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Understanding Colour 2 – Primary and secondary colour mixing

First, identify your primary colours. Begin by laying sma ll amounts of pigment onto your palette, arranging them in yellows, reds, blues etc.

Working on an area of your prepared grey ground, lay all the yellows next to each other so that they touch but don’t mix. Notice the difference in hue (the way that one colour is distinguished from another), chroma (the intensity of colour) and tone (how light or dark it is). Arrange the yellows in different sequences and how different juxtapositions alter the appearance of yellows. Make note of which is the more intense yellow.

Continue with this  exercise using both your blues and reds, you will need to mix a bit of white to see the hue of dark reds and blues properly as these pigments tend to be more transparent.

Identifying Primaries

I really should buy more oil paint colours and started working with oils for some exercises as the acrylic paint i uded for this exercise was very transparent, especially against the grey background, and I did use various brands and qualities.

Identifying Primary Colours 1

Identifying Primary Colours 1

Identifying Primary Colours 2

Identifying Primary Colours 2

I started by laying down all the yellows that I had which wasn’t a lot, lemon yellow, deep yellow and medium yellow. For blues I had Phthalo blue, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, blue hue and blue lake and reds Vermilion, bright red and crimson, there were no primaries in any of the colours, each of them showed sign of other hues and to be honest I really didn’t know what a primary red, blue or even yellow looked like so to be safe I thought it was time to buy primary colours just so I knew.

Identifying Primary Colours 3

Identifying Primary Colours 3






Identifying Primary Colours 4

Identifying Primary Colours 4

Not having much cash left to last the month the next day following day I purchased three acrylic paints made in Thailand, a red, yellow and blue. They said primary colour on the tubs, but when I got home I realised it was probably a company slogan the paints were very runny, very transparent and very ‘crap’. Still I decided to work with them for now. The red was too bright and didn’t mix well with the Louvre crimson, the yellow was too golden but the blue was ok just too runny.

Using what I had for now I laid them all down in strips touching each other and what I noticed was working in different sequences I not only got to see how each colour looked next to another, different tones etc but it also allowed me to see hints of other primary colours within their hues.

Primary Colour Mixing

Mixing Primary Colours

Mixing Primary Colours

I began by mixing yellow to red, then yellow to green and then blue to red, which should have been red to blue without white. These mixes can be seen above in the first 6 scales, the mixes were unstable (if that’s the right word) murky and transparent with no steady progress from one mix to another.

The next day I did what I should have done in the first place and bought some better colours.I was hoping for Louvre but there were no primary colours so I had to settle for liquitex which was the only brand with primary colours in stock. This time I mixed in a bit of white for each one.

Mixing Primary Colours 2

Mixing Primary Colours 2

The results were a lot better, the colours were less transparent this time, the colours at the middle were less murky and  the tones were very even with a beautiful progression in hues from one stripe to the next.

Understanding Colour 1 – Mixing Greys – Anachromatic Scale

Start by mixing black pigment into white to create a tonal scale that is anachromatic (i.e. that has no trace of colour). Work up a series of narrow lines from white through the faintest of greys to darker greys until the darkest tone is straight from the black tube. Ensure that eaxch is thoroughly mixed and joined but not merged with each other.

anachromatic scale

anachromatic scale

My first go at the scale was a mess I had been using water to dilute the paint so much in the last few exercises that it became a force of habit. After drying off the brush and cleaning my palette I made a second attempt which was much better but I felt that that there wasn’t a clear tonal progression and that the scale could be painted with less lines of tone with a more defined progression between each one. My third and 4th attempts did just this and were almost identical, so I felt no need to do anymore.

anachromatic scale notes

anachromatic scale notes

After identifying the neutral grey between the black and the white and applied the same mix to to scraps of paper which I cut from the corners and once dry I placed them at each end of the scale. What I noticed was that the grey on the scrap of paper placed at the white end of the scale looked darker than the one placed at the black end of the scale.

What I also noted from this anachromatic scale was a perfect example of the effect known as ‘Chevreul’s illusion’, the stripes seen from a suitable distance looked like channeled grooves rather than flat surfaces due to a doubling up effect caused by the left and right halves of each stripe looking lighter or darker due to the influenc at the edges of the preceding and following stripes.

Research Point 2 – Chiaroscuro

Caravaggio - John the Baptist

Caravaggio – John the Baptist

‘The term chiaroscuro (chiaro meaning light, scuro meaning dark) originated in the Renaissance when it referred to a technique .of drawing on coloured paper by building light tones with gouache and working down to dark tones with ink. It later came to refer to modeling of light in paintings, drawings and prints. The extreme contrast between dark and light areas allowed subtle graduations of tone to create illusions of volume, most notably that of the human form. Chiaroscuro became a common composition device in religious paintings such as those of Caravaggio.

‘Explore the works of some of the artists whose work exemplifies chiaroscuro effects such as Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Rubens. Look at the candlelit studies of some of the northern European artists, most especially Rembrandt and Joseph Wright of Derby. (Remember that until relatively recent, life was lived in pools of candlelight or firelight after the sun went down.) Make notes in your learning log.’

Titian Saint Jerome in the Desert

Titian Saint Jerome in the Desert

Towards the end of the 1500’s, with the new religious appreciations due to the Catholic Reformation, night scenes depicting the life and Passion of Christ became increasingly popular. The artist Titian embarked on a new technique which involved the disintegration of matter in light, particularly in night settings. He would continue to explore the dissolution of light through matter until the end of his days. The Next generation of artists would take over and perfect these dramatic effects of light and colour.

Night scenes would later become known as Nocturnes (a phrase coined by James Abbott McNeill Whistler). It describes a painting style that depicts reminiscent of the night  or subjects as they appear in a veil of light, candlelight, twilight, or in the absence of direct light.

Tintoretto - Lamentation over the Dead Chris

Tintoretto – Lamentation over the Dead Christ

Jacopo Tintoretto

Throughout his long career Jacopo Tintoretto dramatised his nocturnes by drenching them in heavenly lighting, with colours distorted by bold contrasts of light. These lively effects of lighting added drama to his stunning compositions.

Jacopo Tintoretto - The last Supper

Jacopo Tintoretto – The last Supper

Examples of this ‘supernatural lighting’ can be seen in both the Lamentation over the Dead Christ and the last supper where light is depicted coming from a source other than a natural one as to Titian’s St Jerome above which depicts natural moonlight.


Before moving to Rome, Milanese painter Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan under Simone Peterzano, a former student of Titian.

Caravaggio - Doubting Thomas

Caravaggio – Doubting Thomas

In Rome the Catholic church were in need of a stylish replacement to Mannerism in religious art, a move that they thought would help counter the threat of Protestantism (the counter-reformation), and so there was a demand for paintings to fill the many new churches and palatial buildings being built there.

Caravaggio revolutionized chiaroscuro with a radical form of naturalism combining close physical observations with a dramatic, somewhat theatrical, use of chiaroscuro this came to be known as ‘tenebrism’.

Caravaggio - Saint Jerome Writing

Caravaggio – Saint Jerome Writing

Looking at the paintings of the three artists above you can see the evolution of nocturnes and of course chiaroscuro as a major technique in night paintings. From works of Titian that used the background as an important part of the painting with figures whose forms didn’t wholly employ the technique that it would later become; to the paintings of Caravaggio who had pretty much perfected the technique, at least to where he need to be depicting up-close three dimensional compositions with a clear message that appear to almost leave the canvas.

Peter Paul Rubens

If the paintings of Caravaggio were a Drama then the paintings of  Flemish Baroque painter, Rubens would be a musical. Originally from Cologne in Germany, he was as a catholic by his mother in Antwerp, Belgium.

Peter Paul Rubens - The Fall of Phaeton

Peter Paul Rubens – The Fall of Phaeton

His paintings featured religious scenes in complicated and very dramatic compositions. Rubens became one of the leading voices for the Counter-Reformation style of painting and standing behind what he had worked so hard to ‘promote’ he stated, “My passion comes from the heavens, not from earthly musings”.

It is clear from his paintings that he was a man of faith, something was clearly moving him through these paintings, if not just belief.

Peter Paul Rubens - Adoration of the Magi

Peter Paul Rubens – Adoration of the Magi

Where Caravaggio painted close-up dramatic scenes of a biblical theme with detailed expressions and drapery Rubens’ painted religious scenes in action, depicting flowing drapery and strong movement in his figures, with complicated compositions with several main figures and even horses.

In a lot Rubens paintings it is very clear to me that he started on a dark background particularly in the two paintings that I chose here, ‘Adoration of the Magi’ and

Peter Paul Rubens - Night Scene

Peter Paul Rubens – Night Scene

‘Night Scene’ but then again I now know what I am looking for, to others that don’t,  they see every bit of the composition as if everything in the painting was completed in detail, what the eye doesn’t see, the brain fills in.

 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Rembrandt)

For the best examples of chiaroscuro in Rembrandt’s paintings one needs to look no further than his self-portraits. Rembrandt created nearly one hundred self portraits in his lifetime. Of those one hundred self-portraits seven were drawings, thirty two were etchings and fifty were paintings. Included in those were candelit studies, painting by candle light.

Rembrandt - Self portrait 1657

Rembrandt – Self portrait 1657

Rembrandt’s candlelit studies are great examples of the use of chiaroscuro, I looked at several of his self portraits the technique but ‘Self Portrait 1657’ was one that really stood out, the reasons for this being that you can see how the face and highlights in the hair and hat have been painted building up the light tones on the dark background. I can imagine him painting it, where he started and can even guess some of the brush techniques that he used.

Joseph Wight of Derby 

The artist Joseph Wright of Derby was unknown to me, as an artist that is but is name was famiiar and when I did a search fore information about the artist I came across the Joseph Wright college and it clicked.

Joseph Wright of Deby - An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump

Joseph Wright of Deby – An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump

Wright is notable for his use of Chiaroscuro, and for his paintings of candle-lit subjects. His paintings of the birth of science out of alchemy, often based on the meetings of the Lunar Society, a group of very influential scientists and industrialists living in the English Midlands, are a significant record of the struggle of science against religious values in the period known as the Age of Enlightenment. – Wikipedia

Joseph Wright  did for the industrial revolution and science as Titian, Tintoretto and Caravaggio did for the counter-reformation, ‘using their own tool against them’ comes to mind. It’s ironic that using chiaroscuro effect was the best way he could describe the candlelit scenes of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ when the chiaroscuro effect had been employed by so many earlier artists who had described religious scenes through their art. His style was very similar to Caravaggio but using more detailed, technical compositions and painting them from a distance. What makes his paintings different from earlier works however, his is exceptional use of shadows.



The 4th Asia Plus Art Exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery

I had passed the Queen’s Gallery literally thousands of times ( I used to work acroos the road) and never realised it was  actually a real art gallery. I used to think it was an art gallery styled gimmick to get money off tourists never entering thinking that they would charge the earth.

For the last two years i had been visiting the national gallery which as an appauling colection in its permanent exhibition to say they charge toutists 300 baht or somewhere near and the temporary exhibitions are not very often.

After reading tripadvisor and finding out it ws only 30 baht admission and it was allegedly even better than the museum of contemporary art i ventured down to see what was on.

the sign reàd the 4th Asia Plus Art Exhibition ‘Rhythm of Light and Colour’ 2nd October to 30th November, this is what I found on the internet.

Asia Plus Security PCL showcases the best 56 paintings from the 4th Asia Plus Art Contest under the theme of ‘Rhythm of Light and Colour’ – 6 award-winning works and 50 additional pieces that received notable praise at the contest. The theme of the annual art contest was picked to encourage younger generations of artists to be more imaginative and creative in the composition of their work.


There were 5 floors in total at the gallery, the first floor at last year’s winners on, I think as they had rosettes on and this contest was far from over.

winner from first leg of contest

Painting on First Floor

winner from first leg of contest

Painting on First Floor

winner from first leg of contest

painting on First Floor

On the second floor there was a collection of entries from the first lot of competiton. From what I could make out they had been given a choice of themes for their paintings and a guess I would say they were Surrealism, Abstract, Politics, Thai culture, Modern Culture/architecture and Landscape, I say this because these kept repeating themselves in the paintings as I walked around the gallery.

The third floor was closed and then on the 4th and 5th floor there were the next lot of competitors starting work on their submissions. It would have been good to have gone back while they were full steam to take a look at them using different techniques but time hasn’t allowed me to. I am hoping to go back and see the work that the next lot of artists produced.

The quality of work produced by these young Thai art students was excellent and very inspiring, I particularly like paintings of the traditional Thai houses. I am hoping to be able to get out and draw/paint some similar works over the duration of this course.