Tonal study on a dark ground

For the dark ground I used the same 2 colours mixed as before (raw sienna and dark ultramarine)to create a dark blue/green. I was thinking of the chiaroscuro works I had been researching and decided to lower the light and light a candle, actually a tea light, inside the alabaster goblet. This threw warm lights through the alabaster and up the wall.  I also positioned a torch to the left, creating some shadow and tones I could work with.This threw a whiter light. I blocked other light out. It is not easy to work without much light though, but it looked good! I wonder how the artists managed in ‘pools of candlelight or firelight’…. The grapes have been eaten so I added a marble ball to add interest at the front. I did some very fast sketches to see if this worked and decided to try it.

I sketched out the basic shapes with the full lights on in a white  stick. Then turned off the lights and tried to work. I had to switch them on and off to check the colours. I added a little black in the mix to create some tones deeper than the dark ground, I think this worked well particularly on the goblet and it was also needed for some shadow areas.

dark ground

I think it is harder to work on a dark ground, but the effects are more interesting. Looking at the 2 together, I think the white ground worked better for me, but that is just my inexperience. I like the atmosphere created with the dark ground. I think maybe I exaggerated the white highlights too much and could have left the whole thing darker. With practice, I think I will prefer working with a darker ground but the lighting has to be right, it would not work without the bright areas.

I am glad the exercise was not about the shapes as clearly I have made the goblet slightly different each time and the pineapple looked better first time!  🙂

Monochrome studies

It is the end of August and all the trees around here have a lot of foliage. So, for this exercise I worked from my own photographs and found an almond tree that I had taken a photograph of, as it had an interesting twist to the trunk, up by the castle. It was just coming into bud.  I sketched it out in my A3 sketchpad.

sketch tree

I prepared two A3 acrylic papers, one with a mixture of burnt umber and dark ultramarine blue, the other with white and raw umber.


When they were dry I sketched out the basic tree shape onto each one.  I worked on the light ground one first, having mixed up the same dark wash, and painted in the tree trunk and worked out, filling in the twigs and letting the paint get thinner and lighter as I did so. It was fairly easy to follow working in the way that a tree grows outwards. I kept the sketch next to me for reference.

Dark on light

Next, I worked on the dark ground with a light grey mix. This was, of course, trickier to do and rather challenging. but I found I got quite absorbed in it. I mixed the grey a little darker and lighter at times to try and vary around the twigs to add interest. I thought I wouldn’t like the end result but actually think it is much more interesting than the first one, a different approach has given an almost abstract feel to it which I find pleasing.

working on the negative spaces


negative space tree

I think a combination of both methods would give the most pleasing effect. I would have liked to add more twigs by going over the negative space one with a fine dark brush but felt that would be ‘cheating’ on this exercise. The dark on light is a more natural and instinctive way of working but working in reverse takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you look at the whole picture.

Opaque colour mixing

With this exercise I have to say I do not think I did it that well, however, I do think I learnt a lot from it. I am writing this just as I have finished so it is fresh in my mind.

The idea was to recreate the washes from the previous exercise but by adding white, rather than watering down the acrylic paint. In my defence, I would say it is very hot here and the paint dries quickly! The single colour washes were easier, the 2 colour ones needed skillful 🙂 blending to achieve the mix and shades of the two colours.  In the first 3, I did not manage to get to the edges of the paper, perhaps that is not so important. The colour is different when you add white, particularly the violet I used, which comes out more blue toned than a true ‘violet’ colour, which is achieved by adding water. The red also went pinker, rather than light red with the addition of the white. The colour looked more vibrant without the white, but the white gives a rich denseness. The yellow and green look better than they do in the picture. I have put the washes I was working from next to today’s for comparison.

blue (1)violetred & orangeyellow & green


Project transparent & opaque: tonally graded wash/ overlaying washes

I worked with acrylic (red)  on A3 watercolour paper.thumbnail_20160820_103110

It was tricky to stop brush marks showing through, and as it dries out they show up more. I then used orange and worked from the other end, wet on wet.

On one, the orange seemed to show up more dominate.


The next day, I mixed up the orange again to use over the now dried red wash.

wet on dry

Does this method give you greater control? Yes, it does seem to as the colours don’t run together, it is less messy working this way.

Have the colours merged in the same way? No, I think they merged better on the wet on wet technique.They blended and mixed to give a better colour.

How could you employ these techniques of building coloured glazes? They make a good base for working on, especially if you were doing a special sky or seascape.

I also tried some other colour combinations, wet on wet: Dark ultramarine & violet, light green & cadnium yellow. These got a bit streaky, the green in particular.


Also, 2 both called Naples yellow, different makes, where one is clearly a peach and the other a pale yellow, but they blended well together. I thought this was was the best, but maybe because I was getting better at blending!


It was a good chance to find the best acrylics, and I liked the ones I had bought from the local art shop the best, ‘Vallejo’ acrylic studio, the other ones, called ‘pebeo’, not so good (these were given to me)

As suggested, I looked at the Rothko Seagram murals.

…..and the interactive exploration is excellent!

Various shades of red with frames within them. I imagine they are more striking to see ‘in the flesh’.






Applying paint without brushes

Today I bought a palette knife! And a few other things too…filbert brushes, shapers, a large flat brush and some new sketchpads.

I set up an A3 sheet of acrylic paper on my easel and worked with big, bold colours, mixing them in together with the knife. I did a sort of sky, trying different things, seeing how it could be moved around, and scraped off. I used a sponge as well, for the sea/ lake effect, drawing it across with a few colours together, and then swirling it for a rougher effect. I used my fingers for dabbing and the knife could also be used for touching points of light. It wasn’t meant to be a picture but it sort of is because I wanted to try basic sky, trees, houses, sea.  I enjoyed the freedom of the knife, creating a more abstract feeling, and being able to texture. Used a lot of paint though 🙂


So the next day I wanted to try again, and I felt that buildings would be a good subject for using a knife. I worked from a photo I had taken of a narrow street just down the road from me. I enjoyed this and I am not too displeased with how it turned out, considering it was only my second go with a palette knife. I like how you can combine colours together on the knife without quite mixing them. The paint does dry quickly, especially as it is over 40 C outside at the moment. No, I don’t have air con.

calle by knife

Painting with pastels

I have a box of soft pastels, that I bought when I was on Drawing 1. I used them a few times, and indeed I did an assignment using them, which was quite large. But I will admit now that I do not like using them, I find them frustratingly messy and I end up with fingerprints all over them and the colour dust blends in where it is not wanted. I spent this afternoon using them, and also watching you tube tutorials, where brilliant people managed to create amazing artwork with them, so I can see what could be possible. The best thing I managed to make was this sketch of my cat, before he realised I was focused on him and decided to move…I think pastels are quite good for animal fur as you can make a soft effect with them.

pastel sabi.jpg


Basic paint application/getting to know your brushes

I found all my brushes and had a ‘play’ with them, using acrylics. I then tried a few strokes and techniques on a spare paper.  I need to buy some really large brushes, but the ones I do have work quite well. Some hold the colour more than others and some soak up water and make for a good wash. A chinese style one was good for doing swirl shapes and I thought how I could use this to suggest clouds. As stated you can indeed use the side of the brushes to make a fine line.strokes

I then painted a landscape of my home town of Glastonbury, a view of the tor from the levels. I used a large smooth brush to suggest the sky and fields and the chinese brush for the clouds, harder brushes for the coppiced trees and dabbed in tree and hedge shapes, thinking of patterns rather than details.


So I looked up a ‘filbert’, which I now know is a round headed but flat  brush (I need to get one of these – good for doing leaves etc) I also need colour shapers, which I also had to look up, like brushes but with a silicon tip. Looking ahead to the next exercise I also need a palette knife.

I then fund a nectarine (at least, I think it is, got a touch of peach about it too..) and set it next to a lamp on a wooden surface next to a yellow wall, and i painted it using mostly the larger brushes and trying to be bold. I did the background first – the big brushes were great for suggesting wood grain, I think that worked well. I painted in the fruit shape with a peach colour and then worked with dabbing strokes to fill in the colours. I looked carefully and saw that it was red and dark red, with almost greenish hues too. I added the shadows and the highlights afterwards. I watered the shadows down so the grain showed through as it actually does and I think that worked out ok.


The nectarine has a touch of apple about it perhaps….

I need to buy some more brushes and will be off to the local art shop when it reopens on Tuesday 🙂