Assignment 1: Reflection on tutor feedback

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

28 April 2016, Yesterday I received the feedback from my tutor on my first painting assignment. It reflects very well where I see myself at this point of the course.

Going through the comments in sequence of appearance:

  1. Although I take great care to provide the best possible photos of my sketches and paintings, the warning at the beginning of the feedback letter made me aware of the limitations set by a blog-only submission. I do not know yet whether I will be able to send a portfolio every time, since I am based in Austria and it is either excruciatingly expensive or takes weeks to use a parcel service (the post office does not accept my portfolios addressed to the UK due to insurance restrictions), but I see that I want to be even more careful with my blog posts in the future. In particular I will add closeup images to allow my tutor to assess surface structures.
  2. I was very happy to read the line “You have made a promising start to the course”. Our everyday life took a nasty turn last year and I am struggling to keep up with the enormous additional effort to help our little son into a good future, while hoping to develop as a painter. I will keep this line in mind and hold on to to it, if things get difficult again.
  3. “… unexpected happy accidents …” and “What may be an ‘unsuitable material’ for one exercise may produce the best effects for another.”:
    Since I had not been sure about the degree of freedom for experimentation in this course I think that I can safely interpret the above as expectation to be as inventive as possible. I can see how the difference in experience I have in drawing as opposed to painting in acrylics has a major influence on the degree of creativity I am able to put on canvas. I am much more reluctant with paint and during the first part of Part 2 of the course I discovered some beginners’ mistakes using acrylics I have been making so far. For me this course is not only about coming to terms with “what paint can do”, but also “how to treat paint”.
  4. In the sense of the above I will try and include a number of different types of support in my experiments. Since my tutor was positive about my idea of painting on sandpaper with pastels or other media, I think that I will come back to it for the Part 2 still life with man-made objects, which will be my next exercise.
  5. “You should look for opportunities to use negative space …”: I am intrigued by the possibilities offered by negative space and still I keep forgetting about consciously making it part of my compositions. Since is not only negative space that gets lost repetitively in this way, I decided that I will place a large piece of flipchart paper on my studio wall with “negative space!”, “golden mean!” “complementary colours!”, and another few, so that I cannot fall back into my old habit of purely intuitive work. My tutor advised me to look at work by Edward Burra (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). As a watercolour painter I am used to painting around shapes with dark colours, but did not see this technique as making use of negative shape so far, since to me it was part of the whole process of interacting with a developing work and I had no name for it.
  6. I have already started making better use of my sketchbook in developing ideas. So far I often experimented on large sized sheets of paper, which might be seen as oversized sketchbooks, but of course this is difficult to follow if serving the purpose of illustrating a process of development. Most of my newspaper clippings and references to artist research have not made it into the sketchbook so far, because I think that I misinterpreted how to use the blog. Everything I thought useful went straight into a blog note. As I realise now this may be the reason why I keep losing the discoveries I made in the past. If time allows I will therefore try and have a sketchbook recording as well as a blog post.
  7. Regarding my split painting on white and coloured ground my tutor was not too keen about the idea. She suggested I redo the exercise as described in the study guide, so that a direct comparison of the whole arrangement becomes possible. Regarding her question, why I chose to have a monochrome painting on the dark ground and a coloured one on the white ground I would not know a valid answer except for an intutive decision when looking at the objects. Those on the monochrome side were, by coincidence, the simple shapes and strong tonal transitions, while the kitchen scales on the right provided some challenging shapes and forms. The former seemed more attractive to be depicted in shades of grey. If I find the time, I will repeat the exercise with a less demanding setup on two different grounds, although I quite liked the smooth transition between the techniques on the one support.
  8. Regarding the assignment piece (black tulip): I did not include my other sketches in the blog because they were both quite technical and not pleasing to look at due to getting the viewpoint wrong, while also I did not like the idea of having a break in the development of my idea. In the future I will however include all preliminary sketches. The photo I included in the blog both to give readers an idea of the original setup (something I do most of the time) and, in this case, as stated in the blog post, to have a backup: Tulips often wilt within the matter of hours. Due to my son’s condition I do not always know whether I will be able to finish a painting as intended. It took me a several days to complete it. In the meantime the bouquet had changed in colour and overall appearance – tulips tend to grow considerably after having been cut and then start hanging over the edge of the vase. In the future I will have to take more time to consider my choice of subject for aspects of durability.
    I mentioned in my post the research on paintings of tulips, but omitted the findings, because, as I stated in the blog, the ones I did find were nothing I wanted to paint (many were extremely badly carried out or gaudy or both) and so decided that I would like to see whether I would manage without referring to other artists. Not used research I will however also include in my blog from now on.
    The uniformly grey shadow area was intentional. The tonal variation in the shadow came mostly from folds in the cloth I had put under the vase and I had the impression that including this would draw the eye away from the message: I wanted it to serve as diametral contrast to my black tulip and coloured shadow, but I see now that by concentrating on an idea I forgot about the technical execution and thus got the tonal value wrong. The coloured shadow did not just have a yellow outline, but went from a green centre to red to yellow, so as to include all the colours in the bouquet itself. This was probably impossible to see on the blog photo. Since my tutor suggested that the idea of introducing a coloured shadow was worth pursuing, I will try and develop a line of thought from here.
  9. As mentioned in pt. 6 above I know I need to work at putting more emphasis on structured sketchbook work. I have no idea why the concept is so difficult to grasp for me, but I will get there eventually. I already draw on a daily basis in my small sketchbook. Due to time constraints the things I draw are probably difficult to use in course projects, but I keep coming back to them and some may be worth pursuing.
  10. I am happy that my learning log largely corresponds to what is expected from me. Again I will have to find a way of always having at hand the results I keep in my blog without having to produce a double diary. There simply is no time for that yet. Also, I know that a working knowledge of other artists’ approaches to a subject helps immensely with overcoming problems. My tutor suggested that I have a look at James Rosenquist’s painting ‘Untitled (Tulips)’ to support the idea (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). It is probably that I am on my own with the rare option of direct contact that I tend to want to solve problems my own way. In the near future I do not see too many chances to visit galleries, although I take every opportunity. This year I went to several already, but having to guess at the probable contents of an exhibition left me somewhat disillusioned at how to make the best use of the time I have.
  11. I will try and spend much time experimenting in Part 2. In this context my tutor pointed me to Josef Albers and his series ‘Homage to the Square’ (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). She suggested that I should repeat some of his studies in my sketchbook in order to gain deeper insight into colour theory. The suggestion made it clear to me that my experimentation on large sized formats may not be required at all. I will try and reduce the size, where possible, to include it in my sketchbook. Maybe here is where I can gain the time needed.
  12. And finally some more pointers for the next assignment:- apply results of experiments into final assignment painting
    – make a large number of preliminary studies from different viewpoints, look at
    range of ideas for composition and use of colour and tone, explore support –
    hopefully there will be enough time to do this in a serious way, I don’t want to rush
    them
    – develop a visual diary in my sketchbook – I know that many other students do this
    in a brilliant way, I just need to figure out a feasible strategy for myself

So, overall, most of what I need to change has to do with trying to approach my projects in a more structured and reflected way. Help!

References:

  1. Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist research: Edward Burra, James Rosenquist and Josef Albers [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 Blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/artist-research-edward-burra-james-rosenquist-and-josef-albers/ [Accessed 26 February 2017]
Advertisements

Part 2, project 2, exercise 3: Still life with natural objects (step 2: testing background colours)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

25 April 2016. Last time I went to our local art supplier I bought some acrylic gloss medium, with I wanted to test during the course. This exercise is a good opportunity. Since my not too good experience when diluting my type of acrylic paint with water over the last three months made me look for alternatives. So I will use the gloss medium for that purpose this time and also test its finishing effect. The instructions include a warning that the application of too many layers of medium may cause fogging, so I will need to plan carefully.
The first tests on acrylic paper revealed an increase in transparency of the mix paint/medium. It was also much easier to spread the colour, although I still noticed large differences in layer thickness when using a flat brush. The only chance of getting a totally even layer was to apply a relatively diluted mix, which was then of course very light in tone and – something I need to be very careful to avoid – had hundreds of tiny bubbles enclosed, which would not disappear during the drying process. What I will do here is the same as with custard powder stirred into milk, which is wait a few minutes before using the mix.

27 April 2016. The results of my experiments are summarized in Fig. 1 below. First of all I prepared small areas of my acrylic paper with 3 mixes for a white background:

1. Paper only
2. Acrylic binder on its own
3. Acrylic binder with about the same amount of acrylic white mixed in
4. Acrylic white on its own

Next I prepared a mix of gold ochre and primary magenta to produce Sahara sand orange (or what I think it might look like during one of those golden sunsets) and mixed some white into half of that. Both of these I again mixed with acrylic binder at a 1:1 ratio. All these I then tried out on all of the above backgrounds, finding the following:

  1. On the paper only ground the undiluted colours left dry-looking edges, an effect I quite like. When mixed with binder, the dry edges were gone, the paint was easier to spread and the chroma was enhanced, particularly in the mix without white.
  2. Doing the same on the binder only background reduced the chroma of the binder-added mixes strongly and the difference between the mix with and without white disappeared altogether. The colour only mix had no dry edges and dried without a glossy sheen, i.e. not surprisingly the varnishing effect is blocked by a layer of paint on top of it.
  3. The ground consisting of binder and white appeared to enhance colour and tonal difference greatly in all the mixes.
  4.  Painting on white only ground the binder-added mixes appeared somewhat darker, Applying the colour only mix was accompanied with noticeably greater restistance.
  5. Applying a finishing layer of binder on the paint only areas did not increase brilliance in the same way as mixing binder directly into the paint – probably because the amount required for dilution was far greater than the ultra thin film I put on in my first attempt.
9_Testing_backgrounds_part1
Figure 1. Testing different backgrounds and mixes of acrylic colour and binder                          (explanation see text)

The above tests left me with a clear favourite for an indifferent ground layer, binder and acrylic white mixed 1:1. This I used to prepare the second half of the paper, then divided it up into triagles in the way I had selected from my photos taken in the previous step and experimented with different colours, colour and binder mixes and surface structures I thought suitable to represent sand, sea and volcanic rock (Fig. 2).

10_Testing_backgrounds_part2
Figure 2. Testing composition and colours for the background

Since my intention was to emphasize that these areas interact, since the above seemed a bit dull, because it was too symmetrical, because I was not satisfied with the edges and, more importantly, because the chosen colours would not provide enough contrast for my objects, I spent another hour or two changing tonal values and edges (Fig. 3):

11_Changing_edges_hues_2
Figure 3. New variant with changed tonal values and attention to edges

Later in the day I was going through a great number of screenshots I had taken during Drawing 1 and which had been sitting around on my computer’s desktop for a year to be cleared away. I came across one, whose origin unfortunately I cannot remember at this point, dealing with composition rules and there were, more or less, my triangles (Fig. 4):

15_Dividing_up_paper
Figure 4. Some composition rules. Source: [n.k.]
This discovery helped me decide that I would use this background to work from and, to do a quick test, I placed my objects on the background (Fig. 5a-c):


From the above it is obvious that contrast will have to be enhanced further. My intention here is to get acquainted with the structure of my objects by drawing (ink, pencil, watercolour and/or similar) in the next step and to adapt the background only after successfully translating them into painted objects. I have an idea for this, which might look quite interesting if I succeed in making it visible, but that will have to wait a little longer.

 

 

 

 

Part 2, project 2, exercise 3: Still life with natural objects (step 1: choosing a subject and artist research)

Updated on 26 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

24 April 2016. Since I had already chosen flowers for Assignment 1 I was advised by the study guide to skip exercise 2 to go straight to painting natural objects.

Again, as always, I feel some inner resistance when having to put together random objects in order to display them as a still life. What I want to do is tell a story, even if the task is only keen observation of form, light and composition. So I gave the fruit basket and vegetable drawer a wide berth, collected and then discarded twigs, cones and snail shells, and half eaten breakfast eggs, and in my mind always came back to the study guide suggestion of painting rock crystals. I have a few of these, which we picked up on some mountaineering trips in the Hohe Tauern mountain range. While going through my small collection of rocks and crystals I also came across three specimens, which are, to me, so interesting regarding their surface appearance, provenance and history of formation that I could not resist choosing them for the exercise:
I have now a highly irregular, iridescent and near black piece of pumice, filled with holes formed by volcanic gas, which we found on a lava field near mount Teide on Tenerife, a 10 cm long cylindrical piece of petrified wood (which is at least what we think it is) from Australia, which is yellowish-pink in colour, as well as a piece of cream-white probably coral I inherited from my grandfather and whose ends are extremely worn, so that it looks well-rounded overall (Fig. 1):


Apart from the personal stories connected with the pieces, there is geology and biology to consider, if I am to create a painted still life story. So here I am with a real opportunity to go through a staged process. I just hope that I can force myself to a considerate approach.

First of all, since two of these objects are not what the study guide would call simple forms, while at the same time sharing a lack of colour, I will want a carefully chosen coloured background to emphasize the characteristics of my objects. The matter is whether I want the background to be part of the story, e.g. in its simplest form telling something about the place of formation of each of the three objects. What I could do is to create an abstract background layer in a way I saw in an exhibition of paintings by Herbert Stejskal earlier this year (Lacher-Bryk, 2016), but much more reduced, as e.g. in Anon (n.d.) or Guedez (n.d.). I like the strong lines delineating the boundaries of each coloured area, but I guess that just these lines would not provide an interesting contrast, but would rather suffocate the delicate structures of my objects. On the other hand, I do not want the still life to look like a display in a jeweller’s shop window with the items lying on a nice piece of cloth, satin or velvet, or whatever, or on an indifferent background as e.g. in this painting by Paolo Porpora (1617-1673, Italy) (Fig. 2):

paolo_porpora_1617-ca-1673_-_still_life_with_shells_oil_on_canvas_445_x_67_cm
Figure 2. Paolo Porpora: Still Life with Shells, oil on canvas, [n.d.]. Source: Paolo Porpora (1617-1673) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Also, since I quite like the strong shadows, I want to chose a background which allows them to be included in the painting.

25 April 2016. In order to start experimenting without thinking too much about a story or concept, I had a look through my collection of scrap paper, which I include in drawings and paintings now and them, and was lucky to find three pieces, which could help me with visualizing background effects regarding colour, as well as size and position of parts. What I do not want to do here, however, is to take a shortcut and use the paper to make a collage. I want to paint all parts, because I know I need the experience. Here are a few photos I took while testing a first setup. To start, I took photos with each rock on similar and contrasting background colours and tones. See the results in the three photos below (Fig. 3, 4 and 5):

4_Setup_paper_v1
Figure 3. Rocks placed on similar background
5_Setup_paper_v2
Figure 4. Rocks placed on contrasting background – 1
6_Setup_paper_v3
Figure 5. Rocks placed on contrasting background – 2

I quite like the combination of tonal and colour variation in the above background experiment. There is, however, when looking at it again, far too much harmony, which I would like to break. I therefore varied the position of the papers and got two more or less acceptable results (Fig. 6 and 7):

8_Setup_paper_v5
Figure 6. Position of background papers changed to form rectangular areas
7_Setup_paper_v4
Figure 7. Position of background papers changed to form triangular areas

For some reason the triangular shapes appear appealing to me, probably because a good-willed viewer might read mountains, sand dunes or ocean waves into them. So I think that I might give that idea a go, but avoiding the jeweller’s shop appearance. So there will be no painting simple patterns for the rocks to lie on. In order to see how other artists solve their background problems, I had another look on the internet and found an example of how the background may be painted using the same hues as the objects placed on top and still successfully creating a background-foreground effect (Groat, n.d.). This gave me the idea that I might try a very subtle combination of the different hues provided by a volcanic eruption, sea water and sand desert. Whether the combination of colours (orange, blue and ochre-pink) will work together and whether I will need to enhance likeness or contrast, I will test in the next step of this exercise.

Regarding paintings depicting similar objects I did not find many examples. Entering “still life natural objects” or even “rock crystal” in my browser gave almost invariably fruit or vegetables interspersed with the odd fish, most of them to a high standard of practically photorealistic painting, which I do not want either. One style I came across I thought fascinating: Sylvia Siddell (1941-2011), a New Zealand based painter, had a very unusual and energetic approach to her still lifes, see e.g. “Out of the Frying Pan” (Siddell, 2007). She used an intriguing combination of line and colour, which I would like to include in this exercise, on a much simpler level.

References:

[Anon.] (n.d.) Abstract Painting on a Wall [n.k.] [online image]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.featurepics.com/online/Abstract-Painting-Wall-Photo316326.aspx [Accessed 24 April 2016]

Groat, H. II (n.d.) Terra Mater [oil on canvas] [online]. New York Art Collection. Available at: http://hallgroat.com/products/paintings-of-nature-for-sale/ [Accessed 24 April 2016]

Guedez, C. (n.d.) La Ville de Paris [acrylic on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.carmenguedez.com/abstract-art-paintings/la-ville-de-paris [Accessed 24 April 2016]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Study Visit: Gallery Tour in Salzburg [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 Blog. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/study-visit-gallery-tour-in-salzburg/ [Accessed 24 April 2016]

Porpora, P. (n.d.) Still Life With Shells [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/47/Paolo_Porpora_%281617-ca.1673%29_-_Still_life_with_shells%2C_oil_on_canvas%2C_44%2C5_x_67_cm.jpg [Accessed 25 February 2017]

Siddell, S. (2007) Out of the Frying Pan [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.geocities.ws/s_siddell/out-of-the-frying-pan.html [Accessed 26 February 2017]

Part 2, project 2, exercise 1: Still life – drawing in paint (step 3: finished painting)

Updated on 22 Fwebruary 2017 (Harvard referencing).

21 April 2016. Going through the steps to finish my painting of the water tap was enlightening in various ways. I will show the steps in the following photos and discuss the problems (and solutions, if there were any):

  1. Mixing the colours
1_Colour_mix_21042016
Figure 1. Mixing the chosen colours

We have some giant aubergine-coloured tiles in our bathroom and I wanted this hue to be the dominant element in my painting. Referring to my grey ground with the mixing experiments I chose the combination that had given the aubergine colour. It was Naphthol red deep (a red with some yellow in it) and primary blue (cyan). With this as a basis I added some more primary yellow to achieve something like a neutral mix – the greyish brown stuff in the centre of my tray (above). I think that I was relatively successful in mixing the hues I wanted (Fig. 1 above), but I find increasingly that my tray has huge disadvantages. I noticed that despite the comparatively liquid brand of paint I use (Amsterdam standard series), I need a fair amount of water to make the paint “paintable” at all, especially when using a soft hair brush to create lines. What I have been doing so far is to use a spray can to cover the whole tray in a film of water now and then. This means that the water accumulates along the edges and between the heaps of paint and will, if I am not careful, mix in with all colours. Sometimes I think this is desirable, because I like to use “dirty” colours, i.e. such that are not straight from the tube. In some cases however this means having to choose the correct hues with great care from the centre of a blob of paint. Consequently I bought some proper plastic palettes with deep wells now in addition to my tray and am thinking of trying out different makes of paint.

2. Drawing

Regarding the linear quality of the chosen subject I found the contrast interesting between the fittings, which are mostly defined by line, including the reflections, and the large surface area of the bath itself.
The neutral colour I had prepared I used to draw with on a longish nearly A2 acrylic paper. I instantly noticed that I had forgotten to prepare my paper with a background layer. Consequently the drawing was a bit awkward and much less fluent than my usual marks. I also got some of the sizes and positions wrong and had to correct them, something that rarely happens to me when drawing with pencil or ink pen.
The vertical pencil line visible on the right in the photo below was there to define the edge of the finished painting. The superfluous strip of paper I cut off right at the end of the exercise. This idea I used to counteract my mind, which I knew would attempt to avoid letting the hose travel off the paper and back on again by distorting the view so as to fit the whole thing in anyway (Fig. 2).

2_First_sketch_21042016
Figure 2. Drawing the objects with a neutral mix of paint and a fine hair brush


3. Putting in colour


I then began filling in the chosen colours (Fig. 3a-c above), all of them mixed from my original aubergine plus primary yellow mix, by adding white, more primary blue or a little bit of black. My neutral colour was extremely dominant and it took me a while and a few layers of additional paint to correct the mistakes I had made drawing the objects. Since I had not realized that this might become a problem I had not taken enough care drawing the original lines. This I will have to remember for the exercises and assignments to come. If in a large part of my painting the hue will be light, I will need to draw my first lines with a light mix. At the end of this series I noticed that in attempting to cover the wrong lines defining the curvature of the hose my bath had become far too dark, while the lines were still visible under two or three undiluted layers of paint. I then decided that I would need to be more generous with the amount of paint to form the correcting layer on the bath.
The form of the fish I first added using a violet hue made up from the above pigment. Only much later I mixed some bright pink from primary magenta and white, a hue which was new to the selection and which I hoped would serve in a believable way as contrast and small eyecatcher in the composition.

4. Correcting the colours and lines

6_Tap_finished
Figure 4. The finished painting

23 April 2016. Apart from a strange effect visible on the rim of the bath, where the different lighting conditions to the left and right of the fittings give an impression of a break in the direction of the rim I think that I managed to get the lines more or less right. I tried to correct the rim several times, but found that in order to achieve a noticeable change the painting over the older layers would have to be done with a degree of precision, which my combination of paint and fine hair brush would not allow. So, while overall I am happy with the linear aspects of the painting, I will need a different approach and better technique regarding the use of layers of paint in larger areas, especially if the hue is near white.

However, I seem to have a problem regarding the correct amount of water required in order to allow my acrylic paint to be distributed on the paper evenly. No matter how long I mix water and paint, and no matter what type of brush I use, I will always get a highly variable mark, part of which is strong and opaque, while the rest is so transparent that it appears to be almost non-existent. I will therefore try other makes of paint and see whether the problem persists. In some way, on the other hand, I like these characteristics, because they force me to use paint in a rather more crude way than I would opt for if I had a choice. Although the surface of the bath is nowhere like the real thing, I think that the difference in texture between bath and fittings looks interesting. It also forced me to rethink the way I wanted to depict the shadow thrown by the hose. I tried a relatively bright blue and a strong geometrical outline and I am happy with the effect, although of course, since it was not planned when starting the picture, it is inconsistent over the whole painting.

On the side: While browsing videos on common beginners’ mistakes I came across an important hint on youtube regarding the diluting of acrylic paint with water: Apparently, the using of more than 30% of water may cause “underbinding” of the pigment on a primed canvas. This may result in the eventual flaking off of a diluted background. It was strongly recommended to use airbrush medium instead. However, if used on watercolour paper or any other non-primed surface the problem does not occur (Theberge, 2014).

7_Detail_fish
Figure 5. Detail: Plastic fish on the rim
8_Detail_hose
Figure 6. Detail: Reflections on the fittings

The problems I encountered made me realise that unless it is the goal of an exercise it does not matter if I do not use the correct colour the first time. I can always change it by adding additional layers. If the layers are somewhat transparent, the shining through of older layers may add luminosity to the surface. And importantly, something which I learned by looking at painters from impressionism until today, the real colours of an object may lose their importance as the painting develops. There are no limits whatsoever in changing them in all sorts of interesting ways.

What I am quite pleased with is the overall composition of the painting. I made the test I did while researching the famous Dutch still life paintings. By covering up parts of it I believe that I can see both the tasks each part fulfills and the lines of communication between the different objects. In this exercise both the fish and plughole, for example, seem to work like anchor points. By creating an invisible line between them, which to my feeling travels through the air between the two, they help to emphasize space where otherwise there would be a more or less two-dimensional area.

The more I come to think about it, the more I realise how valuable this particular exercise is for me in developing my skills as a painter. There is so much in it to learn that I am planning to come back to it throughout the course every time I am starting a new project.

References:

Theberge, M. (2013) Worst Mistake Acrylic Painters Make [online]. Michele Theberge. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKNpKUK4lMc [Accessed 23 April 2016]

Sketchbook: some 10-minute sketches

Updated on 22 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

21 April 2016. I do not get many opportunities these days to sit down and spend time with my sketchbook. So I started a little project, which I call the “10 minutes I have before collecting my son” series. On some afternoons my son spends some hours after school at the centre for deaf children. Since there exists the absurd regulation that we must not pick up our children before a certain time, and not after either, I often have 10 minutes to wait until the doors are opened.

Here come some of the sketches I made over the last few months during my 10 minute waits (Fig. 1 – 10 below). I often have to stop early, so they remain rudimentary, but I am learning to concentrate on the most important aspects of a view and so I think the time limit is a very valuable aspect of the exercise.

Building_site_Lehen_21042016
Figure 1. Building site at a busy crossroads
Scribble_Flats_21042016
Figure 2a. Scribbles                                                                   Figure 2b. Flats near the school
Pear_preliminarysketch_21042016
Figure 3. Preliminary sketch for Painting 1 exercise of piece of fruit, made in car while waiting (Part 1)
Rear_mirror_view_21042016
Figure 4. Rear mirror view
Playground_visitors_21042016
Figure 5. Persons in playground, quick sketches
Bush_keys_21042016
Figure 6a. Bush near carpark                                          Figure 6b. Car keys
Girlonswing_wood_21042016
Figure 7a. Girl on swing                                                 Figure 7b. Wooden structure of picnic table
Andraekirche_Salzburg_21042016
Figure 8. Andräkirche in the city of Salzburg, view from Mirabellgarten
Redscooter_plant_21042016
Figure 9a. Red scooter parker on pavement                   Figure 9b. Plant in flowerbed at school
Park_trees_21042016
Figure 10. Trees in school park

I can see that I am starting to develop my very own style of drawing and I am happy how my mark-making develops. One or two of the sketches I might use later in the course. Hopefully I will be able to develop in a similar way the marks I use in painting.

Part 2, project 2, exercise 1: Still life – drawing with paint (artist research)

Updated on 22 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

18 April 2016. Since I know perfectly well, and was reminded of this in the course feedback for Drawing 1 (with the result for which I was very happy, even if not taking into account the circumstances), that I need to rush less my projects regarding preparatory sketchbook drawing, experimentation with setups, comparisons with other artists and such like, I decided that I would need to investigate the style of some artists before starting my own painting.

I have always been drawn to paintings where the outlines of the depicted objects are clearly visible, sometimes in black, sometimes in hues corresponding in some way to the colour(s) of the object itself, as e.g. in Vincent Van Gogh’s famous self portrait (Fig. 1). He did not only use a darker tone of an object’s colour, as in his hat, to paint the outline, he also appears to have taken care to choose a complementary colour to paint the background: bluish hat – orange background, green coat – red background. This means, according to Chevreul’s colour theory, that the complementary pairs will reinforce each other, while other colours will not. This also means, if I am right here, that by choosing the mentioned colours van Gogh’s figure raises from the red-orange background without having to add perspective.

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_106
Figure 1. Vincent Van Gogh: “Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear”, 1889, oil on canvas. Source: Vincent Van Gogh (1889) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

The same effect should, by the way, be working in a painting by contemporary artist Denis Castellas, who I first read about in the book Vitamin P (Schwabsky, 2002, pp. 62-63). The painting, (Castellas, 2001) shows a lady in a red and green coat before a grey background.
Another artist working with outlines was Henry Matisse, a very famous example of which is shown below (3). His style appears less consistent than van Gogh’s with respect to colour theory. While the left side of the picture appears to be in one image plane apart from the hair, the right side is clearly divided into background and foreground by the dark layer of colour separating the red dress and green background.

Matisse_-_Green_Line.jpeg
Henry Matisse: “The Green Stripe”, 1905, oil on canvas

And another example I particularly like, by impressionist Samuel John Peploe (1871-1935) (4):

Samuel_Peploe
Samuel John Peploe: “Still Life: Apples and Jar”, ca. 1912-1916, oil on canvas

In the above example I find good ways of using outline in grey and white objects. I will have a very close look at the choice of colour and line in Peploe’s painting and attempt something similar in my own picture.

Resources:

Van Gogh, V. (1889) Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear [oil on canvas] [online]. [collection Mr. and Mrs. Leigh B. Block]. [Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_106.jpg [Accessed 22 February 2017]

(2) Schwabsky, B. (2002) Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting. Phaidon Press.

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Stripe and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Stripe#/media/File:Matisse_-_Green_Line.jpeg

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Peploe#/media/File:Samuel_Peploe_-_Still_life-_apples_and_jar_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Part 2, project 2, exercise 1: Still life – drawing in paint (step 1, choice of subject)

Updated on 20 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

17 April 2016. Same as with Drawing 1. Since I am not the greatest of interior designers and we are not the owners of lots of things on shelves, I need to be very careful with what I select. Since now the things we do put on shelves usually indeed happen to be there, because there was room, with no design purpose whatsoever, they don’t mostly look great together, neither are the arrangements particularly interesting to look at. So, what I intend to do is to zoom into them and have a closer look at shapes and spaces without straining to attach them to a particular object, a bit like the Cubists approach. Since according to the study guide we are advised not to spend too much time looking, I will take my viewfinder and sketchbook to create some inkpen thumbnail sketches.

18 April 2016. After playing around with some Rubik’s cubes and an idea of trying to reproduce the colours on the squares as faithfully as possible I remembered another idea I have had for years and never had the time to try out. I have always been fascinated by the particular reflections produced by the taps in our shower and bath. Since the taps are metallic and the reflections consist mostly of shades of grey, this is, in my opinion, a great opportunity to use my new knowledge about mixing secondary colours. I took my viewfinder and sketchbook and tried several viewpoints. One of them was so awkward to get to that I had to take a photo and draw from that (Fig. 1).

Drawing_in_paint_first_sketches_18042016
Figure 1. Thumbnail sketches of bathroom fittings

Of the four viewpoints I think that I like the one best which includes the plughole (top right in Fig. 1 above), because it adds to a sense of space, making the shower hose appear quite alive. At the same time the position of the plughole in the bottom left corner of the frame serves to balance the rest of the fittings. In addition the viewpoint includes reflections from our coloured bathroom lamp. One of these also helps to draw the parts of the arrangement together. It is a wide band of soft colour starting at the plughole and travelling some way up the bath towards the tap. One spot of bright colour is also included, a small, pink and violet, plastic fish my son used to play with in the bath. Its colour communicates with the reflections from the lamp and its position inside the loop made by the hose provides a point of attraction in this otherwise empty area as well. Only the shadows are less prominent from this position, but the viewpoint looks so much more interesting than the rest that I will have a go at it.

 

Research point: Still life

Updated on 20 February 2017 (Harvard referencing and reworking of contents).

14 April 2016. While in the everyday world we have everything but a still life it is an attractive idea to sit down and do some research on just that, objects around us taken and captured for what a human mind might call an eternity, by the means of paint.

On the Tate homepage I found a most to the point definition of still life: “One of the principal genres (subject types) of Western art – essentially, the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead” (Tate, n.d.). What seems commonplace from a 21st century viewpoint was revolutionary at the time the genre was developed. Until the 17th century only a few privileged private persons or institutions like the church or royalty could afford paintings at all. With the rise of the new merchant class in the Netherlands they came within reach of a wider public and so subjects changed away somewhat from the traditional demonstrating of ruling power. Still lifes thus became immensely popular with both artists as a field of experimentation and budding art lovers, who were without doubt introduced to a radically different concept of seeing the world around them.

17 April 2016. Having a closer look at the history of still life painting I react in the same way as I used to when I was still a child. I cannot keep my eyes off the breathtaking arrangements, the incredible translation of light into paint, and still … The French “nature morte” is for me exactly what I feel when looking at still life arrangements. There is, maybe only for me, something dead about the objects, whether tools of everyday use, fruit, vegetables or animals. There is a feeling of abandonment, not as if the owner of the objects had just left the room to go for a walk, but as if they had been interrupted in a feast by some invisible disaster. They remind me of the famous 1957 novel by Nevil Shute “On the Beach”, where after an unprecedented nuclear war the last people alive on Earth await their certain end by radiation sickness. Shute describes such abandoned places in his novel. Briefly I thought of including the novel in my planning for Assignment 2, but a short read made me aware that as things are I may not be strong enough mentally. Never mind, back to the 17th century.

I started my journey with one of the most renowned of the Dutch still life painters, Willem Kalf (1619-1693) (Fig. 1):

Willem_Kalf
Figure 1. Willem Kalf: “Still Life with Fruit, Glassware, and a Wan-li Bowl” (1659″, oil on canvas. Source: Willem Kalf (1619-1693) [Public domain] via the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I cannot help but admire the wonderful use of the chiaroscuro technique in the chosen painting above. The objects are arranged, before a very dark background which makes no other contribution to the painting except being the background, in a pyramid shape, where from the base upwards the objects become increasingly delicate until there is nothing but a reflection on glass to form the tip of the pyramid. Although the bowl containing fruit is tilted to the left, there is an incredible balance in the arrangement. Neither the folded carpet in the foreground not its counterpart in balance, the illuminated corner of the table with some wonderfully delicate piece of jewellery (probably an earring or similar), would be believable without its counterpart. Interestingly, the earring itself has a further counterpart in balance in the bright reflection off the glass of white wine. If I cover it with a finger, the reflection on the glass of white wine is directly affected, the balance of the painting is thereby pushed towards the left. If on the other hand, the reflection is covered, the overall balance of the painting seems undisturbed, but one of the main points of interest is suddenly gone. What I learn from looking at this painting is that it takes outstanding sensitivity to create, control and paint an arrangement in such a way. The objects interact with one another in a multitude of ways, none of which can be omitted or replaced without unbalancing the composition and very likely its hidden meaning. The peeled lemon, and other fruit, are some of the many symbols used by painters of the time to point out the ephemeral nature of life (commonly known as “vanitas paintings”). Other symbols include skulls, musical instruments, all sorts of dead animals and plants, smoke or objects measuring time.

In contrast to the above is another still life painting, this time by Jan Weenix (ca. 1641?-1719) (Fig. 2):

Jan_Weenix
Figure 2. Jan Weenix: “Gamepiece with a Dead Heron (“Falconer’s Bag”)”, 1695, oil on canvas. Source: Jan Weenix (ca. 1641?-1719) [Public Domain] via the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although in the above painting without doubt both arrangement and painting are delicate and breathtakingly realistic, and while the objects depicted are full of meaning and the background provides an idealized landscape, I do not feel the same awe as with Kalf’s much more reduced approach. Maybe again it is just me who as an ecologist prefers life to hunter-inflicted death, but there is also too much of everything packed on the canvas, just as if Weenix had wanted to impress his viewers by saying: “Look here, I can do this, and this as well, and this, and that …”

A representative flower painting from the 17th century was created by Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678) (Fig. 3):

Jan_Brueghel_Younger
Figure 3. Jan Brueghel the Younger: “A Basket of Flowers”, 1620s?, oil on wood. Source: Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-1678) [Public domain] via the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Again, and probably due to my modern biologist’s training, I would rather want to see the overwhelming number of different flowers in their respective habitats or a garden. The arrangement itself however is wonderful, light and colours carefully balanced, and the characteristics of each species faithfully reproduced, including even some visiting insects. At the time of painting the approach will have been nothing less but revolutionary, going hand in hand with the increased interest in the workings of nature, the beginnings of explorer travelling and the early approach to understanding nature. The latter was fuelled by the feeling of living on a vast planet with endless resources, most yet undiscovered and undescribed and by an urge to collect and bring back home and own much, much more of what was found than was would in the end be needed (own experience gained over a long period of time when working in our local natural science museum). Not surprisingly the whole was, as always, another expression of power. Coming to think of that, most still lifes of the time will have served exactly that purpose after all.

During the 18th century still life painting techniques were, from what I could find, not much changed if somewhat less sombre concerning their backgrounds, so that I omit examples from that period. A number of examples can be found on Wikimedia Commons (2016).

In the 19th century there was a side by side existence of traditional still life painting with a tendency to be more adventurous regarding both style and subject. For example, the  “Mound of Butter” by Antoine Vollon (1833-1900) (Fig. 4) has all the traditional characteristics including a dark background, a staggered arrangement, both front to back and bottom to top and a carefully balanced position of the objects, but although Vollon was a realist painter, the brushstrokes appear impressionist. Both eggs and butter might of course be interpreted as vanitas symbols.

A11353.jpg
Figure 4. Antoine Vollon: “Mound of Butter”, 1875/1885, oil on canvas. Source: Antoine Vollon (1833-1900) [Public domain] via the National Gallery of Art

In contrast to the above Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890, Netherlands) in one of his “violent” still lifes below disregarded all conventions (Fig. 5): viewpoint from above, seemingly arbirary arrangement in more or less two dimensions, light background, fierce brushstrokes draw the view towards the centre and by means of what I would call “lines of energy” back out towards the edges. Some of the fruit and leaves appear not to lie on a firm surface, so I suspect that what looks like waves may well be shallow water.

Van_Gogh
Figure 5. Vincent Van Gogh: “Grapes, Lemons, Pears and Apples”, 1887, oil on canvas. Source: Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) [Public domain] via Art Institute Chicago

One of the highly productive still life painters of the 19th century leading far into the 20th century was Henri Matisse (1869-1954, France). While his approach was somewhat more traditionalist, Matisse was highly interested in including background and further surroundings in the arrangement. He played with patterns of cloth and walls and was much less interested in the realistic reproduction of natural characteristics than in expressing a feeling coming with an arrangement. In the early painting below (Fig. 6) that particular morning light (I may be wrong) comes with a wisp of summer air hovering above the arrangement with a hint of freshly made coffee. But even in this case, strangely enough, I have a feeling that someone just left the breakfast table for good, never to return.

Matisse
Figure 6. Henri Matisse: “Fruit and Coffeepot”, c.1898, oil on canvas. Source: Henri Matisse (1869-1954) [Public domain] via the State Art Museum

See in comparison one of his later still lifes “Large Red Interior” (Matisse, 1948), where the play with patterns is pushed very far. I get the impression that the whole room became a pattern itself in the process. This painting could not be further from the early Dutch approach.

The same could be said of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973, Spain) and Georges Braque (1882-1963, France) during their Cubist periods. In the painting below by Georges Braque (Fig. 7), the real boundaries of objects are dissolved and rearranged in a more abstracted manner, while a three-dimensional representation was not intended. Is is rather that it was attempted to include the information taken from several viewpoints in order to create an increased density of knowledge about an object to be transported to the viewer (The Art Story, n.d.):

Braque
Figure 7. Georges Braque: “Still Life with Clarinet”, 1927, oil on canvas. Source: Georges Braque (1882-1963) [Fair Use] via Philips Collection

Today, the drawing and painting of still lifes is still considered essential in mastering all the basic techniques required of a painter. The professionally created arrangements are, however, much more adventurous, mostly less aimed at faithfully reproducing nature or exploring the characteristics of paint and light, but there to provoke unusual thought and illusions, e.g. this collection of Postmodern Still Life (Pinterest, 2016):


Finally here comes a selection from Saatchi online gallery illustrating some more of today’s diverse still life landscape. I made the choice not with favourites in mind, but to show a small potpourri of possibilities: “Still Life” (van de Lande, n.d.), “Something Like a Still Life” (Edmunds, 2015), “Still Life with Check Tablecloth” (McEwan, n.d.), “Plastic Animal Still Life with Leopard Print Cloth” (Ridley, n.d.), “21st Century Still Life” (Hinojos, n.d.), “Blue Still Life (Puyandaev, n.d.) or “Box and Nail Box Still Life Square” McHarrie (n.d.).

Resources:

Braque, G. (1927) Still Life with Clarinet [oil on canvas] [online] Philips Collection, Washington, DC. Available at:
https://www.wikiart.org/en/georges-braque/still-life-with-clarinet-1927 [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Brueghel the Younger, J. (1620s?) A Basket of Flowers [oil on wood] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nstl/hd_nstl.htm [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Edmunds, B. (2015) Something Like a Still Life [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Something-Like-a-Still-Life/402101/2557916/view [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Hinojos, J.A. (n.d.) 21st Century Still Life [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-21st-century-still-life/701475/2385001/view [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Kalf, W. (1659) Still Life with Fruit, Glassware, and a Wan-li Bowl [oil on canvas] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/53.111/ [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Lande, van de, P. (n.d.) Still Life [acrylic on wood] [online] [n.k.] Available at: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Still-life/737785/2520596/view [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Matisse, H. (c.1898) Fruit and Coffeepot [oil on canvas] [online]. State Art Museum, St Petersburg. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Matisse_-_Fruit_and_Coffeepot_(1898).jpg [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Matisse, H. (1948) Large Red Interior [oil on canvas] [online] Georges Pompidou Center, Paris. Available at: https://www.wikiart.org/en/henri-matisse/large-red-interior-1948 [Accessed 20 February 2017]

McEwan, S. (n.d.) Still Life with Check Tablecloth [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-STILL-LIFE-WITH-CHECK-TABLE-CLOTH-5-102x102cm-oil-on-linen/661847/2471651/view [Accessed 20 February 2017]

McHarrie, S. (n.d.) Box and Nail Box Still Life Square [acrylic on wood] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Box-and-nail-box-still-life-square/396889/2886866/view [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Pinterest (2016) Postmodern Still Life [online]. Avaliable at: https://in.pinterest.com/madeleinebotto/postmodern-still-life/ %5BAccessed 20 February 2017]

Puyandaev, V. (n.d.) Blue Still Life [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-blue-still-life/520651/2288840/view [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Ridley, T. (n.d.) Plastic Animal Still Life with Leopard Print Cloth [oil and MDF on wood] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Plastic-animal-still-life-with-leopard-print-cloth/151547/1885610/view [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Shute, N. (1957) On the Beach. Pan Books, London.

Tate (n.d.) Still life [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/s/still-life [Accessed 20 February 2017]

The Art Story (n.d.) Cubism [online]. The Art Story. Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-cubism.htm [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Van Gogh, V. (1887) Grapes, Lemons, Pears and Apples [oil on canvas]. Art Institute Chicago. Available at: http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/64957 [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Vollon, A. (1875/1885) Mound of Butter [oil on canvas] [online]. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. Available at: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.75030.html [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Weenix, J. (1695) Gamepiece with a Dead Heron (“Falconer’s Bag”) [oil on canvas] [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nstl/hd_nstl.htm [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Wikimedia Commons (2016) Category:18th-century still-life paintings [online] Wikimedia Commons. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:18th-century_still-life_paintings [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Part 2, project 1, exercise 4: Complementary colours

Updated on 20 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

16 April 2016. Two days ago I found the time to finish the series on mixing colours with exercise 4. I managed to produce a fairly satisfying Chevreul’s colour circle (see Fig. 1a below, apart from primary yellow and primary blue all colours in the photo are close to the original). What I tried when mixing the primary colours was to create a feeling of identical “steps” from one hue to the next. I could not say what made me decide to mix in a little more of the one colour and less of the other and I could not describe with confidence the characteristics which would describe such a step. It was an intuitive decision and it may well be that the colours in the circle do not look evenly distributed to anybody else.
What I noticed in my own circle as compared to Chevreul’s (Fig. 1b) was its artificial look. The colours look too clean and too cleanly separated for my own liking. Although the copies of Chevreul’s colour wheel found on the internet will almost certainly not reproduce the original hues with fidelity and from what is visible, the hues are not evenly spaced, I prefer his work by far. It radiates the sensitivity of someone whose lifelong profession was colour.


Following the instructions in the study guide on mixing complementary colours while keeping tonal values (hopefully) constant I achieved the following result (Fig. 2):

Mixing_complementary_colours_16042016
Figure 2. Mixing complementary colours

The first thing I noticed in the series was that (in my opinion) most of the resulting mixes would not count as grey. The only mix I would place in the category was that between primary yellow and violet. It turned a beautiful cool grey with admirable ease which also stayed equal in tonal value with respect to that of the original hues. In stark contrast to this was the mix between orange red and blue green, which became a very dark murky green. On the colour circle the axes of these two pairs pairs lie at 90° relative to each other. Tonal values of the other mixes appear to lie in between these two extremes. I also noticed that, of course, there would be several other hues achievable with each pair depending on their relative proportions in the mix. What I tried to do, however, was to produce a mix which came closest to be called grey. As in the previous exercise on mixing colours while keeping tonal values constant there was again a huge difference in the amount of white to be added to the respective darker tone.

References:

Chevreul, M.-E. (1883) Chromatic Circle [n.a.] [online] Linda Hall Library, Kansas City. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cercle_chromatique_Chevreul_3.jpg [Accessed 20 February 2017]

Part 2, project 1, exercises 1 to 3: mixing greys and colours

Updated on 20 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

12 April 2016. Since the exercises on mixing colours are intimately connected, I waited until I had completed all of them in order to write a summary of the experience, which, as has been noticed by a number of fellow students before, required the input of
enormous amounts of paint and time. In return it gave a growing understanding of the nature of colour and, in the case of some of the experiments, a near-meditative peace of mind.

Exercise 1: Mixing greys – anachromatic scale

Since I had no previous experience whatsoever regarding the proportions of white and black needed in producing a sensible number of steps for the above scale, I started ever so carefully, adding only minute quantities of black each time. This resulted in a relatively impressive 64 shades in total (see Fig. 1 below). At the dark end of the scale the differences are unfortunately very difficult to see in the photo. With my limited knowledge of photo editing I made things not much better, but in nature there is a continuous darkening visible. Interestingly, I went through three cycles of mixing in black and adding to the darker end of the scale before my eyes/brain would agree that NOW there was a real difference to the shades put on before. When, in the end, looking at the result, the scale went smootly from white to black.

Achromatic_mixing_11042016
Figure 1. Anachromatic scale using ivory black, 64 steps

Taking two small pieces of paper with neutral grey and placing them on both ends of the scale as advised in the study guide, revealed that the same tone looks darker near white than near black (Fig. 2a and 2 b below). According to Chevreul’s idea that the brain tends to exaggerate differences in tone in order to allow a clear differentiation – see my previous post on Chevreul’s colour theory (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). I assume that probably the real differences may be less prominent on both ends of the scale.


The neutral grey produced in the above exercise I then used to prepare an A2-sized ground on acrylic paper. Despite having assumed that I had mixed my grey very thoroughly I noticed differences in tone across the ground. So I made a mental note that it would be necessary to work extremely thoroughly with totally clean tools to achieve acceptable results during the exercises to follow.
It took me two whole days to complete the experiments below and left me with literally kilograms of little heaps of mixed paint. Since I have no use for them in the near future it will mean having to discard them with mixed feelings. So I took a souvenir photo of the lot (Fig. 3):

4_Tons_of_paint_12042016
Figure 3. Leftover colour mixes

The following photo shows an overview of the colour mixing exercises (Fig. 4):

5_Overview_colour_mixing_12042016
Figure 4. Results of the colour mixing exercises


Exercise 2: Primary and secondary colour mixing

To be honest, I am the owner of only a few hues of acrylic paint. I like mixing and I have accumulated some intuitive experience in decades of watercolour painting. Of course, there are some important differences when mixing acrylic paint when compared to watercolour, in particular the source of white mainly as paper white in the one case, and white pigment in the other.
So here is my modest selection of primary colours (Fig. 5):

6_Primary_colours_12042016
Figure 5. My primary colours

In the case where I had only two hues of a colour (yellow and red) swapping their positions had no effect regarding the perceived relative tone, but in my opinion it does make a difference to the story told by the hues, tiny as it may be, when reading from light to dark or vice versa. With the blues, however, the primary blue (cyan) looks lighter when placed between two darker colours (ultramarine and bluegreen in my case) than when it sits to the side of the darker hues. The most intense hues of the above were primary red, Naphthol red deep and primary blue (cyan), so I used these in the following mixing experiments (Fig. 6):

7_Mixing_primary_colours_12042016
Figure 6. Primary colour mixing: top – yellow to red, middle – yellow to blue, bottom – red to blue

The first thing I noticed when comparing the three sets of scales was that identical handling does not produce scales of equal length. While the change from yellow to red was achieved comparatively quickly and the mixes on the red side of the scale look relatively similar (not only on the photo but also in reality), the change from yellow to blue produced an enormous variety of clearly different greenish hues. I even ran out of paper at the end of the scale and had to stop it more abruptly than intended. The mix between red and blue produced did produce some of the murky dark mix mentioned in the study guide, although I would rate some of the hues towards the blue end of the scale as something like violet.
Still, testing other combinations of blue and red in order to make more believable violets gave the following results (Fig. 7). The photo, unfortunately, does not faithfully reproduce the hues especially in the top row, but the most convincing results came from primary magenta mixed with primary blue (bottom row).

8_Mixing_violet_12042016
Figure 7. Mixing violets: top – Naphthol red deep and ultramarine, middle – primary magenta and ultramarine, bottom – primary magenta and primary blue

The most time and paint-demanding experiments of this exercise were those aimed at mixing secondary colours in the above manner but trying to keep tonal values constant. I continued mixing in the second colour plus white until the hue of the white+colour mix was the same as the original second pigment. A whole day was devoted to the following three scales (Fig. 8):

9_Primary_colours_constant_hues_12042016
Figure 8. Mixing secondary colours while keeping tonal values constant: top – yellow to red, middle: yellow to blue, bottom: red to blue

The first thing to mention here is that I may have misinterpreted the instructions. I don’t know whether I may have been required to mix in some white with the starting primary colour, too. I did not and in the case of yellow as starting colour this meant that I had to add ten times the amount of white, and sometimes far more, with each tiny blob of secondary colour in order to keep tonal values constant. This also meant discarding enormous amount of paint each time I started another hue. Interestingly, the same effect was not noticeable after two thirds of the red to blue scale. There were 12 steps in the scale and no white had to be added after step 8. I have no valid explanation for the phenomenon yet, but maybe the red in this case has a slightly darker tonal value than the blue, so when having got rid of the difference by mixing in white for a while, the adding of more blue would not make any further changes to the overall tonal value. Or it may be my eyes, which are not yet expert at recognising small tonal differences with certainty. However, although I can see some fluctuations, I am quite pleased with the outcome. Considering the differences in darkening through drying in different hues of acrylic paint I was surprised to see a relatively smooth result. The brownish grey I was supposed to see halfway through the red to blue scale according to the study guide was not really there apart from the third mix from the left, but I may have msjudged the amount of colour to mix in in the first step, so there is a chance of having missed some information here simply by low resolution.

Exercise 3: Broken or tertiary colours

In the last exercise, requiring the mixing of secondary colours, the occurrence of grey was perfectly visible in the case of a scale between orange red to green blue, but was completely missing in the transition from sap green to vermilion. Maybe the mustard colours to the right of the sap green count as broken or tertiary colours without being grey. They certainly lack chroma when compared to the original colours (Fig. 9).

10_Secondary_colours_constant_hues_12042016
Figure 9. Mixing secondary colours while keeping tonal values constant: top – orange red to green blue, bottom: sap green to vermilion

A phenomenon I noticed in all the mixing experiments was the different qualities of the colours chosen to mix, which resulted in skewed transitions in some instances. For example, in the mixing of primary colours the transition from yellow to red was fast, so that most of the scale I would describe as reddish. The same effect was visible in e.g. the transition from yellow to blue shown in the second photo from the bottom, second row, and in the last of all mixes from sap green to vermilion. I would tend to describe the scale as orange-dominated. It would be interesting to have other people look at the scales to see whether their perception matches my own.
Experimenting in this way was a major hint regarding both the incredible properties of colour and the power of human perception. It also makes my head swim to think of the worlds I need to discover yet. No wonder we are all addicted to colour.

References:

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) ‘Research point: Chevreul’s colour theory’ [blog]. Andrea’s OCA painting 1 blog, 3 Apr. Available at: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/research-point-chevreuls-colour-theory/ [Accessed 20 February 2017]