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

 

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.