Part 5

Project: Different ways of applying paint

Exercise: Impasto

View is looking down onto a patch of bluebells and daisies. Used a variety of palette knives, sticks and brushes to layer on acrylic thickly. Trying not to be too precise and keep it loose. Not very successful as my mind really isn’t focussed. I’ve tried impasto before with much more success so I probably should give this another try…

Exercise: Dripping, dribbling and spattering – do several paintings using as many different ways as you can …

First experiment:

4 large sheets of black sugar paper taped together to make approx 2xA1 size. Hung pot with small hole in bottom over the paper. Made of solutions of watery acrylic, watered down household paint, and inks. Swung pot and allowed to drip – sometimes managed circular pattern, other times not.

Once dry, took this paper and attached it to cardboard which I hung from the window sill. Made a solution of white acrylic with water, applied along top edge and encouraged it to run downwards. Turned paper and repeated the runs going in the opposite direction. Interesting grid – wonder how I could use this? It’s a complete grid on one side which gradually fades to the opposite corner as the run end. Perhaps repeat this with different colours for all 4 corners…

Laid it back on ground and throw big splats of red with a large brush – was hoping for some more dramatic redness but the diluted red with water to makes it liquid enough to throw, makes the colour more washes out and transparent.

Experiment 2:

A1 Cartridge Paper, white. Firstly applied marks and drips of masking fluid which was allowed to dry. Also dripped on Linseed Oil hoping that this might produce some interesting effects where it mixed with paint or ink.

Then orange/yellow/red paints and inks dripped and splatted, also moved around with wedges and brushes. There is no change in areas with the oil – I suppose that the paint and inks I’m using must be oil based and don’t react with oil, how disappointing. Peeled off masking fluid. Rather boring result so dribbled on black ink and tipped board to allow it to run randomly – rather like this effect. Once completely dry I decided there was no harm in going further and painted in some of the shapes with yellow, burnt sienna (love this colour) and red. Cad orange didn’t have enough contrast so only did a couple of shapes with that.

I really like the randomness of the runs of black and the shapes they make. I used a similar technique in Drawing 1 to hint at lanes and field boundaries in an aerial view. This works well as an abstract piece. I especially like the white lines and marks left by the masking fluid in the base layers which add depth.

Experiment 3: (in hindsight this isn’t actually dripping etc, but I’ll leave it here as it’s another way to apply paint)

Acrylic paint applied thickly to plastic boards and allowed to dry completely. Also to plain glass and to textured glass. Then paint carefully peeled off – under side is very smooth and top side has texture of brush strokes. Also, paint appears to mix and blend on the surface but actually it isn’t where it touches the support – see sketchbook pages below:

Struggling to think of ways this could be included in any painting. The surface is very smooth which could be of use but it’s hard to get the paint off in large pieces and there must be easier ways of getting a smooth finish. The paint dried on the textured glass is interesting as it really picks the texture up well (hard to see on the above photo but it has a good imprint of leaf shapes) so it’s possible that that may be handy sometime.

Experiment 4:

A = Marbling. Acrylic inks dripped into shallow box of water, pieces of printer paper lowered into water to pick up ink. Shallower the water the better as acrylic ink is heavy and has a tendency to sink. Not good results.

B = Printer paper thoroughly wetted and then drips of acrylic ink dropped straight onto it and allowed to spread and blend. Several looked great when just done but the spreading process continued too far and they became muddy.

C = As for B but on watercolour paper this time. More subtle effects and watery blends. Again, once dried, they had blurred too much.

None of these were particularly successful. Maybe if I had some proper marbling inks but I haven’t. All rather messy and it takes ages of the papers to try and then they have lost their definition – not for me.

Part 4

Project: Working from drawings and photographs

Exercise: Painting from a working drawing

‘a corner of a room or objects on a table by a window’… not feeling inspired by this at all, I’m in the landscape mode and going back to still life and interiors has stumped me rather.

Exercise: Squaring up

This is a method I have used before for the portraits in assignment 3. I had one final portrait left to do of my son Tom but didn’t include that with the assignment since it needed a lot of thought to adapt my style for a male. I have since been working on this and rather than start a totally new squaring up landscape painting, I am going to finish this portrait off instead.

Started with some trial sketches – see sketchbook

This sketch worked best I feel. Using black lines again for the hair as before with the girls, but this time it’s not flowing and loose. Using different width and shaped lines to give impression of hairs and style.

Deciding which colours to use so that it’s vibrant and blends in with the other two portraits whilst still being different from them.

  • Background needs to be less red and more blue/purple to blend better with palette of skin.
  • Keep a little red within skin so lips work but the red beneath eyes is not working at moment.
  • Adjust top line of upper lip which doesn’t match nose line at present
  • White highlights

The squaring up method really works for me with portraits as it gives me the confidence that everything is in the correct place so I can just focus on getting the tones correct. Whether this would be necessary with a landscape or not remains to be seen. My type of landscape wouldn’t need to be totally accurate, in fact it would probably be better having certain parts exaggerated and others reduced/left out.

Exercise: Working from a photograph

It’s the first decent day today for weeks so I pushed myself to walk up Brentor on Dartmoor to do some sketches of the surrounding valleys – see sketchbook.

This one I quite liked and decided to use it, and the photos taken, for this painting. Tried out several crops:

Large canvas board, 30x20inch, acrylics

Started off with rough coverage of canvas but feeling totally uninspired by it so changed to impasto using palette knives.

A little better but it’s still not going in the right direction. Foreground tree line is beginning to come together – I like the rough texture which brings it forward. Fields are all too green with orangey moorland behind – there is no connection between the two. I think it’s just the wrong composition and nothing is going to make the painting hang together well. There is nothing to take the eye around – no diagonal or features to focus on. Time to give this up and do some research as to what exactly I’m hoping to achieve!

Lorna Holdcroft-Kirin:

I discovered this Sussex artist whilst looking through my books for inspiration. Acrylics on canvas.

Love this last one especially: vibrant yet still realistic colours, some fields lite up by the sun coming through clouds, texture and mark making in the foreground bring that part forward whilst the smoother distant hills are pushed back. Partly abstract with splodges dotted around. Sky takes up top third and diagonal stretch of road covers the bottom third. The road drags your eye backward into the valley.

“I cover the surface with paint quickly to get a sense of colour and tone, and work the whole painting at once. I also use a lot of water, deliberately. This is to wash out areas of semi-dry watercolour or to cause the break-up of pastel pigment.” (Lorna Kirin, Bell Fine Art)

I going to try using lots of water with acrylics (rather than her watercolour as I can’t seem to get on with them) and see what happens – try for lots of runs with thin layers, each left to dry before next coat. Foreground with marks and texture.


Harrison, H. (2017) The Encyclopedia of Acrylic Techniques: A Unique Visual Directory of Acrylic Painting Techniques, with Guidance on How to Use Them. (s.l.): Search Press.

Landscapes (2017) At: (Accessed 18/03/2020).

Lorna Holdcroft-Kirin Archives – Bell Fine Art (s.d.) At: (Accessed 18/03/2020).

Takahashi, L. (2014) My Deep Passion For Nature by Lorna Holdcroft – Jackson’s Art Blog. At: (Accessed 18/03/2020).

So I need a different photo/composition to work with. Make sure it has some sort of feature (path, diagonal line, water…)

Lake district photos all of which have diagonals to take the eye back. I’ll have a go with the first one above – Honister Slate Mine. The hills are dramatically steep and there’s lots of contrast between the shaded left slope and the sun lite right slope. The road and stream follow diagonally along the base of the valley into the distance.

Quick watercolour pencil sketch to try out areas of colours – yes I’m happy with this mix. It’s a similar mix to those used by Lorna Kirin in Ditchling Beacon (and others) – blue, purple and pink for areas in shadow; green, yellow and orange for areas in sun.

Canvas Board, 24 x 18 inch, acrylics and water

Lines and splatters in foreground using bit of plastic. Almost there now, road needs more work and small highlights to tree tops.

Much happier with this than my previous try. This composition works. There are clear fore, mid and back grounds. The road leads the eye backworks. My colour palette choice has worked well – it’s vibrant and colourful without being ‘too’ bold and unrealistic. Limiting the colours like this has a more calming effect than my usual riot of colour.

Using lots of water with the acrylics produced some interesting effects. On the left hillside I used a spray at close quarters which washed the paint away leaving that interesting pale area which gives form to the rocks. The drips and runs on the right hill give the appearance of scree patches and add some movement to this steep gravelly slope.

I kept the sky simple using just phthalo blue with some white and dabbing off cloud patches while still very wet with a paper towel. I feel that the result is pretty effective. In future pieces I could use this wet method again but include some more colours for sunsets etc. On my Tenerife landscape painting (ex: hard or soft landscape) I really struggled with making the sky and clouds looks real so this is a definite improvement – remember to keep it wet as with watercolour!

I’m least happy with the road and stream. They don’t appear to being running along the lowest part of the valley. This is because of the way that I allowed the paint to run on the green side. I needed to allow the lowest part of that to run in the opposite direction. Something to make sure I take note of next time.

Foreground has some mark making and brings in colours from around the painting. I need to make this more of a thing – perhaps by allowing the area underneath the marks to be more blurred and washed out with water (as with Lorna Kirin’s Sussex Weald III, Landscape and Friends Clump paintings)

Comparison between photo and painting:

I kept to the same composition as the photo because I felt that it worked for what I wanted and I suppose I was drawn to this photo in the first place because of that.

With this method of allowing the wet paint to run, I couldn’t attempt to copy the ridges and markings of the hillside. This was a fabulous way of keeping me from fussing over detail and keeping it loose. Definitely a method I’ll continue to explore.

I added the feel of vegetation to the foreground which isn’t there in the photo. I wanted to make sure that the viewer felt they were standing on something rather than floating in mid air. As described above, I think I could have tackled this better with more blurring and less details – another thing to explore further.

Part 4

Project: Painting outside

Research point 2: ‘The Golden Mean’ and ‘Rule of Thirds’

Great, clear explanation in this website:

Scott, D. (2017) Using The Golden Ratio (AKA Golden Mean) To Improve Your Artworks. At: (Accessed 20/02/2020).

McNee, L. A. (2009) Rule of Thirds – Composition in Art. At: (Accessed 15/03/2020).

Exercise: Painting a landscape outside

Easier said than done when the weather has been rain, rain and more rain for weeks on end. Luckily I am going to snowy Lapland for a few days and staying in a glass igloo – it may be far too cold to stand outside to paint but I’m hoping the view from the igloo will be worth having a go with. Going to take watercolours but also a black pad and soft pastels in case there’s the opportunity to catch the northern lights!

Northern Lights! Wow so lucky to be able to see these on a couple of nights. Clouds of swirling green coming and going for about half an hour. Had a go with the pastels which smudge really well and it’s possible to quickly capture shapes as they happen.

Second night, even better: the lights are constantly on the move but the key thing I notice is that the light seems to flow upwards in lines. Frequently a hard line at the lower end which is then dragged upward in swirling patterns. Mainly really fluorescent green and white, but sometimes touches of pinks and purples too. Definite green glow to the horizon. Masses of bright white stars too. How awesome!

Long view over frozen lake to distant forest so much of horizon is visible allowing a large view of the sky.

I particularly like the last two sketches which include a small section of the silhouetted forest seen across the snowy lake in the distance (I added these just afterwards once the lights had calm down but the scene was still fresh in my mind). I brought down touches of the green as reflected in the snow which helps join sky and land together. Also highlights of white on the trees to show they’re laden with snow. This gives more context to the lights and shows their shear size.

Daytime snowy forest:

Quick pencil sketch of the tall pines – doesn’t really capture the depth of the forest but I couldn’t hang around in minus 15deg. Added a few more details from memory once back in the warm but pencil isn’t really the right tool for this.

View of other igloos from inside mine: Later in the afternoon the skies off to the west were beautiful in the low sun and the tall pine trees really caught this light wonderfully. There is only one view of this from my warm igloo so I’m went straight into painting it rather than trying out sketches first. I’ll see what cropping does once it’s finished. Also no time for a second sitting – it could be cloudy on our last day then we’re home.

Sitting on the edge of the bed with hairdryer to hand. Sky first with lots of water and allowed to run. Had to be completely dry before continuing. Used edge of card to make irregular trunk lines and to drag paint around for glass igloos so they’re not too precise. Strong low sun off to the left creating long shadows.

Added the white acrylic splats as snow on the branches once I got home. This was more tricky than I’d anticipated – left side of trees ok as my splats were at the correct angle for the heavy branches (diagonal down from top right to bottom left) but doing the right side meant I had to swap hands to flick the other way – this was when I got some rather large messy splats.

Angles of glass igloos aren’t correct, they should look hemispherical and they also need some dark patches within them to show furniture etc.

I know I wasn’t outside to do this but it certainly presented some of the same problems. Limited resources available and balancing paper and palettes in awkward positions. Had to work fast before the sun disappeared completely. Light changing constantly and having the decide what moment to paint.

Choosing exactly what to paint from the landscape before me was made easier by the fact that one view was the frozen lake and hence not much more than white paint would be needed. The other view was behind to the trees catching the light of the lowering sun. Tried taking some crops of the painting to see if a better composition of the area would have been possible:

Not good, tall tree is too central and chops composition in half.

Just focussing on trees and ignoring buildings – could have worked but needs more trees of varying heights

Like this one of just the trees but including the snow beneath – they feel more grounded and part of a landscape. Overall I feel painting the whole view was the best option: buildings give context, balanced with horizon one third up from bottom, foreground and mid ground (needs some more depth to trees to show distance)

Painting from life really highlighted for me how what the eye sees is so much more vast than a camera. None of my photos show this scene like this, instead everything looks further away and small. A photo wouldn’t include the width either.

Once home I decided to have a go at painting the northern lights from memory – no iphone photo does them justice.

Canvas Board 406 x 305mm. Acrylics: mainly fluorescent green, fluorescent blue, Paynes Grey

Lots of layers trying to get the effect of the light streaming upwards and the colours blending into each other. Found this very tricky!

Lastly added the tree and lake line. Not up at the 1/3 height I know but I felt the sky was the main event here and the ground is just there to give context. Diagonal lines of the lights help take the eye across the page. The lights shining through the trees looks good and that’s how it did look with the horizon glowing. The brush strokes are too visible still so more tries at this would help there. Finished off with white stars and over painted with gloss mediums as the areas of ‘black’ were far more matt than the rest.

Overall, I know I haven’t completed this exercise quite in the spirit of things but hope the weather will change in time for my assessment piece with I hope to do outside.

Part 4

Project: Expressive Landscape

Research Point 1:

Creating mood and atmosphere with style of landscape

Max Ernst: Lots of foliage, trees, rocks and cliffs used to give height and depth in the weird world he creates. Uses collage and frottage.

Salvador Dali: Very plain, featureless landscapes. Generally no hills but flat ground with objects such as rocks only included for a specific reason. Feels like a different World. A scene from a dream/nightmare.

Giorgio de Chirico: Again a plain, featureless landscape. Lots of straight lines. No unnecessary inclusion of objects or detail which give them a dreamy/other worldliness feel (it isn’t true to the life we know).

Paul Nash: War artist. Scenes of destruction caused by war. Ruins, broken buildings, burnt trees etc. Limited colour palettes of browns and dull, bland colours.

Graham Sutherland: War artist. Very dark tones with hard to make out features and give it a very gloomy, depressing feel (appropriate for war scenes). ‘Black Landscape‘ is a reaction to the artists anxiety at the threat of war.

Emil Nolde: German expressionist. Vibrant, realistic colours giving life and celebrating this beautiful world.

Gustav Klimt: lots of small marks which give them life and movement. Use of colour choice to add vibrancy. Church in Cassone: analogous colours (colours adjacent to each other): of blue, green, yellow. For Orchard with Roses: complementary colours (opposites) of red and green. Feeling of summer and heat, life and energy.


Bonhams : MAX ERNST (1891-1976) Ohne titel (Sedona Landschaft) 18 1/2 x 23 3/8 in (47.1 x 59.5 cm) (Painted circa 1957) (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Emil Nolde (1867-1956) , Herbsthimmel am Meer (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Emil Nolde * – Modern Art 2017/11/21 – Realized price: EUR 81,250 – Dorotheum (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Gustav Klimt Landscape Paintings (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Italian piazza by Giorgio de Chirico: History, Analysis & Facts (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Kane, T. (2014) De Chirico and his Fantastic Landscapes. At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Max Ernst: 50 Famous Paintings Analysis and Biography (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

MoMA | Salvador Dalí. The Persistence of Memory. 1931 (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Salvador Dalí: Moments of Transition on Sotheby’s Blog (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Solitary and Conjugal Trees (s.d.) At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Tate (s.d.) ‘Black Landscape’, Graham Sutherland OM, 1939-40 | Tate. At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Wikipedia contributors (2020) The Menin Road (painting). At: (Accessed 15/02/2020).

Exercise: Creating mood and atmosphere:

For this exercise I have decided to rework my first painting of this section – “View from a window or doorway”. I was happy with the composition of this piece but very disappointed at how tight and illustrative it turned out to be.

This was very much a summer version of the view from my kitchen window. I used yellow, blue and their secondary colour, green to give vibrancy and life. However I hate all the line work and preciseness – it’s so hard to keep it loose and abstract!

So I’m going to have another go and this time attempt to not only keep it loose, but also to change the mood so that it appears to be winter (ie more realistic as it’s now February). I need to keep the colours muted and dull, none of the brightness that I’m always drawn to.

Canson mixed media paper, A3

Water colours: Olive green, burnt sienna, sap green, med yellow, payne’s gray, raw umber

I started with the window frame, determined not to draw in lines this time. I wetted the whole area and painted with payne’s gray. Then I used a piece of credit card to drag the paint around allowing it to puddle in the more shaded edges of the window frame (as for initial life paintings in Part 3). The residue of paint left inside each frame works well giving a look of the wobbly old glass. I continued used the credit card and a stick to paint the outside view – no flowers this time. I left the decorative pattern off of the curtains and instead attempted to show the areas of light/shadow by dragging the paint again. The chair was very tricky – it is bright yellow but I needed to tone it down. Really struggled getting the form correct and it looks flat despite trying to darken the shades areas. I did remember to leave out the left arm rest this time as I got the perspective wrong here on my first attempt.

Glad I tried a totally different method of applying the paint this time. The result is certainly different from before and looks more wintery and dull. It’s also looser and less illustrative. Don’t like it still and I’m thinking that it’s because I have no skill at watercolour techniques. I should find a class to attend but it just doesn’t suit my style so I’ve no enthusiasm – need to focus more on acrylics when time allows.

Part 4

Project: Perspective

Exercise: Linear perspective

Chipping Campden, Cotswolds. Only paper available is a large pad of flimsy flip chart paper in the pub I’m staying at, oh well, worth having a go at sketching this beautiful street.

My horizon line is just above the head of the person walking down the street – the road slopes slightly downwards. Luckily there’s double yellow lines on the road here so no parked cars, they would be hard to draw! Included the stone work of the buildings closest to me but really focussed on just getting the outlines down on paper.

Brought the sketch home and added some loose watercolour. Certainly not ideal paper for watercolour so having to use less water than usual and keep it light. Keeping palette to Paynes Grey, Burnt Sienna, and Raw and Burnt Umber, and yellow. I used marking fluid for the double yellow lines down the street hoping that I’d be able to get it off without destroying the paper and then paint them yellow. However, definitely not going to come off and since the fluid is yellow and has given quite a good line effect I’m going to keep it.

Have I achieved linear perspective? I think so. Buildings getting smaller into distance, lines of roof ridges, windows etc sloping towards horizon. Footpath on the right helps a lot as it is pointing straight up and away from me getting narrower the further away it is. Horizontal lines of the stonework also help take the eye backward.

As I was using pen to sketch this, there are various lines which are out eg the horizontal lines of the nearest window on the left.

Exercise: Aerial perspective

I used a view remembered from a trip last year where I was at a high vantage point overlooking a landscape of mountains fading away into the distance.

A3 mixed media paper. Decided to have a bit of a play with this piece and started by putting down some texture. Modelling paste in the foreground, torn cardboard for large rocks, tissue paper scrunched for mid ground mountains, nothing for far distance. Dried with hairdryer – I want to get this one finished today.

Used Anilinky (vibrant water colours) for the sky and dabbed with tissue to give clouds. Lighter at horizon.

Also Anilinky for the distant mountains with just a touch of tonal variation to show they have form.

Covered rest of page with Anilinky to mask the whiteness, allowing paint to run and drip as it follows texture. Needs more – used watered down acrylics for a second layer, as they have more body, to run over the textures again. Better now.

Foreground has to have more detail in order the show perspective. Allowed drips to run down from the bottom edge to give grasses/vegetation – yellows and browns. Once dry, I also splattered dots of paint in foreground.

At this point I almost decided it was finished enough but then came back to it:

Now it’s finished. I used soft pastel to highlight the textures of the midground and blended colour into the central valley (hard to tell on this photo). I also used pastel to soften the most distant mountains as if covered by a light layer of cloud.

I seems to me that the main devices for creating aerial perspective in this piece are the loss of focus into the distance (ie less and less detail) and also the loss of colour saturation into the distance (ie colours becoming muted and faded). I tried using more warm colours in the foreground, and cold in the distance but I’m not convinced this worked for me. My colour choices could certainly have been better – the pink in the mid ground would have been better being more red/orange as the foreground rather than added yet another colour to confuse the eye.

I enjoyed playing with the textures. I need to collect lots more scraps to use for this though as I was quite limited (eg textured wall paper and packaging). More playing around with allowing the paint to run is needed – I must stop constantly changing the direction of run and allow it time to do its thing! Fun experimenting though.

Part 4

Project: From inside looking out

Exercise: View from a window or doorway

Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)

French fauvist artist, decorative and colourful paintings. Usually included part of the interior with his window painting. A touch of the Van Gogh interiors here in his use of outline and perspective. Also Matisse. Love this style, definitely one I’d like to have a go at.

The Window at Nice, 1923

Gwen John (1876-1939)

Welsh artist, sister of the artist Augustus John. Very dull and gloomy paintings, lifeless. Not for me.

A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris, 1909

Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

American artist, realist paintings of modern American life. Lots of preliminary sketches for oil and watercolour painting.

Room in Brooklyn, 1932, oil on canvas
Morning Sun, 1952

Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947)

French, many versions of views from windows. Focus is on the play of light. Bright but realistic colour .

Henri Matisse

French, fauvist, limited but striking colour palettes


Dining Room on the Garden (1934) At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Dufy, R. (s.d.) Window Opening on Nice – DUFY, Raoul – Google Arts & Culture. At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Quiet intensity: the life and art of Gwen John | Art UK (s.d.) At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Raoul and Jean Dufy at the Musée Marmottan Monet (s.d.) At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Raoul Dufy – 161 artworks – (s.d.) At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Red Interior, Still Life on a Blue Table, 1947 by Henri Matisse (s.d.) At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Stanska, Z. et al. (2017) Edward Hopper’s Drawings That Will Blow Your Mind – – Art History Stories. At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Wikipedia contributors (2019) The Open Window (Matisse). At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

Wikipedia contributors (2020) Edward Hopper. At: (Accessed 27/01/2020).

I’m drawn to the painting above by Raoul Dufy – the use of bright primary colour in a loose and slightly abstracted way. He uses rough brush outlines fulled with colour, not a lot of tonal variations just blocks of colour. The same blue is used for the sky, sea and table. The same red for the roofs, carpet and mirror reflection. The composition is balanced with a central mirror and plant, on each side of which is a large french door onto the coastal view. Then yellow and blue stripey wallpaper and a chair completes the painting on both sides. There is no fuss over total accuracy; lines are not straight, the right hand chair doesn’t sit quite right with the base of the door, only the right hand door has any depth to it…

For this exercise, I’m going to give this style a go. A happy, sunny, carefree atmosphere created with colour and simple, unfussy layout. I’m going to take the main elements of the view but not stress over a realistic representation ie positions changed if necessary, colours adapted, detail left out, whole window opening onwards to show a clearer view of outside (it doesn’t really open that way). I will include the window frame and a small area of the internal room to help set the scene.

Tried out a few sketches of composition and settled on the second one above – including the chair and curtains gives it more context, the open window allows a better view of the outside, window viewed from an angle to give diagonal perspective (check the horizontal window line angles, they don’t look quite right – eye level is about top of lowest pane which should therefore be horizontal, bit of an angle for window sill then but more for top of window…)

Would like to give this a go in water colour or gouache but I also need the colours to be vibrant and bold. After trying out several pens to see which really can be overpainted without smudging, I settled on using drawing ink and nib pen. The infill colour will be Anilinky Paint (vibrant water colours) along with acrylic inks. I’ll keep the palette limited and just use blue and yellow along with their secondary mixes.

Initially I was quite pleased with this, feeling that I’d captured the view well, perspective is ok, composition works and it’s balanced. Colours sit well together and it’s vibrant. I’d managed to create a light, cheery atmosphere out of the gloomy winter scene that I was looking at. All good, however…

Now all I can see is a tight, illustrative painting, full of accuracy but no life or interest. It was supposed to be far more abstract! My initial ink line work is far too fine – I should have used a small brush so that I got irregular line thicknesses. Perhaps if I’d used bigger paper (this is 30x40cm watercolour paper) and a long handled brush held at the end rather than hunching over the page and working slowly and carefully. Plus, the left arm of that chair should point outwards more rather than being parallel to the right arm. Not happy with myself – one to do again, time allowing.

Reworked this: see Expressive Landscape

Exercise: Hard or soft landscape

During a recent trip to Tenerife, I made the following quick sketch while sitting in a cafe on the top of a mountain overlooking the very windy road we were travelling along. The low evening sun was behind the mountains to the right making sharp tonal contrasts between those areas still in sunlight and those that were not.

I had decided that I wanted to continue with the fauvist / bright coloured theme and remembered an artist I’d come across during Drawing 1 called Scott Naismith. I looked his work up again along with a couple of others artists and studied how they had used colour in their landscapes. See sketchbook.

Scott Naismith had painted a view of Applecross Pass in Scotland with its windy road snaking across the mountains so I decided to use this as inspiration and try my own version using the Tenerife Mountains.

I’ll use the sharp contrasts between light and shadow to add intrigue and interest. Lighter tones will be yellow, orange. Areas in deep shadow will be dark purple, blue and black. I need to remember to keep my mark making quite gestural and loose – I struggle with doing this. Try bigger brushes and holding them toward end…

To create a sense of depth within the landscape I’ll need to add more detail and colour in the foreground. The distant mountains need to be without detail and a lighter tone.

Canvas board, 762cm x 508cm (20x30inch) which allows for a wider landscape than you’d get from the usual A4 proportions. Acrylic paints as I love their vivid colours and quick drying which allows faster working.

Gradually building it up. Sky definitely needs reworking but I’m finding it hard to recreate the type of clouds seen in Scott Naismith paintings. Lots of colour, rounded fluffy shapes – I’m not sure what brush I should be using but trying a big mop head now, still getting too many ‘marks’… Also I need to make it clearer that the sun is setting to the right behind the mountains.


I think I’ve achieved a good sense of contrast between light/dark tones and the mountains appear 3 dimensional. Far distant hills are lighter toned which adds to the sense of distance.

Still not happy with the sky but it’s better. Obviously something I need to really look at and see how others achieve realistic clouds.

I’m not sure that the foreground has worked either. Tried to show a sense of low vegetation in a very loose, abstract way but I’m not convinced by my mark making. Have I tried to make it too bush like? Perhaps just ‘marks,’ as Scott Naismith uses, would be more effective?

Overall, I’m satisfied that as my first landscape in this style, I’ve made a good start onto which I can improve. I’ve achieved the essence of the landscape I hoped for – now for lots of experimenting and research to improve the technique.

Part 4

Writing a Review

Exercise: Writing an Exhibition Review

Landscapes of The Mind: The Art of Tristram Hillier

The Museum of Somerset 9 November 2019 – 18 April 2020

A small exhibition featuring about 50 paintings acquired from both private collections and national galleries. This is the first time in 30 years that it has been possible to get a collection of Hilliers work together allowing us to rediscover his realistic, yet highly symbolic, landscapes.

Born in 1905, Hillier spent his childhood in England followed by many years in France, Spain and Portugal until settling in Somerset after WWII. His father died when Hillier was just 19 freeing him to follow his passion for art instead of a business career.

In 1934 he joined a group of artists known as ‘Unit One’ who focussed upon abstract and surrealist art. The group, including artists like Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, would heavily influenced his work.

The exhibition cover his whole career right through from the 1930s to 1980s and is presented in chronological order interspersed with boards explaining each new phase. The layout is such that the visitor can easily navigate around the paintings getting a clear feel for how they developed over the years in line with his life and the changing World.

He was greatly influenced by the landscapes around him and loved to paint scenes from his travels to Europe. His realistic style is littered with symbolism relating to the effects of war, his own feelings and the fears for his family living in such troubled times. He would draw accurate sketches that he would then take back to his studio in England to paint. His meticulous study of fine detail and the textures around him bring life and interest to his landscapes. For example, in The Beach at Yport (1940), there is extraordinary detail on the netting and the brick wall in the mid ground. However the foreground rocks are almost featureless with the minimum of tones used to imply form. This combination ensures that the painting isn’t too precise and retains its dreamlike quality.

On first glance, The Vale from Cucklington (1944) depicts the usual idyllic scene of an English country church within the green countryside. However this was painted during WWII and you quickly notice that all is not as it should be with the landscape appearing rather neglected with broken gate and branches littering the road. Similarly, January Landscape (1962) shows an English countryside scene painted later in his life when in the depths of depression. Many of these later paintings lack the joy for life of earlier works, using a less vibrant colour palette and bleak compositions. This painting shows a long road ahead lined with featureless hedges and bare trees – a mirroring of his depressed state of mind.

The detail in each individual stone in the wall to the left in January Landscape is beautiful – the shadows, grooves and chips, the subtle variations in colour. Equally the bare trees show in phenomenal detail each branch and twig wonderfully backlit by the low winter sun. After exploring the composition as a whole and following the long road into the distance, you’ll find that you just have to go back to examine all that detail.

An informative and well curated exhibition, well worth a visit.


Landscapes of the Mind: The Art of Tristram Hillier (2020) [Exhibition]. The Museum of Somerset, Taunton. 9 November 2019-18 April 2020

Hillier, Tristram Paul, 1905–1983 | Art UK (s.d.) At: (Accessed 21/02/2020).

Tate (s.d.) Tristram Hillier 1905-1983 | Tate. At: (Accessed 21/02/2020).

Tristram Hillier (s.d.) At: (Accessed 21/02/2020).

(Word Count: 524)

Part 3

Project: People in context

Exercise: A figure in an interior

I liked the idea of having a group of figures in an interior so started with making some notes about the above two artworks and what I could / could not take from them to use in mine. Neither of these are painted from actual events but the artists have painted their friends/acquaintances into a setting, making up the composition. I could do that!

I decided to use my kitchen as the setting as it’s a large open space without too much fuss and detail. I then found a range of photos from social events with figures holding interesting poses or expressions. I pulled these together into a composition with larger more detailed figures at the front and those with good poses towards the back.

The foreground is a chap (my son) looking directly at the viewer holding a cocktail glass. He is the focal point that our eye starts at before being drawn back to the man blowing out the candles (David) and then onto the background.

This is the point that I decided to leave it overnight to take a fresh look the next day. Made notes on my thoughts:

It’s a shame, and odd perhaps, that none of the figures are looking at the man blowing out the candles – hmmm.

Made the changes I’d identified :

  • The main one being the legs of the man blowing the candles – tricky but I’ve done what I could. I overpainted the bottom section of the black shirt with titanium white and then the blue of the jeans, reshaping a bit too. I also moved his knee up to extend the length of his lower leg and narrowed his arm. Not exactly right still but better.
  • Added more width to the face of the lady across the table, now including the other eye. Also narrowed her neck which looks more human now
  • Added some light detail to the clothing of the background ladies
  • Altered the line of the chair seat – looks less awkward now
  • Flattened the bottoms of the dangling lights

Pretty happy with this now. Taking a step back to dwell on what hadn’t worked out and why was a good move and I was able to refocus and come at it afresh. I wonder if the people would be recognisable to themselves – I’ll pop this on Instagram was see what reaction I get. The form of the candle blowing guy still bugs me – something to note for the next time – I must make sure my sketch is accurate before starting to paint. Glad I chose to use acrylics rather than oils – I don’t think I could have managed this if I had to keep waiting for it to dry.

The composition gives the interior space – the foreground figure is large and detailed, the background smaller and rougher. Also the perspective of the table, bench and far wall.

Update 10/1/20: I showed this to a friend who immediately named three of the people without hesitation. What a relief that I’ve caught the essence of at least some of the people without needing to paint totally realistically.

Research point 3: Figures in interiors

Flip Gaasendam, Maja in Kimono reading, 2018, Oil

A dreamy, misty room with a figure sitting on the floor, reading. It looks as if she happened across the book, got engrossed and just sit down where she was to read. Detail in room is non descript – tables with objects on. Bottom third of canvas is just floor. Limited palette of pale browns and blue – soft and relaxing. The woman sits centrally within the painting and is the focus.

Max Beckmann, Party in Paris, 1931, Oil on canvas

A black tie event with guests crammed into the room. Many looking rather depressed – definitely not a party atmosphere! Many of the characters have been identified but this is not a party that really happened. The reason for this virtual gathering and its mood is left to our interpretation. The figures form the focus with the room mostly hidden. Our eye darts from one figure to another, studying ‘who they are’ – no single one pulls you in more than another. Interesting style: how he uses an assortment of skin colours and tones, black for outlines and feature detail, semi abstract, each person very individual personality – I tried to use this style for the Interior painting above and it does help give each person an individual personality.

Philip Geiger, Three thirty PM, 2004, Oil on linen

Scene from everyday family life. Figures are in the foreground but the eye is drawn backwards through the enormous room by the highly polished floor. What would otherwise be a rather bland floor covering over half the painting, is brought to life by the patches of bright summer sunlight coming through windows and casting bright patches on the floor. No furniture to speak of to distract the eye. Whilst the figures should be the focus, our eye is quickly taken by the great sense of space created within the rooms and the figures seem to become insignificant.


Bonnard, G. (2017) Flip Gaasendam – Galerie Bonnard. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Paris Society (1931) At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Three Thirty (s.d.) At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Exercise: Telling a Story

Rather a tricky one this, needs plenty of thought…

I went Christmas shopping to Exeter and was struck by the number of homeless people (mainly men) on my walk from the car park. It struck me that there was such a contrast between these people (cold, lonely, hungry, dirty, unshaven, desperate) and the shoppers (happy, wrapped up warmly, laughing, spending freely, full of festive joys).

I sketched from memory when I got home – obviously couldn’t stand there to sketch or take photos.

At first I thought about doing a view of a home with a lite up window showing a family inside laughing and eating their christmas meal. In the foreground I could put a silhouette of a young lad watching them – perhaps an estranged son or son from a previous marriage. However this composition idea gradually changed into a view of distant shoppers amongst the bright lights happily going about their business with the homeless silhouette in front. I was keen to have a go at painting figures in a loose way in the distance and this seemed the ideal opportunity. Being loose and free is something I find very hard and need lots of practice!

For some reason I decided to go with Oil paints again despite finding them a pain because of the waiting for layers to dry. And also I find mixing them tricky and quite a fuss – harder to get the colours you want than with acrylics I find, and adding fast drying mediums and Linseed oil is a faff.

As the composition is fairly wide it didn’t suit the more square shaped canvas boards that I have and so opted for the SAA Artists primed canvas 380gsm 40x50cm, which I taped to a board.

At the end of first session – rough marking out using brush and also knife. Distant shoppers with bags look OK but I need more up towards the shops and these need to be even more vague and loose!

Using colour to accentuate the differences between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ ie warm colours – reds, oranges, yellows – for happy shoppers. And cold blues and blacks for the foreground homeless.

I’m aiming for the foreground being a dark silhouette so that the initial focus of the viewer is on the shops and shoppers. Hopefully the eye will then be taken to the foreground and the contrast noted – that’s the aim anyway!

Spent some time looking at how other artists paint bright lights in a dark street and also ways of painting figures in the distance – see sketchbook

Left for 4 days to semi-dry…

I like Leonid Afremov’s painting style of night scenes in the rain with brights colours reflecting and merging. Obviously my painting is of a cold snowy scene rather than rain which means I can’t have the long reflections and glare but I’m keeping my brush strokes rough and a little abstract rather than trying for realism. More work needed on homeless figures and also the xmas lights.


Good contrast between foreground and background creating the story of different lives. Happy with my effort with the distant figures and keeping them free and loose. Perhaps I could have added more figures, especially in distance.

Tried to convey the feel of life happening inside the shops whilst still keeping it loose – I think I’m getting there especially with the left hand bar …

I can tell that there are 2 homeless people in the foreground but I wonder if that’s obvious to others? (seems to be when I asked a couple of people)

Left for a week to mull over and then made a few changes:

That’s better.

  • More variation in colour and marks added to trees where light catches them.
  • Upstairs windows have been changed so they’re not quite so luminous – window bars/objects hinted at.
  • bit of detail to xmas light hanging in street and also in bar window
  • more distant figures

Not completely happy – it’s all a bit twee and christmas card like but the essence of what I was trying to convey is there. The eye starts with the shoppers and windows before coming forward to the silhouetted men and so it leads the viewer into seeing the two halves of the scene.

Part 3

Project: Looking at Faces

Research: Point 1 Artists’ self portraits

All of these artists are looking straight at us, ie looking into a mirror in order to paint themselves. That is except for Fred Hatt who has the benefit of modern technology to video himself and display live on a monitor which he looks at instead (see below).

Claude Monet, Self portrait with beret, 1886, oil

Un-prepared canvas, his usual blurry brushstrokes, focus and detail all on face with shoulders and background roughly painted – doesn’t go right to edge, remember this! Wearing his artists beret and very much looks like he’s standing at his easel and looking in a mirror to do this. Serious, concentrated expression.

David Hockney, Self portrait with Red Braces, 2003

Made over 300 self portraits throughout his career and clearly showing a record of his aging. Drawings, paintings, alone, with others, pulling expressions…. This one is artist at work with his brush crossing the edge of the painting, Very effective simple blocks of colour with no variation in tone. Face just one tone with brush strokes in darker. Looking in a mirror at himself while painting flat on the table.

Fred Hatt, Self portrait, 2012

“In December 2012 I drew this portrait, with a camera set up to capture stages in the development of the picture. I pointed a video camera at myself and drew from the image on a monitor, to avoid the reversed face you get in a mirror and the frozen effect you can get from working from a photograph. The bluish colors you see under my eyebrows represent the cool glow of the computer monitor I could see on my face. ” (Fred Hatt, 2013)

Multicoloured line work on brown paper that is still visible. Red background pushes the face forward.

M C Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere and Artist, 1935

Artist uses the mirror (convex spherical surface) as the focus of this piece rather than the reflection itself. Careful study of how the surface distorts the image. Cannot see the artists work in the drawing however.

Pablo Picasso, Self portrait facing death, 1972, crayon on paper

Drawn about a year before his death and took several months to complete. The look of fear in his large staring eyes is prominent and the black lines are said to have got darker as he worked on the piece. All about feelings and expression rather than accurate representation. Tonal shading makes the face rounded with depth (the nose)

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait with Physalis, 1912

Limited colour palette with red accent of leaves behind. Lots of visible brush strokes give it character and life, limited use of tones to show light/dark areas of skin, more just to show a mottled complexion.

Gustave Courbet, The Desperate man self portrait, 1845

Painted several self portraits in the early years to develop his own style. Very realistic. I wonder how he painted this composition in a time before photography and managed to get those staring eyes. Lots of tonal variation and use of bright light to create contrasts.


A Self Portrait for the New Year – DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt (2013) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Guest (2009) 9 Famous Painters & the Revealing Art of Self-Portraits. At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Gustave Courbet – Le Desespere, 1845 (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Iconic Artists Who Have Immortalized Themselves Through Famous Self-Portraits (2017) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Pablo Picasso: Self-portrait Facing Death (1972) (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Self portrait in red and gold dress – by Frida Kahlo (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

The David Hockney Foundation: Self Portraits (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

The Desperate Man (Self-Portrait), 1843 – 1845 – Gustave Courbet – (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Exercise: Self Portrait

I’ve decided to give Oil Paints a go as several other students have said that they’re easier to use than acrylics and worth giving a go. I’ve bought Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colours along with a book ‘Oil Painting for Dummies’. Watched lots of YouTube videos also to find out the differences between regular Oils and Water mixable Oils:

Giddings, A.M. and Clifton, S.S. (2008) Oil Painting For Dummies. (s.l.): Wiley.

JerrysArtarama (2012) Prove It! Water Mixable Oils. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

JerrysArtarama (2017) Artist Problems – Water Mixable Oil Mistakes. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

PaintBasket (2016a) how to paint with water mixable oil paint part 2 wet in wet parrot animals techniques. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

PaintBasket (2016b) how to paint with water soluble oil paint – introduction to water mixable oil paint. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

Main points discovered:

  • They are still Oil Paints and all the same rules apply to these oils as to regular ones. The only difference is that brushes and hands can be washed with water instead of smelly solvent. (Also these oils can be mixed with a few drops of water instead of linseed oil in certain circumstances but see below)
  • Range of colours available is slightly less and there are cadmium hues rather than regular colours – this appears to be because they are less toxic but colours are just as good
  • Water mixable can be mixed with regular oils – you’ll just need to use solvent now to wash brushes etc, the mixing works fine
  • They take the same time to dry – the thicker they are applied the longer they take – maybe months or years!
  • Paper/boards need to be primed with a mix of Acrylic Paint and Gesso to help the oils stick
  • Water Mixable Oils can be thinned with either water or Water Soluble Linseed Oil
  • Fat Over Lean rule applies: successive layers of paint must contain more oil to avoid cracking. If completing a painting in one sitting (alla prima), then this doesn’t matter and use either water or oil to thin as desired. If working in layers then first layer thin with 1 drop oil and leave for few days/weeks, next layer must be thinned with 2 drops oil and left, third must be 3 etc

Very nervous about starting with Oils and procrastinated for several days but eventually decided that I just had to jump in! Set up an easel next to full length mirror so that I could glance sideways to see myself. Remember to keep my glasses lower down my nose than usual so that I can see both in mirror and close-up on canvas. Wearing hoodie and apron – it’s cold in this studio. Light coming from left side.

Canvas Board – Loxley, 16×12″, primed

This was after perhaps 2 hours, decided to stop there as it’s beginning to get tricky with paint muddying as extra added. I used a little water to thin this first layer. No Black in my pack of 10 tubes – a bit surprised by that but quickly discovered that French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber in roughly equal quantities mix to make Black. Skin tones are White mixed with Yellow Ochre and maybe a little Burnt Umber. Lip colour was tricky – added a little Cadmium Red Hue to skin colours but it’s a little too pink. Try adding Permanent Alizarin Crimson instead next time as that is more burgundy…

Took a step back – surprisingly not too bad. Eyes too large, especially the left one. Mouth not in line with nose. Are eyes too high up on my head? – remeasured and no they’re at about the right level it’s just that my head is angled down slightly and I have chins! Next day (so oils are still totally wet which is so odd after using acrylics) just touched up the left eye and moved mouth.

Better. Now put to one side for a week or so to dry – possibly do more to it later.

Clothing and hair were fairly straight forward, it was mixing the skin tones that I found really tricky. This was further hampered by it being oils so that it was near on impossible to correct a wrong tone – I’m not used to having to wait for days. I was mixing each tone as needed but this lead to a very messy palette with no order about it – I need to find a better method.

There is a fair likeness except that my skin tones are far too light and need to have a more red tint. Range and placement of tones is OK but not their colour. Two OCA student friends recognised that it was me but said I looked ill with such washed out grey skin!

Exercise: Head and shoulder portrait:

This isn’t easy, there’s only me and David at home and he’s always on the move. The only thing for it is to move my easel etc down to the sitting room and paint him while he watches TV in the evening. It’s dark outside the windows with the glass reflecting odd things. The furniture is also dark in colour. I ask David to change his dark grey hoodie for something lighter in colour – cream shirt and light grey jeans.

I’ve never painted in front of friends or family before and am quite nervous about his reaction.

SAA Acrylic Practice Paper, Satin Lined-Embossed Surface 330gsm – meant for acrylics but hopefully it’ll be ok. Taped down and primed with one layer of gesso – should it be white acrylic mixed with gesso? one or more layers? I don’t seem to be able to find the answer to this simple question! Paper curved a little after gesso so perhaps not ideal…

About one and a half hours. I’m tired now and he’s had enough of sitting still-ish. Realised that I’ve done more than Head and Shoulders – oh well. Beginning to get the tones in clothing. How do I paint a balding head with just some hair? Skin tones need to be a bit redder.. Good start but time to leave for a week or so before doing another layer.

Tuesday 3rd Dec met up with a couple of OCA painting students in Maiden Newton for a bit of critique and group help. I showed images of my 4 figure paintings so far. Very positive reaction and feeling greatly encouraged. They liked compositions and variations on techniques explored. Oils need practice with mixing skin tones (yes definitely!). Head and Shoulders portrait of David on sofa: don’t fiddle with clothing or background further, good as it is, work on head and skin with another layer.

Also discussed the disappointing news that units are being limited to 1 year maximum now – should be fine for me as I don’t work and aim for 10-11 months then a bit of a break, but impossible for working students. We hope OCA will survive this!

Pointers on using oils and skin tones:

  • try using a glaze as this brings Oils to life
  • This book was recommended by a tutor as great for colour mixing practice and has lots of practical exercises such as mixing skin tones actually on your hand. Basic Colour: A Practical Handbook: by Jane De Sausmarez – ordered 6/12 from Amazon
  • Mix a range of tones on palette before starting painting, right from the lightest to darkest (add appropriate oils/mediums now) – this way is a lot less fussy than mixing as you go. Yes my palette has been getting in a total muddle so I’ll give this a go
  • Get zinc white for mixing. Just as with acrylics, the titanium white isn’t the best for mixing so invest in zinc
  • more life poses on the Royal Academy website for free
  • investigate Liquin Fine and Liquin Gel – opinions vary but could be good for mixing
  • use the Fast Drying Medium – oils should be dry in about a week if not too thick

Head and Shoulders continued:

Base layer dry so re-working skin and leaving the rest as it is. After my self portrait I now know to focus on the skin tones more accurately and so this time I mixed Titanium White, Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson to get a much redder colour. I also started by mixing a range of 8 tones in order on my palette and labelling each clearly to make remixing next time easier – see mixing palette in sketchbook (also adding a few drops of Water Mixable Linseed Oil to each as 2nd layer).

Initially I used a small brush but quickly found that this wasn’t any good as it didn’t hold enough paint and there was no coverage. The tones are much closer now and I’m fairly happy with the head except for the nose! I tried wiping that area clean and redoing but I’m still not happy with it, especially the area under the nose, so will have to wait again for it to dry and try again…

5 days later…remixed tones for skin and redid the nose – shorter and rounder. Moved mouth up a bit and adjusted some of the too dark tones. Quite a bit better now although it’s not a very flattering likeness of the poor man.

Research Point 2: Portraits that convey a distinctive mood or atmosphere

Both the above use restricted palettes of black, white and earth colours with an emphasis on using tone to show atmosphere. The lack of a varied colourful palette infers a basic life without extravagances. Somber, hard working, faithful.

Picasso’s Blue Period lasted from 1900-1904  whilst he was in the depths of depression with no fixed studio space. They show the relative poverty and instability he experienced in the streets, with beggars, the old and frail and drunks. The blue colour gives the paintings a cold joyless feel of despair.

“German expressionism was an early twentieth century German art movement that emphasized the artist’s inner feelings or ideas over replicating reality, and was characterised by simplified shapes, bright colours and gestural marks or brushstrokes” ( Both paintings use blue, yellow and green (analogous=colours that lie adjacent to each other) which create a rich though calm feel.

“Fauvism is the name applied to the work produced by a group of artists (which included Henri Matisse and André Derain) from around 1905 to 1910, which is characterised by strong colours and fierce brushwork ” (

Contemporary Fauve art – an even stronger, more vibrant use of colour than before with an amazing use of complementary colours that make the painting extra bright and full of vibrant life. Love these! Definitely a style I’d like to try – use of colour as the tones ie dark colours like purple v. light colours like yellow, also use of warm and cool colours. Have a go! ***


Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period (s.d.) At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace | Vincent van Gogh | 1984.393 | Work of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (s.d.) At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Rembrandt’s Mother – The Leiden Collection (s.d.) At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Tate (s.d.) Fauvism – Art Term | Tate. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019a).

Tate (s.d.) German expressionism – Art Term | Tate. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019b).

The connection between German expressionist art an The Maltese Falcon (s.d.) At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Wikipedia contributors (2019a) André Derain. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Wikipedia contributors (2019b) Picasso’s Blue Period. At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Exercise: Creating mood and atmosphere

For this exercise I want to use lots of colour to give a happy joyful and lively atmosphere – bold, in your face and fun. I don’t suppose that it will be true to life but rather give the feel of form within colour.

I’m going to keep going with oil paints and this time use a palette knife to apply the paint thickly (impasto) hoping that the texture will also add life and movement to the figure.

I started by sketching more life poses using The Royal Academy live website (see sketchbook):

The life-drawing class you can take from home | Blog | Royal Academy of Arts (s.d.) At: (Accessed 06/12/2019).

I decided to use this pose as there is a strong contrast between light and dark. The figure is in the process of jumping – a very lively shot with lots of movements to suit my chosen atmosphere.

Canvas Board, roughly A2 size, ready primed. Mixed a range of bold colours from light yellow through to dark red – I literally applied these by looking at the photo and, starting with the lightest, used the palette knife to apply that to the appropriate areas, then 2nd lightest and so on to the darkest.

I scraped 3 shades of green across the canvas for the background. When semi-dry, I added some blues and let them lightly blend. Blue/green is the complementary colour of red/orange and so therefore helps to create a vibrant image. Also applied more oils to the figure and studied exactly where the tones should be. Fairly happy with this – top elbow isn’t quite the right shape and that light patch in his stomach needs removing. There needs to be something to connect the figure and the background which currently seem to exist separately.

Brought the figures colours into the background in horizontal and vertical marks – lightest on the left where the light source comes from, and darker on the right. In this photo the central left area appears to have a glowing blue-ness which I really like – not in the painting though, just a trick of the light. I wonder if I can reproduce this…

I love the looseness and textures of the marks created by using a knife. It is not a likeness of the figure but rather a celebration of the strength, agility and movement.

If I were to do this again I would change the pose slightly so that his lower legs appeared to be the correct length – they appear too short in my painting. Both are bent backwards and away from us, hence foreshortened but my painting doesn’t convey this well.

Exercise: Conveying character

My daughter Katie is a perfect model for this task – she has one of those faces that really lights up a room when she’s happy but boy do you know it when she’s not! The photographer caught one of those moments at her wedding with them roaring with laughter.

SAA Artists Cotton Canvas, for oils and acrylics, 40x50cm . Using acrylics this time so that I can get this done in a day or two. Working with the canvas flat on the table rather than on an easel. Haven’t used canvas before but it’s primed and ready to go. Start with pencil outlines and watered down acrylic washes to get basic shapes.

The tones on the faces are all important to get the humour, as are the shape of the eyes.

I struggled a lot with the mouths and getting dark flesh tones that weren’t pink – eventually got them sort of ok and the Paynes Grey shading down the tongues helped. Yet again doing fine accurate lines defeated me and their glasses frames are weirdly shaped. I used a very light violet together with Titanium White for the lacy dresses and dabbed on the paint to leave a slightly textured finish – quite happy with the effect.

Skin tones are much better this time with acrylics rather than oils – I’m keeping it thin and it’s easy to blend and control.

Katie, on the right, is not too bad – could have got more of a sparkle into her eyes but she’s definitely laughing. Toni, on the left, isn’t quite there – her face is too wide, should be longer under the mouth, and her eyes are too low behind her glasses. Decided that I needed to adjust her a bit…

Changed the hair line which makes quite a difference. Can’t alter the placement of her eyes at this stage though.

I feel that although the likenesses are not quite there, I have managed to portray the humour with their facial expressions. I’m happy that I’m progressing with my colour mixing and that the skin tones are improving now.

Review of all my portraits:

Each one has been successful in their way and I’ve certainly learnt from each to move me forward. I started with sickly pale skin tones, moved to too pink before getting it right for the final piece. The first 3 were oils which I found a challenge technically as they need to be left to dry before more layers and corrections can be added. I enjoyed the speed that it was possible to complete the last one in acrylics a refreshing end to this section.

My personal favourite is the abstract figure in red tones. I love the vibrancy and life of this painting, and look forward to doing more in this style. The other true to life portraits are competent attempts but they highlight the errors to someone who knows the people portrayed. A lot more practice would be needed for me to feel competent with painting true to life portraits. If I get time I’d like to have a go at painting Katie (on the right) in the fauve style of Ivy Lang above – lots of vibrant complementary colours used for the tones…

Part 3

Project: Observing the human figure

Exercise: Drawing the human Figure – see sketchbook for a range of life drawing sketches. As I couldn’t find a life drawing class at short notice, I managed to find this site with timed poses for free. It’s possible to sign up and pay to get the full package of poses and tuition but I’m sticking with the free stuff for now:

New Masters Academy (2015) Draw the Human Form – Figure Drawing Reference (DLDS # 33) – 4K Timed Nude Life Models Session. At: (Accessed on 20 November 2019)

Research: image collection of figure drawings and painting that appeal to me (artists listed below).

  1. Annette Smith, watercolour
  2. Evelina Dilon – realistic skin tones but applied in rough way
  3. Debra Hurd – skin tones enhanced with warm reds and ‘life’
  4. Justin Ogilvie – detail toward front but rear leg etc have none, just shadow
  5. Ingres
  6. Ingres
  7. Leomid Aframov – feathery, dabbing brush strokes, I might find this easier?
  8. Anastasiya Valiulina, oil on canvas – violet as mid tone skin
  9. Helena Wierzbicki
  10. Helena Wierzbicki – background and figure have same colours, all about the placement of the colours. Uses black outline where darker toned
  11. Standing Blue Nude by Henri Matisse – just carefully shaped cutouts, no tone at all
  12. The Dance by Henri Matisse
  13. Three Studies of a Ballerina by Edgas Degas
  14. Worm drawing at Hickory Museum of Art – line to give tones, extremities without detail
  15. You’re Still My Favorite Story by Samantha Rueter – same colour for figure and background, black lines to show form, lightest tones left white, direction of brush strokes

Exercise: Linear Figure Study

Lots of different styles and techniques shown above to choose from of course but for this task I’m going to try out the style of Samantha Rueter (no. 15 and also see sketchbook)

This is the pose I chose and first sketches focussing on line:

I then tested out a few techniques to see what worked. Samantha Rueter uses Acrylics and Mixed Media for most of her work. I was interested to try making the lines in a variety of ways (see sketchbook):

Acrylic Ink background with credit card and figure lines with stick – a bit tricky to control

Acrylic paint this time which doesn’t scrape very interestingly but it’s easy to get a range of tones by diluting. Figure lines with brush – I like the layering of tones with line as on head and shoulder area.

This one’s watercolour which I have very little experience of using ‘properly’ so am making it up! On Hahnemuhle Mixed Media 310gm2 paper for watercolour.

First applied wash of violet and tilted page to allow it to run and spread. Allowed to dry a little and then used a credit card to scrape back the lines of the figure. Dried off with hairdryer and then used credit card to add paint to accentuate lines and areas of darker tone eg face and shoulder, bottom and lower back. Used credit card to scrape paint horizontally for floor and vertically for walls to ground the figure (Violet and Phthalo Blue). Yellow (complementary colour) highlights added – not applied well and look a mess but perhaps if done better…

Interesting method, needs more practice to get it right but I feel this could go somewhere so trying more watercolour figures:

Water Colour, this time on Canson Mix Media 200gm2 paper.

There is too much background this time and the lower half of the figure hasn’t got the correct proportions. I did try lightly drawing on the outline before applying the wash but it got lost of course. I do like the crop below however – the angles of the shoulder and how it’s highlighted on the upper side, the heavy shade on the face and neck, and the ragged hair falling over her face.

Another watercolour try:

Back to the Hahnemuhle Mixed Media 310gm2 paper. Proportions better this time and I like having less background colour. Worked hard on the shaded area of face and neck, and again that area has worked well whereas the feet and lower legs are wrong but reworking is making it worse! Scraping back the wash gives very light outlines of slight puddles of wash ie light line effect for the light areas. By then adding paint to the darker toned lines, the figures become 3 dimensional and rounded.

This paper is very different from the Canson – although this one specifically says for watercolour, the surface doesn’t hold up to much rubbing and is rather like blotting paper giving a rough textured finish rather than the smooth of Hahnemuhle paper.

Exercise: Tonal figure study

Restricted palette so that I focus on the tonal values so perhaps something like the figure by Justin Ogilvie (no. 4 above)

Chosen pose as there’s lots of contrast

Acrylics on SAA Practice Paper, Satin Linen – Embossed Surface 330gsm.

Started with a mid toned grey wash as suggested. Decided to go with blue instead of flesh colours so that I could focus on the tones rather than getting the exact colour correct. Mixed up a range of 9 tones using Indigo, white and black acrylic – see sketchbook.

Left to dry for a few hours after 3. above so that I could focus on the adjustments needed. Used a mop brush to apply a light second coat to background so that brush strokes largely disappeared and to give the feel of more texture. Changed to my smallest rounded point brush and did dots rather the strokes which seemed to work better for me. Really studied the changes in tone. Reworked the face and hands several times but still not totally happy that they’re correct. Left overnight.

Small reworkings to hands – I realised that I had all the fingers splayed rather than overlapping at the tips and added darker tone to the finger ends. Also narrowed the top of that right arm toward wrist. Bit better now.

Overall I’m quite happy that I’ve got the tones largely correct so that she looks realistic and rounded. Hands and head still aren’t quite right but the best I can do for now.

The angle of her lower left leg isn’t correct – should be vertical rather than angled inward, and this has the effect of making her look like she’s dancing/bouncing around instead of putting some weight into those toes in a still pose.

Loving this paper – paint glides over it smoothly and it’s sturdy enough not to crinkle at all. Expensive but probably worth it.