For our first assignment, we needed to create a structure from cardboard and paper and then paint it on canvas with a bright light shining on it. First we painted the structure white for the monotone version and then in primary colours for the second painting.
I found many issues when trying to do this task.
Firstly, they state ‘place a small amount of colours on your palette’. When i did this, I was able to get five or six strokes of paint on the canvas and then have to try and remix exactly the same tone again. In the end I made a LARGE batch of colour to work with.
Secondly, they made us paint the subject first and then the background. This was really bizarre for me as cutting in around my subject was really difficult. Then we had to paint over the subject with the background, which, again, confused me.
I liked how we had to paint the darker areas first – this helped me to work out what went where. Realistic painting is not my forte and I struggled to keep my own style while painting these pictures. I also struggled with brush strokes. I was able to use it to my advantage with the monotone one but not the colour one. The colour one gave me real issues so I was forced to rub turps pretty much all over the top bit to try and fix it. In the end, I just ran out of time to do it properly or well.
I will definitely run out of my white paint with this unit. I am already over a quarter tube empty.
I think I did learn more about light and dark with this assignment and would like to attempt it again soon.
PS. Just realised I didn’t include the finished photo of my grayscale painting. So have added the completed one below:
Welcome (officially) to Exploring Painting through Open Universities. With a willingness to explore all facets of this introduction to the world of painting with both oils and, to lesser extent, acrylic, I am sure you will find it an enjoyable and enriching journey, albeit a challenging one. I hope it will inspire you to make, and continue to make, many self-directed works in the future.
Please remember that if you have any questions along the way, no matter how small, feel free to continue to email me directly at RMIT by my staff contact (firstname.lastname@example.org). Alternatively, you can send a message with your paintings and collage works as completed.
For safety and ease, with future submissions, please ensure that you write your name and student number on the reverse side of all paintings and collages submitted. Your paintings arrived in good condition.
As you make your way through the course, some projects will hold greater personal appeal and you will respond to these immediately. You may even wish to extend upon ideas and concepts in your own practice at some stage. This would be an ideal outcome. Others may present more of a challenge. This is as it should be; this is to be expected. This course has been orchestrated to help you develop your knowledge and deepen existing understanding of painting. By following these tasks exploring colour, still life, the possibilities of collage, and the final painting of an interior setting, you will be well equipped to make exciting new works unaided.
It is advisable that you keep a visual diary or small sketchbook of some sort. It may be early April but it is not too late to do so, if you are not already. Use it not only to record your thoughts in regards to issues and techniques that are new to you as they arise, but see it as the ideal place to store ideas sparked along the way. Catch and record said ideas, no matter how loosely formed, for they can be forgotten all too quickly. Scribble, quick one- and two-point perspective studies, line experiments, collage, notes, text fragments gleaned in a prose or poem, read in the paper over breakfast or recalled from dream the night before; all these things and more should and can be recorded in your visual diary. In time, this will prove an invaluable personal resource, one that allows you to ground yourself to the task, and this is no small feat in any creative medium.
As stated, I have received in good condition your resolved paintings for both projects A and B for the first assessment task. You have assembled a tower-like formation and placed it off centre. This tower, in the second painting in particular, looks almost to have a face. The large blue block looks like a man’s head, and he is wearing a yellow cap with a red peak. His nose becomes the red piece, and below that, a tongue pokes out in yellow. The sense of a face is less visible in the first painting using a limited palette of cool through warm greys, but it is still there. A sort of grumpy scarecrow of a face. I am not sure if this was your intention or not. Faces often appear in odd spots when we look for them. Power-points, old metres, industrial items, car parts, and the like. To call a face to mind takes very little. Think of a child’s drawings. This ambiguity and chance suggestion is something I hope you will play with in the third assessment task, the collage based works. I hope you have especial fun with that.
But I digress. These forms you have gathered and placed atop one another are lit so as to allow shadow to tumble. The short dark shadows fall downwards. And in the second work using colour as tone, shadow skirts the base block, with the blue hue also reflected in the foreground. You have used a horizon line in the work to add interest and introduce new colour. A space is now defined. Consider letting shadow play greater role. Light your model so that some shadows are short and dark and perhaps place a second light at a different point to create long creeping shadows.
In terms of the negative space, vary stroke width and weight here. Keep it broad and simple. There is no need for the strokes to all run in the one direction. This serves only to flatten any depth of field conveyed in the forms themselves. Crisscross your marks to add interest also. Re-establish any blurred edges and allow greater drying time between layers.
When using warm and cool greys, look at the light source and decide if it is a warm light or a cool light. For example, during winter, the light will be cooler and the shadows appear warmer. Conversely, in summer the light will be warmer and the shadows cooler. In your studio, the temperature of the natural light will depend upon seasonal issues but you may be using either a cool or warm artificial light – incandescent light will be warmer and fluorescent light will be generally cooler and with a blue tint. When painting late at night under a fluorescent light, you will be tempted to make the work warmer by adding more red and this will be even warmer when viewed in the morning under natural light conditions. Be aware of these factors so that you can choose time of day to paint or the light source for your work.
With this first assignment task, you have been able to learn more of colour, how warm and cool colour operates upon a two-dimensional support such as canvas. This assignment task is not as simple as it appears, and by working through it, you will have discovered how colour can also change in relation to neighbouring placement of form and its scale.
In addition, the construction and subsequent painting of a ‘simple’ albeit humorous ‘face’ of a model of several forms stacked has allowed you to look at how to achieve tonal blending. Structure and form, in general terms, composition, paint manipulation and the creation of a textured surface, you have been presented with a means to discover and develop such things; continue to do so. In short, your three-dimensional model has afforded you the room to explore such things.
Now consider varying the direction of your strokes across the assembled forms to help suggest tonal variation. There is no reason for your strokes across the form to all run in the one direction as they do in both pieces and in the afore discussed area of negative space. Crisscross your marks and remember that you are trying to describe tonal variations witnessed on the model before you. You are trying to create a subtle tonal shift that will describe to the viewer the shape of these three forms, which parts are closest to you, which parts are rubbery, and which parts are constructed of paper. Allowing your strokes to describe what part of the model is closest to you is something you will address in the still life painting; as is what part of the model is nearer to a strong light source. Direct observation is invaluable here, as are preparatory drawings.
In regards to the area of negative space previously touched upon, keep this area simple with broad brushstrokes and most importantly, block in this area at the beginning. Build up colour slowly, layer by layer, to suit your intention. Re-establish lines that have become blurred along the way. Allow greater drying time to avoid muddy edges, where the light grey morphs into the light warm grey of the wall behind, distinguishable only by stroke variation. I appreciate that this is hard as days grow cooler and deadlines loom.
As you work your way through the various modules try to paint what you see set up before you and gently smooth together tonal areas, remembering that these tonal areas will indicate the strength of your original light source. Allow for your knowledge of colour operatives to play to your advantage. Cool colours will generally appear to recede within the picture plane whilst those of a warm hue will appear to advance visually. Let colour describe the three-dimensional model you have assembled and let your strokes describe its form, its weight. Such things will prove of use in later paintings too.
Practice drawing this model or similar in your sketchbook to understand perspective. Try drawing simple things, like table tops, to get a handle on how forms appear to recede. The simple exercise of drawing a table using four lines for the top will prove of use here. Include ellipses formed by cups and jars too. Once you can draw these simple everyday forms you will find they are everywhere, not just in still life pieces.
For the main you have omitted the need for dark outlines to describe the form’s edge. This is to be commended as such outlines serve only to flatten any illusion of volume. Let a shift in tone describe this. Let a crisscross of strokes describe this. Try always to describe the edge of a form through differing tone alone. Then try to re-establish its blurred edges. Again, allow for greater drying time overall to ensure that colours do not bleed or smudge into one another. As you work, do not be afraid to scrape back, wipe off areas and begin again. Sharpen the edges of these forms once dry to describe the shape. Avoid painting over areas that are still drying to keep the palette clean.
You have made a good beginning and I look forward to seeing and in turn discussing your still life painting with you. Remember that you are addressing important issues in regards to painting, and things are never as easy as they seem.
Keep painting! Moreover, keep enjoying the process.