I have decided to develop the interior painting of My Studio rather than doing another still life composition. I feel that I’ll definitely benefit from more practice with interiors and need to find an interesting and lively composition.
Research: Anthony Green
During the past year of visiting exhibitions I have come across paintings by Anthony Green on several occasions. The fascinating composition of these instantly leaps out at me to make him one of the few artists whose work I can identify.
I spent some time looking at his interiors on the internet then decided that the thing to do was to print some off and make notes on them. See sketchbook:
Irregular shaped supports or even multiple supports loosely joined.
Almost always uses a high viewpoint, up at ceiling height.
Multiple perspectives, includes all walls, both those in front and behind the viewer, plus ceiling, next door rooms etc. Great sense of space. Some rooms distorted or extended to create extra space.
Very bright vibrant palettes but limited to a few colours. Many are tones of oranges and reds, others greens.
Trickery included – reflections in mirrors can show different people.
The artist himself and family members included, almost as caricatures. Eyes high on head.
Also bought this book, really interesting insight into what is behind his painting:
Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain) (2017) Anthony Green: Painting Life. (s.l.): Royal Academy of Arts.
For Part 2 of the Drawing 1 course last year, I worked on My Studio to do these pieces. Then I was using David Hockney (for multi-perspective) and Roy Lichtenstein (for changing/updating patterns and textures) as inspiration:
This isn’t quite what I was hoping for, too many straight lines…. then I thought about taking panoramic photos with my mobile – that will give a curved perspective….
Yes that’s much better, more the effect I have in my mind. Too many objects and clutter to include, I need to be selective to get best composition.
Another sketch, this time on A1 paper, long to include all walls of the room.
Curve to the walls as they go off into distance.
Furthest point is left end of window wall where it meets shelves so this part is the smallest and lines grow as things get nearer to the viewer.
Desks are central focus (and nearest point) so items are large.
Desk edge sticks out beyond edge of support to accentuate.
Ceiling beams included, as Anthony Green does, with them sticking out. These help to hold the room together and make it look like the side walls are parallel. Without the beams I’m not sure that I’d have the 3D feel at this stage.
Can see into adjoining wash room though I’m not including the door itself as that’s too dominant (pretend it opens away from us and hinged from right of doorway)
Next stage was fiddling around with the lines again and making a simplified plan. Now what colour palette to use? (see sketchbook)
Decided to use different colours than it is and go for green walls and a reddish colour (its complementary colour) for a wooden things. Practiced mixing various greens – mostly they turned out pretty dull and mossy which isn’t what I want. Grass Green with either Cobalt Blue or Cadmium Yellow gave a good range of vibrant, in your face, greens.
I wanted to use a support other than paper – try something new. I found some hardboard and drew on the outline, then was told that I should draw it on the reverse side to get a smooth cut on the front. I did this but stupidly forgot that I needed to reverse the pattern so it was cut wrongly – bother. And the back is very textured so no good.
I’m going to have a go anyway and attempt to do a mirror image of the room.
I’ve been watching Sky Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 and one of the artists used a Pebble Sculptor / Contour Tool / Wedge (seems to be called many things) which I’d not come across before. I’ve ordered one and am going to try using this along with palette knives – just to try to create a different effect and to add some texture. It would be too easy to just do a regular brush painting and make this realistic – I want to experiment and try new stuff!
Initial layer of acrylics applied using Wedge and Palette Knives – scraped so that under layer shows through and there’s lots of texture. Carpet applied with an old toothbrush and stippled to get texture. Allowing this to completely dry and then I’ll try adding washes to sort out tones and detail. Working in reverse is actually quite interesting – the lines are less instinctive and I hope I’ll be looser rather than obsessing with accuracy.
Some parts are sticking out to me as very wrong:
But some of the textures are great:
There’s a lot wrong with some of the line work – the shelf unit is far too narrow, hasn’t got a smooth curve around and the tall part too wide/short part too narrow! Working as a mirror image was hard – as you can see I failed to reverse the items on the table and I got confused by the curve of the ceiling line above the window.
I do love all the textures though and they really add to the interest of the piece. I worked hard on the tones, especially on the walls, to show places where there was light or shadow and I feel that I’ve largely achieved creating space and depth to the room.
Although I’m pretty pleased with the finished painting, I’ve decided to have another go this time on mount board and hopefully the correct way around!
This of course looks far more like my studio, that’ll be the accurate colours used this time. I leant by my previous mistakes and spent the time getting the lines right first this time.
The curves of the shelf unit are correct this time and I’ve added a small view of the near left end which helps (though it can’t really been seen from this view point). When I painted this unit on the linear perspective exercise, I really struggled painting the straight lines of the unit front and they ended up very wiggly. This time I used the wedge to ‘print’ straight line sections – these are slightly raised and reflect the white paint well resulting in a nicely highlighted front – much happier this time. I painted in the shadows/light in each shelf to give it depth before filling with miscellaneous items. I deliberately kept the painting of these items vague and loose, not accurate representations but general forms.
I think that both the use of tones on the walls together with the curving lines and including the ceiling, have all contributed to giving a great sense of space within the room. As one fellow student said, they would like to walk into the wash room to explore in there too.
The far window looks better with the window sill included, along with being able to see the sides of the window recess (not the top due to high view point).
I did the ceiling beams as on the first piece – black on the shady sides and black with gloss medium on the light sides, with streaks of white allowed to show through. I also did the carpet the same, stippling colours but adding more shade this time too.
This second piece is more realistic, calming, accurate and sits well on the eye. But, it is more boring in many ways with its largely smooth texture and cool colours.
I presented these two assignment pieces at the SW Study Day on Saturday 9th Nov to fellow students and tutor Lydia Halcrow who was there. I asked which they preferred and why – interesting responses:
Green has more energy. The errors add interest and intrigue, and make it my own. Since the perspective and line is rather abstract, these errors aren’t seen by others as errors. Texture is great. Colours and texture give it quite a fairytale/dreamland quality. A place of energy and adventure.
Blue is obviously more precise and the colours are calming and relaxed. The feel of space is very realistic and they’d like to walk into the wash room to see that too. More to look at in this piece, one student commented that they could study the contents of the shelves for ages deciding what the items were.
I had assumed they would prefer the blue one however opinion was split between the two.
This has been a great learning assignment. Lots of positives and lessons learnt that I can take forward into future painting. ie use lots of texture and apply paint in a variety of ways to create interest, Accentuate the light/dark tones, Don’t fuss with fine detail but do make sure there’s plenty going on for the eye to find, Initial sketches, planning and mapping out are very important!
Tutor Lydia Halcrow spoke to the group about her work:
Uses metal plates attached to her walking boots to collect the marks from her walks along the estuary. She used these scratched and grooved plates to then print images of each walk.
Initially her work was painting of an area. Now her work is a response to an area – collected soil used as painting medium, found clay used to take imprints in ship hull which collects barnacles and rust.
Mild steel plates left to rush on the ships hull
Works on collections of small pieces which can be displayed together in grids to made large pieces.
Collects found plastics from beach and arranges on light sensitive plate (from China) which leave rough areas that can then be printed – black images (using found black clay for ink) on thick white paper (like blotting paper), some plastics identifiable (ring pulls, netting)
We then discussed the problems of working outside and ways we’ve found to overcome these:
People looking and possibly asking questions! Lack of self confidence – join a small group of artists working so focus isn’t on you, work small and simply then rework back in studio. Have your story ready to tell the inquisitive (student working on project, council worker)
Personal safety, being alone (especially for photographers) in dark areas – the usual check list of tell someone where you’re going and when you’re expected back, take torch, take dog, go with someone…
Ever changing light and weather conditions – work small and quickly, don’t let it worry you, just adjust, go prepared to change from painting to rubbings or soil collection, quick sketch or photos
Trespass – know your local law, don’t try photographing government buildings in Israel etc, ask permission on obviously private land (or work quickly)
Carrying supplies – don’t take everything, keep it to a basic minimum, use pastels, charcoal or brush pens rather than paints etc
The afternoon was spent with student presentations and questions regarding their current work. As there were 19 students, we split into 2 groups of 9 so that we had approx 15 mins each. I presented my pieces for Part 2 assignment and asked what worked well/didn’t with each as they are so different. Interesting feedback from fellow students and Lydia Halcrow – see Part 2 assignment write up.
A very enjoyable and useful session despite being such a long distance to travel there and back in the one day. Always great to meet up with other students to swap stories and gather advise.
My tutor liked that I had been experimenting with mixed media and paint, and encouraged me to continue this which I will definitely do – so much to explore and learn!
He also suggests I continue to develop layering paint to build depth on the surface, and explore line, tone and texture in abstracted ways, as opposed to focussing on representation accuracy. This is great as I’ve really been focussing on trying to be more abstract in Part 2 – exploring using palette knives and wedges etc rather than just brushes to give more texture and different lines.
He suggests that I spend more time sketching and trialing ideas before starting. This should help with getting the tonal properties correct and the contrast between light and dark areas. Definitely something I’m becoming more aware of, especially when painting interiors. On receiving this feedback, I revisited the interior pieces I was working on and added more variation between tones – creates a clearer sense of depth and space within the room.
As far as research is concerned, he suggests that I choose 2 or 3 artworks each time and compare and contrast these in more detail. I’ll certainly give this a go in future though I’d completed all the research for Part 2 before receiving this advise.
He says how important it is to take as much inspiration as possible from other artists through visiting exhibition (as I’ve been doing, especially over the summer) and reading a range of books. He suggested I get a couple of books 1. Vitamin P – New Perspectives in Painting, by Barry Schwabsky (2002) – bought this and reading through. 2. A Brush with the Real: Figurative Painting Today (Elephant Books) (2014) – too expensive for me, maybe I’ll find it in a library…
In summary, Pointers for the next assignment: ● Continue to experiment and explore your visual thinking in different ways, both in terms of medium and subjects. Focus on your processes rather than final outcomes at this stage and build confidence with your application of paint. – loving experimenting, there’s so much to learn. I’ve explored applying Acrylics with tools and well as brushes which I find frees me up more, and am persevering with the troublesome Gouache as I love its vibrancy. Going to invest in Oil paints for the next part to see how they compare. ● Develop greater contrast in your work but spending more time observing the tonal properties of your subject. Exaggerating the relationship between light and dark may reveal a more realistic three-dimensional space. – something I’ll really need to focus on and learn to exaggerate as I can see how it’s the contrast that adds reality. ● The subject of the next assignment can be approached in a traditional way, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Push the creative boundaries of your practice and utilise what you learn from your contextual research. ● Search the OCA website for resources and guides on academic writing and critical reflection, including how to use Harvard referencing when citing your research sources. – I’ve done this and am now using PaperPile to help with referencing.
Elinga painted mainly domestic interior scenes focussing on the geometric forms of floor tiles and windows. These appear to be of his own house and feature many repetitions of the same windows and items of furniture though possibly moved around eg 1. and 2. above appear to be the same room on first glance with the same mirror, windows, doorway position, table and chairs but actually the pictures on the wall are different and the gap between left window and doorway is different. In 3. and 4. again appear the same (chest and covering cloth, chairs, ceiling) but view out of window changes, floor tile pattern and size of frames on RHS wall change too.
A couple of paintings include his wife sitting reading and most include the maid sweeping the floor, I guess she could be told to remain at the chore where as his wife had other ideas. He does not appear to be a fan of painting face detail with most figures facing away or in shadow.
Each one includes the play of light coming in from the tall windows as it falls upon walls and floors. Great attention has been played to getting these angles correct although this must have been hard as the light changed throughout the day. The shadows of the chairs seem to dance and flicker on the wall as the light changes with the moving clouds in the sky.
Great attention to the perspective of the rooms has been paid, accentuated by the regular patterns of the floor tiles. This perspective gives the rooms a great feel of space and room.
This type of 3D painting using perspective really fascinates me. Painting inside a box such that when viewed through peep hole/s on the side the perspective of the room and furniture appears true. (Not supposed to be viewed from the open front, that’s just to let light in, where perspective will be out).
I found this plan of a perspective box by Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten and made it up to see if it really worked – yes! incredible, (though very blurred in this rough mockup). Viewed from RHS peep hole, the floor pattern continues correctly off into the next room and the chair appears to stand on the floor.
Johannes Vermeer (1632-75)
This is a lavish, wealthy household, shown by the marble flooring and quality rug over the chest. A young girl is having a music lesson on a Virginal, watched over by a man who has his mouth slightly apart as is perhaps singing along. Music lessons of this type were reserved for the wealthy.
The chair and detail on the rug have been painted with the expensive Ultramarine pigment that Vermeer liked to use. The pattern of the floor leads the eye towards to back of the scene, and as the man is facing sideways, the eye is further drawn to the lady. This sense of space is further implied by the size of the jug in the foreground.
In the mirror we can see the reflection of the face along with the rug. There is also part of the artists easel leg showing that this is a scene just as the artist saw it.
This painting uses linear perspective to draw the eye backwards. The vanishing point is approx by the girls left elbow.
2. Interiors from different periods – how the illusion of space is created:
A long corridor leading away in the background together with the large four poster bed tell us that this is a big place.
Dead centre of this painting is the far diagonal corner of the room. The left wall is long – there are many large paintings hung there which tells us that the room is large. The left of the room contains lots of furniture whilst the right is bare showing us that this is a massive room.
The stairway then door on the right lead the eye onward past a fireplace to the french windows that shower light over the room. The highly polished floor reflects the light.
This is one of many interiors by Anthony Green that show multiple perspectives therefore including all sides of the room together with floor and ceiling. The irregular shapes of his surface help the eye to dart around the painting exploring all corners. In this painting, the open doorway shows us that there are more rooms beyond and give it a realistic feel of a home.
All the straight lines lead the eye diagonally to the left where a wall mirror extends the length of the room even further. The scale of the room is further enhanced by the addition of a shiny grande piano, which could only fit into a large room.
The perspective in this view has been changed slightly so that both the kitchen sink and the breakfast table can been seen – like a wide lens on a camera. The placement of the long corridor in the background leads the eye on and on in the distance.
“Linear perspective is a rendering technique used by fine artists to create the illusion of depth on a flat surface. It is the most basic form of perspective in which parallel lines appear to converge in the distance at a vanishing point on the horizon line. (See illustration right.) The technique is based on how the human eye perceives the world around us. Meaning objects which are closer to the viewer appear larger, while more distant objects appear to be getting smaller as they move away. Linear perspective comes into play when orthogonal (parallel) lines that recede into the distance appear to get closer together as they converge at a vanishing point on the composition’s horizon line. “
Exercise: Simple perspective in interior studies
From the previous sketches, I decided that this was the best view – lots of parallel lines to follow. I started off by printing this photo off and drawing on lots of linear perspective lines and pin pointing the horizon line about level with the top of the window – see sketchbook. I had taken the photo standing on a chair so that the lines of the shelves could be included.
I then drew the perspective lines onto an A1 paper using a ruler – note extra piece of paper taped to side as the vanishing point is off the page that side.
Using gouache on watercolour paper. Spent some time adding the shadows inside the shelves to ensure they looked 3D too. At this stage I was tempted to say it’s done as it’s about perspective rather than detail, but decided to add just some of the clutter to bring it to life just a bit.
I think most of the perspective is correct and the room looks right thanks to the time spent drawing out the lines first. The angle of the near side end of the shelves looks a little steep but perhaps this is because I have taken a step backwards (through the wall) – that end didn’t fit into the photo. The other part that is bugging me now is the vertical right side of the desk – it isn’t tall enough, I needed to take that base line down a bit so that the floor doesn’t look higher on that side of the room.
As far as painting was concerned, I’m still finding blending gouache on the page very hard. Obviously as it’s water based when you add another layer (of say a deeper tone) you can’t do a gradual blend as the base colour just wipes away. I struggled getting a smooth finish to the blue wall because of this – darker tones were at the far end and up by ceiling. Also doing the delicate straight lines of the front sides of the shelves was impossible and they certainly don’t stand up to close inspection! I think palette knife work is more me.
Wood effect on the desk I did using a dry rake brush with a little of a darker brown. Carpet I stippled to get a bit of variation of tones.
The exercise did say to keep colours muted or use a very limited palette – I’m finding this very hard to do. I see the world very much as vibrant colours and I can’t yet deal with toning it down. Together with black and white, I used: yellow ochre and blue lake. I added small amounts of burnt umber and ultramarine to change tones and medium yellow for the dead flowers. Maybe some practice doing monochrome is needed.
1. Georges Seurat (1859-91). Bathers at Asnieres, exhibited at Salon des independants in 1884, is generally attributed to be the first example of Pointillism. Instead of choosing the desired colour of paint, mixing on a palette and applying it in varying brushstrokes, this was a new technique of applying many tiny points of pure colours side by side which when viewed from a distance were blended by the eye becoming more vibrant. It was at this exhibition that he first met his friend Paul Signac who helped further develop this technique.
Detail of the orange hat clearly shows it to be made up of dots of many tones of orange, from yellow through to red, and the shaded part at the back of the hat has blue dots added to deepen the tone (blue and orange are complementary). Detail of the boat in the background shows the water to be a mix of blue, yellow and green, plus lots of white where the light reflects on the surface and red where there’s darker reflections. Note the inclusion of the French flag – he was a patriotic Frenchman.
The painting largely consists of areas viewed as blue, green or white. The complementary colour of blue/green would be a red/orange which is the colour used for the hat, shorts, towel and dog. This has the effect of bringing these parts to life, the eye darts around over the contrast giving energy to an otherwise still scene.
The grass is made up from dots of various tones of green plus yellow and orange in the bright sunlit areas, and blue and pink on the shaded areas.
Seurat uses much the same colours as in Bathers with the orange/red used to give energy and life to the very sedate figures.
The painting is also full of symbolism: the French flag is again flying from the boat in the distant centre; there is a monkey at the feet of the woman in the foreground and the french slang for monkey also means prostitute so perhaps the lady is a prostitute with her client; the lady sitting in mid ground to the left wears an orange head scarf which indicates that she is a wet nurse though no child can be seen.
2. Vincent Van Gogh
Uses complementary colours to encourage the eye to move around the composition. The windows in the background buildings glow with a vibrant orange against the deep blue of the night sky. Again, against that blue sky, the orange glow of the lights that illuminate the whole cafe make it the focus of the painting even though it is in mid ground. The cool blue colour recedes into the background while the warm orange comes forward. And the cobbles in the foreground which appear normal until you realise that the dark blue semi circles are where the lighter tones should be as the light falls on the bumps – our eyes just accept this error.
3. Bridget Riley
Very much influenced by the pointillism of Seurat, Bridget Riley initially painted landscapes of dots before becoming more abstract. She explored making movement from static paintings, and as can be seen above in Movement in Squares achieves this! The line where the decreasing squares meet really vibrates and actually hurts the eyes.
In later years she added colour rather than sticking to black and white. To a Summer’s Day reminds us of a calm summer sea – the lines narrow and broaden so that our eyes see rolling waves. It is very hard to actually work out the individual colours used because of this movement but I think it’s orange, ochre, purple and blue – again complementary colours.
It’s about time that I made sure that I’m referencing my research correctly so I have signed up for Paperpile and watched all the ‘how to get started’ videos… fingers crossed this works easily:
Kindersley, D. (2017) Artist’s Drawing Techniques. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
Krausse, A.-C. (2013) The Story of Painting: From the Renaissance to the Present. Germany: h.f.ullmann.
Pub, D. (2018) Great Paintings. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited. (p172-5 Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte)(p242-3 Bridget Riley, To a summer’s day)
Thomas, D. (1987) The age of the Impressionists. London: Hamlyn for Marks and Spencer plc. (Chpt 19 = Seurat and Signac, chpt 15 = Van Gogh)
Zaczek, I. (2013) The Illustrated Story of Art. London: Dorling Kindersley.
This exercise was essentially about recreating colours. As the colours of my composition are vibrant and complimentary, there is a lot of life and energy to it. I chose to use a palette knife instead of brushes to help recreate this energy too.
Ground = yellow ochre
Support = Canson mixed media 200gsm, smooth
The luminous orange of the pepper was particularly hard and I fiddled around with this for ages changing the tone from reddish to orange and back. Photo 3 has a pepper with a range of tones but they are too red. Trying to lighten the tone with white just flattened the colour. I now remember fellow student Sue explaining about the difference between Titanium White acrylic and Mixing White acrylic – at the time this was just one of many points I was trying to absorb but now I’m thinking that this could be where I’m going wrong so I’ve spent some time googling the differences. I’m using Titanium White – strong opaque pigment, great for coverage. Mixing White has less pigment and is semi transparent so I’m hoping it should mix with the orange/red to lighten the tone without making it flat and opaque. Ordered a tube and will update this with result….
The apple I eventually got to be OK. Bananas are a little too vibrant and need to come down a tone or two. Green pepper and background are correct. Bottle should be more transparent and lighter tone. Blue pot has correct range of tones but they are again too dark. Shelf shadows and flower stems good. Flower colours were easy and almost spot on (not much adjustment needed from tube colours) though I’ve painted too much of the dark orange relative to the light.
Update on adding white…
T=with titanium white added M=with Mixing white added
As I thought, the difference is that T is opaque with good coverage, and M is transparent and can be used as a wash. The comparisons show a clear difference, especially on the blue scale tested on both grey and ochre grounds. Glad this cropped up – certainly both types have their uses and the mixing white gives a better ‘orange pepper colour’.
Exercise: Still Life with colour used to evoke mood
Same composition as above. This time I’m going for muted tones to give a cold, dull and lifeless feel. Instead of vibrant oranges and blues, I’ll use more blue grey tones and pastel creams. I’m also going to use a brush rather than palette knife this time – the palette knife give a sense of energy, movement and life with its rough strokes and I think the mood would be created better with smooth textureless strokes. Practiced some colours and tones in sketchbook.
Ground = mid grey
Support = Canson mixed media 200gsm, smooth
Started with deliberately dull tones of grey to place objects and gradually added colour. This time adding titanium white wasn’t a problem as I wanted it deadened. Also used paynes grey to darken tones.
This took much less time but I struggled toning down the flowers to more pastel creams and oranges. The real flowers were starting to droop by now which further confused me especially with the top flower. I don’t think I’ve achieved any resemblance to the real flowers here. Getting a darker tone around the edge of each petal seemed especially hard for some reason.
The apple, though too large and about to roll out of the pot, has a good range of dulled down tones. The bananas, very over ripe by now, should have been a little more brown in colour rather than straight dark grey.
The blackground and blue pot work well together this time as I used the same paint just changing tones.
Seen side by side the first certainly has more life and energy, and the second is dull and boring. Perhaps I could have emphasises this more by making it less sharp and focussed – a bit of a misty effect?
Also, given the feedback from Part 1 that I have just received from my tutor, I think both of these would benefit from more contrast between the light and dark tones – this may help them come to life a bit more…
Very interesting and useful exercises. Focussed my attention on the differences between transparent and opaque layers again and especially on how adding titanium white dulls the colour down as well as lightening the tone.
Visit to an exhibition in The Salisbury Museum of this years top 68 drawings from the 1800 entries.
There was a feeling amongst my fellow students that this years panel of judges were rather different in what they liked and struggled to reach any consensus. One obviously liked realistic careful pencil studies with great detail, but lacking originality. Another liked very rough sketches that would normally then progress into a final piece. And finally there were the more contemporary, concept type pieces.
This is the 1st prize winner. Rather a puzzle as to why it won – no great study of her skin tones or how the light fall on it, and that eye is just too minimal for us to see into her soul …
Now everyone agreed that this piece is stunning and really should have won in our rather uneducated opinion. The mood and stance of these figures is captured to a tee with minimal lines or fuss. The texture of the shiney surface added to the feeling of isolation, perhaps in mist or rain but certainly in their own worlds. Negative space added last.
This is a crop from this beautiful study of two women holding a boat. The movement of this woman is captured by drawing 2 adjoining views of her face. But it is that central eye that captivates me – how clever to get it to look perfect for both views – love it.
An abstract doodle carried forward with details accentuated. Perhaps started as those runs of yellow and black ink. Blue and yellow with touches of their secondary colour green.
Also in the museum, an exhibition by Ann-Marie James called Alchemy, Artefacts Reimagined. These were a series of large, gorgeous paintings in gold and white. Layers and reflections, runs and accidental marks together with printed geometric shapes and lines. Interesting to reflect on whether these would work as stand alone pieces or whether, as we suspected, it is the fact that there is a series with so many variations that is its appeal.
“Still Life – A depiction of inanimate objects, traditionally flowers and fruit, kitchen implements, food, dead game and hunting equipment. ” (Glossary, The Paintings that revolutionized Art)
Still Life painting in the C16th and C17th was focussed in Holland. Art was still largely religious and carried a message for the household where it was hung. Many artists focussed on elaborate meal compositions which were a Protestant message to remember their Christian values and to let go of worldly possessions. Others featured such things as skulls, wilting flowers and watches to remind us that death eventually comes to all. These all had a ‘traditional’ composition – laid out on a table, various heights and forms. The colours were muted, almost monochrome. All were careful studies showing true representation of items – like photos.
By the C18th and C19th still life was moving away from religion and depicted far more flowers, nature and normal household items such as jugs and apples. Becoming more stylised… artists using their imaginations and memory to depict items eg flowers and fruits painted together that wouldn’t have been in season together, adding beautiful fabrics to the composition, no longer just a photo-like image.
Van Gogh’s work took it a step further in the late C19th with works such as Van Gogh’s Chair. His paintings were only recognised as masterpieces after his death – probably because they were just so radical for their time. He added expression to his work with bold brush strokes and colour, and used altered perspective to draw you into the composition. Matisse continued this trend into the C20th with Picasso taking it to the next level with cubism. By now Still Life was more a representation of objects through the artists imagination. Sometimes the still life was part of a larger composition including, for example, a room. The viewer was left guessing/questioning the objects detail for themselves. Still Life was now bold, colourful, abstract. Painted with expression and personal style.
The development of photography now meant that it was no longer necessary to paint true likenesses of objects – it was far easier just to take a photo if that was what was wanted. This would have been a major reason for the dramatic changes to still life.
Today Still Life continues to be largely everyday objects but those now include lots of plastic and mega amounts of our disposable ‘junk’. The compositions have become more abstract – not so many traditional groupings on a table, many are widely spaced or include surprise objects out of context. Some have no background with the objects stretching to the edges, others seem to have in-proportionately large amounts of background. The range of materials used is now vast. No longer just oil paintings, they are now found in all medium; acrylic, printed, photography, sculpture, installations…
Pieter Claesz (1597-1660) Dutch painter
Skull (human mortality), snuffed out candle, a watch with key, a book and a glass. All rather gloomily by todays standards in its dull colours but highly regarded in its time as a message to focus on living a virtuous life and to disregard material possessions. The same objects appear in several different still life eg the glass
‘Breakfast pieces’ One of many meals he painted, a prosperous household with fancy food.
2. Jan Van Huysum (1682-1749) Dutch
Bursting with detail – bugs and water droplets. True representation with amazing detail. Worked from studying live object but sometimes had to put paintings aside for many months until a certain fruit or flower came into season.
3. Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) French
One of several similar paintings showing a variety of fruit on cloth (usually white)
Towards the end of his life he painted several still lifes of skulls (representing death)
4. Van Gogh (1853-90) Dutch but lived in France
Van Gogh’s Chair (1888) Oil on canvas
Painted just weeks before his breakdown so although it gives the impression of calm that seems unlikely.
It is the artists own chair with his pipe and tobacco on the seat chosen to show that he only needed his everyday possessions around him. He also painted Gauguin’s chair which had books on to depict his intelligence.
Perspective is exaggerated and seems to push the chair towards the viewer.
He shows the texture of objects in a bold and simplified way – the wooden chair legs have wide bands of colour outlined in blue/grey.
Toned down primary colours – red, blue and yellow
5. Henri Matisse (1869-1954) French
Red Interior, Still Life on a Blue Table (1947) Oil on canvas.
“Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings” (Matisse, 1908) .
The viewpoints vary – the table is seen from above and the vase of flowers from the side.
The colours used are not true to life – he spent much time getting a colour and tone balance that portrayed his desire for tranquillity. Uses strong primary colours together that ought to clash but somehow don’t.
The bowl of fruit is painted in an Art Nouveau style which was a strong influence on him during his early years.
6. Pablo Picasso (1881-1974) Spanish
Vase of flowers on table (1969), Nude and still life (1931), Goat’s skull, bottle and candle (1952)
Cubism. You can just about make these out – I love these, makes you really study all the shapes to work out what is what.
7. Tracey Emin (1963- ) English
My Bed (1999) installation
depicts her own unmade bed after spending several days in it following a personal crisis. Many still lifes have objects arranged on top of a white cloth – this is objects in front of a white sheet. I wonder if that was intentional?
much of her work is supposed to be personal therapy – she appears to have lead quite an ‘interesting’ life
8. Jude Rae ( ) Australian
Detergent bottle IV (2008) Oil on canvas
Everyday objects all of similar material but varying shapes and sizes
Large plain background
9. Laura Letinsky (1962- ) Canadian
Food or meals already eaten. Usually laid upon a white cloth. Some grouped together, others like this one are widely spaced. Plain backgrounds.
10. Blaus Boekhoff ( ) German
Stilleben mit coladose Acrylic painting
Everyday objects of modern life placed randomly together for the picture – you wouldn’t normally find a mobile, makeup, stones and coke can together. Fabulous reflections. Limited pallet of red, blue and silver.
Various authors (2013) The Paintings that revolutionized Art. London, Prestel Publishing
Janes, K and others. (2018) Great Paintings The World’s Masterpieces explored and explained. London, Dorling Kindersley Ltd
Honour, H and Fleming, J (1984) A World History of Art. London, Lawrence King (page 600-01)
Finger, B and Weidemann, C (2007) 50 Contemporary Artists You Should Know. London, Prestel Publishing Ltd
Downs et al (2007) Drawing Now, Between the Lines of Contemporary Art. London, I B Tauris
See sketchbook: Practiced sketching bottle and pot using ellipses (as demonstrated by fellow student Jane regarding my assignment 1 during our meet up at her studio) happy with these now and feel that I’ve got the form correct. Had trouble sketching the roll of masking tape – found it tricky to get the proportions correct so that I wasn’t seeing the table through the centre. Eventually I hit upon using my pencil to measure the dimensions (as you would for a life drawing) and used these to scale up, success! Tried having a pair of scissors in front of composition but found them too tricky to draw.
Tonal study using black gouache (just because I’d bought some and have never tried if before). Not too bad but the top book looks like it’s propped up, angles wrong – must correct that.
Support: corrugated cardboard primed firstly with white acrylic and then mid grey, left to dry overnight. I’ve ordered a couple of other paper pads suitable for acrylic now as I only had Hahnemuhle Mixed Media 310g which is fairly rough (good for watercolour) and Jane had explained how a smooth paper can help the acrylic blend and move.
Took about 4 hours. Lots of referring back to all the colour mixes so see how to mix some of these earthy colours especially for bottle and table.
Getting the laminate wood effect of the table is hard – I tried irregular layers of different colours with a rake brush then added a layer of ochre-ish colour diluted with water – I’ll need to research how others do this.
Top book almost right this time, just a touch out still I think. Top surface of black book is reflecting the light but it isn’t really a lighter tone – decided to show difference between side and top by adding gloss medium to black for top. Yes they look different but I think I needed a hint of reflection too. Happy with the tones along the white paper page edges and how the tinner top book looks darker.
Masking tape ok except for that bottom right corner which is too sharp and doesn’t follow the ellipse – bother.
The little pot is white opaque plastic so needed tones of slightly darker white for the shaded side – pretty happy with the result although could have been blended better. Glass bottle – slight improvement on my green glass bottle in Part 1. Practicing the ellipses definitely helped and the form looks correct and rounded. More variations in tone would help now.
Exercise: Still Life with Flowers
For this exercise I really wanted to push myself a bit by attempting something a little different from my previous still life paintings. I found some flowers in the garden – not many to choose from at this time of year – and after trying out a few sketches in my sketchbook, decided that this probably lent itself to a more rough technique. I love the example picture in the exercise folder where the negative spaces have been filled in last (like in the tree exercise in Part 1) and thought I’d try that. I also decided not to use brushes but to use palette knives, old credit cards and screw driver tip instead where possible.
Support: SAA Acrylic Practice Paper, 330gsm – just arrived in the post!
Ground: mid grey acrylic
Colours: see colour mixes in sketchbook, along with practices for each part
Started by applying thick layer of light blue for jug (rather than cream to blend with background colour) using a palette knife – quite rough but lovely textures. Used edge of credit card to add stems – much easier than using a brush with my shaky hands. Eye level is directly at shelf level so base of jug is straight, top curved upwards. Mixed a few tones of green and used 2 sizes of palette knife to give leaf shapes. Next was tip of screwdriver to give the short flower cases in dark red brown, and flowers with pallet knife in light pink, pink and white. All applied thickly and roughly to give texture and imply depth.
Decided that the composition needed something extra sitting by jug and popped in 3 fir cones – screw driver tip and scratched/moved around with palette knife.
The negative space – Cobalt Blue with fluid medium, applied with brush in diagonal direction. Kept narrow space between objects and blue to outline and highlight the flowers. Jug is too flat still…
Added some tones to jug and bit of detail on the pattern – better. Also added some black to fir cones where in shadow.
This took about 2.5 hours. Great fun working like this and a technique that I’ll pursue and practice further.
Especially pleased with the fir cones – the texture really enhances them and the colours have worked well together. Also the rough blending of the tones in the jug – not so keen on the patterns but the jug itself now looks rounded and solid.
The spacing of the stems is too ‘orderly’ – there should be more cross overs and areas where it’s densely packed. Also adding more height would have improved it. I certainly couldn’t have painted the flowers accurately and with fine detail so I’m pleased that this method gives a good impression of their look.
Shame I had to use a brush for the blue background of negative space but that couldn’t be helped. I tried to keep it rough and flowing rather than giving a smooth layer. Perhaps I should have left a slightly bigger gap around the object edges showing the grey ground? The roughness and variation in paint thickness of the background blue gives the composition more movement and life.
Really happy I tried this – it feels much better being free and flowing rather than attempting to be realistic. More Practice, practice, practice.
Exercise: Still Life with Natural Objects
I wouldn’t be at home to do this painting so chose to try out Gouache paints as they are easier to take away with me than acrylics. Firstly, I watched several YouTube videos on how to use Gouache, this was the most useful one:
Hot Press watercolour paper = smooth
Cold Press watercolour paper = has texture, bumps
Gouache can be rehydrated. Mix bigger batches of colour and if not all used can be left to dry and then used again at a later date.
Not easy to remix a colour as it dries lighter.
Can do washes (as watercolour) and also applied neat. Don’t apply too thickly though as it will crack when dry.
Use watercolour brushes – flat and pointed
Start with washes and gradually build up
Takes longer to dry than watercolour but less than acrylic
Can leave one colour to dry then add another over the top – do not over brush as bottom will be rehydrated ie can’t do a thick layer and expect a wash to cover and change it
Start with a layer of water then apply the ground colour – this way the colour is spread evenly
Local shop didn’t have much but got peppers, chillies and aubergine (which I found had a very boring inside once cut). Haven’t got a pretty cover to go underneath so decided to stick with a close up crop. Great vibrant colours!
Hard to get the highlights of light – adding neat white is too stark and adding white to colours changes its appearance too much (see photo 4 above on inside of orange pepper). Left to dry and had a think then tried wetting the part to highlight and rubbing off paint with tissue – yes, much better.
Love the vibrant, bold colours. Making darker tones is easy but I need practice at the lighter ones.
My Still Life Journey and learning
Experimenting with different supports:
Nos. 1 and 2 were done on A3 Hahnemuhle Mixed Media 310gsm – slightly rough feel, doesn’t crinkle when wet, grabs the paint.
No.3 is on thick cardboard – solid firm base, grabs the paint, ridges in cardboard still visible and give interesting texture. No cost.
No. 4 is A3 SAA Practice Paper Satin Linen Embossed 330gsm – light linen texture to surface and smooth to touch, paint glides over surface and would be more easily moved, holds thick paint well and doesn’t crinkle. More expensive.
No.5 is Canson Mixed Media Imagine 200gsm – silky smooth surface that frayed just a touch when scratch back, didn’t crinkle even when surface was wetted before ground colour.
All perfectly fine to use. The SAA Practice Paper probably has the best surface for any moving around of paint though it’s expensive so not for too many practice paintings. I also now have a few sheets of Yupo 110gsm paper which I’m told is great for acrylics – a bit flimsy at 110gsm but I’ll give that a try soon.
Experimenting with types of paints and application techniques:
I started off using acrylic with brushes to learn some basics which I feel were coming together by no. 3. It was a great help having fellow student Jane demonstrating sketching bottles and pots using ellipses rather than just freehand. I was able to put this into practice for the glass bottle and glue pot in no.3 and their form is much better than the teapot in no.2 Adding paint mediums also helped at this point changing the effect of the black paint on the top of the book and also allowing the paint to flow better across the cardboard.
For no.4 I wanted to challenge myself a bit and decided to use palette knives instead of brushes and to add the negative space last. This was my first go at using palette knives etc and I absolutely loved the freedom from trying to be totally accurate and add fine detail. The texture of the thickly applied acrylics adds an extra dimension and interest. There is just more life about the painting than when smooth brush strokes are used. I think I’ll be doing lots more of this, it feels right.
Using gouache for no.5 was interesting. The colours are fabulous – so bold and vibrant. I’m sure the paint itself it fine to use but I just need far more practice to perfect it, and maybe a smoother paper. Blending and getting lighter tones without the colours turning pastel is hard – more YouTube and practice needed. But I prefer using acrylics at this stage.
I’m certainly feeling more confident now that I’ve got a few paintings completed. It was taking me several days to build up the courage to start each one, now I’m getting the ground done and by the time that’s dry I’m ready to get going. Can’t wait to experiment some more.
View points, formal and arranged, close-up crops, lower eye level … I need to keep pulling away from traditional object set-ups and explore doing things a little differently.
” Hue refers to the origin of the color we see. Think of the Hue as one of the sixPrimary and Secondarycolors.In other words, the underlying base color of the mixture you’re looking at is either Yellow, Orange, Red, Violet, Blue or Green. “
“Color Theory defines a True Tone as any Hue or mixture of pure colors with only Gray added. To be precise, this definition considers Gray as truly neutral. In other words, there are no additional pigments in the Gray other than White plus Black. “
Chroma = measure of intensity of the hue, how diluted with white, black or glaze
George Seurat – used a multitude of dots to create his paintings so that instead of mixing the colours on his palette, he allowed the viewers eyes to mix them on the canvas. In the LHS close up detail, dots of yellow, orange, blue, violet and red can be seen which then begin to look greenish when viewed a little further back (top right side above head) and look properly green when viewed as a whole – clever!
Van Gogh was very enthusiastic about Chevreul’s theories and used complementary colours in his search for colour harmony and to convey mood. He explained this in letters to his brother Theo: “I have painted the walls pale violet. The ground with checked material. The wooden bed and the chairs, yellow like fresh butter; the sheet and the pillows, lemon light green. The bedspread, scarlet coloured. The window, green. The washbasin, orangey; the tank, blue. The doors, lilac. And, that is all.”
The picture below shows the colours as they were thought to have been painted and before time faded them. He uses complementary colours galore: violet walls + yellow bed/chair, green yellow bedding and pictures + violet red bedspread, blue wash basin + orange table.
Here Monet uses adjacent colours of blues and greens which harmonize and add to the vision of a tranquil water scene. He adds energy with complementary colours of the red boat next to green weeds, plus yellow masts with violet shadow (hard to see that though).
Mixing greys – anachromatic scale
Just black pigment in white (no colour). Mid tone grey also painted onto ends of line at both white and black ends. The grey at the white end looks to be a much darker tone than that at the black end (especially in the photo), although they are the same ie from above “Dark next to light makes the light seem lighter and the dark darker”
Primary and secondary colour mixing
Colours with the most chroma – identifying my most intense primary colours, those with no trace of other primaries in their hue.
Yellow = Medium yellow acrylic
Red = crimson with just a touch of phthalo blue
Blue = Ultramarine
Mixing my primary yellow in a graded sequence through to my primary red – mid point is a clear secondary colour of orange.
Mixing my primary yellow in a graded sequence through to my primary blue – mid point is a clear secondary colour of green.
However, mixing red through to blue gives a dark murky mid point colour. Tried mixing my own violet – Rose Madder with small amounts of Ultramarine and Phthalo gave the best result. Perhaps Rose Madder would have been a better choice for my primary red???
Lines 1,2,& 3: Scales of colours but this time using consistent tonal values by adding a little white – ie the red and blue have white added to lighten their tone to that of the yellow. Mid-way across red to blue scale (line 3) should be a brownish grey, but I’ve got purple.
I’m getting a bit confused by what to call the various mixes between blue and red – the above chart helps: Violet is on the blue side, purple on the red side.
Broken or tertiary colours
Line 4 above: wrong as I forgot to add white to get consistent tones.
Line 5 above: orange red to green blue with consistent tones. Extra white added at mid point and should be grey – mine is more of a dull pink (my scale seems rather biased towards the orange red side unfortunately).
Scales of secondary colours (with consistent tones) – mid point = broken or tertiary colour
Line 1: orange to violet gives mid point brownish tertiary colour
Line 2: violet to green gives mid point dark grey tertiary colour
Line 4: first try at green to orange (I started from RHS) but I became orange too quickly
Line 3: second try at green to orange (better this time) and gives a mid point ochre/mid brown tertiary colour.
***These are great colours for any type of landscape painting, all really natural and earthy – very useful ***
Tertiary colours all appear to be variations on grey, mossy green and brown – the colours we find in nature.
This is because they all contain a mix of all three primary colours in slightly different proportions eg the violet red and green yellow has more yellow and red primary colours in so the tertiary colour is more orange. The orange yellow and violet blue has mainly yellow and blue hence tertiary colour is greenish. The orange red and blue green has mainly red and blue in hence tertiary is dark grey/violet.
This may have been a rather tedious project but I’ve found it really useful discovering how to mix various colours. Definitely pages of my sketchbook that I will refer back to regularly. (Who would have thought that pink and green made orange?)
Weekend course learning some basic pottery techniques. Shown the technique and then everyone made their own designs. I made 2 vases, attempting to get same design but different sizes (easier said than done):
Shape of my first taller pot was better – round bulbous base, tapering to vertical neck with small frilled edge. My second try at repeating the same form has different proportions – wider neck and much wider frill.
Made an assortment of flowers and seed pods to go into the vases. Once fired I will thread metal rods (or perhaps canes) through the pod holes and secure above and below with nuts, and on the flat flowers I will glue the rods onto the backs.
Colours: all to be quite natural – vases dark brown and flowers assortment of yellow and orange.
Waiting for the clay to totally dry before firing and then glazing…
Thank you to Jane Coxhill (final year Painting) for inviting me to her studio for an Acrylic Mediums and Painting Materials help session. Also Sue Parr (Painting 2) and Diane Goring (Painting year 1).
Advise regarding my Assignment 1 piece of teapot, lemon and flowers:
To make yellow flower opaque so that base colour doesn’t show through – paint area white first and let that dry, then do the yellow (I had been mixing the white into the yellow paint). Jane demonstrated both methods and showed how well the yellow could cover over white.
Another method for this style would be to paint the ground then paint all the darkest tones of all objects, then all the lightest tones of all objects, then gradually work on mid-tones till all done. This method keeps the focus on the tones you see rather than the objects themself.
The only yellow acrylic that is opaque is Cadmium Yellow (as is Cadmium Red), all others will show base layers through – I hadn’t realised this.
I should practice sketching the teapot, focussing on the ellipses and lines that connect parts (eg straight line from handle to spout, line from center of top hole through to centre of base circle). Yes now they’ve points out these distortions I can see how practicing the shape first would have been rather a good idea!
Best Mediums, Supports and Paints to use:
Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid, Satin – esp. good for dark colours/shadow. Use as a glaze when mixed with paint. Slows the drying time also and makes blending easier.
Liquitex seems to be the best quality acrylic to buy (and worth the money)
Titanium White = best for mixing with colours to make opaque as it has the most pigment. Normal mixing white has far less pigment and is semi transparent – I’ve probably been using normal white!
Matt medium – acts like a glue when doing collage. Better than using PVA as it doesn’t dry with a glossy finish. Can be painted over as normal. Limited use for actually mixing with the acrylics. Jane showed example of a collage using Matt Medium.
Gloss Medium – as above but it’s obviously glossy. Use mixed with acrylic paint to give a glossy finish or as a final layer varnish.
Acrylic will stick to almost anything without priming. However a coat of gesso/cheap white acrylic paint will give a smoother surface to paint on and allow the paint to move better. Try: pieces of cut wood/bark, hardboard, canvas, linen (light or heavy), Polydraw paper (and assorted diffuser papers), normal cartridge paper (stretched and with gesso), stones…..
SAA Practice Paper has a good smooth surface for acrylics which can glide over it better than the water colour paper I’ve been using.
Open Mediums – keep the paint fluid and workable for longer.
To keep un-used paint workable for longer, perhaps overnight, try: find a thin plastic box with fitted lid, put in couple sheets white kitchen roll, wetted, cover with piece of baking paper or similar and use that as your pallet. Close lid when finished and it should keep a while. Acrylics are hard to remix to the same tone as, unlike oils, they dry a different colour.
Try mixing the paint ON the paper rather than pallet – useful for example with water as you get a range of colours rather than just the blend
Try using acrylic inks together with acrylic paints – different consistencies work great together
Harvard Referencing app = PaperPile. Automatic record, OCA approved, easy to use.
Very useful session especially for me, thanks to the other students for spending the time.