Feedback assignment 5 and my reflection

Wendy Tong fb5 1217

I researched Barbara Rae landscapes here:

Looking at the work of David Bomberg here:

I revisited ‘Don Quixote’s Vision’ in charcoal studies and one colour study here:

With #1’Don Quixote’s Vision’ perhaps I lost the original focus for it mainly because the day I visited the site to paint it was a clear and bright day, and I ended up using that as the background and influence, (which I still feel in itself worked well, I came back very happy with what I had done that day) but I do accept the original intention was the feeling of size and menace in the sky, which did get lost.  By #3, ‘Ruinas Romanos’, I had realised that I can add in a sky from another day and use that; after all I was looking indeed at a narrative and not just a painting of ‘what is there’. I had felt that my assignment 4 painting had gone well because I had laid most of it down en plein aire, which had given it a fresh, gestural and looser approach; this had made me keen to try and do this again and I had chosen landscapes in part to be able to work outside.  I do feel I have learnt from this. It has been  very helpful and a learning experience to revisit this work and to do more sketches and then a colour sketch as well; I feel it got me back nearer to my original vision for this work.

In the composition for #3 ‘Ruinas Romanos/La Refinería ‘ I felt the steps were always going to be the main focus and I liked the idea of them leading you up into the modern, industrial world; this is the juxtaposition I was aiming for. I decided to put in the wall so as to balance the colours that I had put into the sky and still feel this worked quite well. Really most of the ruins were just that: stones on the ground so I needed to put the column bases and pillars all together, where I hoped they may have been previously. I think my looser, dryer brushwork worked well on this painting, giving a more open, looser effect with a ghostly feel.

I understand that I need to reflect more on my handling of the paint, and brushstrokes, and to make notes in my sketchbooks along side the sketches themselves, which would help me to focus my thoughts and also to understand what I was thinking and planning when I look back at my work.


Looking again at ‘Don Quixote’s Vision’

This is in response to tutor feedback on assignment 5.

I have been researching the work of David Bomberg  in particular his charcoal sketches and his use of an eraser. I also have Turner’s dramatic skies and use of light in mind, having revisited his ‘Dolbadern Castle’.

Today is a rare stormy day here in Spain and I have been up on the terrace trying to catch a dramatic sky with charcoal and eraser. The wind turbines were added from my photographs afterwards. All in my A3 sketchbook with the pages divided into A4 and A5.



With #5 & 6 I was trying to convey the movement and slicing of the blades; the ‘whump’ as they turn. #1 I caught the sunlight coming down through the clouds and these turbines are actually in the distance from my terrace. I think it looks a little like a crucifixion scene. #2 I am pleased with the composition and sky, I think it describes the sheer scale of these machines. #3 shows the distant mountains well, and also it describes the rain in the sky, a wind cutting through. #4 I tried to portray the clouds around the blades:  I am not sure this would work well in a colour study as the lower clouds tend to be more mist like.

I think I would use #2 to paint, this composition works best with the emphasis on the sky and the turbines. I would really work on that sky, using a lot of dark grey with some lighter colours breaking through; swirling the paint and maybe also showing some circular movement of the blades as in #5. The mountains beyond would blend into that sky, and just some detail on the hill in front; all very loose with a lot of dry brush strokes dragged in there as well.

Using charcoal worked well for these studies. I found a range of depth in just using black on white and it worked well to blend lightly with my finger and then lift with an eraser or darken with another swipe of the charcoal. It also enables one to work quickly and capture a sky as it is moving above you.

I have now decided that I would like to experiment using colour and so I tried some greys and pinks for the sky in my sketch book and then worked on a piece of A3 cardboard that I coated with 2 layers of white acrylic. A sponge worked well for blending the sky, which I used quite dry. I tried to keep it very like #2 and also to add in some of the movement from #4. I used a hb 6 pencil to straighten the turbines slightly as well. This blended it quite well. I brought some of the pink down into the hint of a town on the hill. With perspective, looking up more at the turbine, it gives a sense of the scale of the thing and the feeling of being slightly overwhelmed.


It was just a quick study but I can see how a more dramatic and dominant sky works well for this painting, giving it more drama and menace and movement. I think it perhaps better reflects my original intentions for this painting.

Assignment 5: Juxtapositions

My proposal here:

the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.
“the juxtaposition of these two images”
I think the idea of juxtaposition in terms of qualities of soft / hard, warm / cool etc sounds a good focus.  The wind turbine and pueblo or Spartacus v Blade Runner sounds intriguing.  I recommend that you keep it simple and don’t put too many elements into the piece.
I think working directly from the scene did help you to loosen up and enjoy the paint handling process.  Perhaps build in a good series of drawings, using loose gestural qualities in charcoal to start the process.  Practice your gestural in the evenings from your photographs.
#1: Don Quixote’s Vision 
My aim is to contrast the modern, hard, solid and strong lines of the wind turbines, using cooler, bolder lines with the warm, gentle, soft mountains and towns in the hazy distance. My idea behind this is a modern vision for Don Quixote to tilt at, with the Spanish countryside and white ‘pueblos’  behind.
I drove to the hill with the wind turbines yesterday (Manilva) and found a suitable parking spot. There is a track that goes right up to and past the turbines. They are HUGE when you get close and actually a little bit scarey… It was VERY windy, which is I suppose is why they are positioned there. It was not possible to sketch on the top of the hill but I managed to do some watercolour sketches from the car, looking out towards the distant mountains and towns to explore the colours in the hills and the sky. I took lots of photos and worked from them when I got back to do some gestural charcoal sketches and try to work out the composition I might choose. All in all a positive start. I have a canvas (50 x 70) which I will prime ready for a possible painting trip tomorrow morning, (cancelled due to the weather breaking)and I will decide on the composition later after I have tried out some more sketches. I think it will be portrait, even though it is a landscape, as I want to show the height of the turbines.20171016_125258
 I tried a few more studies. I still need to decide the composition. I think it doesn’t matter if I add the position of the turbines afterwards, after all, I am unlikely to complete the whole painting ‘en situ’. Having a large turbine central is dramatic but maybe cuts the picture in half, making it too dominant. 20171019_150007
This afternoon I tried another composition sketch in colour  and I think maybe this works better. There is some rule of thirds creeping in here…But I will paint in the moment when I am actually there – the sky may be very different now and quite dramatic as the rain has come back to Spain in the last few days.
colour composition sketch


Had a wonderful morning painting yesterday. Very bright, sharp light and low wind levels so I could get out of the car and work. (Got attacked by large ants and a millipede got onto my mix plate…) I feel happy with what  managed to put down, although slightly worried that the colors are too sharp, and need to be softer for the ariel perspective…but this is how it looked to me yesterday.





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I have spent a few hours today working on this. I am not quite sure if I have finished or not…I tried to make the mountains bluer and paler but not sure it worked. Over all, I think the balance of the elements is fine. I have tried not to get too detailed and I also tried to give some movement to the blades by blurring some white near them. The turbines had turned yesterday and were rotating slower. I think the track works well and leads your eye into the picture. Don Quixote's Vision

#2 Car graveyard/Stork nurseries: This is the one I was not so certain about; however when I went or the reccy I discovered mountains of scrap metal all gleaming in the sunshine. On closer investigation(I got told off…I was trespassing 😮 ) I could see, and indeed I asked in my best Spanish – they are cubes of squashed, scrapped cars all gleaming in the sunlight. I was very excited by this and thought what a great juxtaposition with the birthplace of birds and the graveyard of cars. All that gleaming metal and then the undergrowth around there and the trees, and the storks themselves (they were still there so they don’t all migrate.) I don’t think it will be possible to work outside there, I have been back twice already, so I am going to work from my sketches and photos. I was also inspired by the earlier exercises where the paint was scratched off or into and I think this sgraffito technique might work well to describe the scrap in an interesting way.  I am also remembering that tutor commentary on the student Adrian Eaton, and how he had scratched into the paint to show metal and wire fencing to great effect.




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I sketched some storks to include on the nest or in the sky.

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I started experimenting on acrylic paper with using silver paint (mixed with white, paynes grey and black), and scratching with the end of the brush whilst it was still wet to describe the metal and I ended up painting a whole picture. I am quite pleased with the effect for the metal. I think the idea of the dark fence showing the forbidden area is good and I might keep that. There is also a cannon type gun in there (from the war I guess…or army reject) and maybe I can use that somehow too (any cars left alive get shot 🙂 ) I will buy a canvas that is more square in shape this time but I think I will go portrait again, as I want the height for the stork’s nests.

So this is the composition I am going to work with, including the stop sign and the red pipe and the gun.









I spent 2 afternoons painting and after a few more tweaks I feel it is finished. The prep was all super useful, especially the stork sketches and the compositional water colour sketch. I decided to put in the railing at the front to add more depth to the picture overall and also to add to the ‘forbidden area’ feeling. I also added in the hills behind which I felt was needed , working from my photographs of the area and to give a feel for where this was situated. Stork Nursery-Car Graveyard

#3: Ruinas Romanas/La Refinería 

Yesterday I visited Carteia Roman Ruins, near San Roque. A strange place, among the oil refinery and so close to the sea, I had no idea. We were given a free guided tour but when I explained that I wished to sketch and paint I was told I could not be left alone…the guide did say if I went on a day when there were no other visitors she would sit with me as I painted for an hour. So I am a bit stumped actually. I really want to do this, the  last one, ‘en situ’ as I could not for the last one. So many forbidden areas and I chose 2 of them… 😦 However I got some great pictures and it was an amazing morning, so interesting.



I have been doing some sketches and working out which view might work the best. I think I am going to have to mash it up a little, or it could just look like a pile of rubble…the best pieces have been moved but I can move them back into my picture. I have been back again but it is not going to be possible to paint there which is disappointing; however, I am going to have to be creative here anyway to get the effect that I want.





I felt I had stalled a little on this one – and this had been my original inspiration for this series of painting!  My cat is really ill so I have been nursing him and could not seem to put my mind back on here. I did manage to decided on the composition though. The steps need to be there as they are interesting and lead the eye up to the refinery I think.



Yesterday I marked out loosely with paint where everything should be and thought, this is going to work. We have been having some amazing morning where there is low lying mist around the fields and trees and above clear sky and clouds. I could take my canvas up to the top terrace and paint this onto the canvas; the mist around the trees and the refinery towers coming through. This morning I did just this and it worked; I had the picture in my head at the same time as looking at the sky and the mist below. This is something to note for the future that I can paint ‘live’ somewhere else onto an existing work to get that fresh, spontaneous look.



Working from my sketches and photographs, I slowly built up the rest of the picture, keeping that misty feeling to it. I balanced the colours of the sky in the stones and the wall, which was there anyway.

ruinas romanas-la refineria


Evaluation & reflection:

I think it doesn’t matter in which order they are viewed, however the order I worked on them is fine.  I think they work well  as interesting and unusual local landscapes of this area of Spain, and they also work viewed together with similar shapes and colours therein. It is strange perhaps that I chose portrait view for them all in the end, even though they are landscapes, but they all had ‘height’ that I needed to capture and I felt this worked out the best.

Painting outside requires quite a lot of planning. It is best not to assume that you are allowed to paint somewhere as it is disappointing to find this is not the case (however I am pleased I overcame these problems and it worked to my advantage in the end). The last one #3 is perhaps the most interesting view, with bolder, more adventurous brushwork,  and I am pleased with the colours. This was the one that originally sparked my idea for this series of paintings back when I was working on assignment 4, so it is always worth looking back and focusing on earlier ideas to follow through.

Reflection overall:

Looking back over this module, I feel that my work has become bolder; I am more confident with my brushstrokes and not afraid to work in a looser and freer way. I find I can capture things quicker, I have noticed this particularly in life class situations and also when painting en plein aire.  However, I am aware that this is something to develop further and take forward from this module. I have also found the benefit of researching other artists work, and how this inspires and influences my own work, sometimes even at a subconscious level. Something else I have learnt is the develop of my own ideas,  to reflect critically on them and how one idea can then lead on to another, as evidenced by the development of my ‘Selfies’ project, which lead on to ‘Without Me’ and which I still feel I can develop on further.

I have recognised the need for more preparation work before starting work on a painting; I still have that impatience within myself to ‘get on with it’, (which may be why I love the challenge of painting outside and life drawing groups, which is an immediate reaction to describe what is in front of me) but when I do prepare thoroughly the result speaks for itself.

I am very much looking forward to starting work on my third module and seeing where this takes me.

Assignment 4: Tutor feedback and my reflection


Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Your planning and preparation for the refinery helped inform the final assignment .
Good to see you bringing your own ideas into the assignment brief and researching more
In future do aim to do a minimum of six studies prior to the final work. As this is where you can practice and plan; composition, tonal values, colour and qualities of brushwork…
It has benefited you to set some simple aims for yourself (outside of the assignment tasks).
Starting with a clear set of intentions helps you to focus on what you want to explore and
develop . I would encourage you to continue to do this as you progress , this will begin to inform your developing personal voice.
It would be useful for you to explore several options for your composition at the prep stage. Some useful research that informed both aspects of your palette and the looser brushwork .
Elements of the canvas work well ; some simple yet lovely brushwork in the refinery structures and lights , use of red to punctuate elements in the foreground refinery (a nod to Turner here) and a varied use of dry – wet paint .  Ask yourself what you would change, develop or improve on and what will you take from this to your next assignment? Then write this into your assignment 5 proposal .

From this I will take the looseness that I achieved by working quickly outside to capture the moment and feeling of the scene. I will definitely do more preparation sketches for my assignment 5 landscapes and explore composition options more thoroughly.  I was not really intending to put the roundabout in – my aim had been for just the refinery so I need to mark out the proportions of a scene first rather than just ‘going for it’. This is what I would change perhaps.  La refineria croppedHaving said that, I am not unhappy about the inclusion of the roundabout and I am not sure this cropped version works better, although it does give the sky and smoke with the shinning lights (which I feel works best) more prominence. This above is closer to what I intended, as can be seen from my prep sketches.

Assignment 5 proposal #2: ‘Juxtapositions’

Following tutor feedback from assignment 4,  I have reconsidered my proposal for assignment 5.

the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.
“the juxtaposition of these two images”
Whilst painting the oil refinery for assignment 4, I noted that there are some Roman ruins amidst this area and I mentioned what an unusual contrast a painting of both would be. I believe my landscape with the oil refinery was successful as I did a lot of the painting ‘en plein aire’,  which loosened up my style somewhat. I also started to think about other contrasting things around this area and have come up with these ideas for a series of landscape paintings for my final assignment, which I hope to paint in the same way that I did the refinery, that is most of the work and sketching done outside… (I will need to do some ‘reccys’ when I return from a 2 week holiday,  and will then add more detail to this proposal. )
  • Juxtasposition #1 ‘Don Quixote’s vision of the future’. We have a lot of wind turbines in this area, and I know of a road where there is a chance to get quite close to some of them, and there is also a great view of another white pueblo in the distance, Casares. I was thinking of a turbine really close that would dominate the front, to one side, maybe cropped and the hill town in the distance. Lots of ariel perspective. A chance to paint some ‘Turneresque’ light.  (photos are my own.) 

  • Juxtaposition#2 ‘Stork City‘. There is a place I call Stork City,  about 30 minutes from home, that has a lot of large electrical pylons and boxes along side the railway line that the storks like to nest upon. I love this idea that the storks have made use of these made made things. I could contrast the hard silver metal and electrical lines with the large, twiggy nests and the vegetation around there…palm trees, bamboo etc. Maybe even the railway line itself.  I have lots of photos of the storks that I have taken so if they are not there I can add some in. IMG_6932source:




  • Juxtaposition #3 ‘From Spartacus to Blade Runner‘.  Roman ruins against the oil refinery. It would have to be day time for the opening hours to this place, which is stated as 10.00 – 14.00.  Only one of their photos show the refinery but it is plumb  in the middle so I think they have perhaps been choosy with their shots. I have not been there yet but it should, looking at a map, I hope,  be possible to get a view with the tanks and chimneys behind the stones and pillars. I am imagining soft sandy coloured stones against the hard steel and smoking chimneys, plus trees etc.a5

Assignment 4: ‘La refinería/Breath of Franco’

I have looked back over my work for this landscape section.

I think my best and most original idea was ‘Jimena castle by night’ (from the hard landscape section) looking up at the castle. This challenged me to find a way to  paint at  night and, I believe, gave a new perspective to a traditional view. It was also painted outside, along with my second favourite, which was ‘A July evening: Glastonbury Tor & Moon’ -(painting outside).  To work outside does give a freshness to the work I think. With these in mind, and also wanting to do something a bit more ‘urban’, I am thinking of the local oil refinery at San Roque, which, at night, is lit up like  a huge steaming and fiery dragon. I have heard that Franco ordered it built there in the hope that the pollution would drift across to Gibraltar…unfortunately the foul stench often sits over the local Spanish towns.

I would, of course, have to do some work in situ, and I would need someone to be with me.  Most of the vantage points near there are right on main roads but there is a place where I might be able to stop and climb up onto a bridge to afford a good view. I have in my mind at the moment anyway, a very dark background with bright lights and cloudy steam/smoke. It would be almost abstract looking.

I looked for images that I might try this and practice. The only one of this refinery I found was this one: Photo from CEPSA.

san roque


A3 acrylic paper using  paynes grey to sketch. How interesting that the domes and towers are like Islamic mosques.  I am not sure I will be able to find this exact view…

I stopped at the bridge with my husband today on the way back from dropping a friend off at the airport. Unfortunately it is a very windy day but we managed to park on the rough ground and got up on to the bridge. I just had 3 acrylics with me to try a fast sketch and to take some photographs. It was not the time of day that I needed however.


sketch 1

A4 acrylic paper. Ok, it IS very sketchy… I couldn’t stay long. At least I know we can access the bridge from there.  It is lovely to have some of the rock of Gibraltar behind. I can do some work from the photographs I have taken.  I will have to decide how much to put in. There is a roundabout, palm trees, a road bridge…all in front of this refinery. I will do some sketches at home to work this out.

I am thinking to go back with the canvas very early morning before the sun is up and when things are quiet (I have been advised that prostitutes work on the roundabout at night…) As the Sun comes up and the light changes I can choose the best moment to try and capture. I do not know what sort of street lighting might blur my view.


I am also researching other artists who have painted this type of landscape. I like Ghislaine Howard‘s ‘Urban Landscape’, which is part of her ‘365’ series of paintings. source:

She has captured a night or early scene with lovely loose brush strokes. I note the glow of the Macdonalds. I actually met this artist when she did an lecture at the school where I used to work.

Loretta Petraitis has actually painted a refinery! She has managed to really capture the feel of the metal with a limited palette. There is a scratched, rusty feel to it. I like this work very much.




Fast A4 charcoal sketch from my photos. Looking at composition. I think I will want to get Gibraltar there behind so the other view will not work. Of course, I can always move interesting features  in the view…the domes are not visible from where I was sitting which is a shame. I quite like the idea of the palm trees in front as a contrast.

Today I bought my canvas – the largest they had (in the local super chinese bazaar 🙂 …) was 90 x 60 which is the minimum size for this assignment. It is still the biggest canvas I have ever used. I also bought some silver acrylic paint and also some yellow iron oxide, which is what I believe Petraitis  has used in her painting. I had a play with these colours, using the silver as a ground and painting over it. It gives quite a good effect, and they adding some more at the end. A3 acrylic paper, working from a section of my photograph. I think the palm trees work well in the front especially as a complementary colour. The silver has not come out well in the photograph but it does give a good effect. Question: Should I be using something like a ruler to give straight lines or are my almost straight lines better? I can make more spontaneous strokes if I am not thinking about being straight and true. A ruler will slow me down. I can always ‘neaten’ things slightly when I finish off the work at home. I also think I might just prep the canvas with white ground as I have no way of knowing what the morning colours will be on the day. 20170812_152058_Richtone(HDR)

I painted the canvas with a white ground today and I also did a A4 linear sketch to try to see how I might divide the canvas up. I am feeling nervous if I am honest. It is a large canvas to paint from scratch ‘en plein aire’. Still, if it all goes wrong I will have time to try again. Low winds forecast tomorrow…maybe this could be the day.


Music in my head: Richard Strauss -‘also sprach zarathustra’ (2001 space odyssey )

Up at 5.50 to get to the bridge by 6.45am. Light was amazing, the refinery was all lit up. So beautiful my heart was singing (Strauss of course 😉 ). I discovered nobody actually uses the bridge but chooses the shortest, if rather dangerous, route across to the bus stop, so I was well out of the way up there. Wasn’t too windy. Sun rose too quickly though and although I worked really fast it was day light too soon. I stopped work at 7.40. It was light by then. I got a lot down in those 55 minutes …

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so far.jpg

So above is my un -retouched and spontaneous reaction to what I was seeing. Of course, it is not at all finished and I did not have time to add in all the lights and the dark areas at the front. The sky needs to be darker for the lights to glow.I  have some photos to work from but my first reaction when I got back and looked at this was good –  I have worked quickly and loosely and have caught the essence of the view well.  I regret not doing a darker ground to work on and also I had not intended so much of the roundabout in front but somehow that was what I was seeing so there it is.


I have been working on the painting today for a couple of hours. I feel I am managing to keep the looseness and the spontaneity of it, which is what I sense is working for me overall here. I feel excited by this style which seems to be emerging.  I have  filled in the darkness of the sky and the hills and the rock behind, and started to add in some of the lights, and started on the road and roundabout in front.  And I managed to throw a cup of tea over one of my sketches I was working from….working

Another session today and I feel it is finished. I don’t want it to be too  precise. La refineria.jpg

Reflection: I realise my mistakes on planning this (I should have gone for the reccy at the same time as I was planning to paint, and worked the colours out better. (In my defense, it is not that near to here and I did not want to go alone.) However, I managed to paint in the darker background and I am pleased the with foreground that I originally hadn’t intended to be there. I think the flora is a good contrast to the industrial view and good complementary colours.  This was what I was seeing whilst I was there, painting in the moment, and I have managed to stay with that image, working from photographs and memory and using my sketches. My experimental prep work definitely helped me. 

I can see the influence of the Howard, in the looseness I was trying to achieve. The Petratitis influenced my use of colour.  I tried to emulate Turner’s description of light by using my fingers to rub the paint out (for the lights on the refinery and the roundabout) . I think of all the landscape painters I would most like to emulate Turner’s impressionist style and use of light. I think a looser style with defined brush strokes adds the energy to a painting. 

I feel I am not finished with this refinery. I would like to find the view with the domes. There is a mosque on the tip of Gibraltar; this might work in a series of paintings if i could get an angle similar with an industrial dome and a tower behind.  Also there is meant to be some Roman ruins in the midst of this industrial sprawl – how amazing it would be to juxtaposition the two in the same painting. 

Overall, I am happy with this outcome which shows the smoking, industrial landscape‘s strange beauty of its own, and pleased to have described this vista using a very different style than I have used before.