Project ~ Looking Out
Exercise ~ Writing a review
For this exercise I’m reviewing a book from my bookcase as I’m currently in the ‘Coronavirus lockdown’ period. I would have chosen to review an exhibition usually as I visit many galleries and enjoy exhibitions. I haven’t any landscape specific books and would be difficult to choose a book on the internet for this purpose. The book I have chosen does include landscape passages so I can read and refer to those.
An Introduction to Art’ by Charles Harrison
‘An Introduction to Art’ by Charles Harrison published 2009 by Yale University Press ~ New Haven & London, I was drawn to firstly because it is aesthetically pleasing. I like books with plenty of illustrations or plates and this book has 250 images of paintings, sculptures and artefacts in 340 pages. This book was written in less than two years by the author who after diagnosis of cancer and his prognosis of two years, Charles Harrison set out to write the book he’d always been meaning to write.
The writing style has a very personal feel and is written in a light hearted and non heavy way. The culture of art can be intimidating to some people, however the design and content of this book can be appreciated by many people, art students, art teachers and people who just enjoy books. It really is a good broad introduction to art covering the entire history of art from Palaeolithic cave paintings to modern and contemporary art. All the pictures have very detailed informative captions which in itself is a very good reference point. As I flick through the book I recognise many significant famous works of art all brought together in a concise introduction.
Charles Harrison talks about art museums and gives reference to art gallery layouts as a guide to people who may be new to visiting galleries. The book can be used as a tool to introduce people to viewing art in galleries and other places. He explains how art isn’t just in buildings designed to house objects of art and paintings, but how art can be found in their original places. “… there are enclosed places, from churches to civic buildings, where works of art can be seen in original locations.” “There are prehistoric paintings of great sophistication and vitality hidden deep in cave complexes in south-western France, where at the time they were made they could only ever have been visible to members of small communities by the light of fires.” (Harrison, 2009).
Harrison talks about the classical landscape paintings of Jacob van Ruisdael, Caneletto and Nicolas Poussin in particular ‘Landscape with a Calm’ 1651. “The evocation of a sense of mood was crucial to the character of Poussin’s landscapes. Their spaces are carefully distributed of light and shade and by the placing of incident and detail.” (Harris, 2009). Also the work of Antonio Canaletto ‘The Stonemason’s Yard, 1727~8 Harrison explains in a detailed caption how the view is from a temporary mason’s yard across the Grand Canal in Venice to the Church of Santa Maria della Carita. Also he adds how Canaletto’s paintings were in high demand amongst the aristocrats throughout Europe. Claude Monet’s landscapes ‘Waterlillies’, 1916 and ‘River Seine at Lavacour’, 1880, and the work of Frank Boggs ‘Place de la Bastille’ 1882. Charles Harrison describes how these paintings can be viewed to gain the best experience of seeing these works in terms of appreciated the overall image and the brush strokes when viewed closely.
To conclude ‘An Introduction to Art’ is a lovely book to have on your coffee table and will appeal to all book readers. It covers a broad history of art including paintings, sculptures, artefacts, how to see and appreciate art and where to see art giving the reader a good historical journey from the beginning to now. (557 words)
Project ~ From inside looking out
The other day I felt the urge to experiment with the oils and layer between washes, mix with linseed oil and dilute to see what the reactions would be. I then played with my small pallet knife to see where these effects would take me. I tried colour mixing again with primary colours leading to tertiary colours to see how it felt in oil in comparison to mixing acrylics in Part 2.
Exercise ~ View from a window or doorway
This is a really interesting idea to create what we see from the inside. This is often over looked in terms of what to paint and sketch for an interesting composition. Although we all stand at windows and look out whether we are in an office or shops or cafes, or just at home day dreaming. As I started to think about this idea I thought about Matisse’s window series of paintings which I’ve admired for quite some time. The suggestion of looking at Raoul Dufy pleased me as I’ve liked looking at his colourful paintings in the past as well. Edward Hopper I’m familiar with as pop art and very simplistic style of painting and muted colours. (research is on my research page).
I love my garden although it’s not perfectly how I would like it to be, we spend a lot of time out there. The focal point to this garden is the olive tree in it’s terracotta pot standing next to a worn out purple gate. I would like to incorporate the thin curtain and part of the door to frame the view to give the viewer that the scene is looking out from the inside.
Sketches from the kitchen window looking out to the garden. The cyclamen in the pot gives a good indication that the view is from the inside and also gives perspective in the composition.
I wanted to try one of these views in a loose sketch style like Raoul Dufy. I like his paintings which are vibrant and free in drawing style together with brush strokes of colour washes. They have movement and liveliness to them which comes across as fun.
Photo references (below)
For my first painting I chose to work with this view as I wanted to focus on the main view of the olive tree and purple gate and also to have less of the inside. Below is a conte sketch to get ideas of colour range.
I started by drawing the view using my sketches as well as having my easel in position to paint the view. I chose to work with oils for this exercise as my confidence is growing and I like that I can take time with them as they stay open for a few days to go back to.
I need to remind myself though that I can’t just paint over what is already laid down like acrylics and the work could easily be ruined.
I laid down a diluted wash of ochre and burnt sienna with a touch of red to create the grasses and later used a spatular to draw in the grass textures. For the leaves of the olive tree I mixed Prussian blue and cadmium yellow, white, and grey tones to create the silver pale greens and used a tiny square brush and spatular to pick out some of the leaves. I love looking at the painting close up when it’s finished to see the tiny effects made by the brush strokes which you can’t usually see by eye.
Exercise ~ Hard or soft landscape
I felt inspired to do a hard landscape due to a memory of the harsh volcanic landscape in Lanzarote. The view I felt at the time I would like to paint because of the contrasting colours and textures and I didn’t get round to doing until now. So I found the photo I’d taken on the trip, and used that as my reference along with my memory. The rock landscape of Lanzarote is of volcanic black sand with burnt red rock. This view of the bay is dramatic with the blue of the sea and the white froth of the broken waves merging on to the black beach below. The was a line of bright green grasses which stood out as the only living thing on that area of dramatic red cliffs.
I thoroughly enjoyed painting this landscape working with the contrasting colours and trying to gain the harshness of the rock formation. I painted in the layers of colours drawing out the composition and shapes of the landscape. I started with the sky as painting with oil its better for me to paint the top first. Then the rock formation I used a bristle brush and spatular for the surface texture. The layers of the sea were challenging to keep the translucency of the water with the froth of the white waves and to still make them horizontal washing into the bay below the view point.
The bright green grasses at the bottom of the painting draw in the viewer at first and the colour of the orange red rock draws the eye up the composition to the sky while the white waves against the black sand of the beach create interesting shapes also drawing you in.
Looking over the pictures taken in progress some of the earlier stages look better in capturing texture. The preparation sketch looks more free in some ways too as I did it quickly.
Project ~ Perspective
During this time of being on ‘lockdown’ and furloughed I’ve been going on local walks where I am lucky being out in the countryside. There are some woods nearby to me with beautiful bluebells, absolutely amazing and I’m not sure if I can capture all its beauty in a painting, however I’m having a go and perhaps will come back to this subject later in the other exercises or even the assignment.
I took my sketchbook with me found a fallen down tree to sit on and did initial sketches.
Exercise ~ Linear perspective
In my mind I was thinking about linear perspective in the landscape and in particular any strong shapes in my surroundings that could be understood as linear perspective. I noticed in the bluebells woods the alignment of trees and the natural foot paths created lines of perspective where my eye was drawn to a point through the woods. The shadows from the trees helped create the linear look with the colours and shadows from the trees. I used oils for this sketch, even though the exercise is to draw a linear sketch I’m taking these opportunities to learn about colour to make depth and contrasts.
Exercise ~ Aerial perspective
I was inspired to paint a local view on my walk to the bluebell woods with St Mary’s Church, Sulhampstead in the distance. I was looking from the road towards the church and could see the two fields leading to the subject which helped depict distance and perspective. There was morning sunlight on the middle filed making it bright green while the closer field in the foreground was darker being in shadows of the trees. I’m not sure if this composition is a strong example to demonstrate aerial perspective as my landscape unfortunately has the subject actually on the hill in the distance so I painted with blocks of muted colour and shapes rather than too much detail. It’s perhaps best to have a subject in the mid or foreground for this exercise, but I like this view. There was a horse in the middle field which can be seen at the first stage of drawing,however painting the horse proved more problematic and having had three attempts I chose to leave the horse out.
I felt at one stage the sky was a bit strong and so I painted a slight grey white over it in wispy strokes to give movement to the sky and the blend with the trees slightly to push to the back.
The brightness of the middle field has helped with the sense of distance by coming forward in comparison to the muted colours in the background. It can be seen in the finished painting how much I worked at the sky to reduce the original richness.
I think it is necessary to use all three of the aerial perspective techniques by fading out the cooler colours and blur out detail in the distance on the horizon line or background. Also by using warmer colours and more detail in the foreground creates a sense of depth and distance.
The trees on the left are where the bluebell woods are and have been my recent inspiration.
Project ~ Expressive landscape
Exercise ~ Creating mood & atmosphere
I’m still enjoying the bluebells at the moment and the atmosphere I felt in the woods I would like to try to convey in painting with oils. The atmosphere in the woods is like you are standing in a room enclosed by the tree tops and a carpet of mauve underfoot. The mood in the woods is calm and restful with the sound of the birds it can easily be a place for meditation. It’s and enclosed space of calm movement of leaves dappled light and colour all mixed into one. There are areas of shadow and sunlight which move between one to the other. So the painting I imagine to be loose and messy to resemble the movement of the light through the trees shining on the bluebells. I like the sunlight coming through the trees and how it highlights the bluebells where a more vivid blue mauve can be seen.
I’ve chosen to use diluted oils with a brush and then applied thicker paint with a spatular and bristle brushes. I want to achieve a painterly effect and loose not precise and too detailed. I wanted the paint to build up the feeling of the layers in the woods.
It was interesting how the shadows cast by the trees created a sense of perspective in the composition.
While I was painting I thought to myself this is quite an impressionistic way of working with small marks of mauve and green combined to create the colour and dappled texture of the wood. Some parts of this painting are reminiscent of Monet’s water lilies.
I like the way the sunlight coming through the trees highlights strips of the bluebells where a more vivid blue mauve can be seen. I’ve recently been looking at the work of CY Twombly in particular looking at how he’s created atmosphere and movement in the brush strokes and scribbles. I wonder if adopting this approach will help me to paint the bluebells and the atmosphere of the wood. Somehow there is a feeling of being enclosed in something, there’s a certain aura standing in the middle of the woods and sweet fragrance is all around.
Project Painting outside
Exercise ~ Painting a landscape outside
I felt a bit self conscious about painting outside at first but decided to go to the bluebell woods near me which I knew would be quiet especially as the bluebells have now died back. Also it was a good place to go with the Coronavirus social distancing at present. The weather was mild and not too breezy so it was a good day to give it a go!.
Next was planning what I needed to take; I decided on my stronger portable easel and oil paper pad (A3) which could go in my bag with the paints and thinners, and linseed oil, of which are all small bottles. I selected a few brushes thinking through the process of how the painting would be done, so big square brush for the back ground painting, a round flat brush for sky movement and my smaller square and round brushes. A cloth for wiping my brushes clean and a ‘total greek yoghurt’ pot with lid for the thinners to be able to take back home.
I set up to the edge of the wood where theres a good view of fields and trees. I had my two L shaped wooden view finders to help with composition and I quickly mapped out where things were with a green conte stick. It felt as though I had to work quickly as outside and I felt a breeze coming. It felt good to paint outside as it felt very spontaneous. So I painted in the underpainting and already I started to notice how the clouds moving about changed the colours of my view. Especially the horizon where if there was cloud cove the hills on the horizon would turn a grey blue or if the sun was on the hills then bright green and brown could be seen although hazy.
I thought at the time while painting this view that it would have been a better view for the aerial perspective exercise. But I feel I’ve learned more about aerial perspective now having done this exercise. Also the bright greens on the field in the foreground were changing all the time too with the movement of clouds. It’s made me realise what a challenge painting outside really is. So I felt I needed to make a decision with how I wanted my painting to look and where the shadows and bright greens should remain. I realised I was changing the colour of the trees many times which was making them a bit messy. I took photos (below) for me to finish the painting at home. Also I painted some of the detail in the foreground while still outside. It made me think of all the masters such as Constable and Turner painting their master pieces outside and they would have only had sketches and memory to complete their work.
I found the painting outside experience relaxing and exciting, and it wasn’t too much of a challenge to get the oil painting home as I don’t paint too heavily and I was parked by the woods. I finished the painting at home but I was aware that I didn’t want to over work it as if I continued to paint outside it would have remained more spontaneous. (541 words).
Project ~ Working from drawings & photos
Exercise ~ painting from a working drawing
I chose to paint a familiar view in my garden and a spot which I like very much. It’s an old trough my son and I made out of pallets and a stone lady statue wearing a wire and bead necklace. I drew three drawings, the first being line for composition and structure, the second for tones and the third in watercolour for colour information. My travel watercolour set is limited on colour and so I wrote a description of colours for the subject.
I found drawing from the sketch onto my painting alright, but found starting the painting a bit strange, I think I was working from memory as I see this part of my garden. In particular the blue of the trough is slightly different to the actual thing. I wanted to make the pale blue warmer rather than the brighter tone it is. The statue I found tricky as the statue it self has lichen and plant growing on it but was difficult to achieve so I kept the painting simple.
I believe the sketches provided me with enough information, although I think I could’ve had more shadow information for contrasts. Being away from the subject and painting freely was a good exercise to work from your memory and also to use artistic license in changing colours slightly and being loser with detail. I haven’t included too much detail as it could have looked awkward in some way. I’m not sure if I like this painting as I’d have liked it to look a bit more rugged, more painterly. I think by not actually working with the subject right in front of me I was perhaps holding back a bit almost like standing in the fog and not quite being able to see; so in a sense being cautious.
Exercise ~ Squaring up
For this exercise I though it a good opportunity to paint a view that I’ve often liked on visits to London. The photo is of a quiet Kensington back street just off the main Kensington High Street. It’s always a surprise to find this little patch of quiet relaxed beauty away from the hustle of the high street full of shoppers, taxis and buses.
I think for me to paint this scene without using the squaring up technique would have been very difficult with the perspective and challenging angles of the buildings. I’ve not always liked using squaring up as I find it tight and restrictive and can stop the flow of spontaneous painting. However I took in the advice of the brief to use the drawing as a guide and paint as I felt for the subject to capture the restfulness of the small florist and road.
I decided to work from the left so not to smudge painting on the right. I would usually paint in all areas of the composition however for this exercise I didn’t want to smudge the drawing and also I found I was getting lost within the squares; I numbered them as it did get confusing at times.
I struggled with the lettering on the florist shop name, but then I think it looks more authentic as it is a painting in a fairly simple style.
I got exciting watching this view come to life as I painted and enjoyed this exercise very much. I found it a challenge painting the straight lines of the buildings. I used flat square brushes to do this. I used a dry round soft brush to soften some of the edges and to help blend paint in for the shadows.