Monthly Archives: October 2016

Colour relationship exercises.

Exercise to ENCOURAGE you to combine the previous colour work with experience. A series of a still life group that stays the same.3 painting exercises to study~ Colour accuracy , complementary colours and colour to evoke mood.
The first problem I had was the day light moving to fast to capture the intense shadows. The winter sun is much lower and sets away from the studio. At first I had a brilliant green glow on the wall from the reflection of the ‘Pierre’ water bottle but it just disappeared so quickly that I didn’t paint it into the composition.


Colour accuracy.

This exercise could have taken days and I thought; as it was an exercise – not to get to precious about it. I spent 2 days on this A3 painting and the colours are ok but the brush strokes are not and they therefore have an impact on the overall impression of the colour. I like to check my colours by painting onto a photo of the still life or onto the objects themselves, i.e. leaves or the bottle.

Not happy about the pewter vessel as the intensity is not strong enough. Maybe if I darken the shadows this will encourage the light to be seen as being stronger. The reflections in the green bottle are really busy and tend to dominate the composition. These reflections were always changing due to the day light reacting with the glass.

The white background and white table cloth are dull, but when looking to Van Gogh compositions or Giorgio Morandi ,they did not fuss with interiors beyond the still life (EXAMPLES OF WORK AS HYPERLINK). The next section is interiors, so I will work more on the surrounding of the still life objects in the next exercise. The overall tones are darker than the actual objects as I started off lighter and then got heavier with paint. The layers of paint have had a effect of darkness to the tonal values. I worked on a white background to help with the colour accuracy as it was such a sunny day. If I had worked on a darker ground then this would have been more difficult to gain the accuracy of the colour as when mixing the colours on the pallet and then transferring them to the coloured ground I would have found the colour hue would have changed. I also noticed that by working on a wooden board and not a white board, that the interruption of the colour wood interrupted with my observation

Still Life with Complementary colours.

I worked on grey paper for this exercise as I was meant to use a limited colour pallet so by utilising the colour ground I was able to use this as shadows ,so to focus my colours on the objects. I used reds, greens and dash of yellow. This painting was much easier to complete and only took an afternoon. I’m not going to do any more studies as I am satisfied with this attempt. I read the exercises before arranging the still life so the colours and the set up of the objects was created from an understanding of the briefs. I looked for objects that were colour complementary like the bright red leaves and the green bottle and the succulent plant and the grey pewter so that all the colours could bounce off one another. I SPENT TIME ARRANGING THEM AND LOOKING TO OTHER ARTISTS with regards, CONTEXTUAL RESEARCH and took photos of the objects from different view points and then made final drawings. Doesn’t matter how much time I spend organising the exercise because once I put paint to paper something always needs adjusting. The use of paint and brush has a power over my best intentions. I first was going to have a hat and a Halloween pumpkin in the set up but this just became to linear. I like the shape around these objects and the colour balance to background is not great but allowed me to focus on the colours of the objects and their shadows onto the White ground and walls.
The first exercise is more colour intensive than the second but this is due to more paint being used in the first exercise and that the second exercise was painted on a neutral ground.


Still life with colour used to evoke mood.

I went for a colour pallet that I find very vibrating and Influenced by the NOW tv logo colours. Purple and orange with yellow and blue. I also went for a reversed colour tone where dark tones became lighter colours and lighter tones were painted with dark colours. The overall effect looks like a poster, commercial in function because of the unrealistic morphology. The image becomes something other than an interpretation of reality, it therefore becomes a interpretation of feelings or an impression, expression or OP~ART

The pewter vessel is close to being an appropriation of op~art due to the strong contrasting colours and the effect that it has within the composition where it nether sits in-front or behind the other objects. It is out of place and because of its centralisation it reminds me of a portal to another dimension- OP~ART.

My aim was to paint with unrealistic colours and just see what happens. I changed the background colour about 3 times as the colour balance wasn’t right, either to light or to bland compared to the objects. This exercise was less about getting the drawing of the painting correct and more about creating a mood. My objects and the shadows have become shapes and less detailed. By painting with colour; intensify the impression of morality. A black and white to grey photo transcribes as atmospheric. A yellow to red tonal image will create a warm to hot impression. The combination of hot colours with cool to calm colours will create vibrations and vivid intensity. ‘One of Fauvism’s major contributions to modern art was its radical goal of separating color from its descriptive, representational purpose and allowing it to exist on the canvas as an independent element. Color could project a mood and establish a structure within the work of art without having to be true to the natural world‘ ~  ART STORY.

Compared still life’s 

  1. The first is detailed and more accurate in form but intensive in colouring.
  2. The second is calming, cool and  not very intensive in detail or colours .
  3. The Third is vivid and bright and uneasy on the eye. The background has flattened the image and is not about the objects but more about the shapes and colour.



Research Point ~ Optical Effects.


Optical effects.


With the arrival of photography from the 1840’s photographers were more able to capture reality and painters were worried that this may cause the ‘death of painting’ (Greenburg) but THIS MECHANICAL PROCESS HELPED to evolve painting and artist were to create much more than just detailed compositions, they were able to demonstrate feelings, imaginary ideas and study perception. This encouraged the movement of impressionists, post- impressionists and Neo- impressionists.

For example- Claude Monet, SUNSET le Havre -1872. oil paint on canvas

The colour contrast used to give the impression of the sun setting over the port of Le Havre is a strong Orange and is the Blues complement and the grey boats give the impression of boats mixed with the haze of the light. The colour is high in contrast but low in saturation except the small circle of the sun but because of its size it reseeds back into the distance and is a key focal point.

His technique was to observe “the same subject, viewed at various times of the day, were captured in numerous sequences of paintings. Masterful as a colourist and as a painter of light and atmosphere”, From <>

At the time; peoples perceptions were that Impressionist painting was messy and unfinished but once seen from a different distance the colours merged and the optical effect caused a reaction.

GEORGE SEURAT style was pointillism which is associated with Neo- Impressionism. He painted thousands of dabs and dots adjacent to contrasting colours to enable  them to blur together to create form and mood.

VINCENT VAN GOGH worked for many years trying to record his perception of atmosphere not just what was seen in front of him but the feelings he felt. He used colours to evoke feeling and his last work of art created before he killed himself is WHEAT FEILD WITH CROWS ;July 1890. The High contrast of golden yellows with the solid violet blue above where a wonky road leads the eye into tragedy. The intensity of colour and brushstrokes causes an uncomfortable feeling and the crows symbolise death and misfortune which really summarises Van Gogh’s life in general.

Paul Cezanne “Dramatic tonal contrasts and thick layers of pigment (often applied with a palette knife) exemplify the vigor in which Cézanne painted during the 1860s” From <>

He uses colour and shape to create abstraction and then developed colour and tonal value in-The Card Players (61.101.1) demonstrates his system of colour gradations to build form and create a three-dimensional quality in the figures.

From 1900, Artist were experimenting with brighter colours and arrangement of colours and shapes.

Henri Matisse was regarded as the greatest colourist of the 20th century. A post impressionist and pioneer of Fauvism where he worked with colour to express and decorate. His development of study of spatial colour relationships is noticeable in –

The Woman with a Hat (1905)

Matisse attacked conventional portraiture with this image of his wife. Amelie’s pose and dress are typical for the day, but Matisse roughly applied brilliant colour across her face, hat, dress, and even the background. This shocked his contemporaries when he sent the picture to the 1905 Salon d’Automne. Leo Stein called it, “the nastiest smear of paint I had ever seen,” yet he and Gertrude bought it for the importance they knew it would have to modern painting.

Oil on canvas – The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art From <>

Piet Mondrian used colour to symbolise colour by using just 3 colours- red, yellow, blue. His work reflected the underlying spirituality of nature. He simplified the subjects of his paintings down to the most basic elements, in order to reveal the essence of the mystical energy in the balance of forces that governed nature and the universe.

Bridget Riley developed the idea in the UK of optical movements when seeing certain shapes and colours. The physical reaction the eye has while looking; classed as op- art. This work is influenced by the American plastic art scean and the use of drugs to help express out of body experiences. While looking at the op-art you hallucinate, have a feeling of uncontrolled visualisation. There expression is a tension between flatness and 3 dimensional, stillness and movement, obfuscation to the eye and brain.

Damien Hirst many Spot paintings are called ‘controlled substances’ to ‘ Cocaine Hydrochloride’ and are like smoking cigarettes- ‘calming but addictive, avoid long use’ as explained in the Guardian. The connection of drugs and colour is about perception of the user. The viewer of colour will use this to help perceive the intention of the work and may give the work meaning due to the colour used. A person using drugs (prescribed or illegal) will use them either to help treat an illness, give them pain relief or just help them in some way. It depends on your perception.


 Colour from the late 1800 was used to move away from natural  realistic depiction and used colour to evoke mood with the development of colour contrast and exploiting intensity. Colour became a visual  language to depict form and feelings , atmosphere and helped painting evolve away from the photography era. Then Colour was used to minimalist everything and strip away its meaning to give it meaning. The reaction towards minimalism is the opposite in which Op -Art formed and digital media emerged. Now colour is everything and everywhere; if its not in colour it is drained of life and therefore evokes mythical meaning of atmospheric and emptiness.


Colour theory relationships.

Example of exercises for colour relationships project.

OCA colour theory

Why do colours convey meaning? why are they considered hot colours, cool colours, dull, vibrant, pale, intense and positive and negative? Is there hegemony among colours?

Colour is a form of language, its part of the visual language but its meaning is global.

The power of colour creates another dialect, another perception of the composition. If I was to paint in black and white tones, I would still be signifying forms, a composition and most probably perspective but add in colour and the meaning of the work is much more, its added another language to the visual language.

Simultaneous contrast colour appeared to change when seen against a different background.
Successive contrast– optical effect where when you focus on one colour then the after image will be its complementary colour.
First exercise is to paint a square several times and around each square paint a colour similar in colour range then paint its complementary colour , the vibrations are much stronger with the complementary colour contrasting . The similar colours surrounding each other look more calming, less noise, less vibrations.
Paint different colours in a square with a empty square in the middle and then paint inside with a neutral grey. The grey will change due to the colour surrounding it. We start to notice a level of high contrast or high definition (CONTRAST OF HUE)and low contrast which are the more murky colours. The further away on the colour wheel – the more definition and contrast, this means that the complementary colour combination has the highest contrast, while the analogous combination has the lowest.

A grey with a primary yellow on white looks vivid and bright and clear in colour as a relationship, but a grey with a deep violet surrounding it makes the grey look dull and the violet as lost its intensity.
When I painted the same exercise onto black paper and darker grey, the colours were very dull and it was like painting on a chalk board where the red and yellow just didn’t cover the black as the black still was noticeable. The yellow became green and the red became soft and darkened. The blue was the best colour to cover the black so this shows good intensity on either white background and black. The greens look more natural on top of a black.
I love the fun colours of the fluorescent tones on white. The vibrations of these colours are young and exciting. Very plastic orientated and they relate to unconscious memories such as children’s toys, lollipop ladies, and cycling around fluorescence cones for a bicycle proficiently test, all sentimentally associations with this colours and that’s why I categorised them as Youthful and fun.

Successive contrast exercise.

Stimulation and exhausting the colour respecters in the retina. When exhausting the receptors for red (looking at a large square of red for 30 seconds) only the remaining combinations of colours that mix to produce blue green are seen when you turn from red to looking at white.

White light is made up from all the colours of the spectrum. The rod cells in the retina distinguish light and dark. The 3 types of cone cells respond to red, green and blue-Violet which in turn make up all the colours.

Still Life with Natural Objects. Part 2

Assess your finished painting carefully. Make notes in your learning log on;

How you’ve progressed from your fist attempt at still life

This still life was first created when visiting Belmont House near Faversham, Kent. We were in the kitchen garden and saw all the red onions drying out on the shelves of the green house. I took a photo knowing this is what I wanted to paint. The image was so enticing I didn’t bother to look elsewhere for another inspiration.

The first still life was experimental and this time I wanted to represent using my normal methods but using Acrylics not Oils. I looked to VAN GOGH as his perception of simple natural beauty was always depicted full of vibrancy.

I still painted in the form of shapes as depicting that many onions was difficult to remember where I was or which onion I was painting. The variation of tone is still to dramatic, need to practice tone graduation more. Don’t think I have progressed in this exercise.


Any problems that the natural object presented

The problem with flowers is that they tend to dry up and die but the red onions were going to dry up and wrinkle more over time but as I was working from a photo this did not hinder me.

The depiction of natural versus unnatural is a physiological one as I tend to over protrude or enhance natural forms like in life drawing and then structuralize unnatural forms. Just drawing or painting what you observe is much harder than we think it is. To try to look at things without perception or conditioned thoughts is impossible. As Authors of our work we are editors, judge and jury, we have chosen to signal this natural form onto a flat surface but want to show it looking like a natural rounded form. We can only show what we have observed and this skill could take a life time to be able to do.


Your choices, working methods and finished painting.

I like my finished painting and I’m pleased I looked to VAN GOGH for help. I chose to work on Brown A3 canvas, REALLY WANTED TO PAINT ONTO LINEN but found this board on sale, the linen was to expensive. My ‘make do and mend’ ideology may not go down well with tutors or assessors but I cant afford expensive materials. I would have like to spend more time working on some of the onions but I like the balance of some detail and some blurry. The window panel closest to the viewer needs clarifying as the sill is not structured correctly. I don’t know how to paint water running down the fostered glass with paint, so need to research this and practice……..


What you’ve learned from this exercise.

 Observation and colour blending and colour mixing have all been practised in this exercise. Perspective and capturing the enlargement and vibrancy of colour is something I struggled with. My concentration levels were tested as I got so entranced with the painting that I have had cramp in my neck for the last week. I must remember to get up and leave the painting alone and come back to it with fresh eyes and a relaxed posture, maybe every 2 hours? I spent 2 sessions on this over 2 weeks and feel I need to tone down some of the darker colours and touch up some of the graduations of tone as far to dramatic. I used black in the 2nd session as I felt some of the details needed more variations of colours but this has structuralized the shapes more and looks less traditional, almost abstract. Love the light captured on the mat behind the onions and the colour of the onions. It took the Burnt umber mixed with the primary and rose red to get the tone of red I wanted, not blue mixed with reds.

Still Life with flowers. Part 2


Make extensive notes about the Decisions that you made, your working methods, the time that you spent and your thoughts about the completed work.

Visited my local library and got some still life books out and actioned some of the exercises. One exercise that I rely got involved with was the drawing around shadows and over lapping those shadows so to create organic natural shapes. The contrast of dark and light was fantastic to capture as the sun would go in and out from behind the clouds and I felt like I was representing a moment of light, similar to taking a photograph ; capturing a moment of light.

When I was drawing thumbnails of still life flower arrangements I noticed I was drawing these inside and that the light was not working well with the flowers as it made them look flat. I took the flower arrangement outside into the sun and noticed the strong shadows on the decking. I placed a canvas and drew around the shadows , moved the arrangement and drew some more silhouettes and took a photo from a few different view points.

I decided that the shape of the shadows of the flowers should be bold so used black ink,  this reminded me of the sociological studies by Rorschach. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning. It has been employed to detect underlying thought disorder, especially in cases where patients are reluctant to describe their thinking processes openly.

These marks also triggered me to investigate SIGMAR POLKE

I printed the photo and cut around the shapes and used the découpage method. Then I painted over the top. One of my mistakes was that I painted the flower arrangement while observing it inside, so again I lost the variations of colour, the light reflecting and bouncing off the leaves, the arrangement is very deep in colour hue so the overall effect is dull. I also had to stop myself from painting flowers from muscle memory or how I think flowers look and not what was observed at the time. I worked in Acrylics, not my normal Oil paint and found this fast drying so able to correct things quickly but dried very dull. may add a varnish.

I feel like I should work another colour into the shadows so not so black as this is overbearing. I also feel I might add to this with some suggestions taken from SIGMAR POLKE.  The shadows have been objectified and are more interesting to me than the flowers  due to the work carried out as exercises first (shadow drawings).

I had visited an exhibition of Flora paintings and brought cards of the style I was gravitated towards so having these nearby while I was painting my own flowers was helpful at keeping the work lose.

I’m not happy with the final painting , the  unpainted canvas and the dull colours but I like  the way the work evolved from an exercise of drawing around shadows

  •  capturing light to objectify shadows to represent shapes
  •  noticing that  compositions from the thumbnails  were lacking light and shapes
  •  thinking about using sunlight to capture a composition of flowers and shadows.
  • Represent this development onto canvas.
  • This is not my normal style so to create something different was liberating.


My thoughts are that I learned from this project to reach out to other sources to aid with my learning.

  • The use of books from the library with examples of methods and exercises to carry out,
  • to researching online about artist such as SIGMAR POLKE and how varied Botanical artist can represent arrangements at the annual Flora exhibition at Sevenoaks.
  • Looking beyond the structure and form of the still life and objectifying the shadows the form of the flowers made inwhich created another dimension to the composition.
  • I also want to add to it and I feel this may turn it away from an exercise and into a painting that I would normally create with all canvas covered in paint. So I have learned to be brave with this experiment and just add to the variations of tone.
  • I will use this learning process in the future (researching different sources and resources) and add to these sources of Literature, exhibitions, Internet as a resource to research artists work and experimentation, but for now this is a good foundation to build from and I hope my still life of flowers reminds me of this in future work.

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