Practice of Painting Course Work ~ Part 1

I’ve been really looking forward to getting started with this course! I’ve just completed ‘Drawing Skills’ and found that in some cases I was painting more than drawing, but I guess that could be the natural progression of exploring with new mediums and techniques. I enjoyed using pastels recently and explored painting with them using water and baby lotion. It’ll be great to work through these exercises now as I have painted for many years and having worked through ‘Drawing Skills’ made me realise that I had become stuck in a rut. I’m hoping now to continue with what I have learned so far and to find new approaches and an open mind to painting.

Brushes and paints

An array of brushes ~ some of which are old and have had for years! We seem to get attached to our favourites and wear them out until the bristles have a mind of their own. They grow in character along with the water jars with residue of paint around the edges which become a work in them selves.

Part One ~ What paint can do

Project ~ Basic paint application

Exercise ~ Getting to know your brushes

So for this exercise I picked out as many different sizes and shapes of brushes from my pots as possible and chose a cheerful yellow. This was actually a fun exercise and even though I know the mark these brushes make it was good to consciously play around with the marks and to note the brush that created them. This will be a good reference point in the future. Some of the brushes became actual images just by the mark they left like the fan brush replicated the grass heads of grasses in a field.  Below are the pages from my A3 sketchbook with details noted of the brushes used.

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes 1

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes 2

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes 3

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes 4

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes 5

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes 6

This fan brush works really well to create seed heads of grasses and quickly drawn brush marks make movement.

Landscape from memory (A4)

Landscape from memory using some of the marks created on the previous exercises. This is a very pretty field of opium poppies near Henley in the summer. I used the round 1/2″ brush and a 1/2″ flat square brush to create these marks. I liked the spontaneous approach. The second painting I prefer the cooler colours as they look fresher. The stippled marks also make me think of Seurat’s paintings.

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes Landscape

Piece of fruit

I chose a banana because of the fun shape and tones of yellow. It was a challenge not to put in too much detail, how ever I enjoyed being free because of doing a simple painting while using 1/2″ round and flat square brushes. The light was coming in through the glass door behind the banana and so the shadow was in front and underneath the banana.

POP _ Part 1 ~ getting to know your brushes - fruit

Exercise ~ Applying Paint without brushes

For this exercise I started off by using the spatular and pallet knife. I’ve only painted a few times with a pallet knife and with this experimenting I’ve realised I like it! especially a certain part where the paint could resemble waves and water spray.

POP _ Part 1 ~ Applying paint without brushes 1

POP _ Part 1 ~ Applying paint without brushes 1 detail

I used a math protractor and ruler as well, anything I could try that wouldn’t be ruined.

POP _ Part 1 ~ Applying paint without brushes 2

Not intended to be a hand at first, but just happened while making marks with an emery board. Also used a wooden canvas stretcher.

POP _ Part 1 ~ Applying paint without brushes 3

Playing with a looped piece of wire and loose paint; cling film and bubble wrap worked well as well, Will be interesting to see how I can use these techniques in paintings.

POP _ Part 1 ~ Applying paint without brushes 4

More cling film scrunched into wet paint and then left to dry and peeled off before too dry and gets stuck!, Also finger tips and dabbing and moving my fingers quickly creates some lovely spontaneous marks.

Exercise ~ Painting with Pastels

Painting with Pastels

Here I drew with pastels using the edge and side then blended with water to create a delicate wash, although it looks a bit messy I like the looseness.


Pastels on coloured paper drawing and blending with my fingers first, then washing over with water then drawing over with finer lines, creates a nice depth. the ones to the side have been blended with baby oil, which was quite effective to blend and dilute the pastels.

Oil Pastels

Oil pastels drawn and blended in together, layering over and over to create a sgraffito affect, then I worked with blending using turps and baby oil.

POP _ Part 1 ~ Painting with pastels

Blending and painting with soft pastels with my fingers. I enjoyed using these colours and blending techniques inspired by a New Forrest artist called Pete Gilbert.


Project ~ Transparent and Opaque

Tonally Graded Washes

Firstly I tried out a strong crimson wash and then applied a yellow wash from the other end which blended well and the intense colours are good.

Transparent and opaque - Tonally graded washes 9 wet on wet

Transparent and opaque - Tonally graded washes 8 wet on wet

Transparent and opaque - Tonally graded washes 5 wet on wet

Trying out the graduated washes together, one colour first and then the other both wet together blend together well, however they appear to look muddy compared to the washes where the second wash layer (overlaying washes) has gone on top of the dried first layer of was. It looks fresher and more translucent. Introducing the Pthalo blue doesn’t look so great with the orange doesn’t look so great, however works well with the Pthalo layer dried and the pink/orange applied on top as they haven’t mixed and gone muddy. (see below).

Transparent and opaque - Tonally graded washes 4 wet on wet

Overlaying washes

The following are washes overlaid on the first dry wash. I do like these as the colours are clearer and translucent giving a fresher feel. I think there is more control in producing an affect with the translucent layers on top of the dry washes. I can imagine using these techniques in landscape painting to create a fore-ground, mid-ground and show some distance in the composition..

Transparent and opaque - Tonally graded washes 3 wet on dry
More of a translucent feel where the second layer stands away from the first layer.


Transparent and opaque - Tonally graded washes 6 wet on wet

Yellow wash on top of the crimson wash which was left to dry. The yellow looks more luminous on top of the crimson wash. You can see the quality of the colour layer in comparison to the other.

I’ve created some squares with the colours, the top row are wet washes done together and the bottom row are the first wash dried and the second wash on top.

Transparent and opaque - Tonally graded washes 1

I’m going to use these to create another wash overlay only on half of each so the difference can be seen.

Exercise ~ Opaque Colour Mixing

As in the exercise brief I mixed white in with the diluted colour washes  matching them as closely as possible; and played around with some mark making and patterns to see how the opaque colours would work. The Pthalo blue and pink/red worked well as an opaque colours over a few of the colours. The opaque yellow wasn’t as affective. Adding the white especially to my choice of colours makes them look pastel in tone and not just opaque. Both the graduated washes and opaque colours can be used together to create depth and pattern including varying tones to create an interesting painting.

Transparent and opaque - Opaques washes and detail 1

Transparent and opaque - Opaques washes and detail 3

Transparent and opaque - Opaques washes and detail 4

Transparent and opaque - Opaques washes and detail 2

I particularly like the two sheets above, the affect is very useful and I can see which ones I may use in the future. The way the washes show through the opaque tones with runs and movement in comparison to the opaques overlays is visually interesting.

Exercise ~ Monochrome studies

I chose to use Wedgewood grey as my light ground and Prussian blue for the dark colour. The dark colour goes on well to the light colour and is fairly easy to cover. The Wedgewood grey I diluted to go over the top of the dark ground which again went on fairly well and I liked the opaque nature of the paint. These techniques I can see working well in a landscape to depict perspective experimenting with foreground, mid ground and background. The background wash works well for atmosphere as well, it’s almost got a translucent look.

Transparent and opaque - Monochrome tree 2
Monochrome Study.
Transparent and opaque - Monochrome tree 1
Monochrome Study reverse colour.
Monochrome Study - negative space
Monochrome Study ~ painted negative space.

I’d realised after speaking with my tutor Ilsa that I had misunderstood the exercise and so I did this third version with the negative spaces painted in the light colour. It creates an interesting illusion of which layer is sitting in front and which was painted first.

Feeling inspired after this exercise for this first assignment to paint a landscape on a cold misty morning. Whilst driving early the other morning I noticed the low lying mist in the fields and the white haze surrounding the sun which was trying to burn through. These opaque and transparent exercises would work well to achieve the misty landscapes I saw. Will keep this in mind when I decide on my subject.

Exercise ~ Tonal study on white ground

For this exercise I selected an old book, decorative tin and a spotty jug (although I didn’t put in detail). Below are some of the sketches to explore the composition.

Tonal Studies Still life

Sketches for tonal studies

Sketches for tonal studies 2

I chose to work with earthy natural colours to add more interest, also compliments my chosen objects. For the tonal study on light ground I used cadmium yellow, white and a touch of crimson making a background wash, and I mixed a rich colour of burnt umber, crimson, white and cadmium yellow. I then used the same colours for the study on dark ground. I found the transparent washes worked well in both versions, perhaps more so with the light on dark ground tonal study. It was tricky at first to paint the light on dark ground as it was a case of reversing my mind to painting the highlights first to create the light areas and to really consciously leave parts of the dark background for the shadow areas of the painting.

Tonal Studies on light and dark ground
Tonal Studies on light and dark grounds ~ Acrylic washes.



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Henri Matisse at the Met: The Mindset behind the Masterpiece