Category Archives: Part 1

Monochrome Studies.

Exercise : Monochrome studies.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

When you have finished both studies of the winter tree, assess the strengths and limitations of each approach. Note down how you think you could exploit these affects again. Both transparent and opaque methods are often used side by side in the same painting.



Light Ground

Natural way of working light-dark.

Gives more control of tone.

Tends to look more REAL. Gives a moody visual effect. I can see how Mark Rothko Research liked to use this effect to visualise different levels of consciousness as the paint layers show though to show hidden depths.

Variations in tone tend to be extreme.

Lighter picture overall.

Dark Ground

Looks like a night time composition.

Darker overall effect.

The light tone is hindered by the dark undertone. I scraped the light wash away to reveal the dark ground again and this gave texture to the plain wash.

Variations of tone harder to control as less light able to counteract with the dark ground. Uses more white paint to give a lighter tone. Variations in tone are limited and the white looks like snow in the dark. Even if you dilute the colour more the dark ground will not allow the light to shin though so it’s always will be a dark tone.

One effect is Ghostly and the other is rather dark and meaningful.

Opaque paints are more reflective (not to be confused with “shiny”). They cover and hide what’s under them. Transparent (or translucent) paints allow more light to pass through them. They are ‘see through’. Learning about and observing the opacity or transparency of paints enables artists to have greater command over techniques like glazing, layering, optical colour mixing, or avoiding pentimento, a bothersome effect where paint becomes more transparent as it dries, revealing what’s underneath.

Paints are rarely perfectly opaque or transparent. Most paints fall somewhere between completely opaque and completely transparent. The term semi-transparent describes paints that show a balance of opacity and transparency. When paints consist of a mixture of pigments, opaque pigments will usually override transparent ones and the mixture will be opaque. This interaction is important to consider on your pallete since a transparent pigment, even if it seems very strong and dark (like phthalo green, for example) will be dramatically altered by adding even small amounts of an opaque pigment such as titanium white.

Web content

In the above video He shows his theory where transparent colours on a light ground are much more vibrant and the variations of tone are more controlled and drying times are quicker.

In a composition where the foreground maybe a darker colour than the background for example shaded and lighter areas, then the above exercise of using a light ground and a dark ground would help to exploit this composition. Any composition where a strong contrast is needed would benefit from the above exercise. Some thing to come back to in Part 4 of the course due to the section on Landscapes.

Exercise – Opaque colour mixing

I worked with Oils for this exercise and used a small saucer to mix the colours together. Laid down the intense pure colour then added a little purified linseed oil- laid that colour down and then added in the White. Some colours like the Primary Blue and Crimson Alizarin were very easy to dilute and mix but the white just didn’t work to cool the colour down. I needed to use a lot of white with these colours. The purified Linseed oil was much nicer to use than Turps. The fluidity gained from the linseed oil was extremely good at making the paint go along way. At one point the brush had excessive amount of runny Crimson and accidentally flicked paint onto the painted surface and I like the way this gave texture to flat painted sheets of graded colours. The lighter coloured splattering of paint ontop of the pure colour gives a subtle dimpled effect and the colour spattered on the pure white card sits interestingly beside the flat plain painted colour as it gives the colours their colour definition.

Comparing these colour tests with the last exercise I feel I preferred the diluted pure colours more than the toned down coloureds using white. It’s something about White that makes me feel like I’m using ‘tipex’ to correct something, so the using the white makes me feel like I’m trying to correct a colour. I would normal use White to tone down a colour or if I have done a mistake, I scrape off the paint and use White to paint onto before merging in the colours to correct the texture , tone ect. Subconsciously I feel White is a monochromatic tone that needs replacing with colour like a blank canvase that you have had to primer with White paint or its where something has gone wrong so you have to erase it away and insure that turns back to a white area. So I feel more positive about the diluted down colours, the only problem is that you tend to gain an oil Mark where you have used to much linseed oil or turps.

Transparent= diluted=intense colours and pure colours.

Opaque=white added=mixed colours=pale colourings and tones are more ghostly and less vibrant.

Black and White are not colours so the above process would not work.

To painting a composition where glass and water are objects, then using the above formula would be helpfull. If I was to paint water that had light reflecting within/On it I would use Diluted oil colours to give a transparent impression. If I was to Paint the objects that no light can pass through (opaque) I would use White to mix with colour to help get the correct tones.

I watched this utube video, (which is American ) but they showed a paint tube that was either transparent, translucent or opaque and they demonstrate the colour theory behind layering colours and they called Opaque night time tones and Transparent Jewel like intensity that gives an impression of day light.

Opaque and transparent
Definitions of what is opaque and what is transparent or translucent 


Objects vary in how they transmit light.
Transparent objects allow light to travel through them. Materials like air, water, and clear glass are called transparent. When light encounters transparent materials, almost all of it passes directly through them. Glass, for example, is transparent to all visible light. Translucent objects allow some light to travel through them. Materials like frosted glass and some plastics are called translucent. When light strikes translucent materials, only some of the light passes through them. The light does not pass directly through the materials. It changes direction many times and is scattered as it passes through. Therefore, we cannot see clearly through them and objects on the other side of a translucent object appear fuzzy and unclear.

Opaque objects block light from traveling through them. Most of the light is either reflected by the object or absorbed and converted to thermal energy. Materials such as wood, stone, and metals are opaque to visible light.


Project- Transparent and Opaque.

I used Oil paints for this exercise and had to use a lot of white sprit and turpintin to dilute the pigment and this took time to get a puddle amount to wash with so the fumes were to much for me but I loved the glossy watery effect the oils had but that all changed when they dried. The layering of colours gave a depth to the colour but this took time.

First exercise was about manipulating the wash so it was tonally graded. I had to use different pots of turpintin and different sponges so the colours were kept clean. With the diluting of the pigment it was harder to control the grading as the paper absorbed it in different areas so not a controlled graded but more of a bleeding of colours. I first used a brush but the linage that the brushes gave was distracting so I tried different brushes but preferably  use a sponge  or a squidgy and a soft dry cloth to wipe over after to lift the diluted residue.

Second exercise was overlaying washes after the paper had dried. This was a successful exercise in testing out colour changes once layered. First I used same colour on colour and this gave more intensity to the colour, then I went lighter colour on darker colour and this gave a ghostly look, very soft and loved the ‘portrait pink’ layer on cadmium red.

Then I tried other colours that were not as interesting such as cadmium yellow on ultramarine blue which came out a murky greenish tone. The ultramarine with the violet produced a deep colour but was harder to control the subtle grades  between each colour.

This was an opportunity to go though my paint range and test out combinations and then hanging them all up to dry allowed me to see how the washes can be either reinforced or distracted depending on the colour its placed next to. The portrait pink merging into Violet was my more successful mix of merging the colours together but when placed next to the yellow merged with terracotta, it just losses its delicate range.

  • Does this method give you greater control ? I think it was less control of the overall outcome because you don’t know what it was going to get once dry. The colour change either dark layered with lighter tone of visa versa was difficult to predict. Where one colour merging into another you only had to deal with the concentration of turps and pigment and keeping it clean.
  • Have the colours merged in the same way? No, with the colour on top of the other you tend to get depth of tone and not graded tone. The layered washes are more intense where the graded wash being merged is more transparent.
  • How could you employ these techniques of building coloured glazes? I think if I wanted a transparent tone I would use the single wash merging into another tone which is gradually deeper in colour. If I wanted an Opaque glaze I would use the technique of layering wash of colour with another wash of colour so to build up the layer of tone. I feel the first method is easier to control and would take less time.
  • I have worked out the colours and have stuck them in my work book for reference.
  • Research Seagrams murals for reference to creating different picture planes with the techniques just experimented.
  • .Action contextual research with regards Rothko. Research


Basic paint application

Part one is all about ‘WHAT PAINT CAN DO’ so these exercises are a great way to start with this course of painting.

So far I have invested in some new brushes and been playing with those and then concentrated on paining some fruit and a landscape from memory and now I have just been experiement in with tools to get paint on a surface so things like bubble wrap, cotton wool buds, sponges (natural and synthetic) fabric a fern leaf and bottle corks.

On reflection I think that the use of the brush is the best way to control the paint but the use of pallet knife and other tools gives some uncharacteristic marks that tend to give a painting more texture. When painting with other tools than a brush the feeling of letting go needs to be adhered to some extent as the connection between paint-tool-surface and creator need a technique for a skill to develop.