Exercise:painting a landscape outside

I have been thinking about this exercise for some time.  I knew before starting which view I would tackle.  I have a regular dog route and at a particular point there is a great path which goes down and up again, receding into the distance.  This view I know very well and I waited to catch it on a sunny day.

Before heading out, on a  rainy day I tried a couple of different approaches to it from my memory, to get a feel for the shapes and composition.


using some coloured papers and a felt tip I tried to envisage the composition.



Abstracting it further with some compressed charcoal.



As the weather didn’t improve I prepared an A2 sheet with a quick layer of umber oil.





Finally we got a good day and I headed out. Taking an easel and carrying case and a bag full of paints and turps, rags, brushes and other implements.  A Sandwich a banana and large bottle of water.

Getting set up, the first thing I did was do a very quick sketch to familiarise myself with the scene again and get a composition for the picture.  I was tempted to miss this out, as I know the view, but I’m glad I didn’t.  It proved very useful to position the painting and feel my way around the amount of trees and foliage.

Really warm day…..I built up the greens before scraping on the trees.  From previous exercises and in sketchbook playing I am using more and more different implements for putting on the paint.  This is giving my surprise mixes of colours and textures and as oil is a slow dryer there is plenty of time to move it around.

These are not the greatest photos as I forgot my camera and was relying on my phone.


I used scratching into the paint for more detail and at this point I took this home, I was hot and the paint was starting to merge into a grey, I felt it probably needed to dry before tackling any more.

Once I got the painting home, I was very disappointed with the colours, the light in the forest and the sun on the canvas, combined with wearing sunglasses on and off against the glare had given me a distorted view of the colour.

Preparation for painting outside next time I will need to consider……

  • The supplies…..can I get everything into a rucksack rather than carrying a cumbersome bag.
  • Take a hat ( I was feeling a bit odd by the end of  the session as the sun was beating down on my head for about 3 hours in total.
  • Standing up is best, however as small stool might be a useful thing to purchase.  This time I was lucky as I had a fallen tree to sit on.
  • Take a camera next time …….my phone was ok but I could have taken better shots with my camera and taken the opportunity to collect other views and object i might use in further paintings.
  • Take a trial trip out to the view for sketching, I had convinced myself I didn’t need to this time as I walk this path every day, however you do look at things very differently when you are going to paint them.
  • Make myself a viewfinder.  I am aware that sometimes I get overawed by the whole view and find it tricky to just select an area to concentrate on.
  • Maybe take an ipod, the music would distract me from noticing people and when they notice the earphones they may not stop to talk to me!!  Actually this was not as daunting as I thought it would be most people are nice and think your quite brave to be doing this at all!!

I did learn that….

The sunlight combined with polarised sunglasses greatly effected the colour, or rather my perception of the colours.  This is tricky as I wear prescription glasses and my sunglasses have the prescription in them.  I will need to be aware of taking them on and off a lot more.

The little sketch I did on the spot, first, was very useful in getting positioning right.

I am pleased with the effect of scratching into the paint and have learnt to then paint on top of that too. My painting is becoming more multilayered and the area in the bottom right of the painting shows me future possibilities of this technique.

I am going to let this dry for a few days and go back in with some more colour to improve the contrast between the darks and lights and give some more definition to the trees.  I could sharpen up the foreground too, as there is not really much aereal perspective here, just a little in the top right of the picture, maybe more, would give the picture more depth.


Research point: Golden Mean/Golden Ratio

Research the Golden Mean/Golden Ratio and its applications to artistic composition.  Don’t get bogged down in the maths of this.Find out also about ‘the rule of thirds’ in landscape.Look on the internet and find some examples of landscape paintings that exemplify these compositional principles.

I read and watched many explanations of the Golden Mean/Ratio on-line and many seem to concentrate on the maths of this phenomenon rather than its application.   The ratio is 1:1.618, and this number applies to the difference between the proportions of the ‘golden rectangle, image representing this below.   These proportions have  for centuries been recognised as the most appealing to the eye. This ratio appears everywhere in nature, in art, in design, in music and in the human body therefore it would appear that it is natural for us to be more drawn to art that contains these proportional relationships.



The ratio of the whole line (A) to the large segment (B)

is the same as

the ratio of the large segment (B) to the small segment (C).

Sectioning a line to form the Golden Section, based on phi, the golden ratio

In other words, A is to B as B is to C.

This occurs only where A is 1.618 … times B and B is 1.618 … times C.

This is taken from https://www.goldennumber.net/golden-section/


IMG_1719 copyOut of interest I tried to overlay a Golden Rectangle on my most recent landscape exercise using Photoshop. The proportions of the painting aren’t a fit however I do seem to have got close without realising, luck obviously, however  this raises the question in my mind ….do artists actually think about this consciously when starting a painting? They may not, but the results are more pleasing if they fit this law.    Are all commercial canvases and sketchbooks in this proportion?  A4 paper is not, I just looked, its 1:1.41. But then again its not about the size of the canvas is it? Its about the proportions of the image within that catch the viewers eye.

Examples from the internet


George Seurat – Bathers


Salvador Dali

Dali’s painting is actually done within a golden rectangle.  The positions of the disciples on either side being at the position of the golden sections, and the table is at the golden section of the height of the painting.


The Rule of thirds is for me easier to understand, having learnt this one initially for photography.  The example below demonstrating it nicely.  Dividing the area equally with two horizontal and two vertical lines, placing the interest at the junction points and not dead centre makes for a more dynamic image.


An example of its use using Dali again….







Exercise:Creating Mood and Atmosphere


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For this exercise, either create a completely new painting that evokes a powerful atmosphere of some kind or e-work one of your earlier paintings.

I have taken a view that I see pretty much every day on my way back from walking my dog, based on the fact that it is a fairly simple view and I am hoping it has some flexibility to adapt it to fit this brief.

Staring with  a sketch, my intention is to try a couple of different approaches using what I have just seen in the last piece of research.


Doing the sketch again this time attempting to think surrealist having looked a Dali…….. i have clouds reflected in the road, overhanging branches fingerlike, sheep wearing jumpers, jumpers and balls of wool lying around, one jumper impaled on the barbed wire fencing, trees imitating clouds by their shapes.


This feels silly to me and I’m not comfortable with it, however …

I had also been looking at Graham Sutherland and was particularly taken with


The City a fallen lift shaft (1941) Graham Sutherland

this painting, the darkness and the few crisp areas that seem to punch home the point of the picture.

During the last exercise I had several rubbish attempts before the one I really liked emerged and this time I wondered if by starting two paintings together I might reach my outcome.

The left picture is the intended surrealist approach ground and the right the dark atmosphere for the warlike version. The left paint applied with brushes, the right with a credit card as with the last exercise. This approach is really loosening up my painting so i wanted to give it another try.

The next step with both versions, now I am definitely preferring the right hand version and having used the card at first, I now used the glue spreader for some finer detail. Next I start to smudge on more paynes grey to darken the sky, field and road, using my fingers wrapped in a piece of kitchen roll.



At this point Ive darkened it and added texture with screwed up paper dipped in the paint ….its not a good photo as its wet and shiny and the flash of my camera is catching in the sheen of the oil paint.  I need to let it dry for a bit.


Whilst drying I took a photo and loaded it on my ipad.  I wanted to darken the picture further and thought this might give me a clue as to what would happen.  Just gently smudging around with dark grey, blue and then rubbing out, with a view to remembering where the moon is (moon as opposed to sun as I had decided it was a night time picture). This feels as if I’m looking at the field through smoke, or dark fog. The separation created by the opaque marks adds to the atmosphere. I may not be able to do this with paint, but it has helped me decide to try.


I scrubbed paynes grey and venetian red all over with a cloth and turps and then tried a gel pen for high lights which of course didn’t work. Compressed charcoal gave me a nice black for the barbed wire and white oil for high lights.  I’m struggling to photograph it as its wet again ….

Below taken with my mobile which seems to work better.


My picture has now turned from a pretty view to a dark, night view.  The deliberate choice of few colours and changing the trees in the distance to more burnt out stick shapes and the emphasis of the fence and wires giving it a war like feel having been looking at Graham Sutherland this feel was entirely intentional.  The use of mixed methods inspired by the lines within the paint and the mark making on his work.

I have made all of this picture without a paint brush.  Credit card, glue spreader, fingers, cloth smudging.  Then charcoal.  Surprises happened all the time with this method, colours mixed in unexpected places. Embracing what happened and going with it was very freeing.  Also adopting the little device of starting two pictures and then abandoning one, served a useful tool.  The abandoned one served as my warm up and I felt no qualms about leaving it behind, as the other took control and became my focus.



Research Point – Landscape


For this research point we are asked to:

  • Look at the eerie, dream-like landscapes painted by the Surrealists.
  • Consider the work of some artists who have sought to express the more emotional and subjective aspects of landscape.
  • Look at landscape paintings by the german expressionists.


Surrealist painters did not just use the elements of landscape from nature, but also from the subconscious mind/the imagination.


Swans Reflecting Elephants, 1937 Salvador Dali

The swans on the lake become elephants in the reflection in the lake and the tree trunks the elephants legs.  The bends of the swans necks/elephants trunks are echoed in the branches of the trees. The lake is much richer in colour which seems to emphasise its stillness. The scene feels very dry despite there being water, I think this is achieved by the difference in the colour in the water as opposed to the rocks and desert behind.  I am not quite sure about the water’s edge the whole bottom half of the painting is at first glance,the lake, but logically it can’t be. This adds to the jarring effect of the painting.  The clouds are figure-like and yet the rocks seem very realistic.


Forest and Dove, Max Ernst 1927

This painting by Max Ernst, was created using Frottage (rubbing) over objects to create the dark and forbidding forest.  Not being able to see the real painting I am left wondering if the Frottage areas are collaged over the top of the blue sky and it appears that there is an element of separation. The bird does appear trapped and frightened amongst the dark trees.  I don’t think we can get the full effect of a painting like this on the computer screen, to fully appreciate the textures you would need to be up close to the actual work.


Totes Meer, Paul Nash 1940-41

The title means Dead Sea.  Apparently this was taken from photographs that the artist took at  a dump of wrecked aircraft at Cowley in Oxfordshire. The colours in between the wings and pieces of twisted metal are sea like, and the points evoke crests of waves. The whole sea is a symbol of the end of life the wrecked war planes seemingly crashing against a shore, bringing to mind add that could have gone before this point. The shape of the sea as a whole forming a triangular point which also alludes to a wing of a plane. The colours are muted, soft and cold as is the sky above the scene.


Devastation, 1941 East End Street, Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland’s painting above is his reaction to the streets in the East End of London after the London Blitz. Very limited palette and large areas of black adding weight to the gloom of the scene and forcing us to focus on the devastated buildings. The building remains are painted in a sickly yellow/ochre which I feel adds to the grimness and highlights the sad areas, empty where once there were families,  as if spot lit.

There are a lot of different kind of marks over the painting as if the artist were searching for ways to express his feelings about he scene, these also serve to make us look around the picture.

Three landscape works above by Gustav Klimt.  I had only known this artist for his figurative work up to this point, they are highly decorative/decorated portraits, mainly of women.  Looking at his landscape work, I am struck by how much detail/colour there is, in fact so much that the landscapes actually be come a pattern themselves as in the picture top left of the tree trunks. Lots of spots of colour, almost pointillist in style.  The picture of the houses on the edge of the lake has lots of colour on each object, no flat one colour surface, the whole thing tied by a blue hue. The trees in the third picture completely dominate the building at the end of the drive.

Looking at these five artists brings the realisation that there are so many ways to interpret a landscape, other than in a literal sense.







Sketchbook for Part 4 (to be continuously added to)




Covering pieces of corrugated card from old boxes with gesso then acrylics to be used for experimenting.


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Bored sitting in the hairdressers


Importing my painting and painting over it ….ipad playing



Trying to draw my dog with ipad


very loose sketching from the tv with ipad


another loose sketch with ipad from news on tv = v fast

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Took the view that I did for the exercise on aerial perspective and had another go, this time using large piece of sugar paper and oil applied with a credit card and glue spreader, scratched into with my wok brush.  This took an hour ish and I loved doing it. I have pared down the view to just a few shapes and worked quickly and energetically.


Having a go at squaring up at art group.


Another try with the Ipad


Glue Spreader Practice



ipad practice





Corrogated card smeared with red acrylic then oils


a doodle exercise…..blobs of ink made into imagined creatures


outside viewed through individual leaded light panes of my art room window.

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Trying oil much thinner, mixed with a thinner, brushed on and scrapped into with a sculptor molding tool, then tried to see what spraying thinner on would do…nothing….then drawn over with compressed charcoal.

Sketching for fun using watercolour first, conte pencil and then black ink

Exercise: Aerial Perspective


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Paint a simple landscape in which you exploit the three devices of aerial perspective.

  • Controlled loss of focus.
  • Loss of colour saturation.
  • Use of colour temperature.


I had done some research into aerial perspective during the drawing module, to refresh myself and to practice glazing with oil paint I followed a tutorial found on you tube.  Making up a fictitious landscape, painting it first in grey tones and then glazing with pink and blue.

I had to let the painting dry completely between each stage,, I can see the possibilities of enriching colours with the glazing technique, my use of it might be limited by the fact that I have little patience. Perhaps the answer would be to have several paintings on the go at once.

Heading out for my first real attempt at painting “en plein air” on a glorious day I made a neat discovery.

 The rear windscreen of a Ford Fiesta makes a perfect easel !! 🙂       (if you can park suitably of course)



I first did a sketch in colour pencil to familiarise myself with the view.


I began painting using another of my prepared bits of card and immediately regretted its use. The board was very light and the oil paint seemed to slide more on the acrylic surface than I’d experienced before. Whether it was the warm weather, or my inexperience or both, but I got very messy. I struggled to use paints outdoors and the whole business was much more awkward, trying to mix colour, keeping everything to hand.  I need to try to think of a way to keep everything organised, and expect over time every artist develops their own carrying kit. However, I was lucky with the weather so ploughed on.


I hadn’t quite got enough of the aerial perspective, not enough difference between the near and far and the paint was now too wet to alter much, as each colour smudged into the next.  So I grabbed a twig from the floor and tried scratching into the surface.


This had little effect, disappointed I took this home.  The scratching may have worked better if I’d not already had green and my ground colour.  Back to the drawing board……

Another day, another attempt.  Still good weather so out again to the same spot.


This time using view differently, portrait instead of landsape, and on a board with flat surface. I had tried mixing Gesso with acrylic paint to get a better tooth for the oils.  Drew the scene very roughly in chalk first.



Not a great painting but this achieved the aerial perspective better than yesterday.  I was getting very cold so packed up and took it home.


I have used the loss of focus and colour,and deliberately made the distance trees a bluer tone, however, I am very disappointed in the picture. I am finding the trees difficult this time of year, no leaves and from a distance they are just a fuzzy blur of twigs which is proving difficult to portray.



Final picture after more scratching to try to portray the wispy twiggy effect of the leafless trees. Added in the remembered fence posts and darkened the foreground hedging which has helped a little to distinguish the nearer.

Learnings this time.

  • Oils are very tricky outdoors… you cannot obviously have any drying time so pre planing the layout of the pic is more important.
  • Over painting additions have to happen later when you get home.
  • Scratching will be useful – but this will be conditional on the ground colour.
  • I did use a wok brush (useful for paralell lines)- of all things – for some of the scratching and twigs from the ground – so using what is nearby is an option to be exploited
  • take layers, clothes wise, as the temperature changes and you dont get warm standing still painting.
  • People are curious when they find you in the woods painting…..just go with it…..
  • Its harder than I thought, my trees need work.
  • and of course my rear window ford fiesta easel 🙂



Footnote: A day later….this happened….scrubbed on using credit card….written in sketchbooks section of blog.  Was starting to clear up from the exercise and using up the paint.  This has now happened a couple of times.  I’m wondering…. do I need to go thorough all the other stuff before I get to this… I really like it and really enjoyed doing it…


Exercise: Linear Perspective


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Linear perspective…..I know that I struggle with this.  I had some hiccups with it in the interior section of this module. Whether because of that or a dislike of buildings, I was not looking forward to this exercise……

Before starting I refreshed my self on perspective by looking at some tutorials on the internet…….you tube always has something ….





I set out with sketchbook yesterday just walking around the estate I live on.  There are lots of hills and curves in the streets, this made it rather trick to find my horizon.

At the top of one hill I was taken by the roofs of the houses.  Took the sketches home and played with one of my bits of cardboard I had prepared using gesso and acrylic coloured ground, to see how this might go. Using the scrap cardboard did encourage me to play and not be so precious worrying about materials.



The corrugated board gave me its shape /texture through the paint no matter how many layers.  Sometimes this was useful sometimes not. It gave me the tiles on the roof and the bricks but not so great in the sky.

Scratching into the wet oil paint revealing the acrylic underneath, gave the ability to  draw  the picture, as oil is wet a long time this could help with getting the lines in the correct places for perspective if I was to use it going forward.











I had been drawn to the different shapes of the roof tops, but didn’t feel they were very successful here.

I liked the lamppost from this angle acting as a sort of half frame to the picture.









At this point this view didn’t really fill the brief and I went out to scout for something that did show the sense of receding space.

My next outing was into our nearest industrial estate by car.  There would certainly be plenty of lines on the large building there.  I grabbed a couple of sketches and some photos as the weather began to deteriorate .

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First sketch in order to try to work out where the horizon was and make sure everything was going in the right direction.




Second more detailed with compressed charcoal from a slightly different position to try to find my composition.





Taking another of my prepared bits of cardboard I began to just use white and paynes grey to sketch out the picture.


adding a touch of blue and yellow ochre and orange.  This time the corrugated card needed more paint as the texture wasn’t really helping at all.


Adding more colour and starting to scratch into the surface as a way of helping the drawing. I have cropped this image and feel that this would be a better composition.  The advantage I found of working on card – useful again  as it stops me being too precious about the work, also working on a piece that is too big and an odd shape has not forced me to try to fit my picture into a preset rectangle.

I am tempted to leave it at this stage, more fiddling may not help. As an exercise I am pleased to have an image that does convey perspective with buildings, and shows receding space.  The building facing the view on the straight plane is a little too large I feel.


Final painting…..I did go back and touch up darks and lights, added some more directional information on the road area with hints at road markings, and added the canopys to the door areas of the buildings. The directional marks on the road do help to take one into the picture and emphasise the perspective.  The building at the end is definitely a touch too big otherwise considering my run in with perspective before, I am happy with the outcome.







Exercise:hard or soft landscape


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For this painting exercise, choose a view of either a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ landscape.

This is pretty difficult at the moment.  Its February and very cold and the weather is very unpredictable.

I began by going out with my sketchbook when possible just to get used to working outside.

I have been enjoying using biro and so for the first picture above I took out a small bottle of ready mixed Ochre, acrylic paint.  First adding the paint and then drawing over in biro.  The second third and fourth pictures were done the next day in a different spot, but with watercolour laid first and then biro.  It was much colder the second outing, despite a flask of coffee.  The view of the the fields in green and blue was done outside, but my fingers were numb!  I retreated to the car for the second two sketches and the trick now would be to find a good view I can see from the car!!

Whilst I wait for decent weather, its pouring again today, I resort to the internet for research…….

……..I looked  at the work of John Virtue on the internet and admire the wild expressionism of his work, the black and white pallet and the feeling that he has screwed up his eyes and just picked one feature of the view to paint clearly.  I took as simple photo from the internet, whilst trawling industrial England and did a charcoal sketch, trying for just an impression of what I was looking at, with no great detail, rubbing out the charcoal with my fingers and going over it again.

707_360.jpgJohn Virtue1ec5124a335baea7f8a404b2a38ec4ed.jpg


I was encouraged by the result and tried and acrylic painting with just Black and White again trying to not be too literal and working very quickly.


I had put some newspaper on the page as a ground and although I obliterated it with the paint, as it dried you can see the lines of the edges of the strips, these are rather happy accidents which I feel add to the atmosphere of gloom and decay.

Little bit of sunshine today, so I ventured out in the car.  Found a spot by the local reservoir that I could try from the comfort of the car.DSC_0008.jpg

I had laid an acrylic wash the night before and started to layout the picture in oils.  The smell of the solvent in the enclosed space gave me a headache, but at least I had started “from life”.   Unfortunately, It began to rain so I headed home again.


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Taking the picture home I then tried to add some more from memory and began with the sky and water.



It looked a little better, but I wasn’t very happy with it.  I  did like the fact that the fence framed the view   In the real scene there was a lot of bramble and dried grasses by the fence which almost obscured the reservoir. But I really didn’t feel inclined to work on it further .



I picked up my sketch book and a glue spreader and used up the paint I had on my pallet by trying to do the scene again using this painting as a guide.


I very much like the quick painting in my sketchbook.  The colours are not as realistic, however there is more immediacy about it and it feels more outdoorsy as if standing in the wind. This has more atmosphere and, like the picture of the row of houses demands to be looked at in order to see the scene ………everything is not ‘spelt out’ for the viewer.DSC_0005.jpg

What I have learnt from this exercise.

  • I feel that my painting works better if it is not laboured…ie more spontaneous.
  • Its not always a brush that I prefer.  Using the glue spreader, not unlike the edge of a credit card in the first exercise is fun and make interesting marks, open to interpretation by the onlooker.
  • By taking more time with the exercise  and experimenting, I have found some interesting outcomes which are not as literal as some of my earlier painting.





Exercise: View from a window or doorway


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Choose a view onto the world. Decide how much of the interior you wish to include and where the main focus of the picture will be.


My initial thoughts for this exercise, apart from the fact that I am glad to be inside as its freezing at the moment, were to move about he house and do some thumbnails of the views from various windows.  Reflecting on these:

  • Many of the windows in my house have lead diamonds….how am I going to cope with these, do I include or ignore completely.
  • At the moment it’s snowing so it’s not ideal. I may have to wait for it to melt, in the meantime work on tonal studies etc,
  • using my front windows from the dining room will be easier in terms of set up and the other rooms will interfere with “life”
  • No 1 thumbnail is dull, just using the window as a frame…really need to use more of the inside as a contrast.
  • 3,4 & 5 I like using an angle, it takes you more into the picture.
  • 3 initially is a little boring, but perhaps a linear approach would be interesting here.
  • 4 & 5 increase the angle of the window?
  • 4 hubby’s car is a little too dominant..he’ll have to park differently if I choose this one!

Taking the view from our patio window (as there is no leading on this window) from the thumbnail I had identified that this view could be quite a linear picture, doing it  quickly in felt tip over watercolour it’s becoming almost abstract.  The second picture is at a friend’s house, painted quickly in acrylic.  Then immediately again, below in a watery acrylic on a textured paper.

I used a wide flat brush and just let it make the marks holding it very loosely.  After that I added the window frame in white acrylic which sadly lost the top of the tree.  But this made me think that the view works better if it’s not so tightly drawn. There is an almost stencil like effect going on here.



I went back to the first view with a white gel pen and black cartridge paper.  There is something drawing me to this view.  The  eye follows the strong  downward line of the frame of the window with light on one side and then goes diagonally left and up and then diagonally right and up, almost like an inverted number 4.







Looking back at the brief we are asked to briefly look at the work of Raoul Dufy.


The first painting of the three above is entitled La Fenetre. A view through a window to a beach and sea.  It looks like very basic coloured grounds have been laid down and then drawn on with paint in a simplistic style using only one or two colours. With the third painting the colour underneath the drawing delineates areas but is not so precise and the drawing sometimes crosses the colour.  The picture below, entitled Open Window illustrates this better, if you thought the line went on first it would look like a child’s attempts to keep within the lines.2025_3165717.jpg

Bearing this style in mind I go back to my view through my patio window.


As an experiment and due to drying times with oil paint I started three versions at once.  The central pic I washed over with an ochre and started in with quick loose brush work, fairly muted pallet.  The version to the right I wondered if I just started with the shapes as opposed to lines and the version to the left I was consciously thinking of brightening the colours and just blocking in some large ground shapes.



Taking the picture on the left I then started drawing over with a dark blue, not wishing to use black.  I have not chosen a thin enough  brush, but was committed once I realised this. I have deliberately not gone to the edge of the paper giving it a sketchy appearance.






Final picture.

  • Quite graphic looking, flat appearance as I have used no tone as in the Raoul Dufy paintings
  • Using the drawing over method, the brush chosen was too thick.
  • Only realistic part is the window frame which really divides the outside from the inside.
  • Interesting that I returned to the thumbnail that I had thought at first I would ignore.
  • Curtains very unsuccessful.
  • Exaggerated the colours in reality it was a very dull brown/grey scene.