Exercise: Abstract painting from man-made form

‘Study a man-made object. Focus close on one part of it and try different viewpoints.’

When I started this I did not feel a great enthusiasm for the exercise; however, I now find I have been drawn into the whole process and my ideas seem to lead on from each other. I chose a bottle of scent as a starting point, as I felt it would offer interesting light on the glass and the liquid. I did a few sketches, and then was looking at the liquid and and bubbles that form if shaken slightly, and I thought to put it together into the round bubble shape and to mix the elements up a bit. The name has dots of red too, which add colour and interest. the liquid is a light yellowish green.  I thought a blue background would work well. I thought to kind of condense the bottle into the circle and turn the top round side on.



I dropped some water onto a plastic plate I had painted blue to study the light on the water.


Eden #19 abstract

A2 canvas on wooden frame. Well, I am not unhappy with it. I think my bubbles work well  and add interest. Maybe I could have done the glass a little better but because I changed the shape that made it more difficult. I admit I did enjoy this exercise and it has opened my mind to be more receptive to abstract working in future.



Exercise: Abstraction from study of natural forms

‘Abstract by looking very closely at a familiar natural form and expanding what you see in an arrangement of lines, shapes and colours.’


I am in love with this rock down by the river. It is quite soft, and often seems to have changed. I think parts of it wear away. Sandstone? It has been calling to me for a while and I am thinking I could use this to abstract – maybe select a part of it to zoom in on, and put a complementary colour around this area. I may try a little ‘frottage’ on it next time I am down there.

So I did and the results are below. It was very windy and the rock stands a bit  proud to be able to do this, so it wasn’t really the result I had hoped for, but it was a chance to look closely at this structure. 

I have been sketching the rock and thinking how best to do this. 20171202_104547

I tried a few colours and added some flour to the acrylic (from the  previous exercise) to give a rougher effect, which worked rather well.  I think the blue background works best but maybe not textured as it looks like an island on the sea. The violet is too intense. 20171202_143552


20171206_165750I like the blue so I think of a sky with some clouds, as if this part of rock is floating. Little lines of wispy clouds. I start painting this onto an A2 canvas and then I realise….it seems familiar!!! So I do some searching and of course come up with Magritte’s floating rock (“Castle of the Pyrenees”)  Now I realise this is getting surreal, rather than abstract but now it is there I want to paint this. It has also made me realise how much researching other artist’s work influences you, even on a subconscious level.

source: https://aestheticrealism.org/the-surreal-is-everyday-part-2/



‘Sandstone Sky’

Reflection: This exercise was about looking closely at a natural object and abstracting from that. I realise I may not have quite fulfilled what was asked, but I am rather pleased with my result and the process which carried me there. I think the colours work well together and I am pleased to have used my ‘mixing flour with acrylic’ idea from the previous exercise. I think this has given a good rough and sandy effect here. I like the contrast of the rock with the smooth air and the fluffy clouds.


Exercise: Mixing materials into paint

Experiment with mixing materials from the landscape to build texture into your painting.’

I collected sand, flour, marjaram, earth, poppy seeds, cous cous, rock salt to try mixing with acrylic paint. I chose a green paint that I had purchased cheaply from a Chinese bazaar.

The flour worked rather well and mixed in to form a thickish paste, and I feel this could be used to give a empasto effect quite well, maybe because flour is absorbent. The larger ‘bits’, the rock salt and cous cous did not work as well – I think glue would need to be added as well as it did not cling onto the paper very well. Smaller ‘bits’ the seeds worked ok. When I added another colour on top this worked really well as it highlighted the effects. I will explore these  more at some other time.



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. 🙂