Practice of Painting Assignments 1~5

Assignment 1

I’ve chosen to do a still life of a favourite ceramic sculpture that has  been in my lounge for 22 years since my 30th birthday. The sculpture is made of terracotta and glazed with matte underglazes which have been roughly painted on. It’s a comical piece with good organic structure and colour. The ceramicist was inspired by birds, rocks and gems which can be seen within the sculpture. I chose to use acrylics to try to replicate the matte colours and chose a light grey background for the turquoise blue green tones to stand out. I worked quite freely to keep a joyful vibe to compliment the humour of the sculpture. Using Wedgwood and white for the back ground and a pallet of  Phthalo turquoise, prussian blue, alizarin crimson, emerald green, burnt umber, cadmium yellow and white. I mixed these colours to achieve the tones of the sculpture and layered the terracotta tones in first then the blues on top. The finer detail I used burnt umber and prussian blue and a fine brush, dry on dry for the fine lines.

Below are a sequence of pictures of sketchbook and the painting in progress.

POP Assignment 1 a
Ceramic sculpture ~ terracotta finished in matte colours.
POP Assignment 1 b
Background washes of wedgwood and white.
POP Assignment 1 c
Terracotta washes.
POP Assignment 1 d
Introducing the phthalo under washes.

POP Assignment 1 e

POP Assignment 1 f

Choosing the composition I decided on a portrait format to position the sculpture enabling me to create the paint textures of the sculpture.

POP Assignment 1 g
There were two shadows cast from the two spotlights above which created an interesting shadow.
POP Assignment 1 i
Details of the head showing the finer marks and some of the texture.
POP Assignment 1 h
Detail of the lower part of the sculpture.

Feedback from Assignment One and Reflection

I felt inspired and excited following my google hang-out tutorial with many thoughts to help me progress in this journey. I’ve found that sometimes I’m working through the exercises robotically rather than pulling them into what I want to do and achieve. I think it’s because they are actual exercises with an objective to do to work through the course. I was remembering how I felt with part five of the ‘Drawing Skills’ course where the brief is pretty much a free rein to create and work through the final assignment and I felt I was more fluid in achieving what I wanted to achieve. So after my conversation with Ilsa discussing How I felt, she explained to pull the course into my work, to take techniques I learn along the way and how I can use it to develop the way I wish to work.

I asked Ilsa about the meaning of contextual research following my Drawing Skills Assessment saying: “Your contextual awareness is underpinned by consistent but at times limited research. Try to synthesis more how your contextual research supports your practical outcomes as this will help drive a more personal and independent voice.” I needed clarity on what this actually meant and now I have a better understanding that its about what I’ve been influenced by through my research and how I can pull this into my own work. So I will bear this in mind now and ask myself why I like certain works or ideas, and to question more about the context of the piece as well to gain a deeper understanding.

Ilsa suggested to keep other sketch books to be able to capture snippets of thoughts and inspirations. I do keep sketchbooks, but I find my ‘working life’ can sometimes get in the way and sometimes the stresses of every day life can get in the way of how I feel creatively! I find that sometimes I have good creative thoughts when I’m falling to sleep at night or waking in the morning before ‘outside’ influences have tainted them, so I find it’s good to keep my smaller sketchbook by the bed 🙂 I will also reflect more on what I have learnt while working through the exercises. I think also If there is a particular technique I have learnt then I will bring into my work as I develop.

“You have created an image with a lot of character and presence. Although very simple, you have considered each area thoughtfully, and the decisions you have made hang together coherently. There is a lovely balance between the more washy background and the more solid object. To take things further you need to reflect on the piece – which aspects are you pleased about? What do you want to achieve with your work?”

I’m pleased with the overall detail of the object in particular the detail and texture. I wanted to capture the comedy of the piece and I’m glad that has come through. I made the background more of a wash so the object would stand out.

Ilsa suggested that I arrange my learning log into individual sections; Assignments, coursework etc., but I’ve tried to do so and I’m not very experienced with websites and feel I’d be spending too long and perhaps doubling up on my ‘screen time’ which I’d rather spend more time on the practical work. My log runs in order scrolling down as though its a story of my journey through the course. I will try to do a section for the Assignments.

 

Assignment 2

For this assignment I chose to focus on an area of my bedroom and the objects within that space which I find relaxing. The inspiration came from the exercise ‘Quick sketches around the home’ but also from the still life exercises. I chose to paint these objects as they bring me joy each morning I wake up and it’s part of my room which is calming. I wanted to keep the tones and hues mellow and found it great to use the techniques I’d learnt in the graduated tone exercises as this really helped to create depth to my composition and the shadows. I decided to use acrylic paint for this assignment, as even though I wanted to paint in oil for this assignment I feel I haven’t spent enough time working with oil be confident enough. Perhaps by the next assignment I’ll feel more happy to.

I started by sketching the composition from sitting on my bed and I tried to include part of the landing through my open bedroom door. I didn’t include too much of this view as I didn’t want to take away emphasis from the still life it self. I placed the perfume bottle and the buddha head apart to create some space in the painting. I wanted to convey a calm relaxing mood and I think having space between the object would help to create this.

My view point is slightly looking down on the chest of drawers and the light source is coming in from the left creating some shadows on the right of the objects.  I started off with using mid tones to plan and paint the areas of the painting and then parts of the still life. I then built up in layers other tones for detail and then line work in darker detail and highlights. I found with the shadows I had to lighten these as when I started to work  on the buddha head a bit more I realised that these greys were darker then the shadows. I realised this was all part of the learnings from the graduated grey tones and how they differed when placed next to each other. I painted with the paint thicker than I would usually do to make it feel flatter in texture. I really enjoyed painting the bottle especially and feel fairly pleased with the outcome.

Assignment 2 ~ Buddha and Perfume still life
The chosen still life, Buddha head, perfume bottle and trinket pot.
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Sketches for composition and colours.
Assignment 2 ~ Buddha and Perfume underpainting
The start of the painting and under painting.
Assignment 2 ~ Buddha and Perfume
The final piece ~ Buddha Head, Perfume and Trinket Pot ~ A3 Acrylic.
Assignment 2 ~ Buddha and Perfume detail b
Detail of the painting.
Assignment 2 ~ Buddha and Perfume detail a
Detail of the Buddha Head.
Assignment 2 ~ Buddha and Perfume detail c
Detail of the Trinket Pot.

Feedback from assignment 2 and reflection

 

Assignment 3

I chose to tackle my self portrait again for this assignment as I enjoyed the self portrait exercise earlier on. I noticed with my previous self portrait while drying in the lounge, that there is a white sheen over the skin tones and I think this has happened while trying to lighten the tones and highlights using more white. So with this in mind for this portrait I painted the mid tones a more orange and red tone.  Also it was a real challenge as I decided to use a mirror to work on this portrait which I’ve never tried before. I made some sketches and at on point I was going to include the mirror as a surround and even other items that can be seen in this photo below. But as I got to work on the portrait I decided to just keep my fave and chest and to leave anything else out as it would be overcrowded, busy and take away from the portrait it self.

I’ve made a few errors with this portrait and I’m really not pleased with it. I used pencil to draw in the composition and detail which made the first layer of paint dirty. I should have used a neutral conte stick or drawn in with oil like I did with the figure nude paintings. The other error is that the portrait doesn’t actually look like me! The eyes are too big and a bit close together. I don’t know whether it was because I was looking in a mirror and I was at a strange angle and also trying to paint and only move a small fraction to view. I’m not sure the lighting helped in the kitchen as I had started the painting during the day and then went back to it in the evening so the light had changed. These are all steps of learning and progression though.

I think in the end though the painting technique has progressed with colour mixing, brush marks and hues. I personally think my previous self portrait is better and stronger in composition and a good likeness.

Assignment 3 ~ self portrait a
Self portrait using a mirror.

Self portrait sketch a

Self portrait sketch b

Self portrait sketch c

Assignment 3 ~ self portrait b
In the beginning of the painting.

Assignment 3 ~ self portrait c

Assignment 3 ~ self portrait d
Self Portrait (A3) oil.

Feedback from assignment 3 and reflection

I’m enthused with my written feedback from Ilsa and feeling like I’m making some progress. The biggest achievement for me during part 3 was getting to grips with oil paints and getting more confident as I used them. I’ve also really enjoyed them too; they actually feel more suited to me compared to acrylics as I’m quite a slow worker. I liked the oils for the time they remain workable to be able to add another tone and continue working with detail.

Ilsa’s comments:

“It is good to hear your enthusiasm for working with oils as you develop the paintings with tones and colour. I feel oil as a medium suits your sensibility and allows you to take charge of the transitions with greater control. And it is good to see you making the actual stroke of the brush help you describe the form as well as the tone and the colour. Remember the opposite aspect of this – while a visible stroke can help describe volume and form, a quiet smooth transition can help you describe areas that recede.

Your self portrait has a strong presence and good control of the tonal and colour relationships. I feel this is your strongest piece in this unit – well done. With oils, as they remain open for a long time, you also have the opportunity to manipulate them once they have been laid down. There are place where the edges need to be softened – this is easily done with oils where you can gently press down the paint with a clean soft brush. This would help, for instance, the right hand edge of the face which is a bit harsh as it turns into the hair.”

I’m so pleased Ilsa thinks my self portrait is the strongest piece in this unit, as I’m personally pleased with this portrait and I think I surprised myself! and I did enjoy painting it and learning how oils behave.I’m looking forward to the opportunity of softening edges within my paintings with a soft brush which will be a good technique to learn.

“I feel with the portrait of your daughter you wanted to capture energy and so are looking for expressive marks. Some of the colour relationships of the skin tones work well, showing dramatic cool/warm shifts. Elsewhere though the description is a little flat – for instance in the eyes and around the neck.

I did struggle with the treatment of the eyes and neck in Georgia’s portrait. But I do like the way the colours have come out in this portrait. I think the colours have come out more intense and darker than when I first laid them down, but that’s the nature of acrylic paints. I think it will be more successful in future using oils.

“Your figure in an interior painting is well considered and effectively simplified. You have considered the composition in terms of shapes, overall tones and colour relationships rather beautifully – well done. To take this further you need to consider how you treat edges, where one form meets another, more carefully – choose where you need to make strong contrasts and where you need to soften them.

Your telling a story painting has some beautiful moments in it – for instance, the light touch with which you have treated the face and the hat is lovely. However, it seems like a beginning, a study, rather than a completed piece. I feel you could develop this into something much stronger by considering how to focus it, where to simplify it, where to add detail. This can be done for the imagery, the composition and the colours.”

My  telling a story  painting I decided to paint in a loose sketchy manner, however I’m now considering how to continue with the painting. I think I would focus on Josh further and simplify the areas around him, the background and plants. But I am worried I could then ruin the feeling that is already there with the painting.

Assignment 3 piece feedback:  “This piece has some good points – the way you have described the hair falling around the shoulders, the sense of volume of the head, the quiet confrontation of the expression. However, I feel it is the piece with the least presence in it. There seems to be the least struggle but also the least joy in it. However this may be because you are exploring a different idea, a different feeling, a different depth. I can imagine this piece, taken further, could have a compelling strength of a different kind – a subdued, quiet, calm observation. It is important that you take the time to look at your work and compare the different results you are achieving to work out which direction you want to explore further with your work.”

I did struggle with this self portrait and I wasn’t feeling so confident working from my reflection in the mirror. I thinks it’s interesting that Ilsa noticed “the least joy in it.” As I didn’t enjoy working on it as much as the other paintings. I think the other portraits of my son and daughter have joy in them as I feel passionate towards them being their mum, compared to me not having quite the same passion for myself perhaps?

With my sketchbooks I want to develop my ideas and try to aim for the these exercises to help my aims, but sometimes I still feel I’m doing the exercises and then my own work. Really I am trying to bring them together.

Learning Logs and Critical essays

“You are recording your experiences well and some of the learning that is taking place. Spend a little more time reflecting on the results you are achieving. It seems you are looking for accuracy but you are looking for something else too – try to spot where you are achieving it and where you are not. The more you try to articulate what that something else might be in each piece the more you will be able to determine the next steps you need to take.”

This is helpful advise to look for the extra aspect I am looking for in my direction of work through my reflection. I have learned a lot during this unit and I do need to record the learnings more thoroughly for me to look back on.

 

Assignment 4

For this assignment I’m going to work on a larger painting drawn from my inspirations of the bluebell woods. Having painted these woods in a couple of the exercises I was trying to achieve the dappled light of the leaves and the lights and shadows falling on the carpet of bluebells below. I liked trying to get the linear perspective of the trees with the footpaths going through the wood. I wonder also if it is possible for me to paint a sense of distance with aerial perspective as well. The sense of being in the woods is as though you are in a room, it’s an enclosed space and you have the feeling of being inside, even distant voices sound different. In contradiction to being inside there is also a light breezy feel through the sunlight coming through the leaves.

I’m going to hopefully work quite freely. Looking back at some of my pieces of work I like some of the textures I’ve achieved using scrafito by drawing into the paint and using a spatula to lay on thicker marks of paint for leaves and extra texture. This can be seen in my olive tree in the ‘View from a window or doorway’ exercise and also in the linear perspective exercise in the bluebell wood. I’m going to square up for this assignment as it was useful for the composition. I’ve photos and sketches from the previous exercises I can work from as well. It was during Coranavirus lockdown and on our allowed one hour exercise  walks that brought me to these woods and I made quick sketches. All the bluebells have died back now.

I like some of CY Twombly’s work ‘Wilder Shores of Love’ and ‘Hero & Leandro’; with the layers of runny paint with drips and quick sketchy brush marks as well as the scrafito drawn and scribbled into the paint. I feel some of these textures will lend them selves for the interpretation of the woodland bluebell landscape. I also like the work of Gustav Klimt and his mosaic of marks creating his landscapes. Over the years I’ve admired David Hockney’s landscapes. I visited Hockney’s exhibition at the RA in 2012 ‘A bigger picture’ which focused on his homeland the Yorkshire landscape. I remember at the time being surprised at the amount of work he’s made. I like his modern style, and he comes across as being very down to earth. Hockney’s interpretation of landscapes are freeing to me and not about making a precise representation of a view. I like the way he has painted so many of his large scale paintings separated over several canvases even up to eight or twelve to fill a wall at the RA. Hockney separated them to be able to work in situ in the woods and to still be able to get the canvases into his car and back to his studio! Some of his landscapes use the alignment of trees for perspective and I love his use of bright colours. Even the roads in his landscapes are painted in purple or dusky mauve. Hockney wrote in this exhibition that roads aren’t just grey, they have colour as well. There is a good film of the exhibition on my research page.

I felt a few weeks ago I might’ve had to do the same (but on a much smaller scale) as I had to order a 60 x 80cm canvas as the shops still closed and deliveries delayed due to the lockdown. I was thinking of working on squares of paper which could then be joined to make a larger composition. I’ll try this in the future as it does interest me and my canvas has arrived!

I started off by squaring up the canvas to make it easier to map out the composition and then I started painting the trees to give me some structure to work with so I didn’t get mixed up with the squares.

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Sketches and colours for bluebell woods
Bluebells linear perspective
Exercise ‘Linear Perspective’ I used this as a reference as well.
Woodland pallette
My palette…
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Squared up photo to work from.
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Drawing in the composition with conte and oil onto 80 x 60cm canvas.

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I started to lose my way a bit while painting the trees and leaves, it was quite hard to see what to paint next and I also found that while mixing the colours I’d forget which bit I was painting. I decided to paint square by square to help and then before long I found I was looking more at my painting rather than the detail of the photo. I then painted in blocks of colour to give a base to the rest of the painting.

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IMG_8426
Detail of the bluebell wood landscape.
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Details of the bluebell wood landscape.
IMG_8423
Details of the bluebell wood landscape.

I’ve been enjoying painting with oils as they give me so much more scope than acrylics. I like painting wet on wet as well as I can keep blending each time I revisit a painting over a few days. I like using a soft dry brush to soften edges and blend colours in gently. Thank you Ilsa for telling me how to do this.

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Assignment 4 ~ Finished Bluebell wood landscape, oil on canvas 80 x 60cm.

I’ve really found this a challenge but feel I have achieved what I set out to do. I wanted to capture the dappled light on the bluebells and to get a sense of depth to the woods. I worked on the areas of dark patches of the bluebells to depict shadows and painted some of the leaves shadows on the tree trunks. I painted the trees light in colour to create highlights to show the sun shining through the leaves. Some sky could be seen slightly through the leaves towards the top and in the distance of the woods. My painting doesn’t quite have CY Twombly inspired marks but I think it does have elements of Hockney with the use of bright green and mauve and some detail painted in illustratively.

I’m pleased with this painting however I do question how some artists are able to splash the paint around and make spontaneous marks and still make a painting that would still give the same information. It would be great to achieve a far looser style of painting, perhaps I can achieve this in my next paintings if I continue with landscapes. For part five I’m thinking of focusing on the florist windows or back street shops of London and other cities – I have quite a few photos I can work from as it is still restricted as to where we can go and what we can do.

Feedback from assignment four and reflection

My video call with Ilsa recently went well with good constructive guidance and points to thinks about. I’m pleased I have a few strong pieces of work from this unit with the aerial exercise landscape of Sulhamstead and the painting outside landscape.

Ilsa’s comments:

You have undertaken this unit with enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment, and have made progress with colour relationships and paint application. Your book review: Your opening description of the book is personal and informative and gives a clear idea of what to expect from the book. As you go on however the flow gets a little confusing with specific details and quotes. It would have been better to keep to the generalities – the quality of the illustrations, the basis for selection, the organisation of the material etc. and then perhaps just one quote that sums up for you how this book delivers the information in just the way you appreciate.
I think with the review I started to treat it like an essay rather than giving a generic overview. I understand what I could have done better.
View from a window or doorway – it seems you are looking to expand your vocabulary of brush marks, and have found different ways to consider bricks, leaves, grass etc. We talked about the importance of edges. Also – the window in the background oddly coming forward – is this something you want to happen or not?
The window was a concern at the time and whether I should paint it a light grey to push it into the background. However I chose to leave it as I thought it was part of the character to the painting. I enjoyed making as many marks for this painting in different parts.
Hard or soft landscape – there are dramatic contrasts in this piece but little development.
I was working from a photo for this painting which was an inspiration at the time for me to paint with the dramatic view. It was one of my first attempts at painting a landscape and also still learning about oils.
Linear Perspective – You enjoyed making the brush strokes in this piece. We talked about the necessity of having a stronger foundation underneath.
I understand the need for more structure to the composition and a stronger foundation for the experimentation of marks to be laid on top.
Aerial Perspective – This piece is one of your strongest pieces. There is so much more depth to it because of the attention you have paid to relationships of colour and tone.
I’m pleased this is a good painting as I do like it and that I have managed to create depth and feeling to the scenery. I will refer back to this painting when I’m working on new pieces coming up.
Creating mood and atmosphere – Here you have again wanted to explore the expressive possibilities of brushwork. However, be careful, without a stronger foundation the strokes can become a little meaningless and muddy.
I do feel I was getting carried away with experimenting on brush marks and how the oil paints behaved. I do like painting wet on wet, however I’m aware the colour can then get muddy.
Painting a landscape outside – well done taking this challenge on and finding strategies to address it. You have made a beautiful depiction of distance. We talked about needing to pay more attention to the foreground.
When i started to work on the foreground I was aware that I didn’t want to put in too much detail as I’ve often found that when artists paint a flower or a detailed leave in the foreground in great detail I think it can make the work look twee, so I wanted to avoid this. I painted in the slanting fence post and broken wire fence to give detail in the foreground and that also these are utilitarian objects rather than pretty. 
Painting from a working drawing – We talked about the necessity of understanding how to create form and volume.
I’m not too keen on this painting however it was an exercise to make the painting using the preliminary drawings. We discussed how I can make the sculpture more realistic and to give more form by concentrating more on the contrasting tones of light and dark. I could also try to paint more detail to the lichen on the stone sculpture.
Squaring up – We talked about this being a useful strategy and the results give a more solid description, but it may not be the best strategy for how you want to work.
The squaring up technique is great to help with getting the composition as accurate as possible however I explained how I feel it hinders my style to work more freely. But then maybe as the subject was of buildings perhaps I do need to work more tightly.
Feedback on assignment
You have pulled together a lot of the learning that has taken place through the exercises in this unit into this assignment piece – well done. You have managed to get much more description than in previous pieces as you have taken more care with the colour and tonal relationships. We talked about the necessity to understand how to make more descriptive detail in your foreground.
I’m pleased and excited about this painting and feel I’ve managed to use various elements of what I have learned so far. Ilsa explained about using more detail in the foreground rather than using similar marks that I have used in the background to create the effect of the distant bluebells. So I’m looking at the painting and where I can add some more descriptive information. This painting is something very new to me as I’ve always shied away from landscapes or they hadn’t interested me before.
Sketchbooks
We talked about looking through your work to think what you are after.
I shall certainly be looking through my sketchbooks and want to develop more of my thoughts and ideas. I have the A3 sketchbook which has sketches and preliminary work for the exercises. My A5 sketchbook I’ve been using for the last two years and has already been through one assessment, so now I have it back I’m continuing to work in it. I have a little A6 sketchbook by my bed as I often have thoughts come to mind when I’m relaxing ready for sleep, also in the morning too.
Research
You are contemplating the artists in terms of what you appreciate, but you need to dig a little deeper to consider how the works that you admire are managing to convey these aspects.
I’ll be more analytical with why I like something and what inspires me about a particular piece of work. Sometimes I like something but not really sure why or how to put my whys into words.
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
You are recording your experiences, the challenges you are facing, and where you feel you are making progress. Spend a little less time recording inconsequential details (this is not a diary) and more time with constructive reflection – look for the clues you need to help you decide what it is you are after. We talked about the importance of recording the observations you are making – e.g. about not wanting to be twee – to help you direct yourself.
I understand exactly what Ilsa means about the inconsequential details; I do keep a journal and so I’m probably used to writing that way. I shall be aware of what I want to say and get straight to the point on my reflection and how I feel something went.
Suggested reading/viewing Have a look at these artists:
Hannah Woodman (b 1968, lives and works in Cornwall) a landscape painter – really lovely to see the variety of marks she uses within her compositions – thin lines to particular brush strokes
https://www.hannahwoodman.co.uk
Tessa Coleman (NYAA), UK lives in Somerset. – beautiful drawing and painting. Look at her website for her drawings:
https://www.tessacoleman.co.ukNicholas Herbert (b 1955 British).
Landscapes in mixed media that create quiet, tangible feelings of open space with the least description of form possible.
Chiltern hills 20 x 15cm. 2016. Mixed media: graphite, colour pencil, soluble crayon, acrylic and pastel on white paper.

 

I’m looking forward to looking at these artists and experimenting in part five with many more ways of how to paints and draw landscapes.