Assignment 5, subject 3: Hans Christian Andersen “The Shadow”. An attempt at an illustration (including part 5 project exercises)

Updated on 25 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and some content).

21 January 2017. A few days ago I mentioned the subject I had chosen for my last assignment of this course to my parents and they remembered Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Shadow” (Andersen, 1847a). I had not read it before, but when I did, I found it to be an incredibly well-conceived insight into human nature. As was to be expected, it started following me around like a faithful shadow, so I had to make it the third and last subject in my series. My aim for the final painting in the series of experiments would be to devise a cover illustration for a book containing this tale. I found surprisingly few existing illustrations (Andersen, 1847b; Andersen, 1847c, Andersen, 1847d) and not many  blogs investigating shadows in their metaphorical sense. One of these, “Schattenflug” (Küster, 2014-16), I returned to several times, however. It contained, among others, a reference to one of the most famous stories about shadows willed to become separate from their owners, “Peter Schlemihl” (Küster, 2014). The following illustration shows the devil taking Schlemihl’s shadow as agreed (Fig. 1):

Figure 1. George Cruikshank: “Peter Schlemihl”, etching, 1827. Source: George Cruikshank (1792-1878) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
As my previous two subjects included some very spontaneous painting, I wanted to make the final result of this part deliberately detailed, while easy and transparent.
To give me an idea of what other painters do to interpret similar ideas, I went for a closer look at what the Tate gallery has on offer when searching for “shadow”. In its absolutely most reduced form I found a very clear line drawing by Andy Warhol (1928-1987, USA) “The Shadow” (Warhol, 1981). Linking in with Andersen’s tale, but on a considerably less complex level of storytelling: two reworked photographs by Keith Arnatt (1930-2008, UK) “Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self” (Arnatt, 1969-72) and “Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist” (Arnatt, 1968). By Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005, UK) was one work, “Braque Curtain” (Caulfield, 2005), which helped me placing my idea in a first possible technical context. Vik Muniz was represented with a photograph “Pictures of Dust” (Muniz, 2000), which was one of the rare occasions, where a shadow broken from the horizontal to the vertical appeared as a search result at all. It appear to me that “broken shadows” do not seem to carry much aesthetic appeal to many artists. As, however, this is what I need to illustrate the story, I realised that I would have to be doing lots of own observation. In style Jeffery Edwards’s (*1945, USA) “Moonlight” (Edwards, 1974) connects with the above “Braque Curtain” and seems to indicate a way for me to approach my subject technically.

26 January 2017. In order to comply with course requirements I went through a series of experiments again relating to the application of paint and abstraction from previous direct observation. Since it has been quite extraordinarily cold for the last couple of weeks and there is no sign of any change, I used the opportunity to place paper with very dilute paint outside and see the effect of ice crystals forming. The result was not great. I used one very smooth and one linen structure paper. On both the formation of ice was hardly noticeable (even if helped by covering the paint with snow) and on bringing the paper back inside, the ice just melted, leaving stains I could have produced without freezing temperatures. My impression was that water and paint pigment did their separate things. I will not give up on the matter, however, but will not pursue it further for the purpose of this project (Fig. 1a-c):

Figure 1

28 January 2017. For the same temperature reasons ( minus 15°C during the day) it was practically impossible to stand or sit outside for any reasonable amount of time except for quick sketches.  Apart from one 5 minute attempt with ink pen and paintbrush I caught all the following impressions with my camera – which was not a bad idea, because I found that shadows from a low sun tend to change incredibly quickly and an interesting effect discovered would be gone the next second.
Here is sketch of the shadow of a roof and chimney falling on a wall from a neighbouring house near my son’s school. Despite the strong radiation coming from the midday sun the shadow’s outline was quite blurred, with a darker centre and “fluffy” border. What I am after, however, is the following effect: Where the shadow falls across the window, the stone frame seems to make the shadow “enter” the window opening, because physics requires its outline to follow structural elements (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Sketchbook – Ink pen and water-soluble ink

With the above effect kept in mind I went to look for some images my older son and I had taken a few years ago from my workshop window with the main light on. They must have given the lady living in that house the fright of her life, but it was irresistible ;o) (Fig. 3):

Figure 3. Shadow experiments on a neighbour’s house

Again the edges of the shadows are blurred and, as is better visible on the lefthand photo, the outline appears to be drawn into the window openings. If my composition requires it I will try and emphasize that effect. It both connects with my first assignment subject (as the shadows of my bottles travelled both on the table and up the back wall) and with one of the crucial scenes described in the fairy tale: The chief character, a scientist, sits to make his shadow fall on a house opposite to the balcony he is on and wills it to enter the house.
In order to get an idea of the associated patterns I took a walk round the area near my son’s school to catch shadows falling on walls and into houses, some of persons, including myself near windows in particular. Please ignore the unavoidable “photographing position” (Fig. 4-12):

Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6

The following effect I really liked, it appears as if the shadows of the trees were intentionally placed there to be part of the building (Fig. 7):

Figure 7

Here follows a small series of photos taken near an old farmhouse. By coincidence the sun’s position allowed my shadow to “enter the house” by a window (Fig. 8-12):

Figure 8
Figure 9
Figure 10
Figure 11
Figure 12

Expedition resumé:
I found that with the sun so low the part of the shadow travelling on the ground is less dark than that on the wall. Also, I may need to take into account that the shadow’s colour will change with that of the background. If I paint it as a transparent wash, this will take care of itself, but not if I choose to use opaque mixes.

One idea was to have the full facade of the building available for the cast shadow, as e.g. in one of the famous scenes in “The Third Man” (Garrett, 2015).

Since Andersen’s tale is located in a southern country, I went to look for a corresponding photo of a street with balconies of the sort described by the author. There were some I had taken during holidays, but the problem with those was the inevitable position of looking up at the balconies from a low point. So I resorted to images available on the web to collect ideas for the composition of a suitable facade. Thus equipped I started my experiments.

In order to set the scene properly and to get a first rough idea of where light and shade will need to be for a working composition, I produced a preliminary watercolour sketch in my sketchbook (Fig. 13):

Figure 13. Sketchbook – compositional watercolour sketch

I was quite happy with this attempt and could see how thorough preparation for a subject allows some mental tuning. Roughly, the composition is working including an interesting overall distribution of light and shade apart from using them to tell a story. It was a coincidence that I let the man rest his right arm on the railing, which made his shadow reach out beyond the visible part of the room in the house opposite. The latter opens up a side story, because it is impossible to tell whether the intentions of the shadow – if taken as an already detached entity – are necessarily innocent.
This first sketch has some major weak points regarding the physical properties of the shadow. It will have to be smaller in order to allow the room appear larger. Also the outline will need to be blurred. The room and light to the back of the real man also are not quite present yet.

29 January 2017. In preparation for the background of my A2 painting carton I tested the addition of sand and charcoal to acrylic binder as well as white paint and experimented with the effects created when adding water-soluble writing ink and water-proof antique ink. I have to apologize for the poor quality of the below images. The sketchbook is not spiral-bound, so near the end of the book scanning the pages becomes awkward (Figure 14-15):

Figure 14. Sketchbook – experimenting with materials mixed into acrylic binder
Figure 15. Sketchbook – experimenting producing structural effects, mixed media

The effects produced with binder mixes were not good (top image), but the mix of white paint and crushed willow charcoal turned out to be very interesting. I used a painting knife to spread the mix, which caused some of the larger pieces of charcoal to disintegrate and follow the movement of the knife (bottom image, 2 images second row). Another very interesting result was white paint spread with a coarse paintbrush, covered in water-soluble ink when dry and added to by water-proof antique ink. The antique ink mixed with the already dry water-soluble black to then dry into a combined water-proof layer. On top of both tests I tried small areas of a transparent wash of white ink.
The use of inks on top of dried acrylic paint I had tried before in a wild experiment with partly crushed dry leaves dropped by my workshop plants covered in white acrylic. I had tried to see whether dripping ink on that mix would create “shadows” in front of the leaves. As the effect did not appear, I decided to paint over the structures with my mix of inks to see whether I would be able to enhance them. When placing the finished piece in direct sunlight to take the photo, I noticed the most beautiful metallic sheen. My black ink appears to “disintegrate” into its component colours every time the underground is water repellent, producing  this effect (Fig. 16-17):

Figure 16. 56 x 42 cm acrylic paper – experimenting with acrylic paint, crushed dry leaves and different makes of ink

The antique ink helps to highlight the structures, another beautiful effect:

Figure 17. Closeup of effect produced using antique ink

Both the above tests appeared appealing as well as suitable for my purpose, so that I decided to first of all prepare the background for the final painting with a paint-charcoal mix to serve as basic layer for the walls of the houses (Fig. 18-19):

Figure 18. Preparing the A1 background using white acrylic and crushed willow charcoal, working with palette knife
Figure 19. Detail

30 January 2017. Today I found a graphical interpretation of the situation in Andersen’s tale (Andersen, 1847e), which resembles mine to some extent, but leaves the shadow on the facade and seems far too distant (literally and metaphorically) and casual for the actual monstrosity of the scientist’s intention – the shadow is far too large for my imagination to allow it to enter the house at all. In addition, I cannot imagine that a single candle would be strong enough to light up the complete facade of the house opposite – of course this is always open to an artist’s interpretation, but seems inappropriate in this context – after all, it is a scientist carrying out this “experiment” (Fig. 20)

Figure 20. “The Shadow”. Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, C. & G. Merriam Co. 1913. Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary [Public domain] via Encyclopedian Dictionary
31 January 2017.  I did some experiments in my sketchbook on combining my background with the above metallic effect, noticing instantly that they would not be combarable. The paper in the sketchbook allows a totally smooth distribution of paint, so the background layer was too slippery for my paint-charcoal mix to spread in a similar way to the painting carton (Fig. 21).

Figure 21. Sketchbook – experimenting with ink and acrylics on acrylic/crushed charcoal background

I did not rely on the results, but realised that I would not want to continue with acrylic paint at all here. The first layer of my background was delicate in a strange way, so I tried to respond to that by going over it with a roller using my black (diluted) and red (straight) inks. The result made me very happy (wonderful metallic lustre structured by the charcoal), but was extremely hard to take a meaningful photo of (Fig. 22):

Figure 22. Background on A1 canvas cardboard, inks on carylics/crushed charcoal

Taking the lighter and darker areas into account I first made a very rough drawing with white charcoal, then continued to apply black, red and white ink by intuition. Here are the steps (Fig. 23-27):

Figure 23. Compositional sketch
Figure 24. First layers using different types of ink

Here a detail of the above (Fig. 25):

Figure 25. Detail

I was very happy at this point with having decided not to add any more acrylic paint. The semi-transparent layers of ink allowed me to produce a very beautiful indirect light, as e.g. in the man’s face and since they were part of the background, they are in complete harmony with it. The details of the painting will have to be approached with great care in order not to overload it, probably by leaving parts as drawing (Fig. 26).

Figure 26

2 February 2017. Here came the difficult part, not wanting to overdo it while knowing that the painting was not quite finished. I went through two more cycles, adding a few things in order to create some counterbalance to the main storyline while staying with the subject, then decided to leave it as it is to wait for tutor feedback. This is the finished painting:

Figure 27. Finished painting

And here my favourite details (Fig. 28-30):

Figure 28
Figure 29
Figure 30

Working on this painting has been one of the most interesting experiences gained throughout this course. The combination of materials is something I will be coming back to, because I think that it holds immense power for development.

This is the last post for my series of paintings for Assignment 5 of this course. Self-evaluation will follow in a separate post.


Andersen, H.C. (1847a) The Shadow [online]. Classic Reader, Blackdog Media. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Andersen, H.C. (1847b) Der Schatten [online]. Märchenatlas, Dr. Karen Lippert, Leipzig. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Andersen, H.C. (1847c) Der Schatten [online]. Lesekorb, Labbé Verlag, Bergheim. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Andersen, H.C. (1847d) Der Schatten. Hans Christian Andersens Märchen – gesehen von Günter Grass. Steidl Verlag, Göttingen.

Andersen, H.C. (1847e) The Shadow [online]. Encyclopedian Dictionary, [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2017]

Arnatt, K. (1969-72) Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self [photograph, colour, Cibachrome print, on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: %5BAccessed 21 January 2017]

Arnatt, K. (1968) Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist [Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Caulfield, P. (2005) Braque Curtain [acrylic on canvas] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Cruikshank, G. (1827) Peter Schlemihl [etching] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Edwards, J. (1974) Moonlight [screenprint on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Garrett, A. (2015) Film Noir of the Week: The Third Man [blog] [online]. Old Hollywood Films, Amanda Garrett, 25 June. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Küster, S. (2014) Vom Verkauf des Schattens an den Teufel I [blog] [online]. Sabine Küster, Berlin. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Küster, S. (2014-16) Schattenflug. Schatten in Kunst und Kultur [blog] [online]. Sabine Küster, Berlin. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Muniz, V. (2000) After Richard Serra, Prop, 1968 [Photograph, colour, Cibachrome print, on paper mounted onto plastic] [online].Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Warhol, A. (1981) The Shadow [graphite on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2017]

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) The Shadow [pencil drawing on paper?] [online]. C. & G. Merriam Co. 1913, Encyclopedian Dictionary. Available at: [Accessed 30January 2017]

Part 3, project 2, exercise 1: Looking at faces – self-portrait

Updated on 10 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and changes to content).

4 August 2016. I will need to set up my easel in our small shower room, there are no other suitable mirrors in our house. Sounds like fun, not quite looking forward to spending so much time in that room. On the other hand, thinking of claustrophobia and inadequate lighting I might be able to convey an atmosphere containing a certain amount of suspense. I have been thinking of painting not just my self-portrait, but me looking into the mirror from the side while painting the self-portrait. Will see whether I am able to do this and therefore off to some research about this type of indirect self-portrait (Collins, n.d.).

5 August 2016. It is hard to believe, but the surviving record of painted self-portraiture starts as late as the 15th century with the ingenious Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390-1441, Netherlands) (Jones, 2002). His famous Arnolfini portrait (Fig. 1), for example, contains, in a mirror behind the portrayed couple, a tiny representation of himself. This conceptual trick provides a link with the real world in a fictitious environment (Jones, 2002):

Figure 1. Jan van Eyck: “Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and His Wife” (detail), 1434, oil on oak panel. Source: Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390-1441) [Public domain] via The National Gallery

A hundred years later a similar idea – reality mingling with fiction by the presence of the painter and the mirror image on the back wall –  forms part of Spanish Baroque painter Diego Velásquez’s (1599-1660) masterpiece  “Las Meninas” (Fig. 2):

Figure 2. Diego Velásquez: “Las Meninas”, 1656-57, oil on canvas. Source: Diego Velásquez (1599-1660) [Public domain] via Wkimedia Commons
This approach of using a convex mirror to include more than juts the artist’s face but the environment he is working in, has been popular throughout the ages, see also 20th century painter Mark Gertler (1891-1939, UK) (Art History Today, 2009) (Fig. 3):

Figure 3. Mark Gertler: “Still Life With Self-Portrait”, 1918, oil on canvas (?). Source: Mark Gertler (1891-1939) [Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988] via Art UK
Since the approach to solving the problem of how to include a truthful likeness of the artist seems to have been mirrors for a very long time due to a lack of other devices, I decided that I would jump to the increasing possibilities derived from the advent of more modern materials and imaging systems.

The stunning effect of using a mirror in a self-portrait in an unconventional way can be seen in the brilliant photo “Invisible” by Laura Williams (*1995, UK). To transport this effect into a painting has certain obstacles regarding the use of brushes and seeing one’s own face while holding the mirror, so this may not be readily feasible.

Looking for more feasible options in environments close to my own idea I quickly came across a self-portrait done by Jenny Saville (*1970, UK) in her bathroom in 1991. I am always amazed at the casual naturalness some artists have in approaching their own body and I envy this grace. Still, the setup of this self-portrait is “conventional” insofar as no indirect source of information is included. Of course, there are several kinds of indirect self-portraits, of which Tracy Emin’s (*1963, UK) “My bed” (Emin, 1998) is particularly talkative, but I am quite sure that this is not what is expected from us at this point of the course.

I had a concluding look at lots of conventionally set up self-portraits done by other contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol (1928-1987, USA) Kear, 2015), Chuck Close (*1940, USA) (Artaic, 2016), Scott Rasmann (*?, USA) (Rasmann, 1999), Daniel Lumbini (*1978, UK) ((Lumbini, n.d.), which I liked a lot!) as well as John Singer Sargent via a John Myatt video (The ArtyBartfast, 2012), a wonderful early work by Stanley Spencer (1891-1959, UK) (1914) (Day, 2013 and Fig. 4 below) as well as an uncanny picture by Johannes Kahrs (*1965, Germany) (Schwabsky, 2002).

Figure 4. Stanley Spencer: “Self-portrait”, oil on canvas, 1914. Source: Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
With all these wildly different viewpoints and ideas at the back of my mind I realise that there is no other way to myself than my own and there is no shortcut. Which takes me back to my reluctance here. As long as there is a message I want to convey that has nothing to do with me as a person, I am quite fearless, but as soon as I need to have a closer look at what I am, there is a complete change. So, my idea of leaving the bathroom in semi-darkness with light coming only from behind me through the door (no window in this room, hence the claustrophobia), setting up the easel with my back to the door, there is a very interesting and disturbing distribution of light both in the room, leaving most of my face in darkness. This is what I will go for. Hiding for a good cause ;o).

7 August 2016. It took me two days to come up with a result and, not surprisingly, the bad lighting conditions caused problems. So I produced three investigatory sketches, one ink pen sketch to get accustomed to the setup and the rough overall distribution of tonal values, another one with my wonderful new artist’s quality Schmincke paint and some aluminium foil, another one using monochrome watercolour to have a look at my face. The exercise itself I completed on my 36 x 48 cm 420 g acrylic paper. Here is the sequence (Fig. 5-7):

Figure 5. Sketchbook: ink pen sketch
Figure 6. Sketchbook: preliminary acrylics painting on A4 paper and aluminium foil
Figure 7. A3 watercolour self-portrait

I was extremely happy to have done the preliminary investigation, otherwise it would have become very difficult to make the painting in the dim light.
For the finished piece I prepared a black and brown background, to which I glued another piece of aluminium foil, but this time with the reverse, matt, side up. Then I prepared a thin glace of bluish and light violet to allow light into the room. The actual mirror image I painted mostly on the foil. This is the result (Fig. 8):

Figure 8. Finished painting – acrylics on A3 paper and aluminium foil

There are many details I would need to improve to make this painting more than a sketch, but although in the final piece my face was much smaller (about 6 cm in size) than in the above watercolour sketch, I managed to get the main features correct, in particular the tonal values were mostly fine despite the darkness. I know that both the white of the eyes and lips would be darker in real life, but I liked the strange effect both of them had and decided that I would leave them as they were. I also like the effect the aluminium foil has, I believe that it helps to make the mirror image somewhat believable.
Here are two details I am very happy with – the T-shirt and the towel – and, since this exercise is about portraiture after all, my face (Fig. 9-11):

Figure 9. Detail of finished painting
Figure 10. Detail of finished painting
Figure 11. Detail of finished painting

The Schmincke paint is quite incredibly good, I could not believe my eyes. It was so easy to blend, so smooth and effortless to spread even with the smallest brush I have and I hardly used any paint. I have read one or two warnings regarding student quality acrylic paint and I have used the highest quality Schmincke watercolour paint for almost 20 years now, but somehow it took me four years to realise how big the difference in acrylics really is. On the other hand, in the few week-long courses I had taken over the years no one ever mentioned the quality problem, they just told us to get big bottles of whatever we could get hold of, since it was to be experimentation only and a waste of money to buy any better. Never mind, I found out for myself and to get started I will switch to smaller size canvasses, until I can handle the properties of the new colours with confidence. Also, before it was hardly possible to paint on small size canvasses, because I was simply unable to use small brushes, they would get clogged with paint, which would be dry the next minute.
I am immensely happy to have tried out the better quality, it makes the world of a difference to the outcome and to the joy of painting. Looking forward to seeing what I can do with them.

9 August 2016. Just noticed that I forgot to answer the set questions on p. 65 of the study guide:

  1. I am not sure whether the likeness is good. My husband tells me otherwise, but when I look at the paintings, both watercolour and acrylics, and compare them with self-portraits I did during Drawing 1, I get the impression that I really see myself that way. The outward likeness is probably better in the watercolour painting, also because the acrylic version is to small. I will produce a true self-portrait in the next exercise, where we are asked to paint a head and shoulder portrait, and compare that with the rest.
  2. There were no parts of the face I thought were more difficult than others, but I have been practicing painting and drawing portraits for a long time now, as part of my work as a caricaturist, where simplification is essential.
  3. By switching to high quality paint a lot of technical problems I used to experience (as described above) did not occur at all. I had to get used to wearing my reading glasses for painting, because of having chosen dim lighting conditions. There were surprisingly few problems overall.


Artaic (2016) Chuck Close: Mosaic Artist [online]. Artaic, Boston. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Collins, N. (n.d.) Self-portraits [online]. Visual Arts Encyclopedia, Cork. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Day, T. (2013) Self-portraits: Stanley Spencer [blog] [online]. The Art Room

Emin, T. (1998) My Bed [frame, mattress, linens, pillows and various objects] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Gertler, M. (1918) Still Life with Self Portrait [n.k.] [online]. Leeds Art Gallery. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Jones, S. (2002) Jan van Eyck [online]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Kear, J. (2015) Andy Warhol: Self-portrait, 1986 [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Lumbini, D. (n.d.) Self-portrait (not photorealistic) [n.k.] [online]. 5 Pieces Gallery, Bern. Available at:

Rasmann, S. (1999) 24″H x 15″W [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Saville, J. (1991) Self-portrait [oil on canvas] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Schwabsky, B. (2002) Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting. Phaidon Press, pp. 164-165

Spencer, S. (1914) Self-portrait [oil on canvas] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: [Accessed 10 March 2017]

TheArtyBartfast (2012) The Forger’s Masterclass – Ep.08 – John Singer Sargent [online]. The ArtyBartfast. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Van Eyck, J, (1434) Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and His Wife” (detail) [oil on oak panel] [online]. The National Gallery, London. Available at: [Accessed 10 March 2017]

Velásquez, D. (1656-57) Las Meninas [oil on canvas] [online]. Museo del Prado, Madrid.  Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Williams, L. (2013) Invisible [photograph] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: [Accessed 4 August 2016]


Part 2, project 3, exercise 4: Colour relationships – still life with complementary colours

Updated on 28 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

21 May 2016. After having spent some time researching colour relationships I became aware of the fact that complementary colours are not just those lying opposite to one another on the colour wheel. There are a number of interesting combinations, each of which creates a very different harmony and thus atmosphere (Tiger Color, n.d., Decker, 2017).

My intention for this exercise is to use it as a first preparation for my choice of colours for Assignment 2. What I want to test in particular is what happens if certain combinations of complementary colours in their simple forms (i.e. those lying opposite) are used for an identical setup using identical techniques. In order to concentrate on colour effects I decided that I would create a very simple arrangement cocktail glasses and accessories and omit 3D by flattening out forms. The finished studies I would like to put on a larger canvas in a grid, just as in Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) famous Marilyn Monroe prints (Borg, n.d. for an image and explanation). Referring to the latter I found an interactive experiment (WebExhibits, n.d.), which investigates just what I am looking for.

22 May 2016. Today I decided that I would want to carry out the experiments and the finished painting for this exercise with blue and orange, both of which are readily associated with cocktails and are excellent in conveying particular opposite emotions. With my simple setup of cocktail glasses I will try and create a number of identical paintings with the colours distributed in different ways. For this reason I will not need actual cocktails, but will “fill” the glasses with my chosen colours.

27 May 2016. To start with I experimented with the mutual effects the complementary pair have on each other, repeating and extending on the experiments introduced earlier in this part of the course. I put the colours (primary cyan, orange mixed from primary yellow and primary magenta to result in an orange skewed neither towards yellow or orange) through a basic investigation of properties, looking for situations of enhancement and cancelling-out (left image below). Then I went through another mixing experiment, repeating one I had thought I had to end abruptly because of running out of space in row one. I did so, too, this time, but continued by placing the last mix in the first row again as the first mix in the second row so as to allow a more or less continuous flow of information. The choice of colours will not allow a grey to develop halfway through the gradual changes, but rather a full green, which is however much darker in tone than both the starting hues. This effect is something I have not yet fully understood and when there is time I will try and find more information on the physics behind it (top part of right image below).

Next I created three very short sets of mixes containing the following sequences:
original hue -> tint (mix with white) -> shade (mix with black) -> tone (mix with grey)
Following the instructions on p. 69 of the study guide (Open College of the Arts, 2011) a use of black or neutral grey mixed from white and black does not seem to be allowed, so the only chance of a dark hue for this experiment is the use of green. However, it is possible to mix a great number of pleasing tints, so that the medium dark green available as the darkest tone will of course look darker when next to one of the tints (Fig. 1a-b).

In the next step I had another session on the computer to find out more about still lifes using blue and orange only, and I came up with one (“Still Life with Blue Orange 2” by James Bland (*1979, UK) see Fig. 2 below) I wanted to use as a source of information regarding the available mixed and distribution of colours on the canvas. Besides, I like the brushstrokes, which seem to be rather dry at the edges of colour areas, letting layers of colour shine through. It appears that here also there are no colours other than the ones I chose, while I am not sure whether I would be allowed to use a pink or light yellow mixed from white and the respective primary colours used in mixing orange. I decided that I would not take the risk and stayed with the above mixes.

Figure 2. James Bland (*1979) “Still Life with Blue Orange 2”, n.d., n.k. Source: James Bland (*1979) via Lilford Gallery

Next I prepared an A2 acrylic paper with a neutral grey ground. While I left this to dry I tried some setups with four different glasses used in mixing cocktails. My intention was to create some movement conveying an indication of a story told. The setup fitting my idea best was the one top right in Fig. 3 below:

Figure 3. Testing setups

The prepared grey ground I split in four squares and filled them with the following grounds: primary cyan, orange, the darkest achievable green and a bluish green (Fig. 4):

Figure 4. Prepared split background

On this I drew with a lighter and a darker mix of my complementary colours, then quickly filled the spaces with imaginary “cocktails” (Fig. 5-7):

Figure 5: Sketches using line and setup with viewfinder
Figure 6. Intermediate stage
Figure 7. Filled sketches

I quite like I the overall effect of this study and there is an endless number of lessons to be learned from it. Since I did not refer to my setup closely, but allowed imagination to play a role, these sketch paintings seem loose and full of movement. It was difficult to make a choice for the final painting of this exercise, but in the end to me the top left combination of colours seemed  suitable for the purpose.

After having prepared another A2 ground, this time with primary blue only – so as to avoid mistakes regarding instructions – I made another loose painting in the style of the above (see Fig. 8 below, for which, for some reason, I had to place the painting in a floor area in my workshop fully lit by the evening sun in order to get the colours more or less right):

Figure 8. First layer of complementary colour painting, ball-like object on the right is an imaginary belladonna cherry to play a major role as an ingredient to Assignment 2
Figure 9. Tonal contrast

There are some quite nice effects in this first layer of colours (Fig. 9 above) and I want to keep them for later reference, in case I destroy them when continuing to work on the painting. I noticed, in particular, how a lighter layer of a light greenish orange on top of the primary blue, except for the shadows thrown by the glasses, will help to deepen the shadows. With the glass “filled with a white liquid” the effect is particularly noticeable, because both the white and the light blue next to the shadow further heighten the tonal contrast.
Since this way of painting is very new to me I can see that my use of the above effects is still more accidental than deliberate, but I want to know where this road will lead me and I want to work hard to master it.

28 May 2016. Today I finished my painting for this exercise. Here is the result (Fig. 10-13):

Figure 10. Finished painting, A2 acrylic paper

And here come some details:

Figure 11. Finished painting – detail of reflections on glass and table
Figure 12. Finished painting – detail of reflections on stem of tall glass
Figure 13. Finished painting – detail of blue shadow

It took some getting acquainted with applying the laws governing the use of complementary colours only in a painting. Blue and orange may not be the most convenient pair because of the non-availability of grey or near black tones, but I liked the necessity of having to make parts of the painting lighter instead of darker to bring out the darker tones. It was a totally different experience for me and while I know that my technique is still in its infancy, I want to pursue it further throughout the course.


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Open College of the Arts (2011) Painting 1. The Practice of Painting. The Bridgeman Art Library, London, New York, Paris, p. 69.

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