Assignment 4 Feedback

My initial response to my feedback for assignment 4 was ‘this is so hard’! Once again my best work is in my sketchbook and it isn’t being translated into finished pieces. Some of this better work I have identified (such as the cityscape) however some I am surprised at. For instance the doorway painting.  I didn’t think the sketches were any better (or worse). To me they are just that, sketches that I have used to try to resolve a specific issue of composition or colour. Having done this, I set out with the aim of constructing with paint – which  I felt I had achieved in parts, such with the pot plant. I would agree that the final piece looses the expressiveness of the quick brushwork of the sketches. And perhaps there-in lies the problem. My final pieces take more time and in the process of doing so I become careful of my lines and thus become to concerned with ‘reality’ of shapes. In consequence the whole painting gets overworked.  In my head I would really like to work in a much more gestural way but I am really struggling to get that out in final pieces. This has been a recurring theme throughout this module and I don’t feel I am progressing much although there is a glimmer of hope as the ‘Trees on a hill’ worked as did ‘Walking the Dog’.

I am noticing that the best pieces that I do, whether sketchbook work or final pieces, are things that I don’t spend a lot of time on. As soon as I start painting over a few days  I lose the expressiveness that I am trying to achieve. I think that this frustration goes a long way to explain the observation that I am perhaps at the point where it is easier to try new things rather than commit to a set of personal objectives. My personal objectives are very much based around acquiring a more gestural approach and that hasn’t really happened yet outside of a sketchbook. I also agree with the statement that I need to engage more with artists regarding informing my own work and I can see how the above two concepts are related!!

So what are my personal objectives? Who is Anna Pike? What kid of artist does she want to be?

In order to answer these questions here is a list of things about painting and artists that I identify with and would like to work on as development:

  • I love the drama produced by dramatic, gestural brushwork and would like to be more drawing-like in my painting.
  • I like being messy on canvas (in the same way that I like using charcoal on paper) and like the idea of wet on wet but need to control the muddiness.
  • There is something about the physicality of paint during the process of painting that I am drawn too rather than the final painting itself. This is hard to put into words!
  • I love the idea of colour but I am actually drawn to using a more somber palette.
  • I work best when I work quickly.
  • I have to be completely engaged with, and have a connection to, the subject of the painting otherwise for me it becomes an academic (!) exercise. [This is particularly hard when following a set of exercises.]
  • My three favourite artists (paintings) are Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Picasso
  • My three favourite artists (drawings) Jenny Saville, David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach

I need to find a way to move these points forward into my final assignment.



Assignment 4 Feedback

Sketchbook: Studies of trees

I have been playing around with trees on and off throughout part 4. This is a log of my studies. Whilst they weren’t completed for the exercise in which I depict trees, they form part of an enquiry in how to depict trees, information that I use in both the exercise ‘Painting from a working drawing‘ and ‘assignment 4‘.

I really like the way trees on the edge of a wood or forest stand out against the blackness of the interior, or in a thinner group of trees, the light makes great negative shapes through the tree trunks. I also did some studies of the trunks against darkness in my sketchbook. As images there are not particularly successful but as an exercise in exploring the theme and different ways to apply paint they have been useful.

I also like the atmosphere of tree shapes in the fog! I haven’t had a foggy day whilst doing this part to go out and explore this further in paint, however I did have the idea of drawing basic tree shapes in charcoal and then covering with gesso in order to paint over the top. The result (before any painting) is quite atmospheric in itself.

Tree study in charcoal and gesso

Finally I used a some oil on prepared oil paper to create a study of trees with the light shining on the trunks. I am not sure where I was going with this and the study isn’t really finished I just am not sure where to proceed with it.

Tree study in oil on prepared oil paper


Sketchbook: Studies of trees

Part 4 Painting from a working drawing

Apologies, this post should have been posted immediately before my post on assignment 4.


Chose a subject you are familiar with and make 3 drawings

  • A linear study
  • A tonal study
  • A colour study
  • Paint a final piece away from the subject and preliminary studies drawing on memory of the subject.

Preliminary studies

I took some liberties with this exercise to fit with the circumstances I found myself in. There is a copse of trees on a hillside that I don’t see very often but I have always admired it when I do see it (too far away to visit in a day). The mental image of the scene is one that tends to stay with me. I love the way that the light shines through the gaps of the tree trunks, the view of the horizon below (the hill is at the top of an escarpment) and the wind-swept nature of the trees up the hill. So when I found myself passing the hill recently with my sketchbook, coloured pencils and a tin of water colours in the car, I used the opportunity to stop and draw the scene.  I started with a simple line drawing, which I repeated twice changing the position of the trees within the frame to create a stronger composition: the trees leading off to the edge of the image. In doing these quick sketches (and they were quick) I became even more aware of the negative shapes between the tree trunks, and the light coming through which ha attracted me in the first place. The whole composition was actually very simple.  I took a reference photo and continued on my way. later, using the linear sketches and the photograph I completed a quick tonal study of the hill and trees using charcoal. It became immediately obvious that this image was one of strong contrasts. There was variation in tone in the tree tops (especially where the light fell on the top surfaces) and on the grassy hill, but the biggest contrasts were between the hill-tree structure as a whole and the sky around it. The negative spaces once again leapt out at me. I then completed a colour study in watercolour (the only paints I had with me). This was a little unsatisfactory as it was hard to get the darks dark enough and I am not very good at actually handling the wateriness of watercolour, so the light tones (denoted by lack of paint) ended up  in slightly the wrong places on the tree tops. The negative spaces also were less defined in this medium. However back home I decided to continue using this image for this exercise and proceeded to complete my final piece in acrylics.

Final Painting

Working on my success of the previous exercise, I concentrated on keeping my marks for this piece loose, fluid and quick. I worked on enquiry with paint, in this case being driven by the negative spaces between the tree trunks.

I completed this painting from memory of my sketches and only came back to look at them after I had finished. Using an A3 sheet of acrylic paper, I started by blocking in the area occupied by the trees and hill using a variety of greens and browns in quite a haphazard, loose way using broad brush strokes. I didn’t’ stick to an outline rather just covered the general area with haphazard paintbrush marks of various shades and tones. My reasoning behind this was that it was the negative shapes that really interested me and I wanted to emphasis them by blocking them in on top of the existing painting. I blocked the main area of the sky in a pale wash of paynes grey, starting to pull the form of the trees into shape. The horizon below was blocked in with a darker wash.

I then used raw umber to darken the tree trucks and emphasis the shadows on the ground and in the tree foliage. Then, taking titanium white made dirty by paint on my brush, mess on my palette and bits of wet paint being dragged on the canvas I set about defining the negative shapes of the tree line. I kept my brush marks loose in order to create an atmosphere of cloud. I also let the colours already on the paper ‘shine’ through. Finally, I consolidated some of my ideas and experiments in using other implements to remove paint, and used the side of a palette knife to scratch in the tree top highlights in a very textural way.

Trees on a Hill. Acrylic on paper


What went well…

I am very pleased with the resulting final painting. I have managed to maintain the loose style I have been aiming for and have created some interesting textural areas by scratching back. There is a sense of space in the painting, created by the aerial perspective of the horizon and the emphasis on the negative shapes around the trees. I am particularly happy with how my treatment of the negative spaces worked out. Putting them in last allowed their ‘lightness’ to be emphasised which is what had drawn me to the scene in the first place. I feel this is an enquiry into that light shining through.

The three preliminary sketches undoubtedly helped formulate this final piece. I had a strong memory of the linear and tonal sketches and drew heavily on those memories for the final piece. The colour study was less useful to me, probably because I had used the slightly unsatisfactory watercolour paints. However as I wasn’t too worried about keeping colours 100% realistic this probably wasn’t an issue.

I am very pleased that I have managed to consolidate my more successful parts of other paintings here: the sense of enquiry, the application of paint (and the removal of paint too).

I think that being away from the subject when I painted it was a great help in allowing me to maintaining the looseness and freshness of the piece. I couldn’t get bogged down in detail as I had no memory of it and wasn’t able to look it up. This was in fact quite a powerful lesson and one that I will take forward.

What could be better…

There were a couple of features that have been lost along the way that would improve this piece. Firstly, the sense of the hill receding from the viewer has been diminished from the linear sketch to the final piece. The hill now looks a little flat. More information regarding warm and cool tones on the hill-side would help rectify this. Secondly the windswept nature of the trees has also been lost. I am not sure this matters so much in terms of the subject but some of the drama of the scene is lost as a result. Whilst I was very aware of this when making my linear sketches, details are not present in the tonal or colour painting (done from photographs). It is as if being away from the scene took the importance of this from my mind and I haven’t really considered it. My trees become more upright as I go along! I could add this back in my changing the negative shape around the tree line, however I didn’t want to lose the atmospheric texture of the present skyline so have left it.

Over all I feel that this is one of my more successful paintings.


Part 4 Painting from a working drawing

Assignment 4

note: I accidentally missed out posting an excise prior to posting this one (painting from a working drawing). I have now posted that exercise immediately after this one. There is reference to that exercise in this post.

Review of previous work

The paintings that appeal to me most from this part are two finished pieces and one study:

They all have a looseness about them that I like, and is probably the primary reason for their success. I really want to bring that into this assignment. I am also very personally attached to all the places represented too and I think that has really spurred me on in this part of the course. I need to feel a connection to what I am painting. I am particularly drawn to atmospheric skies both of which are important in the two finished paintings above. The linear perspective in ‘Walking the dog’ is particularly successful and the sense of shape in space is good in ‘Trees on a Hill’ and ‘Study for Cityscape’.

I have been very lucky to see a decent body of work by contemporary landscape artist Zoe Taylor recently (inspriation for ‘Walking the dog’) and I find her work to be both inspiring in terms of creating atmosphere and in terms of mark making. I certainly think that my mark making has been influenced by her work. She uses a lot of scratches and scrapes to reveal under layers. In addition, the looseness that I am trying to create in my paintwork does bring the Impressionists to mind. I really admire the series of paintings by Cezanne of Mount Saint-Victoire . He has painted some of my favourite mountain landscapes, and this one with tree in the foreground, loosely defined detail in the middle distance and hazy mountain in the distance appeals with the general subject matter of my final assignment piece – a mountain scene.

For my assignment I chose to paint a scene to which I am particularly connected. That of the forest covering the lower slopes of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. I had been toying with the idea of this for a while whilst completing this part of the course. In particular I had in mind a view across a small valley of the  village Kaui nestled in the forest on steep slopes of the mountain. For much of the day the mountain is completely covered in cloud and you can stand on a ridge and look at the houses on the steep slopes and not realise that there is a huge granite rock behind it. However, first thing in the morning, the mountain is often clear of cloud and the dark mass rises up quite forbiddingly behind the brightly coloured houses. I wanted to get a sense of grandeur in this painting, of the dark mountain, the coloured houses and the mass of forest around.

I chose to work in oil paint as overall I think I have had more success in handling them than acrylics. I had about a week to complete this assignment so I didn’t need the paint to dry overly quickly. I also chose to paint on a better quality canvas than I have previously. I like the feel of canvas but I am very aware that you get what you pay your. Unfortunately I was unable to get a large one in time to do this assignment (poor planning on my part) and so had to make do with a smaller size that suggested by the exercise. It was a 40cm x 60 cm natural linen canvas. I like the idea of not starting with white!!

As I was working from a photograph, my initial sketches were really about finding the shapes that worked and what detail would be ok to leave out. I did a linear study and a colour study and then a tonal study to see if the general composition and overall tones would work. I had also been working on some studies of trees prior to this assignment that whilst not directly related to this piece of work, were useful reference experiments in my sketchbook (access here)

From these three studies I identified 4 main compositional areas that I needed to focus on to make this painting work:

  1. The forest foliage in the immediate foreground needs to stand forward relative to the houses, otherwise it looks as an extension of the forest across the valley
  2. The houses had a lot of pink tones in them. In order for these to appear in the mid-ground I was going to have to desaturate slightly. I had to do this without losing the light on them. I also realised during my studies that I needed to simplify the houses a little so that the painting would not be over detailed and messy.
  3. The mountain is very dark but it definitely needed to be in the background.
  4. I also realised that I needed to mix lots of different greens. I had been looking at jungle greens in different areas of the tropics. The foliage in this part of the world was very dark as the forest tended to be denser. Much of the forest  in this painting however was not closed forest as much had been cleared in the process of building the village. Light areas and individual plants could be distinguished. I needed to be careful how this was going to be depicted. Too much detail and everything could look very scrappy, not enough detail or changes in tone and the canvas would be very flat and dull.

Recognising that I was going to need a variety of cool and warm greens I had a go at mixing some. At first my experiments were a  little ad-hoc (see above) however it soon became evident that I needed to be a little more systematic with my mixing experiments so I created two colour charts making different greens from

  1. Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine blue and
  2. Windsor Blue and Cadmium Yellow Pale

I mixed the two base colours to make a mid-green colour, then added cad. yellow, cad. red, diox. purple or yellow ochre to produce a selection of warm greens (then lightened with titanium white). I obtained a selection of cool greens by mixing the mid green with lemon yellow, alizarin crimson, viridian cerulean blue or phthalo blue. I also moved these cool greens to lower saturation points by the addition of black. (please note these photos were taken when the oil paint was still wet and so these are not, as yet, labelled)

The Process

I used Payne’s grey paint heavily diluted with liguin to block in the mountain shapes with a very broad brush. Underneath this I blocked in the main forest areas using diluted sap green. Taking a rubber colour shaper I then moved the dilute paint around to create areas of lighter tone to mark out position of the houses, the various rock faces of the mountain and some foliage shapes in the foreground.

Stage 1. Blocking in colour areas

Leaving this underpainting for 24 hours, I returned and started laying down colour in a more structured way, marking out the (simplified) houses and blocking in areas of greenery with more detail. The houses were my main focal points and it was important to get the perspective of their sloping roofs right. I added more colour to the vegetation but kept returning to the colour shaper to maintain some basic shapes in the foreground and to add detail such as tree trunks to the mid ground. The colour shaper moving the wet paint creates an interesting effect of darkening the edges of a shape where the paint collects, whilst letting the light canvas show though.  I also added some cloud at this point, mainly to break up the huge mass of the mountain. I wanted it to look as if it was just starting to roll in over the ridges.

Stage 2. Laying down colour and establishing focal points

Returning to the painting a further 24 hours later, the bottom two layers now being touch dry (due to the amount of liquin I used) I started on my third layer. This time I concentrated on building the greenery of the forest, creating shapes over the underpainting marks. I painted a layer of cooler green over the middle distance forest to give the impression of it receding from the foliage in the foreground. I also concentrated on resolving issues with the houses regarding which was perceived to be in front of which.

Stage 3. Adding detail and resolving issues

The final Painting

My final stage was to add back in some of the foliage highlights that had been lost, especially in the middle distance. The mountain up until now had been quite dark. I had done very little to the initial underpainting, allowing the canvas to provide the tone for the lighter faces of the rock. However the darkest areas were almost neat Payne’s grey and whilst it certainly provided was imposing site, the mountain was not receding into the distance. In order to do this, I needed to ‘blue’ the area. I managed to do this by adding a wash of Zinc white over the Payne’s Grey. Zinc white is translucent rather than opaque and it had the effect of blueing the dark grey/black tones, immediately sending the covered area back. I left the nearest mountain ridge as Payne’s Grey which further added to the effect of receding distance.

Stage 4. Final Painting. Kaui, Sabah. Oil on canvas


What worked well

I am pleased with the end result of this painting for four main reasons. Firstly, it is a recognisable painting of the area. I showed the end result to my family and they all knew where it was. Secondly, I identified at the beginning 4 main areas of concern with the composition and I managed to resolve each of these satisfactorily throughout the process of painting. Thirdly I have managed to keep my brushwork loose and varied, I’ve not got bogged down in detail and have managed to simplify where necessary. Lastly, I have discovered a new way of moving paint around a canvas, namely with a colour shaper. I picked this up on a whim (I have often used one for blending pastel drawings so had one to hand). It worked better than I could have expected! I loved the textural way it left areas of thicker paint at the edge of the marks, and allowed the canvas to show though in other areas.

Things that could be better

There is perhaps not the energy in the brushwork that I was striving for, even through it generally they are loose in style. The fluidity  between the different areas of the painting are lacking a little. Perhaps I should have scratched more into the paint in the foreground to add more detail to the leaves?

Assignment 4

Part 4 Painting Outside

Painting outside isn’t something that I have really done before beyond a few watercolour sketches in a sketchbook. I haven’t done anything formal. Have to say that the idea of having to take stuff with me somewhere and the need to complete a painting in daylight within a strict time frame before rushing back to do whatever I have to do next (usually child related) including having time to unpack my kit does not install me with a feeling of great joy!  However I did make an attempt on three occasions. However, on the first two days I had set aside time, the weather was not conducive to painting. The first time was during a howling a gale. Trees were coming down and I made the decision not to leave the house!. The second time I had available was a miserable day and it was pouring with rain. I wanted to paint a landscape of a valley a short driving distance away. This would enable me to load the car with my kit and park up next to the view thus saving time me valuable time. On the second afternoon I ventured out in the vain hope that  the weather would clear a little. I sketched the view from the dry of the car. The rain didn’t stop! I went home.

I returned two days later. The weather was still miserable but the seemingly constant rain had turned into showers and whilst the weather was still murky, damp and chilly, I was lucky to have a relative dry period to complete this exercise. I returned to the same place, with the intent of painting the above view. However on actually getting out of the car I found a spot about 5m to the right where the trees in the foreground were more in view. I was also able to crop in on the view to leave out the near fence. I did another quick sketch of the largely unchanged view although the trees could now be a point of interest to lead your eye to the trees in the middle distance.

The actual horizon (which on a clearer day is visible above the tree line) was obscured by murky cloudy/mist. The far fields merged into this murk. I wanted to try to get this lack of horizon across in my painting.

I really didn’t enjoy the whole experience which was a shame. I found it hard to manipulate colours on a palette (paper plate) without a table as support. I found the time pressure constantly interfering with my thought processes (even through I had set an alarm to avoid exactly this) and then on top of this, I was ill-equipped: I had brought oil paints and a canvas board, dilutant (liquin), brushes and palette knives but NO tissue paper for wiping brushes (or hands). Valuable lesson, never pack your kit in a hurry (or at least double-check!!) With nowhere to put brushes down safely other than on the paper plate, they constantly rolled into the paint and the handles became covered, colours accidentally mixed and I got covered in paint. In fact reflecting back, the whole thing was slightly comical!

The upshot of it all was that all this negativity transferred into my painting which ended up quite unsatisfactory as I ran out of time before I could rectify the many things wrong with it. I would like to go back and repeat this exercise but doubt I will have the time before the end of the module.

I am a little ashamed to put this up as a finished painting – because it isn’t. The ploughed field is too warm and light and leaps forward at you, the bright grass in the distance should also be cooler (and I am pretty sure there wasn’t a white field in front of them both! The foreground trees are of a boring shape (too much like the reality) – I should have incorporated some interesting branch shapes and included a greater variety of tones. The valley itself is too bright green and appears flat rather than a hill curving away from the viewer. The depth of the valley is evident through the darkening of the green towards the bottom. The tones of the middle ground trees are probably ok, the plough field jumps forward of them causing your eyes to water! The one thing I do like about this is the sky and the disappearing horizon. You can’t tell where the actual land mass is, and this is quite how it was on the day.

Onwards and upwards….

Painting outside. Oil on board
Part 4 Painting Outside

Part 4 Project Expressive Landscapes

Creating Mood and Atmosphere


I walk my dog in the fields around my village on a daily basis. The countryside is not particularly spectacular, especially this time of year when the fields are either ploughed or lying fallow with the stubbly, decaying remains of last years crops. The leaves are starting to fall off the trees and the grass has lost its vibrancy. It’s just run of the mill, agricultural countryside. However one thing that you do notice is the sky. There is lots of it and you see weather coming long before it hits you! As an island nation we are constantly remarking on the weather. We don’t have patterns that are generally stable enough for us to take for granted, nor do have time to get used to a particular set of conditions before it all changes again. Hence the well know British obsession with the weather.

For this exercise the mood I wanted to convey, as odd as it seems, is one of ordinariness. So many landscapes are of depictions of drama, maybe huge vistas or spellbinding colour. Much of our environment isn’t like that however and as much as I like looking at all of the above, I wanted to paint something ordinary with an atmosphere of familiarity with the weather, neither a barmy sun nor a misty atmospheric fog. Somehow both of those felt more achievable! How do you make ordinary interesting to look at?

I had seen some really lovely atmospheric paintings by a contemporary painter Zoe Taylor whose expressive paintings contain a variety of brush marks and strong sweeps of paint to convey a sense of space and mood in her landscapes. Using her work as inspiration I set about investigating my own landscape.

Initial sketches

I chose a view of a green footpath along side a hedge with a ploughed field to one side containing power lines. I know the area well a chose a point at which the path rises a little then dips away into the distance. I wanted to give the viewer a sense of walking that path on an average (whatever that is) day at the turn of Autumn. I thought I could use the pylons to add interest into the image.

My initial sketch was about whether to do a traditional landscape orientation or to move to portrait to incorporate a lot of the sky that dominates the view at this point.


I was very conscious of wanting to creating loose marks that show enquiry throughout this exercise. I wanted to bring back that sense of energy and enquiring mark making that I was just beginning to appreciate in my portraits that so far has been a little lacking in part 4 (city scape study excepted).

I was undecided on the format so I started two paintings simultaneously to see which would win out. Using oil, thinned with W and N liquin (quick drying) on commercial oil paper I blocked out two compositions.

Initially I like the portrait format. with the land in the bottom third it gave loads of space for a cloudy sky. The pylons were a little lost however. I put them in by eye, meaning I moved them across from where they actually were so that they were in the image, but they felt a little cramped. Never the less I continued to layer colour on my areas to develop both images.

Intermediate stage of portrait orientation

At this point in proceedings I changed my mind about liking the portrait orientation. The problem of the cramped pylons was bothering me and I felt that whilst I was developing a sense of the place, I wasn’t getting the sense of a journey. There was not enough at the sides to guide me along. I think some of these issues could have been resolved by placing the land much further down the canvas so that the view of the land was very much truncated. However given that I had a landscape orientation developing nicely along side, I worked on that instead. Unfortunately I failed to take an intermediary photo of it.

Final Image

Walking the dog. Oil on paper


I am very pleased with the outcome of this painting. I get a sense of place, a sense of journey and a sense countryside that whilst not dramatic in any way, I would like to be in it. It has that sense of ordinariness that I was after yet it is depicted in quite a sensitive way. I have managed to keep the light,  throughout the composition, but especially on the ploughed field and on the grassy path. Consequently the air is also full of light (if that makes sense!) The direction of the brush marks were very important to the sense of journey. The clouds needed to be billowing without being overly dramatic. They are however what greets you as you walk along that path. The inclusion of power lines were more important than I thought. Not only do they add to the sense of journey, but they also add a bit of height to the foreground. The painting would not work so well without them. I scratched back to white paper in places in the foreground to give impression of near grasses. I quite like the effect although I can see that it would be easy to over do! This is something that I observed in the work of Zoe Talyor and I am pleased that I included this technique here. On the whole I have managed to bring myself back to a place of more enquiring work with this piece. It is on a slightly different register to my two successful portraits and the city scape study, but it does show development.


Part 4 Project Expressive Landscapes

Part 4 Perspective

1. Linear Perspective

For this exercise I chose to paint a view that I see regularly on my way to work, that of the High street in Chipping Campden, a well-preserved historic Cotswold’s town. I love the honey-colour of the stone especially after it has been raining and the sun then comes out again. I drew part of this High Street for exercises in Drawing 1 and I have alway wanted to have ago at painting it. I chose a less well-known part of the High street that has tall houses and an interesting kink in the road. By cropping in close to this kink you get a wonderful sense of the pavement curving around, with two different vanishing points. I am aware that my better work is quick and spontaneous, however as this exercise is about understanding linear perspective I had to take time to do preliminary pencil drawings on my support to ensure that my lines were heading to a vanishing point.

Preliminary sketch
Gesso layer

I had a large piece of mounting board which I covered with gesso to make a suitable surface for oil. I wanted to try to add texture into my painting, to give a sense of the stone. Not really how to go about this, I added another thicker layer of gesso over a brief pencil outline of my main vanishing lines. I let brush marks remain in this thick layer. Once dried, the effect had flattened somewhat but was still visible in places.

Using a mixture of payne’s grey and raw umber I then drew with my paintbrush the main lines extending to the two vanishing points. I used my pencil lines as a guide, but stuck to the lines that would ultimately be in shadow in my final piece (ie I didn’t’ do an outline of all the buildings!) I simplified the brickwork in places.


I then used a broad brush to add in thick lines of a mix of yellow ochre and white following the line of the building in the direction of the pavement, trying to construct the linear perspective with the paint and to maintain a loose brushwork style.  I repeated the process with the furthest building using the different vanishing point as a guide. Once these lines were established I then started to block in the main colours of the windows, roof, pavement and sky. I then left the painting to dry for a few days before returning to it.

Intermediate stage oil on top of gesso

My final working of this painting was to bring some of the freshness back into it. I had lost some of the lovely stone colour and the first building has developed a bit of a lean! I tried to rectify this as much as I could without losing the character of the building itself. It is still leaning a little too much though.

High Street, Chipping Campden.


What worked…

I am very pleased with the sense of journey in this painting. The pavement stretches ahead of the viewer and the bend in it is believable. The line of dark doorways and windows of the first building really help establish this distance. I have tried to maintain a looseness of the brushwork, but the essence of this is lost a little with the layering of the paint.

What was less successful…

My verticals need to be more vertical (this is a problem I had when drawing large-scale too!) I used a ruler as a guide but still managed to get a weird slope. The top line of windows does not follow a line of perspective very well. The second window on the top row doesn’t appear to be tall enough. My construction with paint also has been lost a little in the layering. The painting is quite boring as a result, not because of the subject matter but because there isn’t much energy in the piece. My preceding painting of the city scape, whilst not overly successful in its execution has more of this energy even though the paint application was quite experimental.


2. Aerial Perspective

I chose to paint a simple mountain landscape with a tall grass in the foreground from a photograph. I mapped out a quick sketch to make sure I was encompassing the three principles of aerial perspective, namely

  1. controlled loss of focus
  2. loss of colour saturation
  3. change in colour temperature

Using acrylic on acrylic paper I completed this painting. originally the sky and the far mountains were too saturated and did not show such a controlled loss of focus. I wanted to paint over the mountains and the lower sky with a dilute transparent white but only had titanium which was a little too opaque. So I painted a layer of gesso over instead, which seemed to do the trick!

‘Blackboy grass on Mount Stuart’. Acrylic on paper

I believe this shows all three components of aerial perspective, some with more effect that the others.  The foreground is in focus with a gradual haziness towards the far mountains. There is loss in colour saturation, although I lost the more saturated top part of the sky that would seem nearer to the viewer with the addition of the gesso. As it dried the seemingly darker top lightened too much. The greens in the foreground are warmer and have more yellow hues about them (interestingly the photo shows these greens to be more saturated than the actual painting appears, probably due to slightly blue conditions of lighting). There is a distinct colour shift to cool greens at the base of the middle mountains.

I also experimented using a palette knife on its edge to create interesting grass shapes  in the foreground. Looking back at this however I can see that I have lost my darks in the dry, spiky foliage.

In this particular painting, all three components of aerial perspective were useful. I can however see instances when a controlled loss of focus may be less important than the others (see for instance the work of Dora Corrington) , however a cooler colour change and loss of saturation would appear very important at denoting receding space and distance.




Part 4 Perspective

Part 4 Hard or Soft Landscape


  • choose a view of either a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ landscape
  • you can approach this objectively or explore the colours and techniques to convey something of the mood and atmosphere of the landscape you have chosen

Preliminary studies

I decided to work from a photograph of a city-scape for this exercise (Brisbane to be exact). It was an expansive view of skyscrapers along a river. The colours were what drew me to the scene in the first place and I approached this exercise with the idea of playing with those colours to create a sense of bright sunshine. My initial study was created very quickly and fluidly using acrylic paint.

Study for cityscape

From this study I identified areas that I would simplify (bottom right corner), and areas that would need more consideration (the river edge to get a sense of bending around). The  tower blocks themselves were going to be difficult. How much detail should I put it. Mostly they were apartments with balconies, so although brightly coloured and with lots of interesting shadows there was little glass reflecting light as the windows were set back in the shadows. This gave me the problem of how to deal with the patterns the balconies created ad how much detail of those balconies was needed.

I also had a compositional issue. The photograph had the nearest yellow building completely bisecting the image with the top not visible. A strong vertical cutting through the image can cut it into two. I thought that I should explore the idea of extending the image upwards to include the top this linking the two parts with sky.

I found some contemporary city scape paintings by Ricardo Galan Urrejola that I admired and used as references in creating my finished piece. In particular I was interested in the way this artist merely suggests windows and details on the skyscrapers.

On the whole my study is quite a nice little painting in its own right. It has energy and the brushwork loose and fluid. It conveys a sesne of a bright sunny day. However I wanted to be more  experimental with my final piece and try using different tools to create the long vertical lines of the skyscrapers, investigating their solid shapes against the sky. By adding thick layers of paint, I wanted to render the buildings in. Detail could then be added where needed over the top.


Working on a large (but cheap) canvas I blocked in the main areas of colour using acrylics, extending the image upwards to include the top of the yellow skyscraper. Immediately I became aware of another problem this produced, that of the skyscraper behind. It was much taller and very black. My photos didn’t include any with the top of this building but a quick internet search soon revealed that it was so much taller I would have to significantly reduce the whole format of the painting to include it in.

underpainting in acrylic


Thus I decided to allow both skyscrapers to extend off the top of the canvas. (NB. in the underpainting, the yellow building has not been blocked into its full height relative to the smaller buildings around it. Having become aware of the black skyscraper issue I was intending to leave a bit of white canvas so I could resolve the issue, but went over it accidentally when blocking in the sky!)

I decided that due to the size of the canvas and the fact I would have to work on it over several days, I would use oil paint on top of my acrylic base layer. This would allow me to continue to manipulate the paint. I used both brushes and cardboard ‘trowels’ to try to block in the buildings in one long swathe. This wasn’t too successful and I struggled to get vertical lines that were straight. This didn’t’ really matter in the study but on the larger canvas, plying paint on in this way required a straight line! The cheap canvas was also not so helpful, it was a bit saggy and the tensioning bars on the back broke when I tried to stretch it more! I also made the mistake of putting lots of darks in first, which usually works as a plan and would have been more successful if I had stuck with acrylics. As it was, when I tried to add the light tones, I found that it was very hard not to get grey tones in the paint from the dark adjoining areas. My plan to maintain manoeuvrability of the paint backfired on me.

Brisbane Waterfront
Mixed media on canvas


This was an experimental approach to this exercise. My final piece was an ambitious painting and the outcome isn’t quite as I hoped however there are parts that worked – as well as loads that didn’t. I did however learn an awful lot doing it! It was an experimental approach, something that I would really need to work on if I wanted to take forward. Thick paint is hard to handle!

What worked…

I am pleased with the self-editing I did on the waterfront, it was a complicated scene. I also like my simplification of the bottom right hand side, however this simplification isn’t carried through the rest of the painting so successfully and so there is a feeling of fussiness as you track left and up. The blue building is the most successful. It was the only one made of flat glass and there were some great reflections to work in to the image. There is a sense of the city receding back too, which I like. As an investigation in to the solid shapes of the skyscrapers then there is some merit, although I prefer the original study.

What was less successful…

The most obvious problem is the big black vertical strip of the black skyscraper. I don’t mind the yellow stripe (although it is quite acid for the rest of the palette), especially as I managed to tie the colour in by adding the bright yellow to some of the green highlights on the left and the far right. (perhaps more would have been better). The black building (which has an amazing pattern on it – which I have managed to capture but doesn’t show up in the photograph) is just too black for this painting. In my study, I changed the black to a less stark grey-green. However I got a bit hung up with the whole yellow issue that I just blocked it in without thinking about it in a blackness that is very close to reality!. I could glaze over the top with something like zinc white which is quite transparent but able to take the edge off the starkness.

I other major problem with this painting was that I ended up adding too much detail to the buildings. The problem was the balconies and the fact that most of the buildings themselves were made of non-reflective materials. I tried to suggest the idea of the stripy-ness of the apartment balconies but have just ended up with a wiggly mess. I should have left the further skyscrapers without this detail (as in the study) and only had balcony detail on the near two.

In my view, overall this final painting was not as successful as the quick study that I did in my sketchbook. I don’t think that layering on paint thickly in this manner is something that I should develop at this point. I may come back to it with more experience, I am certainly drawn to the idea but in terms of development in this module, my way forward is definitely with more fluid paint and a more loose painting style. I still ned to work to bring that forward into more considered pieces,


Part 4 Hard or Soft Landscape