Exercise: Drawing in Paint


I found a collection o four object on the corner of a shelf in a shed… a hot glue gun, two rolls of tape and a roll of thick garden wire.


This shows a sketch of just the garden wire and the tape… after making the above initial sketch I decided to remove the glue gun and focus on the remaining three objects.

I re-arranged them a little – this shows the tapes in two different ways showing one end and one side. The garden wire now propped up on the left tape.


I’ve shown here the grain in the wood on the table-top. It’sa roughly made bench and two pieces of wood abut at right angles so there are two grain directions.


Next I focussed in on where the garden wire rests on the tape. Above is an A4 sketch. I find this more interesting… there are now two large curing areas and one straighter pattern (wood grain) to consider. I like the macroscopic effect which is a more modern idea for composition that had been considered for the Dutch Masters’ Still Life.


This is a re-crop of the previous sketch as a square – I’ve selected it so that the objects are each partially cropped out of the picture. This provides for a lot of directional lines enting the edges of the frame at different angles – the wood grain from bottom left; the garden wire in a vortex from bottom right to top centre; one roll of tape in another vortex on the left side – entering and leaving the frame; the angle of the right hand rollo of tape… which could be a diagonal bottom right towards centre top… but also could have depth as it might travel into the picture.

The centre of the picture includes an interesting area where the left roll of tape can be seen through the strands of the garden wire, as can the wood grain if it is visible in terms of being lit. This effect can enhance the depth of the image drawing the viewer in. The whole effect should be one of travelling into the image where there could be a volume of un-knowableness… an area that is deep and has no details to make out.

I need to draw these again this time focussing on the level of detail that I need for the initial painting. I think I ought to concentrate not on the individual strands of the garden wire but on the shape of the main bundle of garden wire where it blocks the view completely as a solid bundle. After this are the two rolls of tape, their main tone contours and the shadows created.

The rest of the lines – the concentric turns of tape, the individual wires and the wood grains – all follow the major shapes so are details that can be affected directly in paint rather than in line.



This is a snap shot of the set-up. Perhaps not from where my eye will be!

The whole scene seems nearly monotone but there are some definite contrasts:

  • Warm/Cold lighting (two sources here – indirect daylight and a lamp). This is mostly visible as warm/cold banding on the black tape.
  • Green of the garden wire vs the light orange hue of the wood
  • The way the garden wire appears white as it catches the window light then becomes close to black at the back and where it is shaded.


This is the approximate crop I’m looking at.

Because if certain time-of-day constraints I think the lighting might have to change so that it’s all artificial rather than daylight, but there is some possibility here of rendering that warmth as a contrast to the garden wire and keeping that as a cold dark green.

Looking at one particular shape – the strand that loops around outside the coil.

This is still quite sketchy so now I want to focus more on the outlines and shapes…

The shapes now become very bold statements – much more simple elemental ideas.

Moving closer in loses the edges and so appears to weaken the composition, but I’m drawn to the closer image.

Within this there are other shapes that are parts of the overall objects and also negative spaces that I have not investigated.

Exercise: Complementary colours

I Painted a Wheel


This took quite a while because of mixing colours. Again it was all reasonably straight forward until I got to Blue-Violet… which really needed me to know what I was doing to Violet in order to make a bluer version.

In the end I used Scarlet and French Ultramarine (and white) to make something closer to the purplish-blue that violet might be. Red-violet sticks out on my wheel like it doesn’t fit with either neighbour.

Green was quite hard to mix… it was hard not to see either a yellow-green or a blue-green hint in it and it took me a long time adding bits of blue and yellow to home in on where just green is.

Complementary Comparisons and Mixes


This is a terrible photo because the colours are not representative of what is seen directly. Almost everything in this image is too vivid.

The colour groups from left to right, top to bottom are…

  1. Red / Green
  2. Red-Orange / Blue Green
  3. Yellow-Orange / Blue-Violet
  4. Yellow / Violet
  5. Red-Violet / Yellow-Green (done wrong!)
  6. Orange / Blue
  7. Red-Violet / Yellow-Green (corrected)

I mainly used the colour wheel that I had painted to reproduce these colours (where they weren’t readily available on the pallet).

If I had to describe the mixture of each pair (the vertical stripe of colour next to each pairing) I would call it ‘Khaki’: an Urdu word for ‘dust-coloured’, the colour of the ground – therefore perhaps the colour of most of the world!

I have read about the effect that has been observed when opposing colours are placed next to one another – the idea is that each colour is mixed (visually in our heads) with the complementary colour of the adjacent one. The affect is to make both colours stronger and so they get into a childish fight about who’s the most colourful and your eyes pop out!

These colours that I’ve painted certainly look nice and bright but I’m struggling to see a fight! That said… the same colours on the colour wheel look more calm and soothing. Putting the opposite colours next to each other has had some effect then – they are less calming.

The mixtures all tend towards the centre of the broken scales – greyish greens or browns. I am supposing that if I could mix ‘perfect’ colour wheel colours then all the mixtures of the complementary colours would be a neutral grey – a perfectly mixed opposition.

I do notice that colours where I’ve had to mix in more white have come out with brighter mixes, which makes perfect sense. If I had not mixed in white these colours might become even more drab and khaki.

The overall observation for this exercise is that analogous colours (placed adjacent to one another) are calming while opposites ‘fight’ – create ‘excitement’. This simple fact could be used to evoke calm/excitement emotion from an image painting. For example… adding green into a red and orange flame might make it into a more fearful fire rather than an attractive, worming fire.

Exercise: Broken or tertiary colours

So this was fun!


No, really! I enjoyed it. There’s some kind of indulgent luxury about just making rows of colour blobs without thought for composition, meaning etc.

I thought of a Peacock’s Feathers to get the blue-green. The red orange was a little tricky because, unless you compare that colour to a red, it just looks red. Well it’s not, it’s definitely a slightly orange red.

Starting at blue-green and adding my red-orange (tint – I added white because my red is very deep) at each, and a little white if I thought it needed some. I missed the grey by a small amount – I have a slightly green-grey and a slightly red-grey.

The orange to violet scale was harder because I didn’t have a good idea in my head about what makes the ideal violet. I have lots more colour names that I know like mauve, burgundy, purple, indigo (what does that look like) and I don’t have a definitive map of where they all arrange themselves in the gamut. I thought of the sweets ‘Parma Violets’ to get something acceptable.

To make this violet involved experimenting with Red Aliziran, Prussian Blue, French Ultramarine, Rose Madder and Scarlet.

Once I was past the break it was hard to control the violet… my changes in hue were very small at each step. Perhaps something closer to purple would have helped.


Exercise: Primary and secondary colour mixing

You know that cartridge paper stretching bit? I didn’t have the right tape and and it went wrong – the tape ‘let go’ of the soggy paper. So I used hardboard offcuts instead.

These are painted in grey five-and-a-half.



  1. Chrome Yellow
  2. Cadmium Yellow
  3. Lemon
  4. Yellow Ochre

I was surprised about mixing with whit to create opacity – only a small amount of white made all the difference, although I was initially worried about the change in tint affecting my observations… but in the end I think they helped.

When I compared the yellows in pairs I found that I could make comparative assessments about which was more ‘pure’. I also found that adding white or black revealed other things within the pigments.

Cadmium Yellow was the most purely yellow.


Blues were harder. I found myself questioning what I was looking for… what does a proper blue look like?

I had a choice of:

  1. Cerulean Blue
  2. French Ultramarine
  3. Prussian Blue

I was quite surprised after my investigations to find that Prussian Blue stayed blue under most conditions whereas the other two revealed hints of green and violet in them (this is sounding like wine tasting… maybe that’s a good analogy… not all red wines are the same!).



I had five colours resembling Red.

  1. Scarlet Lake
  2. Cadmium Red Deep (Hue)
  3. Red Alzirian
  4. Rose Madder
  5. Indian Red

A fact that I had never really come to terms with before is that pink is a tint of red. The importance of pink is that it doesn’t betray an impurity in a red colour – that’s what it’s meant to look like. I suppose it’s jut that we have a special name for a tint!

Scarlet lake and Rose Madder were quite easy to eliminate as they were too puplish! In the end it was Red Alzirian that was the most red. When placed next to any other red the other red looked more orange or blue.

This ‘target’ has reads in descending order of purity from the centre.

These are my pallets…


…pieces of glass saved from the skip – used to be louvre panels in big windows. 


I’m not entirely sure if I’ve got this right. The rule that seems to have been derived from Chevreul’s work is that when two colours are adjacent each will appear as if mixed with the other’s complementary colour. I’m not sure how big this effect is but it might have made all those shades look different in their contexts.

…although, what’s “right”. I chose my primaries and now I’ll live with the choice!

Colour Scales


Although this came out reasonably well there turned out to be two problems…

  1. The steps are quite small… colour changes are abrupt
  2. I used the wrong red because I salvaged it from another pallet and later realised that I’d misremembered my own labels.

On another technicality the exercise asks from Yellow to Red!



These are the right colours. The pale ends are not showing up so well – there’s a bit more definition in the yellow end transitions.


The red to blue I did twice – the second using a little white pre-mixed in with both primaries… it made it a bit easier to mix intermediate colours from these very dark primaries.

The middle tones are a little plum-coloured. Some of them look bluer in this image than in real life where they are a bit browner-grey. This could be a colour temperature problem with the photograph which is taken on an iPhone with automatic colour temperature.


I looked back at my exercise choosing these primary colours to see which reds and blues naturally had violet hues in them.

Rose Madder stuck out in the reds as did French Ultramarine. When mixed these two colours produced a convincing violet.

I mixed Rose Madder with Prussian Blue (my primary) first and this did produce a violet but it was less rich/vibrant… quite a cold look.


I tried a few other likely and less likely combinations – Scarlet and Prussian Blue produced a pinkish- lilac violet… quite cold again. I feel the Prussian blue must be dominating this cold effect.

Cerulean Blue and Scarlet also produced a good lilac; Cerulean Blue and Rose Madder made a warmish pink more than any kind of violet.

Once more with Tone


The photograph exaggerates how bright the yellows are but they are still too bright compared to all the other colours… no matter how much white I put in.

I had trouble with the other end deciding where to end up… the red and the blue are both very deep and the red would have ended as pink soI extended the yellow-red scale to simply bring the red back towards the pure colour again. The same with the blue, but I messed it up a bit fiddling with it afterwards.

I didn’t get what I was told to expect with the red-blue scale. The exercise says I will get muddy greyish colours in the middle but these are definitely mauvey-pinky-lilacs. I almost found a grey in the middle but it insisted on ending up as the blue side of grey. The middle tone is a little darker than the rest which are all reasonably even… although some of this may be down to the camera’s distortion of the colour.

Maybe I should have added some white to the yellows at the start? would that have tempered the brightness? I tried black but it was ‘orrible.



Exercise: Exploring Contrasts

From top to bottom…

  1. Just tried it and go this – 13 paint chips making 12 steps. I found that it was uneven – some steps were too great and other were too small.
  2. This time I started at black for variety. This seems a bit harder as adding white to black tends to be harder to achieve. I found I was making several serieses of chips that were hardly lighter. It took me 17steps to get to white because of this.
  3. Got of to a bad start… jumped from white to quite grey in one go.

At this point I decided to go back and assess what was happening. I used a 10 step grey scale from a shop-bought colour wheel to ‘grade’ each chip with a numeral. Where I’d come between shades I marked the number on the join.

Now, using my marked up first three attempts, I produced a fourth trying to judge the step size so as to make a single number step at each shade.

4. Turned out astonishingly well (compared to 3). I graded it afterwards and had achieved something quite even.

After Part 1 – Assignment Feedback and General Thoughts and Notes


Being afloat at the start of the painting course means I’ve had no reference points by which to navigate – no previous feedback to steer by so I was looking forward to getting my first assignment feedback… like it would suddenly engage the SatNav.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

It’s like I’m skulling around in the Serpentine when I should be tacking through a storm on the Cape of Good Hope.

So I’ve gone back to the first pages of the course material to get a better bearing on the next part of the course… and found that I may have started my journey from the wrong start point.


I’ve found two statements that a most relevant to me:

 …painters were formerly regarded as artisans who perfected their practical skills in applying paint much as other highly skilled craftsmen did.

OCA Practice of Painting Course Introduction

…which is not a statement that I find unreasonable as a way for a painter to be – painting at the behest of another. There is nobility in being a craftsman, if not fame and riches.

…the motivation to paint and draw is based on individual and personal impulses…

OCA Practice of Painting Course Introduction

…is also a statement that I can understand well: the need to express an idea… the struggle to succeed in that expression, and the development of a visual language that is personal as a means of expression. But it’s not a statement that I’ve carried around with me on my gallery visits where I’ve examined the technical skills of the long-dead painters and tried to reverse-engineer their brushwork and preparation.

there is the constant thinking of ‘trying to think about nice things’ which makes your work quite pictorial rather than expressive and experimental

My Tutor

I’m going to assume that for ‘expressive’ I could think about ‘self expression’ – I may not have been clear about that. In fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t think of it like that at all. Although I was aware of self-expression being a part of painting somewhere I don’t think I’ve put it at the front. I’ve thought of it more like ‘style’ – an emergent property, not a driving force.

This reminds me of the difficulties I had moving from Graphic Design to Illustration. I kind of knew what Graphic Design was but I was not sure, until nearer the end of the course, that I knew what Illustration was. That wasn’t helpful to me and now I need to make sure I know what Painting means, however daft that may sound out of context!


Look at how much I’ve written already!… it’s ridiculous! (from Latin ridiculosus meaning laughable – you may laugh at the quantity of writing, I can’t help it).

I don’t think this is going to change but I could try to put some of my off-topic writing out of the way. The writing is useful – it helps to capture my mood and thinking in detail and when I re-read it I can re-experience it better.

With the painting though I need not to be being over ambitious as it takes time and I need to use that time to be trying out new things and exploring methods, rather than perfecting a single work.


This is the work that stands out from part one… a tonal study on dark ground but I consciously decided to use big brush strokes. My tutor did not name a technique (like alla-prima) or pick out the fact that the dark ground had been used to help make the shadows in the objects… although these were pointers in the exercise… the important thing was the expression of confidence.

When I look back at this work I’m just not sure what I’m seeing… it looks more ‘real’ (not as in ‘realism’ but as in ‘present’) than the other paintings of the same object.

Here’s a theory (this is not overthinking, I promise): The painting of an object is a new object.

I want to ask “How many other ways of painting these objects using different kinds of marks are there”…. but now I have to consider that the painting is not a painting ‘of’ these objects it is a new object. This helps because I’m thinking that there’s more of me in the new object (painting) than there is in the subject that I painted.

No, really: this makes sense.

The Assignment

Does an assignment have a different purpose/flavour to an exercise?

I did a first run of the assignment… a kind of rough to look at the colour:

…but I forgot to upload it so I think it only appears here!

(That dark thing on the top left is a squashed spider – I didn’t paint that).

Re-looking at this stage makes me wonder why I did this… did it help? But I also think that there are interesting aspects of this painting that don’t make it to the final piece…

  • Things look bolder. The simple, uncluttered areas of colour are more joyful that the final piece with it’s attempt at more exacting details.
  • The metal balls are simple… a bolder.
  • It’s got a sketchy feel but it could have an even more sketchy feel – the parts like the red cloth on the left (near the spider) that are lightly described have more character as if the very lack of attention is giving it life.
  • One of the fears I had was about scale – I find it hard to replicate the ‘correct’ relative scale of the objects but I remember wondering about the trophy – if maybe I should paint it bigger than it really seems to be because it’s more important. I absolutely should, of course. Because that’s a thing to try.


(writing this later… got thinking to do first)

Exibition: Turner Contemporary, Margate

I would never have guessed that Margate had the best light in the country. I thought it might be a candidate for good sand or nice ice-cream but it was Turner’s favourite place for light. And it’s true, you can see it. Somehow the sky was full of brightness and colour. Possibly this is because it’s a rare example in the UK of a North-facing beach…most of our resorts are on the South coast whereas Margate faces North out over the North Sea from the farthest reaches of the mouth of the Thames. This means that the sun is behind you as you look out to sea lighting water, clouds and whatever else is in the air without the glare of the sun in the view.

Phyllida Barlow

The untitled work: upturned house 2 (I’m not sure how it has a name if it has no title… what don’t I get?) seems to be following me – it was at the Tate Modern last month and now seems to be in Margate. Having been the only I’d seen of hers until today it gave no dimension to the artist’s repertoire, but it means something new when seen with the other work exhibited.

Originally I was preoccupied with the spacethat upturned house 2 filled – a living space perhaps. But when seen as a collection her works point to a theme around support – things that stay or don’t stay where they are now…or maybe things that have stayed, or will stay where they are now because many of the work appears to be in a precarious state… change must almost certainly happen.

Counter to the idea of instability is that of support… I think of these two things as being each other’s negative space… he pieces provide support for the material within them. A fragmented stage and suspended tube are tantalizing in this respect. The tube is hanging by twisted pipes that resemble plaits of rope and is big enough to fit a few people inside. Below is a ‘stage’ that has been cut into pieces of various shapes and sizes and each piece is supported at different heights using a purpose-built timber frame – the heights vary from about 2ft to 4ft and ascend in even-looking controlled steps.

The stage is tantalising – it could be the Giants’ Causeway. But it could be a stage set – in fact it makes me want to make a stage set along these lines to see how it could be used.

A stack of horse-shoe shaped compartmentalised shelves reaching twice my height also draw me into ideas of stage-sets. It resembled the Royal Opera House’s surround auditorium of private boxes but it could be so many things.

At this moment I believe Barlow is representing Britain at the Venice Biennale.

Seeing this exhibition gave me a shift in perspective… although I have always considered stage sets to have art content it’s never before occurred to me to equate a stage set to a sculpture… as a single work. It’s an appropriate equation for certain kinds of stage set design.

Michael Armitage

Now we come to paintings.

Armitage’s focus is squarely his personal experiences of life in Kenya. Some are very direct experiences including ‘Necklacing’ which is inspired by a childhood memory of seeing a man wearing a tyre being chased by other men with flaming torches. The tyre is filled with flammable liquid and when set alight may kill the man, or perhaps just torture him! Armitage as a child new only how strange it looked.

The colours of these artworks are chosen in the most interesting ways. They seem to use less tonal contrast but use hue differences greatly. They’re colourful, but a little muted