Exercise: preparing a textured ground

I have 4  x A5 canvases and I thought this might be a good chance to use them to experiment on. I covered one in glue and then stuck on a load of leaves from the orange tree we have. I then painted the glue over the top and covered it in plastic so I could weight this down a bit flatter. When almost dry I peeled the plastic off. I then painted over the whole thing in thick white acrylic paint. I then painted over the leaves using a green and blended in some white and a darker shade and used a yellow orange to contrast at the back, leaving some white to show through. I am wondering what to do with it now…

Orange leaves
Orange leaves

I collected some sand and shells the last time I was at the beach. I covered a board with glue and then covered this with sand. I scraped away one side, where I imagined some sea water coming in, and also some footprints in the sand. When it was dry I painted in the water with a blue and left some white, and in the foot prints I also added some blue and white and dabbled a little gold as well.  I think this worked rather well. The sand is quite securely on there.

Beach walk

I glued rice and some grasses onto the next one. The rice doesn’t stay on that well, although it gives a good texture. The grasses however did and were easy to paint over, much to my surprise.



I used the glue quite thickly on here into a swirly pattern and stuck on some things from my button box. When dry, I painted over with white and then with pink and blue with a touch of silver to high light. There is something female about this and the colours made me think of baby clothes. It all seems to be securely on there.

Buttons & babies
Buttons & babies

This type of work is not something that I have a great interest in; thus it was difficult to get myself to focus. I think the sand worked best and it is the one I am most pleased with, maybe because I scraped into it to create the shapes.


Abstract Expressionism and Tachisme

‘Tachisme was the European equivalent to abstract expressionism in America. The name derives from the French word ‘tache’, meaning a stain or splash (e.g. of paint).

The introduction of the term to describe these post-war developments is usually credited to the critic Pierre Guéguen in 1951. However, it was used in 1889 by the critic Félix Fénéon to describe the impressionist technique, and again in 1909 by the artist Maurice Denis referring to the fauve painters.

Tachisme is virtually synonymous with art informel.

source: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/t/tachisme

Hans Hartung: ‘T1982-E15’ source: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hartung-t1982-e15-t07401T1982-E15 1982 by Hans Hartung 1904-1989

On first viewing this looks to me like a hedge formed from tall grasses, maybe a wheat field, that got burnt in a wild fire. A small creature has pushed its way in through the centre. It has an evenly painted background that is graduated from blue on the left through to yellow, on the right, with an orangey-red through the centre.  On this central colour he has made sweeping, gestural strokes with small splatters and maybe has scratched into the paint at the bottom.  There is a feeling of movement to this central part, created by the strokes of paint and scratches, and the tiny bits which seem to be flying off on the lighter areas (of what I see as wheat). ‘At this time Hartung commonly worked by dipping olive branches in paint and using them to thrash the canvas powerfully and it is likely that he employed the same method for this painting .’  (same source) Well, you would need a large canvas (I this is on linen) to thrash it with branches. I am drawn to the graduated background and this is something I may call upon for a more abstract study, although it says he used a spray can for this I am sure this effect could be achieved with careful brushwork.

Franz Kline: ‘Black Sienna’ oil on canvas. source: https://www.gagosian.com/artists/franz-kline

Black Sienna

I looked through what I could find of Kline’s work for something I might enthuse about but I am afraid I cannot.  My eyes want to create something which is not intended I am sure; which is a man playing a piano viewed from behind, the top part is the piano without the man and the lid down. rear-view-of-man-playing-a-piano-in-music-studio-HE33F9He has used bold, gestural sweeps of the brush in stark black on white. Whilst I can see the movement within this and the boldness of it, this style is not something I would ever wish to emulate myself.

Jackson Pollock. I looked at Pollock’s work previously, and it was the  inspiration in the previous exercise for my piece ‘Clusterf**k’ .

‘The Deep’, 1953 source: https://www.jackson-pollock.org/the-deep.jsp


I have chosen to look at this painting as it is a little different from his others. Entitled ‘The Deep’, it does indeed look like a chasm within the sea, complete with seaweed floating strands and coral and maybe jellyfish and shrimps. It looks at first just black and white but there is also yellow and maybe some greenish tones to it. I think he started with a black ground and then he has used a cloth or sponge to make these soft effects with just some flicking of paint across the central dark area. It is like looking into another world. That soft effect would work for portraying clouds or mist, or snow.

”I continue to get further away from the usual painter’s tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. ”
-Jackson Pollock

Marie Raymond: I was looking for a female artist within this group and was delighted to find the colourful work of Raymond. ‘Untitled’ 1943 oil on canvas, from ‘paysages imaginaires’  source: http://www.marieraymond.com/works1.html


This to me looks like a countryside scene, with trees and plants. It is full of joy and life. I note the complementary colours and the slight delineation of some of the ‘objects’. She has employed quite rough strokes of the brush at times whilst at others it is fluid and soft. I have found that this series was inspired by her walks in the countryside! ‘…The war forced her family to settle in Cagnes-sur-Mer, where Raymond began painting Paysages imaginaires (“Imaginary Landscapes”, 1941-1944), inspired by her inland walks.’ source: https://awarewomenartists.com/en/artiste/marie-raymond/

I take from this the different directional brush strokes which I think give this work so much life and movement.

Exercise: dripping, dribbling and splattering (& a spelling mistake…)

I am looking at the work of Jackson Pollock , who is most famous for this type of painting. The Tate have a few works on their site. I rather like ‘Summertime’ as it seems less cluttered than some of the others and a nice, long canvas. I am pretty sure he has used a brush to fill in those small coloured areas. It looks a little like figures dancing across the canvas.

Summertime: Number 9A 1948 by Jackson Pollock 1912-1956

source: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/pollock-summertime-number-9a-t03977

I got set up in the largest floor area I could find in my tiny house and painted a pink ground on A3 card. I then flicked and dribbled and used a squirty bottle (this did not work too well) I think if you do this enough you get a feel for which flicks produce what. I tried blowing to move the paint but then got my hairdryer which did work much better! Maybe if I got some straws to blow through…. Shimbala

Next I painted a gold ground on card and then when it was dry I used some masking tape across it so as to leave some areas just gold. I will see how this works out. I did pouring on this one. The colours ran beautifully on this gold paint, like a bloom -but whether it dries with that effect I have yet discover. I have bought some cheap wooden letters and may try to spell a word out through the splatters and see how that works out. Not sure yet how to fix them on though. Goldbloom

So it dried and not quite as good when wet but still, interesting effect. I like the gold very much, it looks like weathered metal. The masking tape did not mask as well as anticipated but still left some area free, which helped to produce this effect.

I put some letters onto A3 paper and tried flicking some paint. I decided not to glue them down to see what happens. I need to put a lot more paint around the letters to make them clearer. You can only just see the word…

I prepared a large canvas with Prussian blue and then laid some letters across it. Took a while to find all the letters. After I had spent a happy afternoon throwing paint at it, my husband pointed out I had spelled Pollock wrong – pollack. How did I do that? 😮 Never mind, I am not submitting this to be assessed…. pollack is a fish, just looked it up. I am calling this work ‘Clusterf**k’. Because it was….’a disastrously mishandled situation or undertaking.’

I picked the letters off and it worked! The stickiness of the paint held them on and it just took a moment to pick them off. I COULD change that A to an O…but I might leave as is, as I think it’s rather funny 🙂


This technique could be used as a background for something but I would not dare to add it to a painting as it is difficult to control, although I am sure Pollock worked out a degree of control. The more you do, the better at this you get. I think you know when to stop, it just feels like enough but that is subjective. I don’t like things too busy. And maybe my desire to block areas out is trying to get back a degree of control over it.

It is not the sort of work that appeals to me at all but it has been a fun experiment.

In fact a couple of days later I was gazing at the night sky and seeing the Milky Way just about visible, more visible if you don’t look directly at it!  I thought of how my ‘Clusterf**k’ looked a bit like a starry night and I thought how, with a light flicking of a paint brush, I could describe the night sky.  So I made some notes in my sketchbook and mapped out roughly how it was, and then painted it the next day and created it starting with a few dabs of white on tissue paper, followed by flicking a brush loaded with runny white paint through the centre. I added in the stars I had marked out with a fine brush, and then the vegetation in the foreground that was just about visible I used grey and silver and scratched through with the end of my brush. I think it worked out quite well and worth remembering next time I am painting a night sky.

Centre of the Universe


Exercise: Impasto

I don’t yet have a thickening gel. I will try again when I have one but I am using the acrylic by itself. I think I have been using this technique, of picking up several colours on the brush at once, when I have painted wood grain in the past; just automatically. I think it works well for this. 20170831_16521220170831_16522220170831_165159

This technique certainly uses a lot of paint….and I need to be wary of loading too much black on top.

For the melon and grapes, above, I tried mixing in clear varnish to thicken it – this didn’t work but it does add a nice gloss to the acrylic! (The melon is not really round enough…)

I tried a couple of peppers and cherry tomatoes, really trying to get the paint thick. I think the impasto effect worked a little better this time.


The I started working with pallette knives. I discovered that by smearing and then pulling to knife straight up it creates vein-like effects, really good for leaves, so I painted an area like this, using a light and dark green, creating leaf like shapes and scratched in with some brown and then created some thick purple flowers on top, with some white as well, adding in the yellow middles. This inspiration was taken from the flowering bush we have in our back yard. image2 (69)20170903_11213420170903_083403

I am rather pleased with the effect. I think maybe impasto works best when using a pallette knife. It really reminds me of when I used to go to ceramics classes; I did a lot of pictures on tiles which was really painting in relief. It is like working with the clay slip to create the shapes and we used modelling tools for this, including pallette knives..

I did some more today, just quickly with the pallette knife, this time looking at the hibiscus bush we have. image2 (70)

I spread a layer of gold acrylic onto A3 paper, then some pink and some reddish brown. It was like chocolate. I used the end of a small paintbrush to scrap the paint off and I followed a life drawing sketch from a class I had drawn previously, 20170609_165140_Richtone(HDR)to put in a reclining figure. I think she looks like a mermaid actually…The paint came off thickly and I had to keep wiping the point clean.. I also scraped with a pallette knife when I needed too. 20170906_115202-1

To be honest, I think sgrafitto works best on pottery….or maybe I am trying to work this like it is clay. I like the gold showing through on this. I think it has a Greek feel to it.

I was inspired by a quote from Bukowski the other day and wanted to try something with this.20170906_125426 (1)  I smeared on some blue, (I used a brush to start then card) then added some pink and silver, and went over with red. It all got a bit messy. I was hoping to scratch the quote on but it didn’t work so I used a sharpie pen instead, which was not the idea, I know. It worked quite well for the feathers. I might try this again as I like the idea of it but I want to get the quote on there too. I need to spread the paint thicker, I think. Maybe let the under layer dry a bit first.20170906_125835

I tried again on card this time. Used a lot of silver as the base. Found the little wooden things that you are meant to use in the corner of canvas block and they makes excellent scrapers and plasterers as they have a flat side and points! So I worked with them and the paint brush end as well. I knew they would come in useful one day. I can never fit them in the corners of the canvas block anyway.Bukowski


Sgraffito(Italian: “scratched”), in the visual arts, a technique used in painting, pottery, and glass, which consists of putting down a preliminary surface, covering it with another, and then scratching the superficial layer in such a way that the pattern or shape that emerges is of the lower colour. During the Middle Ages, especially in panel painting and in the illumination of manuscripts, the ground was often of gold leaf. In wall painting, or mural painting, two layers of different-coloured plaster are usually employed. In stained glass, the scratching is done through a top layer of coloured glass, revealing clear glass beneath; in pottery the pattern is incised through a white or coloured slip (mixture of clay and water washed over the vessel before firing), revealing the body colour beneath. Sgraffito ware was produced by Islāmic potters and became common throughout the Middle East. The 18th-century scratch blue class of English white stoneware is decorated with sgraffito patterns touched with blue. Sgraffito ware was produced as early as 1735 by German settlers in colonial America.’

I think some of my work in the landscape section might have worked well with impasto; it might have added a little drama to an ordinary vista. I realise I was using sgraffitto a little by scratching in when I was experimenting for assignment 4; pipes and metal tanks of the refinery would lend themselves well to this effect I think. The flowers were fun to do impasto but it just seems perhaps an obvious choice. 🙂


Researching paint application

Monet‘s ‘Rouen Cathedral’ employs the impasto effect. He appears to have built up the layers in a rough way, as he explores the light and dark areas of the cathedral wall. He did a series of these to explore the light at different times. Impasto would be a would way to describe rough stone wall that needs a textured, grainy look.


source: https://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/monet/rouen/

Pissarro: pontilism, impressionism. Pissaro used both of these. He seemed to use visible strong brushstrokes and some impasto effect. I found a lot of work with frost and snow, which he describes beautifully.  In ‘White Frost’, I particularly like the sunlight on the frosty fields,  almost like an animal has scratched across the painting. Bush strokes are visible and the sky continues this, with the colours as well. He makes you feel the rough, hardness of those frosty clods of earth by using strong, rough brushstrokes. and long strokes for the spikey, bare trees.

‘The Impressionists found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight by painting en plein air. They portrayed overall visual effects instead of details, and used short “broken” brush strokes of mixed and pure unmixed colour – not blended smoothly or shaded, as was customary – to achieve an effect of intense colour vibration.’white-frost

Your eye mixes the colours.

source: http://www.camillepissarro.org/white-frost.jsp#prettyPhoto[image1]/0/

Cézanne: impressionism, post-impressionism, cubism. I  was excited to find Cezanne’s skull paintings. Cezanne made several skull painting near to his death,  like an acceptance of the inevitable.  source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_C%C3%A9zanne



Two of the skulls seem to be looking at the viewer, there is one at the back which has fallen down. They seem to be in a cave or on some rock and this background echos the structure of the skulls. I note the bold brush work and the strong light and dark areas. There is a roughness to this brushwork that mimics the rough stone behind and the dry, porousness of the skulls.

I wonder how he came into possession of them; not so many regulations in those days! I am unlikely to ever have the privilege of painting a human skull.

van Gogh:  “Sometimes the subject calls for less paint, sometimes the material, the nature of the subjects themselves demands impasto.” Van Gogh in a letter to his brother source: http://blog.vangoghgallery.com/index.php/en/2012/12/17/van-goghs-painting-technique-impasto/

Van Gogh seem to have used impasto to add not only dimension but to emphasise for example the swirling clouds in the sky in ‘Starry night’.  In ‘Bell lilies in a copper vase’, he has really managed to describe the texture of the beaten copper and the dull glow of the colour.  source: http://store.vangoghgallery.com/showprint.aspx?pid=155770AYAAQAHA-P155770

He appears to have echoed the surface of the pot on the background and then it contrasts with the rush mat, for which he has used long, rough strokes. It gives a good effect of the light bouncing off the copper. The bells of the flowers look heavy with the thick paint. I wonder if he used a knife and some other objects for the small points of light and to scratch into the surface.

 The Expressionists: 

Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas.[1][2] Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning[3] of emotional experience rather than physical reality.[3] source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism%5B4%5D

So they are presenting a distorted reality to show their ideas.

Paula Modersohn-Becker:  20170831_132956

‘Self portrait with blue irises’. image taken from ‘The A-Z of art’ , Nicola Hodge and Libby Anson, Carlton Books. With a limited pallette, she conveys such feeling in this self portrait. The eyes are huge and haunting, the expression is open and vulnerable, and yet knowing. I have noticed in self portraits I have a tendency to paint the eyes larger than life, without realising what I’m doing;  probably because the eyes are where the expression and feeling in the face is shown.

Franz Marc:  I am drawn to his painting, ‘The Large Blue horses’.


source: http://www.franzmarc.org/The-Large-Blue-Horse.jsp

I like the rounded shapes formed in this, and the power of the horses, somehow held in check by their bowed heads. He is using primary colours in this and it is to striking effect. Strong, solid, round shapes.

Blue Horses in symbolically bound to certain of the originating conceptions of the contemporaneous Blue rider group: in the symbol of the horse as a vehicle of breakthrough, in the emphasis on the spirituality of blue, and in the idea of spirituality battling materialism. That Marc had employed four horses in his earlier composition of the Lenggries Horse Painting and reduced the number to three in 1911 may reflect the further influence of Kandinsky, who, following theosopyical practice, employed three instead of four horses as reflective of the apocalypse. But the absence of a rider is in keeping with Marc’s own belief in the supremacy of animal spirituality over that of humans.’

…or maybe he just thought this would look amazing if I painted using just primary colours and made the horses blue… 😉

By coincidence, and I LOVE coincidences, as I am looking and experimenting with impasto work, in the novel I am currently reading (A spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore) there is a lovely description of some impasto work.

‘But there were the pictures. They were so alive that they seemed to vibrate on the wall…the bright leafless trees shone as if they had been polished. The strokes that made up the painting were thick and very noticeable: it looked as if you were meant to be able to see how the paint had been put on…this painter had a different idea of reality…’

This research sections also asks that I look at 20th century pastel paintings, but I have not really found anything of note, and am going to look at Toulouse-Lautrec (19th C).



I have not myself really got to grips with pastels, and I will experiment in this section of the course with them again. 

This is a beautiful, deceptively simple sketch of a dancer. Lautrec has employed a variety of lines and strokes to achieve the gauziness of the net dress and the shine of the tights on her legs.  It is quite linear as well, with strong bold outlines. I love that she is lost in thought, gazing to her right. I think pastels are good for fast, on the spot sketches.


source: http://pastelnews.com/2010/12/19/old-pastel-master-herni-de-toulouse-lautrec/





Proposal for final assignment

I propose to do 5 paintings using acrylics. At least A1 size, if not larger. The subject will be the link between them all and it will be a goat skull found locally (Jimena de la Frontera, Andalucia). 20170826_183636

I have long had an interest in skulls and bones and it seems fortuitous that this skull has just been handed to me just as I was considering my options for this assignment. I do not find these things macabre, I think they are good reminders of the inevitability of our own deaths and the birth-death recycle. I hope to express this in some way through my work. I feel that awareness of our own mortality forces us to live in the present moment and that life is more precious for being ephemeral. (I also explored this subject in my final assignment for drawing 1.)

I would like to choose to represent all the genres to fully challenge the range of my painting skills and to show the many different ways this skull could be described.

The ideas below are not set in stone;  for example I will not know what to put into the still life until I start to lay it all out and sketch my options. I will consider how to approach the abstract when I have experimented in the exercises at the beginning of part 5.

  • Still life  ‘The things they leave behind’ . Set up a still life with the skull plus possibly some feathers, snail shells, a snake skin, antler – anything that has been part of a  living creature but is now discarded, unwanted and left behind. Maybe lit with a strong light one side to get some good contrasting tones.
  • Self portrait .  ‘The death of Pan’.  I will draw on my selfies work for this and aim to produce a self portrait,  probably in profile, and holding or facing the skull. In Greek mythology Pan is the only god to die and is usually shown with goat horns, goatee beard and cloven hooves. source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_(god)  I could play on the  Greek mythology or pagan beliefs for this when I set this up, with my choice of clothing, jewellery, background etc.
  • Landscape. ‘Mountain sun rise with goat skull’. I plan to paint the view from our terrace of the mountains en plein aire, just as the sun is rising. I hope to emulate Tuner’s use of light and also some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, with the skull either on a wall or a pole. source: https://www.georgiaokeeffe.net/deer-skull-with-pedernal.jsp . The mountain would be more prominent than in this painting.deer-skull-with-pedernal
  • Surrealist.  ‘Full circle’. There are plenty of goat herds around where I live so I hope to get out there and make some sketches to work from. I plan to use the skull as a big rock and show the goats playing on or around it.
  • Abstract. I will have more of an idea on this after I have tried a few abstract ideas/experimenting by adding to acrylics, at the beginning of part 5, but  I will look for patterns within the skull to repeat.

I have already started to draw and study this skull.

Working with a photograph: ‘When the snow came’

I found this digital photograph, actually taken by my husband, that he took out on a walk when I was away.  It is remarkable because it had actually snowed (and I missed it!) and it was clearly visible on the mountains beyond Jimena. I think it fulfills the criteria for this exercise, with the mountains in the distance and the castle rising in the foreground. The challenge will be the create the snow in a believable way on that mountain…


I want the snow to stand out in a bright and clear way. Maybe if I try a textured sky in very pale pink and blue, then use white with a background of black mixed with blue on the mountain, this might jump out as cold snow against the sky.

The next hill has some interesting movement in it with the rise and fall so I will want to look at the patterns created here. This needs to be pale with some blue-ness for the aerial perspective to work.

Then the foreground with the castle – I want to show up the houses below more and make the castle stand out maybe in similar colour to the house roofs. the rising rocks and trees will be in warmer greens and earthy neutrals. I don’t want to change the composition too much; I like it as it is.

Overall, I want a loose, textured finish with lots of patterns in the brushmarks.

(Music: ‘Flower of the mountain’ Kate Bush. (Strangely, this was running through my head while painting and I looked up the lyrics – ‘And Gibraltar as a girl where I was a flower of the mountain yes When I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used
Or shall I wear red, yes, And how he kissed me under the Moorish wall
And I thought well, as well him as another’. Had no idea it was about here!)  – Just found out it is actually from the end of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’)

I wish this was my colour study 🙂 but it’s Turner’s: ‘Dolbadarn Castle: Colour Study’

source: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-dolbadarn-castle-colour-study-d04166

Dolbadarn Castle: Colour Study 1798-9 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Taking inspiration from this colour study. I love the loose brush work and the pinkness in the sky, followed by the white and blue-grey of the mountains and the earth colours of the castle and the foreground. And the little pop of red…not sure what it is but it works so well.

Below: Castle sketch, linear study of the patterns, snow effects and colour study.


I still wasn’t happy about the snow mountain, so tried again with a bluer sky against black and white, which seemed better.  But I am not sure. 20170727_180853


So far….


I will look with fresh eyes tomorrow to see what else is needed.

Next day. I need to do a tonal study, even though there is no obvious shadows. The hills are too flat looking. The sky is not right and I think needs to be paler.

I looked carefully and worked out where the sun would be and did a fast tonal charcoal sketch. 20170729_124848

So I worked at the painting again. By now I am only referring to my sketches and not the photograph. The lighter sky looks better. I added some darker tones to both mountains. I am happier with it now although I feel perhaps I have not quite fallen in to the loose, bold style of painting that I envisaged, however it is not precise. It is certainly not a copy of the photograph.  I exaggerated the rise of the castle and increased the view of the houses. The mountains are more exaggerated. I felt this made for a better, more exciting picture. By the way, the red on the castle is the girl being kissed by the Moorish wall…and a nod to the Turner.

When the snow came

Retrospective-reflection:  Although I liked the idea of the unusual picture with the snow, maybe I should have chosen something a bit more dramatic. I still think the mountains look a little flat and I could have painted these better. Looking at this next to the photograph however, I do like the way I have exaggerated the rise of the mountains and the town below and I think I painted the foreground rocks to good effect.