I seem to be more successful by just relating lines and angles to each other as I go. They don’t move, I do.