Part 4, project 5, exercise 2: Working from drawings and photographs – squaring up

Updated on 23 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

20 November 2016. I know that I probably should not say so, but this is an exercise with a low appeal to me. I am aware that the use of a grid helps with the faithful enlarging of an existing small-scale drawing or photograph, but the connecting of points on or between the lines of the grid make me lose all spontaneity.

22 November 2016. Today I found a photo, which I think is well suited for this exercise, and it has got both my smaller son and my husband in it, which makes it attractive in itself (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The photo to be used in this exercise

And here a scan of a print of the same photo (hence the blue shift) with a 1 x 1 cm square grid added by me (Fig. 2):

Figure 2. Scan of photo with 1 x 1 cm grid added

Since the print size is 27 x 20 cm, I decided to make a painting twice that size, otherwise it would have become unreasonably large for the purpose.

23 November 2016. After a late-night session vesterday preparing the grid, I made the 54 x 40 cm pencil drawing today on watercolour paper (Fig. 3-4):

Figure 3. Preparing the grid
Figure 4. Pencil drawing on the grid

This sketch I covered in a carefully diluted and tested layer of light warm grey to allow the sketch to shine through (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Preparing the background

24 November. Today I added more layers, but I do not seem to be making a proper connection. The grid gets in the way, it also stops me from making reasonable decisions about the choice of colours – it feels like “colour by numbers” (Fig. 6):

Figure 6. Fighting the grid

Next I added some more detail and the two persons, after which my inner warning voice told me to stop (Fig. 7):

Figure 7. End of experiment

28 November 2016. I left this exercise for three days to decide what to do with it.
I think now that there is a good reason to leave it for now to return to it at the end of the course: On the one hand the grid feels like a cage to inspiration at this particular moment in time, on the other I can see in the painting a strong transfer of energy between my husband and my son, which I would not want to destroy now in an attempt to finish the exercise in time for submission of Assignment 4. Further progress report to follow.




Assignment 3: Feedback reflection

4 October 2016. After having received an incredibly quick, accurate and warm feedback from my tutor I feel very much strengthened and encouraged to continue on my road by keeping the general direction, but using the brakes more often to give myself the time to do much more well-thought-out and documented experimentation at sketchbook level and beyond. This is exactly what I know already and wrote down at several points in my blog, but the putting into reality has been made very difficult by the ever-increasing pressure we experience in everyday life with our son. But another very important point: My tutor told me not to worry about leaving things unfinished. This is something I did not realise before – I had thought that an exercise needed a presentable outcome, but it appears that this is not the case. This will of course make experimenting a lot freer. I feel that Part 4 of the course “Looking Out” will provide me with ample opportunity to enter a new task by setting the scene with lots of different quick painted sketches. My tutor suggested using either good quality acrylic paint or watercolours for this and I will try and adapt my inkpen thumbnails to painting. I know that I will need to loosen up and discard any finished paintings in my head to allow these processes to occur at all. We’ll see whether I will be able to let go in this way.

Now to the individual remarks and suggestions:

  1. It is true that sometimes I have a problem placing correctly and scaling down a subject to the size paper I choose. This occurs more rarely now, but may happen if I do the primary sketch of a larger-scale work very quickly, even if my sketchbook setup worked well. I will pay particular attention to this problem in the part of the course to follow.
  2. The sketchbook paintings following my research on thermographic imaging felt quite liberating for me and I will use the technique again in the next part of the course, especially where the task is the creation of a certain mood.
  3. I love combining drawing/painting and text and will follow my tutor’s suggestion to try and produce some work in that manner.
  4. I will expand on my iridescence experiments, both coloured and monochrome, to incorporate at a later point in the course, in Part 5 at the latest (for which I have already chosen a subject, where iridescence could play an important role).
  5. My tutor emphasized that I must separate with care my approaches as a caricaturist and as a painter. I will keep as a reminder my own failed attempt at combining the two!
  6. Preparatory work should occur in series and quick succession to avoid a picture in my head to dictate the outcome. My tutor suggests to first of all write a description of an  experience, then to decide whether it would be figurative and only then to make a large number of very simple sketches without a finished piece in mind at all. This is to open up a more abstract approach to working that “suggests rather than explains the image to the viewer”. I think that I know exactly what I would need to do and I can only hope that my mind and hand are ready to take this next step.
  7. My sketchbook will from now on be a purely painted, fluid, rapid one, I promise.
  8. Regarding the learning log I will try and incorporate research on the intentions different artists have.
  9. I am very much aware that my writing style does become quite personal at times, but under the given circumstances there is no way around it. This is why I take the risk to continue doing so while keeping in mind the requirements of an academic writing style. Sometimes I also feel that it may be necessary to incorporate an emotional aspect into the text accompanying the development of a work, because only then it may become possible to interpret my intentions. I will, however, be rigorous when writing up my account for formal assessment.
  10. In the next part I will continue exploring the properties of transparent layering and its influence on the transportation of the properties of light.

The artist research suggested in the feedback will be reported on in separate posts.

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.

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):

Figure 3. Leftover colour mixes

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

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):

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):

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).

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):

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).

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.


Lacher-Bryk, A. (2017) ‘Research point: Chevreul’s colour theory’ [blog]. Andrea’s OCA painting 1 blog, 3 Apr. Available at: [Accessed 20 February 2017]