Monthly Archives: May 2017

Assignment 4. Landscapes

Assignment 4 studies.

Review all your paintings and sketches and assess which have been the most engaging and why?

The hard and soft landscape that i painted in oil on an a4 size box canvas was a good study for me as I was able to focus on the dull colours depicted in the view out my back window. The linear study was particular engaging as I feel drawn into the composition and again the colours were an opportunity to change the colour pallet because the light was at full strength that day, and the reflection from the light on the water has an over all effect on the surroundings, for example the grass cliff was much more Naples yellow than burnt sienna. Both these paintings feel more successful than the others because they are smaller and feel more intimate to me due to the views being something I see every day. The comfort is taken by the familiarity of the composition and the feeling that I have been able to depict some resemblance.

This assignment is on about enlarging a study and working partly in location.

Detailed assessment of the finished painting;

The elements that have special appeal to me is contrasting light, the drama of shadows. After reviewing all my landscapes I noticed the same sky pushing down upon the composition. This might be that by the sea we tend to have moist air, low clouds or just a lack of sun at this time of year (April-May). I liked the idea of describing a scene that the viewer felt within, not standing on the hillside looking down but more standing under a tree looking out. This would then take away the damping sky line that I noticed in my previous exercises.

The techniques that i used were to express drama and warmth. When researching the German expressionist, I found a painting by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) called ‘Avenue at Schloss Kammer’ and this inspired the composition where the tree tops departed from the canvas and no sky line was needed to explain liner perspective. I also looked to Van Gogh and his work completed in the gardens and surrounding area while a patient at Saint Paul De Mausole asylum in Saint Remy. ‘ Undergrowth’ 1889 has blues , greens with black and yellow dancing around together. The composition I was working with needed some brush strokes to show the dense foliage of the sunny park with its lumpy hill side.

First of all I did a drawing at the park of the tonal values and then came home to draw the simplistic shapes of the composition. I had taken some photos of the trees in the park and the overall landscape. The second time I visited the shadows had gone for the day, but I picked some leaves. I wanted to study the colours that I intended to use so I did a quick oil pastel drawing and then stared on a oil painting ; both A2 size. The oil painting had good value of wash where I started with violet foreground and cadmium red mid ground with a primary yellow as the back ground/ tree foliage. These 2 studies were successful as I was able to enlarge the image, trail colour studies and practice the brush strokes size and direction.

Assignment 4 progress

In the images above I worked on an A1 size board covered with canvas and painted in with yellow acrylic and stuck on some straw and mixed some beach sand into the glue. I sat the board up so the glue would run down to suggest the trunk of the tree. Unfortunately the yellow ground all over did me no favours with the violet ground or the blue shadows. I should have painting the ground into sections like I did with the study. The green foliage was where I painted the straw with sap green acrylic and was difficult to do as, not just the top of the straw but where it leaves the surface and leaves a gap between the straw and the canvas, all needed  coverage of paint.  I worked in stages;

  1. light wash to link the shadows together but the light as individual shapes.
  2. validate the values of the shadows , work more tones into the composition.
  3. Work with the lightest areas with white and various yellows such as lemon yellow, primary, cadmium.
  4. I found that the straw was dominating the painting and pulled some away from the board. This left texture and more light was able to balance the interest of contrasting light.
  5. Details of size of brush strokes, diluting of white oil so a wash over the light shapes and layering more paint such as the flesh tint within the tree branches but also repeating that colour in the shadows connected the painting together.


I am pleased so far with the outcome, Its different to the paintings that I engaged with during part 4. Its full of colour and heat. The straw was experimental and I enjoy being able to challenge myself with working with other materials like painting on carpet for assignment 3. This course allows me to push my boundaries with the assignments, where I find the exercises restrict or focus on certain outcomes.

P4 exercise:Painting from a photo

Choose a landscape with plenty of space, trees and hills. Find from a magazine or the internet then look at it critically and decide how you will interpret it. Make some quick drawings of the shapes within the composition. Your aim is an interpretation , not a faithful copy so pin up your drawings and photo but only reference them occasionally. Add to the painting with materials such as sand. dirt or anything that refers to the place.

In what ways did you depart from the photo?

I didn’t paint a composition that was suggested, I like this photo of the beach and the red wall and I was tired of painting trees. I am lucky to have a variety of landscapes on my door step and looking at all the paintings I had completed so far for part 4, I found they were all similar, because of the trees and the sky line being interrupted. I didn’t like the sky in this photo so I painted sky taken from another photo, which is far more angry and turbulent. This would of course change the colouring of the rocks, but this is the beauty of painting which is; I can interpret the image how I want. The painting is of sun warming the rock face and an angry sky brewing above, looking out towards a magical purple sea line.

Why did you make that choice?

My painted colours and contrasting tones are more severe than the photo, but that’s my way of defining texture. I wanted the tones to be similar to the two photos to suggest the surreal. I made the rock face more clumpy because , that is how I interpret this rock face; like its about to crumbly down to the beach. I am also suggesting that something else is around the corner, you would have to walk further to see because the rocks are in the way. I think this makes it more interesting and the rock face looks less normal.

Did you produce a painting that you are satisfied with or were you over influenced by the photo?

I had taken so much time in getting the rocks to look similar to the photo, so wish I had not become so influenced by the photo. I tried to lay the paint on thickly to give a more solid textured paint work, but it just looked out of place next to the soft purple of the low tide. I had to scrape this paint work off and start again. I need to find a balance of working from a photo and just letting the painting practice take over.

On reflection, most my paintings look stiff other than the more abstract ones. I plan to start using photos as a reference only, as I have noticed from this exercise how influenced I am by the photo.

P4 exercise: Squaring up.

I enjoyed this exercise, even though I though it was a waste of time because most the time, people use technology to enlarge pictures with the use of a projector or other various apps. What I think I liked was doing something different, similar to the last exercise of painting a corner of the room which was a change from the landscape. I don’t mind landscapes but painting them for a period of 3 months can become methodical and tend to loose inspiration. The way exercises can remove you from a way of doing something or looking  at something and thinking differently is when you know the experience has been influential and the process is important to entertain.

P.4 exercise: Painting outside.

I had been thinking about this exercise through out this part of the course. Every time I went out , I was scouting for locations and views that I though would be enjoyable to paint. I was anxious about this exercise as I have only ever painted in the studio or with other painters inside and when I have painted outside it was on my isolated farm in New Zealand. I saw someone painting at Government Acre recently and he was disrupted by people walking by and commenting on the practice of painting. People don’t comment on people having a picnic, or playing with a football and they don’t stop to talk to you in general. But when people see a person with a easel or paintbrush, suddenly its an opportunity to converse, as if its a performance. I am an approachable person as I have worked in retail for the last 28 years, but when I’m concentrating on a task, I preferred no interruptions. This is why I choose to paint somewhere that was private so I decided to paint at the Allotment which is situated by the grave yard on a hill. This location has privacy, has a view out over the busy allotment and over the Ramsgate rooftops, out to sea. I felt very comfortable in this location as it’s very quiet other than a squirrel fighting with the tree above my head and some strange bird songs.  The practice of painting I find must be completed within the environment that is creative. I feel this exercise of ‘painting outside’ was more about capturing a feel for a place/landscape, not so much replicating the view on canvas. The experiencing the moment and presenting that feeling within a canvas directs itself as an abstract association with a place.

On the first visit I looked at different angles of views such as low down as if sitting on the grass or standing. The first visit I didn’t take enough water pots with me so the colours became dirty and I lost depth of tone. Then I painted a wash of colour to block in the variations of colours. This aids composition as the first drawing had to much foreground and not enough back ground so it was to green. I balanced the colour blocks for the next painting. This time I spent to much time on details. Then I saw an Art tutor of mine and we got talking and then I had to go home so didn’t finish the painting.

The Second visit was more successful as I took my Oil paints and 3 small square canvases. I was more prepared but should have taken a heaver pallet board as this kept flying off in a random gust of wind. Unfortunately I left my hat at home and this did give me problems with adjusting to distance of view to canvas and the light, the colours of the paint would glare in the sun light . The changing colours and tones were forever moving, but instead of getting frustrated with this constant change of perception I become selective. When the sun was bright I would take in the colours and work from memory, knowing a cloud would soon positioned itself above, darkening the perception of the landscape so I ignored this view. I think the experience and the practice of drawing a moving figure is helpful when trying to capture a changing landscape. I had to sit and wait sometimes, knowing the image I wanted to capture would soon return and I needed to be ready to capture it. The sky is very white around the seaside as its either low cloud in from the sea, or damp misty sea air and can be very moody but its mostly white and dense. I choose not to correct the paintings later in the studio, but the colours do need attention as the light outside was much harder to understand than when you see the paintings inside. For example the tree in the middle ground is very prominent so this needs toning down so to reposition it into its correct location as its sitting severally dominate.

What I learned was that I prefer a location that is private as I need to concentrate and don’t like interruptions. The place where I paint effects the work that I create; if I’m in a peaceful location, where I have all my equipment to hand, I can focus. I enjoy painting in my studio because everything has its place, its comfortable. But painting outside is enjoyable as its experiencing the moment and working within a natural environment to create and represent that experience. As a society we relay on materials to aid us with living. Artist use equipment such as as IPad and cameras to help them replicate a digital image. On the TV show called’ Sky portrait artist of the year’ we see most competitors utilize the IPad technology to help them, even though the model is sitting a few feet from them. Here we see artists experiencing the intense moment of a competition , faced with a celebrity model, being interrupted and surveyed but they feel comfort sitting along side trusted technology such as the camera. We have the opportunity to have the moment of reality and the virtual moment captured in the past as a photo, simultaneously. We live in a technological era, and are encourage to embrace it positively as we will be more fulfilled apparently. I’m very cynical about this but I identify the positive side of photos, for example, I cant expect sitters to sit till I have finished or sit for long periods on the wet grass. Technology is beneficial but cant replace the experience of creating spontaneously.


P.4: Painting from a drawing


Choose a subject that is familiar to you like a corner of a room, window or a table with some objects. Make 3 drawings, tonal, linear and colour. Look for dominate colours and any effects of light that interests you, don’t get bogged down in the details. Pin the studies up, away from the subject and paint from the drawings. Its fine to use your memory to guide you. Make your painting larger but the same format such as rectangle.

  • Did the drawings provide enough information? When I enlarged the image, I found that I didn’t have any information about the floor such as shadows, tonal definition and where that related to other details in the over all picture. Because this was a drawing of an area I spend a lot of time around I was able to make it up and sometimes I wondered if I had really used the drawings as this was the 4th studies, it almost became robotic, automatic and autonomous.
  • Did you find being away from the subject allowed you more freedom to develop your painting style? For the painting , I just wanted to get the details down so used a linear style to inform the viewer I understood the surroundings. I wanted to show that I had taking in information to be able to depict a feel for a corner of a room. The colours are thinly applied and it was completed quickly like the drawings. I wanted to see the different medium within the same subject. I wasn’t concerned with experimenting with another way of painting. So I think that the freedom came from getting the painting down quickly and confidently.
  • What is your opinion of the finished painting? I like the feel of the painting because it explains a drawing in paint. This seems illustrative as a painterly style but that’s what painting is generally; illustrating a subject in the medium of paint. The bottom part of the picture trails off due to this are not being captured in the drawings. I could have worked this painting into something more than just a wash of colours but decided to leave it in a state of ‘ the start of something’.
  • I liked the idea of developing a painting from a simple drawing. From my drawings while out dog walking, I remember the trees in the park with different coloured leaves, almost like big blocks of random colours. The blobs of yellow, deep burnt reds and dark violets greens, bouncing around within the confines of the local park was something I wanted to capture in paint. My drawing wasn’t tonal or colourful, it was just a linear drawing of the trees sitting against each other with a metal fence. Because I didn’t have much information I had to work from memory and the colour blocking was inspirited but by all  the trees in the park. I started with a yellow background as this is a calming ground for me to work with and added in a dark red and blue together for the fore ground. The mid ground was blocked in colours of reds and the background was dark again which is against the law with regards aerial perspective, but by using a fat vermilion hue on the tree in the foreground , It creates a hierarchy of colour and therefore perspective. I dry brushed the grass in the foreground because it needed texture. The outcome of this painting reflects the research I have carried out so far. For example the portrait of Lytton Strachery 1914 by Henry Lamb. The colours of the massive elongated solid trees which fade away into ghostly illusions are within a calm warm colour pallet. Wassily Kandinsky paintings are representative of German expressionism and his work call ‘Autumn in Bavaria’ 1908 shows beautiful foliage distinctions between light and dark. Yellow sunlight is strong brushwork, the flesh tones of pink in the wall and the blue cool shadows explain the variety of colours found within a landscape scene.
  • Henry Lamb, ‘Lytton Strachey’ 1914

    Lytton Strachery 1914 by Henry Lamb.

  • Autumn in Bavaria, 1908 -  Wassily Kandinsky

    ‘Autumn in Bavaria’ 1908 Wassily Kandinsky

P4 ; research point; ‘Golden mean’

I have some sketches in my workbook of some examples, but I thought I would enter some more notes onto the learning log.

Painters of the Renaissance usually planned the composition of a painting on a geometric grid structure based on a triangle. A common compositional device used and has links to aesthetic values. Shapes have represented signs of feeling such as squares convey a sense of stability and compact solidity where long rectangles suggest calm.


The Golden section is a proportion in which a straight line of rectangle is divided into two unequal parts in such a  way that the ratio of the smaller to the greater part is the same as that of the greater to the whole, like the mathematical value of pi. Pi can not be expressed as a finite number , but an approximation. This is the connection of the theory being aesthetic because its similar to the laws of nature. Luca Pacioli a famous mathematician and friend of Leonardo wrote a book about it in 1509 called DIVINA PROPORTIONE.

The ‘rule of thirds’ is a characteristic of the golden mean/ ratio/ section. Where Renaissance artist placed landscape within a grid of 3 rectangles equalling 9 sections and moving the focal point into an intersection away from the centre point of the canvas. These sections such as foreground, mid-ground and background help to divide up the perspective view.

Some examples-

Due to the copyright law, I have posted these on my windows ‘notebook’, Please click on the link.

P4. EXERCISE: Creating mood and atmosphere

I started with a primary yellow background as this is a good coverage to suggest evening sun. This is what I wanted to suggest was an English garden in the evening sun, but I didn’t achieve this because; • Overworked it by trying to mix the colours on the board

• I sgraffito to let the yellow show through but it all looked far to basic, amateurish.

• I added in pencil to define shapes and details such as the arc windows in the castle.

• The lack of shadows and dull light is really hard to paint interestingly.

• Lack of depth in the perspective, both surroundings are rather close to the viewer. This then had and effect on the opacity of the colour hues, again causing concern due to dullness and flatness of overall work. My previous work was more about focusing on distance. This time I wanted an enclosed space, a feeling of being in a garden, Similar to ‘Flowering plants’ by Emil Nolde (1909).

Techniques I used

• Pencil with the details and greyness within the hard surfaces.

• Sgraffito to add texture to the surface and the show some of the lighter , brighter colour behind.

• Painting knife to blend the colours together for the foliage and grass.

• Straw and pencil for the petals of the flowers to add a dap type of paint application which is more identical compared to a brush. Impasto effect in the foreground for the flower beds.

• Poured turpentine to dull the tone of the colours and soften the edges. Similar process to Glazing.

• Used the painting knife again to add in the white to the sky. All my paintings so far are very dull in colour and typical of the English light source. Will go drawing and painting when the sun shines like in the painting of the walk ways down to the beach.

• I worked on two simultaneously as a process to help me to control my over working. When ever I got caught up on one I would switch to the other. This was interesting and kept me focused on painting.

Separated my colour pallets so I put blues and crimson on one plate and greens and primary red on the other. I find my mixing of colours can be robotic and need to remember the different colour combinations, such as red and green make a soft grey when white added. Blue and Orange make a warm brown when white added.

I would have liked to been more expressionistic and gone wild with colour and added in some collage and sprayed an ink wash over the whole thing, I have been extra conservative here and not sure why? The reason may be, that the idea of being expressive isn’t an indication to go crazy with paint. 

Finaly added in more colour to the flower beds and changed the shape of the path..

After researching German Expressionist,, I came across Gerhard Richter (1932) Work. I liked his squidgy paintings and tried this out with the photo I took on the day and decided to add some more paint and some sand to one of my previous paintings. I think it looks much more desirable and something I could do again.