Part 1

Working on different coloured grounds

Tonal study on white ground

This is the composition I chose. Sketches in pencil and charcoal are in sketchbook. As we have to use just 2 colours plus white, I have chosen violet (which is a dark tone) and viridian green. I’m going to paint the pepper as if it’s a green one rather than red, just focussing on the tones. Light was coming from behind on both left and right sides.

I always find incorporating a simple background tricky but decide to go with a curtain and table cloth.

On white ground: after initial painting

I found this very hard but realised that it was improving with each layer of paint so persevered! I took this photo as I find it easier to spot corrections needed from a photo rather than the original for some reason.

  • Glass bottle has no form/depth to it. Shape and colour variations are ok but I think it’ll benefit from adding more layers of transparent.
  • Don’t like the background curtain at all. I think it’s my choice of colours that’s the problem – the violet acrylic looks very dark on the pallet but over the white ground it is now far too ‘violet’ and rather distracting.
  • Struggling to make the white table cloth look like a cloth…
  • Plums are ok and I shouldn’t really fiddle any more
  • Pepper is recognisable though a little streaky with brush marks
  • Shadows and dark tones around base of fruits ok
After further working

Worked on correcting the above things and content with this first attempt now. Bottle is much better having had several more layers of trans green and the white ground shows through to give it depth. More layers of trans violet on curtain too – still don’t like it but it’s better. Reworked the tones on the pepper so that it is less streaky.

Tonal study on dark ground

On dark ground: after initial painting

I’m liking these colours much better on the dark ground – the violet is far less vibrant and more natural.

  • Table cloth is 3 layers of white and the dark ground is still showing through. This works well for giving some tonal variation to the cloth which I didn’t have in the previous piece. Worked to keep brush strokes in appropriate direction and not too visible
  • The glass bottle looks vaguely rounded and 3D with the white highlights really showing up against the dark ground. And the layers of transparent viridian give it depth. I think the addition of some gloss medium or something would help make the glass reflective and glossy – perhaps it’s time to invest in some of these mediums I’ve read about.
  • The plums are not good – too much light tone and not enough tonal variation and colour
  • Pepper looks a bit flat, shape of bottom is too straight, shadows not dark enough
After further working

Reworked the plums by coating in violet which stays vibrant as it’s over the white. Added some tonal variation but less than before and finished with white highlights – better.

Mixed together the viridian and violet to get a dark tone for bottom of pepper and altered shape slightly. Made all the shadows darker directly under the objects.

I’m surprised to say that I feel working on the dark ground has given a much better result. Having the dark ground to show through additional layers is very useful and the opaque white is effective in turning any areas lighter. With the white ground, I found it hard to add those dark tones – the white of the ground was very dominant and turned successive layers into vibrant transparent colours eg curtain. A very valuable exercise.

I’m pretty satisfied with both of these as first attempts with acrylic – lots of practice and experience is needed but I’m feeling more confident that I’ll get there eventually.

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