Category Archives: Part 4

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.


P4 Research. Expressive landscape; Surrealist…

Research point.

Landscape art from the Surrealist (Dali), war time period (Paul Nash) to the German expressionists (Emil Nolde)and into the symbolist movement (Gustav Klimt).

The surrealist movement began between the world wars with one of the founders being Andre Breton (1896-1966). His definition of surrealism was “psychic automism in its pure state…Dictated by thought in the absence of any control exercised by reason exempt or moral concern.” P190 Art since 1900. Foster.

Insisting that psychic automatism could be unknowingly transcribed by a brush or pencil, Breton welcomed the uncontrolled Masson’s sand painting. Miros dripped and splattered dream pictures , Ernst trance like rubbings.

Image;Max Ernst Forest and Dove 1927. Tate © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017

But.. The conscious state of mind can not be interpreted without the unconscious state of mind just the same as; to define up , you need to understand what down is. The states of mind are both being exposed within the surreal movement. Similar to the theory of Schrödinger’s cat where one cat is placed inside a precarious deadly box and the quantum out come is either a dead cat or an alive cat, but during the experiment, we suspect the out come for both cats. Its a paradox where the surreal statement is contradictory as it contains the states from the conscious and the unconscious that are true but not realised at the same time.  Signs are a key factor in surrealist work by the artist Dali. The understanding of the misunderstood is captured and directed by signs. Our Dreams signal to us fear, worries, apprehensions and concerns that have manifest within a conscious state to be reinterpreted in our unconscious sate of the dream. This quote taken from ‘Authentic society’ explains the signs within ‘The persistence of memory'(1931) by Dali.(1904-1989)

The ants, seemingly attacking the orange clock positioned on the rectangular table-like object perhaps indicate the anxiety associated with time… the ants simply represent the association between “work” and time. As if time, in its very short and long hands “working” throughout history of our generation and life experience just like ants who are building an ant house?

Image ; ‘The persistence of memory'(1931) by Dali.(1904-1989)


The dream interpretations are commonly associated with surrealism but the movement was much more than depicting the surreal and more to do with the psychoanalytical theories associated with Freud. The ‘Uncanny’ is how subjects tend to receive an  eerie feeling, often artist would take the familiar and replace it in an unfamiliar surrounding such as the iron below.

Image; Man Ray Cadeau 1921, editioned replica 1972 .Tate


Freud relates this eerie/ uncanny feeling to the mirror stage and to castration anxiety. These theory’s are where subjects feel safer duplicating or doubling as a way of dealing with the act of seeing and looking and then taking meaning from this experience and how this subject feels at the time. For example when boys realise girls don’t have a penis, and how they fear that castration of the phallus, and when you look into a mirror and your ego returns the look but somehow you don’t feel the same as the reflection in the mirror. Its a shell of the actual self, similar to the states of mind; the conscious being the shell and the unconscious being the inner self (the one we cant see therefore understand). The duplicating or doubling is how signs gain meaning as semiosis. Freud names them ‘presentiments’ which is where signals were registered and meaning given to them because they then became true. Such as Bretons market stall find; ‘slipper spoon’ is a doubling of his earlier request to Alberto Giacometti to sculpt a Cinderella ashtray. The two objects present the idea that Breton was unconsciously a prince searching for a mate.

Paul Nash (1889-1946)was a British surrealist and war time artist

Image; Totes Meer (DEAD SEA) is a 1941 oil on canvas

I have seen this painting at the Jerwood gallery in Hastings and it was hung on a dark toned wall. This painting at first, looks like the sea where the waves are structured against each other. The moon also is very noticeable as this informs the viewer the time of day and why the colours are glistering. When I got up closer I remember the uncanny feeling that I felt. It was sad to see all those dead and broken plans,  are they meant to represent the death of soldiers or of these war machines? These machines were created to kill and be destructive. So why feel sadden by them crashing up onto a beach. The silver grey violent sea is rather mean when you get closer and start to understand the picture. The grey metallic wet sand is being solidified or soiled by machines and war fare. The battle in this picture is between the harshness of manmade versa the organics of the sand, land and moon. Objects live on but life’s are lost. It is certainly an expressive painting and stirs up a variety of jagged feelings within the viewer.


Image; Flowering plants Emil Nolde 1909 Paint

Emil Nolde (1867-1956 )was a German / Danish painter and printmaker that love to use colour with full intensity as a technique to stir emotion. The above painting keeps the viewer very isolated within the focus of the flower bed. The big trees that surround the flowers are almost imprisoning them within the confinement of the garden. There is contrast of heat with the warmth of the colours in the foreground, contrasted to the dark foliage of the fern like trees beyond. The painting has very little perspective towards depth, hence the intimate closeness of the surroundings. I think this is an interesting painting and I like the detail of the trees and the tiny indication of a bright blue sky beyond. I can see myself referring back to this example as we have plenty of these trees in the local park that I want to paint with regards the ‘painting outside’ section in part 4. The pink and violet flowers are looking more like a sea of flower blooms and the red hot pokers or foxgloves, give structure to the flower bed. Such as contradiction to the Paul Nash painting above ,which is a sea of death, this is a gestural brushstrokes representing a swirling sea of colourful life.

From my reading of Toby Clark, he expresses a cautionary statement about selective German expressionist writings being fiercely nationalistic declarations and vaguely anti capitalism ,often expressing nostalgic images of a community spiritually unified and at one with nature. The expressionists art and lifestyle of physical sensations and passion over academia was also a sentiment shared with Nazism’s cult of action. The connections are contradictory but there is a doubling or uncanny theory associated to these claims. German expressionism was rooted in the study of ‘primitive’ art with the example of (Image)Ernst Ludwig Kirchner(1880-1938), Bathers at Mortizburg, 1909-26 oil on canvas.


There romantic view of so called primitive life echo’s Nazism’s grassroots; developed from Volkische culture which is a populist culture focused on romanticizing folklore by celebrating the past.  Josef Goebbels said that German expressionist should be embraced by the Third Reich as they represent a national spirit. But the contradicting tones of authoritarian elites and painting which is considered affiliated to the Bourgeois culture, Degenerated away from national socialism. Senior Nazis including Hitler attacked this modernist movement, even though Hitler was a painter himself.

Image; Avenue of Schloss Kammer Park Gustav Klimt 1912

Gustav is notably known for his portrait paintings which are symbols of mystical erotic which are elaborately decorated and classified as

Art Nouveau/ Symbolism. Art Nouveau is a movement where organic forms were incorporated with more angulated geometric shapes. Symbolist painters tried to give visual expression to emotional experiences. At the time when modernism was treated with trepidation and where Gauguin called the freeing of painting; ‘the shackles of probability’ (I Chilvers p.613 ). The most emotional painter around this time is Edvard Munch where his paintings pour out emotional turmoil. His use of colour ,composition, brushwork (or lack of) encourages the viewer to look further than just the layer of paint on show. The painting above was started outside but later finished in Gustav’s studio. His landscapes were not commissioned unlike his later portraits so we hope this landscape symbolises his love for painting and not the need for; money, appreciation or popularity.

Final note about Surrealism; The idea where subjects are prone to duplicate or obsessive with repetition is a doubling / uncanny theory which leads itself to the popularity of photography which is a process of copying. The copy tends replace the original as one becomes impossible to differentiate between the two. Similar to reality and the unreal or conscious thoughts and unconscious thoughts, the dead from the living. The simulacrum condition is a world of multitudes without originals, its all fictitious and questions the causation of our desire to repeat.


Oxford Dictionary of art and artist, Ian Chilvers. OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 4TH EDITION 2009

Art and Propaganda by Toby Clark . The Orion publishing group. London. 1997.

Art since 1900. Thames and Hudson. Hal Foster, Krauss, Bois, Buchloh. London. 2004