Part 1: What paint can do. Project: Basic Paint Application

Getting to know you brushes

brush marks in acrylic on canvas

Holding a brush after nearly two years of drawing felt very weird. I do not have much experience of painting, although I have lots of inherited paints. I originally joined OCA to do a painting module but was persuaded to start with Drawing Skills 1. I certainly don’t regret that but I am immediately feeling uncomfortable with this module. I know that I am starting from scratch when it comes to actually applying paint to paper. In the brush mark exercise I used acrylic paint but mostly it is oils that I have.

Landscape from memory
Landscape from memory in oil on canvas sheet

I found this difficult simply because I couldn’t hold an image in my head to paint from. In the end I have just made lots of different marks with the brushes which sort of correspond to a landscape. The clouds I created by dabbing the oil away with a tissue.

Pear in oil
Pear in oil

I enjoyed this exercise, although I still have no idea how to control the paint. I understand a little about thinning of paint but as you can see by the background to the right I have obviously used too thin a paint as it has run whilst left to dry on the easel. I deliberately left this part of the background loose with wide strokes but I didn’t expect it to run. It doesn’t show up so well on the photograph but i used a flat brush to draw in the form of the pear on the lighter left hand side. Unfortunately I had to move this whilst it was still wet and in the process of leaving it flat to dry further the stalk got smudged. What I haven’t shown here is many different types of brush stokes, although i did use a variety of brush sizes and shapes to achieve the form and background. Once I had time to look at this piece I came to appreciated the drip marks more. they add a bit of texture to the painting.

Applying paint without brushes

Painting without brushes in oil on canvas sheet
Painting without brushes in oil on canvas sheet

For this exercise I ended up with what looks like a mess, but i did layer paint on, take it off and layer it on again. I used a variety of palette knives, scrapers, a toothbrush, a rag, some old plastic tools from a child’s clay carving set, and my fingers. I used the same painting, finding different ways to layer the paint on . The colours were a bit muddied by the process in places (there was no design to my colours, I was using up bits that I had in odd tubes, including a large tube of very old burnt sienna).Eventually a vague form of a lady reclining formed in scrapped off paint, but I stopped because I was actually tending towards drawing in the paint rather than painting in the paint!

Painting with pastels

Pear in oil pastel with turpentine on canvas sheet
Pear in oil pastel with turpentine on canvas sheet

For the painting with pastels exercise I chose to use oil pastels as I have done lots of soft pastel work in the past (and for drawing 1). I find oil pastels hard to fathom out, they can be very waxy and unresponsive especially when cold. I chose a more unusual view point, that of looking down on a pear (the result is that several people has seen this and commented on the ‘onion’!) making sure I was in a warm room I layered the colours down both on top of each other and next to each other. I blended the colours with my fingers dipped in turps (health and safety??), with a soft rag dipped in turps and for some colours, blended them in directly by dipping the pastel into the turps. I am pleased with the effect that the canvas tooth has had on the result: in places the tooth shows up more (less medium caught on the surface), This helps define the form, although again it doesn’t show so well in the photograph. I did loose my highlights in all this, I didn’t seem to be able to get a bright area without it being really white. The pear was lit by overhead light only so the tonal value range was less than it would have been with a spot light.


  • Early days I know but I am missing drawing! I know that drawing will be of huge benefit to painting and indeed I can bring with me my newly acquired sketchbook and research skills, but the actual manipulation of paint is problematic for me at the moment.
  • there is more to painting than just adding paint! The drip marks caused by the thinner may be something that I can explore further should the exercises allow. There is a randomness to the marks that I liked when using fluid media in DS1
  • Space is also going to be an issue. I have oil paint, but it is taking an age to dry and I have no where suitable to keep it safe during the drying process. I discussed space with my D1 tutor and he identified that I will need some dedicated space if I am to progress to a higher lever.

[Update: With that in mind I have spent my free time clearing and boarding our attic (no mean feat). I have no natural daylight, but I now have a space I can call my own (see below) and can at least leave everything out without it being disturbed.

My new studio - shared with Percy the snake!!
My new studio – shared with Percy the snake!!

It has put me back time wise, hence bulk posting on my blog but I hope that is has been time well spent].

Part 1: What paint can do. Project: Basic Paint Application

2 thoughts on “Part 1: What paint can do. Project: Basic Paint Application

  1. Hi Anna and thank you for sharing your frustration too. I have just started on POP after Drawing 1. This is what I have been dreaming of for so long but now I am really struggling with brushes and paints not behaving as I expect them too, and also haven’t managed to sort out a studio space yet. Reading that you had a similar start helps! And I really love your work 🙂


    1. Hi Clara, I hope you find a way! I am afraid I still haven’t and am not really enjoying the course as a consequence. I have also been away all summer and am only getting back into it so that hasn’t helped (hardly the oca’s problem!!). Still, I continue to daub paint on surfaces in a vein hope!!! Thank you for your kind comment! Best wishes and good luck with POP1 x


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