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 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 …

2 views.jpg

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.