Part 1

Research point: Chiaroscuro

Chiaro = light in Italian

Scuro = dark in Italian

The use of a bright light source to show great contrasts between light and dark tones. Creates a focal point of that main object and gives depth.

Figure 1
Figure 2
  • Figure 1 = Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus. Light source from upper left side leaving foreground figure in darkness and making the central focus the two animated figures to the right.
  • Figure 2 = Tintoretto, Portrait of two Senators (1570). The light source here is used to define the folds in the rather dark robes and gives weight to the fabric.
  • Figure 3 = Tintoretto, self portrait. Light source is only slightly to right beside artist/viewer and means that the tones and shadows on the face are almost symmetrical. Lightest tones are on forehead and nose which makes them the focus along with the dark eyes.
  • Figure 4 = Peter Rubens, Old Woman with a basket of coal. This is, I suppose, a realistic scene with the only light coming from the fire on a dark evening. Focus becomes the old womans weathered and textured face as she stares at the light.
Figure 5

Figure 6
  • Figure 5 = Joseph Wright of Derby, The Philosopher Giving that Lecture on an Orrery (1762). Almost photographic in quality. The light in this case is the ‘sun’ within the animated universe. It gives most detail to the children nearest the center but also extends into the far room. Foreground figure is just a silhouette.
  • Figure 6 = Rembrandt, Self portrait (1657). Small light source that only illuminates a small area of his face and doesn’t reach the sides/hair/lower face. Focus becomes the dark eyes within the textured forehead and nose area.
  • Figure 7 = Vic Harris, self portrait in oil (2015). Difficult to do a self portrait that isn’t looking directly at you – I guess he used a photograph. Highlights the folds in his black shirt and detail in his dark hair that wouldn’t be seem otherwise. Interesting pose.
  • Figure 8 = Valkenburg, Chiaroscuro (2005). Strong light used here to change the atmosphere to one that’s creepy and scary. Not a wide range of tones this time – mainly black and glaring light tone with not much between. The spots of light reflected in his eyes make them really bore into you.

Bibliography (all websites access on 27/8/19) (fig 1) (fig 6) (fig 6) (fig 5) (fig.7)

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.

Part 1

Monochrome Studies

It wasn’t until I had completed this exercise that I understood what it was about! The light grey includes white and is therefore Opaque, and the dark tree colour is a transparent wash.

Transparent on Opaque
Opaque on Transparent

It was incredibly tricky painting the negative spaces. It was hard thinking about where each branch was and I managed to paint over a few. My white acrylic is obviously rather poor quality as it took 2 coats to make it semi opaque – you can still see through to the background and clearly see all the brushstrokes as well. However, now that it’s finished I find that I prefer it to the first one. There is far more life and movement and seeing the brushstrokes adds to this effect. The trans on opaque is rather boring and lifeless. It’s also interesting to note how the branch shapes vary between the two with the lines being more angular on the second (tendency to leave a straight edged gap for the twigs rather than small bends and flicks).

Interesting how the background brushstrokes are so clearly visible on the second tree. I ran the strokes horizontally not thinking at all about the effect. This gives the tree trunk some weight and a suggestion of being rounded. I think vertical strokes would have elongated the tree and given the suggestion of height – an interesting point to consider for futures pieces that the brush stroke direction for the ground could still matter.

I didn’t do the fading in tone for the outer branches and twigs – I found it tricky enough without that extra complication. Next time.

Note to self that I must get a quality fine hair brush.

I would have automatically gone for painting the tree onto the background. This exercise has definitely open my eyes to the fact that it doesn’t have to be done like that and painting the negative spaces could add required movement and life – don’t just do the obvious!

Part 1

Transparent and Opaque

Tonally graded wash and Overlaying washes

Violet and Ultramarine Blue Acrylics

Single coat wash
Wet on wet wash
Overlaid glaze

With the wet on wet washes, the colours have blended together irregularly and patchy. There is some distortion where the water has gathered a little. The blending is a little more streaky than on the overlaid glaze versions.

The wet on wet method would be better for skies or water for example where the grading isn’t totally regular and there are patches of one colour or other dominating. The glaze method would be better for anything with regular grading, something man-made such as fabric, it’s far easier to control.

Wet on wet colour mixes

Colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel (eg Yellow with Green or Orange, Red with Orange, Blue with Green) are called Analogous Colours and they blend well together though could get too intense so best if one colour dominates. Those that are opposites (eg Red and Green, Blue and Orange) are called Complimentary Colours and these work very well together with the colours really popping out. The Yellow and Ochre are too close on the wheel and look rather boring together.

All the colours physically blended together well although it’s hard to control how wet the paper gets with wet-on-wet and this makes it streaky and patchy.

Wet-on-Wet vs Glaze

Glazing is far easier to control and gives a nice regular grading. I’m making the wet on wet too wet and it’s pooling.

Mark Rothko:

The Seagram Murals are 8 huge works which hang in The Tate in the ‘Rothko Room’. Four are titled ‘Red on Maroon’ and four ‘Black on Maroon’. Viewing these online is totally underwhelming as both the size (they are all several metres square) and colour are completely lost – in fact the images on The Tate website show no contrast between colours on my screen so I started off very confused over their attraction. Thankfully other websites show better images and the beautiful vibrant red ‘frames’ blur as they meet with maroon.

Also used this style of layering colour for many other paintings in various colours, some of which work well together and others that seem to clash.

Opaque Colour Mixing

Paint is termed Opaque when you can’t see through it to the layers below. Some acrylics are more opaque than others eg titanium white and cadmium red.

For this exercise I’m adding white, rather than water, to the colours to try to replicate the grading washes from previous exercises. This should make them Opaque rather than transparent.

Left images = transparent (with water), Right images = Opaque (with white)

Cadmium Orange to Brilliant Red. Pretty close match although Opaque is slightly pinker.

Cadmium Orange to Ultra Marine Blue. The orange is far more vibrant when opaque and rather washed out when transparent. Didn’t manage to replicate colours.

Viridian Green to Brilliant Red. Again the red is a little pink and the green+red+white seems to make grey.

Viridian Green to Medium Yellow. Pretty close grading although transparent green is far more washed out – my fault for adding too much water.

Ultramarine Blue (on own). Very different – the blue changes colour completely (to be more vivid and bright) when white is added.

Viridian Green to Ultra Marine Blue. Greens match well but, as above, the blue is a different colour when opaque.

Burnt Sienna to Medium Yellow. Very close match in colours.

Burnt Sienna (on own). Close match although hard to get lighter tones with white added – I needed to use far more white and less B.Sienna.

A very useful exercise for me – I hadn’t really appreciated the difference between transparent and opaque mixes in acrylics and just how different they can look. The opaque mixes would make great bases for the initial layers. Generally I would think adding transparent mixes towards the end would lift a painting and make it more vibrant and add depth. Opaque can be used to change the colour of lower levels if they are not as wanted, where as transparent can only be used to make subtle changes as lower layers will be seen through.

Part 1

Basic Paint Application

Getting to know your brushes – see sketchbook

I know absolutely nothing about brush types, well about painting in general really, so started by googling brush types and identifying what I had/needed. Lots of lovely marks, especially love those made with the fan brush.

Acrylics. Painting is really tricky! Feeling just a little out of my depth here but I guess it’s all about practice.

So I was feeling that these were rather awful but I can see progress. Plums were painted first – shadows were a real struggle as was showing the colour/tone variations. Then the banana – shadow is a bit better, needs more colour variation and ‘depth’. Finally the apple which I took a bit of time over and started with a background colour. Lots of colour mixing and adding more paint in layers, adjusting shape etc – much happier with this attempt.

Applying paint without brushes – see sketchbook

Pallet knives of various shapes and sizes. Initial layer left to completely dry then second layer added. Dragging edge of knife can give lovely smooth even layer without the marks of a brush. Also when run over texture it gives additional ‘depth’ (not sure what word to use for this). I’m learning that Acrylic paint looks best on thickly!

More marks with credit cards, sponges, rags, toothbrush, bottle lid…

Painting with pastels – see sketchbook

I practiced using oil and soft pastels in Drawing 1 but never with turps or paint involved too.

Started with a bit of googling as a starting point as the instructions don’t make a lot of sense to me:

  • – How to Create a highly textured pastel painting using acrylic paint
  • YouTube: Dieter Becker – Mixed Media acrylic and Oil pastel. Base layer of acrylics then pastels using stabbing motion, not blended.
  • – How to use Scumbling? which I discovered is similar to the Dry Brush technique I learnt on the watercolour course only this time using pastels rather than paint. An uneven layer over existing colour.
  • Barry, H. (2017) Encyclopedia of Acrylic Techniques. London: Quarto Publishing plc – great book for me with all the various techniques described that I’m hearing about including, in this case, Scumbling.

Beach and Sea with Rocks. Initial smooth layer of acrylics as base coat. Then lots of texture added with pallet knives and left to dry fully. Then soft pastel added in places, not all over but filling in the gaps. Lots of dabbing and quick marks in sea, darker near horizon, then white/light tones added for the spray using scumbling (pastel in edge, lightly over texture). Blended pastel over sand. Rocks added lighter tones over texture again with scumbling.

Very quickly done but I can see how this could be a great method for rough areas such as rocks and water.