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Assignment 2 – Demonstration of Colour, Tone, Composition and Technique

9 Finished Painting in Acrylic on Board

Finished Painting in Acrylic on Board

Brief for the assignment 

Your painting for this assignment should demonstrate your understanding of colour, tone, composition and the development of your technique in your chosen medium.

Set up a still life in the corner of a room or table. Alternatively, you may want to develop one of the sketches or exercises that you have done in this part of the course.

Choose your painting medium and decide on the format and scale of your painting. Work on treated paper, card or canvas (at least A3) in either portrait or landscape format. Choose the background colour that you will use.

Draw the main shapes with a brush paying particular attention to:

  • your viewpoint
  • the direction of the light source
  • highlights and shadow (tone)
  • the relationship between objects and the background
  • the mood you wish to convey

My Subject

1 - Original Sketch from Drawing in Paint

1 – Original Sketch from Drawing in Paint

I wanted to develop an earlier sketch, which I did note in an earlier exercise. The sketch was of the basket in which I keep my acrylics and the tubes of paint inside. In that particular sketch I had used line, I wasn’t sure I would use it in the finished painting but it was definitely something to think about.

There was a problem with developing this sketch though and that was I had drawn it in the day I had drawn shadows but I wasn’t particularly paying much attention to the light source direction and so I thought it may be wise to start a fresh but using the same subject.

Colour Studies and Development

3 - Rough Study Influenced by Glenn Brown

3 – Rough Study Influenced by Glenn Brown

I wanted to demonstrate my understanding of most of what I had learnt through this part of the course in this piece so this time I decided to paint some of the surroundings as well for perspective set up the subject again on the monks cloth and set several more random items at the side of it that I could consider putting in the assignment piece which included a glue-stick, a small striped box and the remote control for the air-conditioning.

Glenn Brown - Ride with the Devil Sympathy for the Poor

Glenn Brown  Ride with the Devil, Sympathy for the Poor

The weave of the basket gave me an idea, I had been looking through vitamin P2 and came across work by the artist Glenn Brown and liked the way he seemed to use layers of thick paint to give his paintings texture and sense of three dimension and thought that this could be something that might work in my assignment piece.

After my not so brilliant attempt at a colour study influenced by the artist (see figure 3) I realized that it was probably not an ideal technique for acrylic paint which is what I would be using for this assignment.

Grey City 2 - Ziga Kariz

Grey City 2 – Ziga Kariz

Another painting that really caught my eye was Grey City 2 by Ziga Kariz, not really because of the style of his painting but because of his choice of colour blue, I wasn’t sure if I had really been successful in what the brief of the Still life with colour used to evoke mood exercise and this was probably a chance to have another go at that at least in a study if not the final piece.

4 - Study Inflenced by Ziga Kariz Grey City 2

4 – Study Inflenced by Ziga Kariz Grey City 2

This led to my next drawing in watercolour in my mixed media sketchbook over two pages something I hadn’t yet tried out. The drawing was really rough and didn’t take me long to complete but what I did learn from it was that firstly, I would use be using mainly blue as ‘blue’ was the mood I wanted to depict in my painting. I saw the tubes of paint inside the basket as being trapped inside the basket and the tube in front as escaping but not yet free and that is what I wanted to put across.

Secondly I wanted to make use of line, I really thought that outline would be something worth experimenting with in this painting and the original drawing and the first two studies told me to stick with it.

6 - Acrylic Paint Colours Closest to Watercolours

6 – Acrylic Paint Colours Closest to Watercolours

The water colour study in my sketchbook was painted with a field set and only had one blue so I squeezed several blues out from watercolour tubes and painted squares of each colour. I tried to stick to colours as close to the Grey City painting as I like the mood they portrayed. The colours I thought I would be using at this stage were Ultramarine (which I ticked in the image on the right), mineral blue (not sure if they had this in acrylic colour) and Prussian blue (which is directly under ultramarine in the photo).



5 - Watercolour Developed From Sketchbook Study

5 – Watercolour Developed From Sketchbook Study

With the colours identified I went on to see how these colours would look in a painting by doing another watercolour study on A3 paper with the chosen hues. The result was that I tried ultramarine in a small part of the painting but then decided not to use it and to omit from the final piece.

At this stage I still wasn’t sure whether I would be including the other items from the still life composition in the final painting.

Working on the Final Painting

Materials used:

  • A1 Card
  • Acrylic Paint, Ivory Black, Titanium white, Primary Blue, Prussian Blue
  • Brushes, a range of brushes in different sizes both synthetic and hogs bristle
  • Medium Acrylic Gel

I chose to do the final painting on board as I had plenty of it left from backing my wwork for my Drawing 1 course formal assessment. In the last watercolour study I left a white border which I really liked plus there was a lot of white showing through from the background which helped depict the light reflecting off the paint tops and the basket and so unlike my last assignment and previous paintings for this one I decided to use a white background and so treated the card with gezzo and then a coat of white.

7 - Drawing in Paint

7 – Drawing in Paint

When it came to painting in acrylic there was no mineral blue but primary blue mixed with a certain amount of white had the same hue, so that wasn’t a problem. I began the painting by drawing the main shapes with a dilute mix of primary blue. There were plenty of errors and I would soon find that the position of the tubes of paint  (and they were positioned, not just thrown in) made them unconvincing as tubes of paint so I had to think of how I would make their forms more visible.

8 Developing the Background

8 – Developing background and contents

On the second day I painted over the basket and this time repainted the basket with paint mixed with a medium gel, this helped to depict the texture of the woven basket.  Then I began to experiment by painting duplicates of the upright bottle in the centre to see if it improved the look of the contents on the inside of the basket. It made it worse, this time the contents looked to organised, to artificial and too overcrowded.

I continued to work on the cloth, shelf and basket so I could see the whole picture this helped me to decide on how to tackle the contents of the basket.

Contrary to what my colour studies told me I used more primary blue than any other colour. I found that by using a neutral primary blue and white mix and then going over it with white on a try brush using a scrumbling technique gave me better tones than using different colour mixes, it also ensured that I could get the exact colour that I wanted from the blue and white. I could then use layers of primary or Prussian blue for the darker areas where needed such as on the folds of the cloth.

Working on the contents of the basket again I decided that it was best to paint just a few of the upright tubes with the others laying down in the background. I painted the darker shapes first with a mix of primary and Prussian blue and then then highlighted with lighter mixes using white this gave me the outlines.

I could now see that the painting was developing into something completely different to what I had planned and I really liked the way it was coming along. The paint tubes gave the painting an almost three dimensional cartoon feel, with soft but bold shapes and so I carried on with this continuing the same kind of technique with the cloth. I then added more light to the folds of the cloth to make the folds look bolder the result of which reminded me of the hills in Grant Wood’s paintings.

Still Life with Remote Control

Still Life with Remote Control

I then painted in the tube of paint to the right and the remote control but then decided to paint it out. The reasons for me doing this were one that I could not get the perspective of the remote control right and two I saw no point painting the glue-stick and box on the other side so the best way to level out the still life was to remove everything other than the main subjects.


9 Finished Painting in Acrylic on Board

Finished Painting in Acrylic on Board

Lastly I worked on the shadows to the right of the subjects and for me this was the most difficult part. The reason for this was that in the painting I had exaggerated the light in order to give me bolder forms as well as to emphasize the mood of the painting. In the actual still life the shadows were quite short and fell just past the tube of paint to the right of the cloth but because I had  ‘stretched’ the light to the right of the basket I wanted to stick this by making the shadows longer as I did with my final piece for Assignment 5 for Drawing 1 where I found that  accentuating the shadows  made the mood stronger.

I painted the shadows with a mix of primary blue and black applied in thin glazes with a flat brush and shaped the shadow on the back wall so that it would depict the light being blocked out by both the cloth and the basket in a continuous shape. I think I managed to pull it off but I don’t know if it will be convincing to viewers as it is to me.

Things I like about the finished painting

It’s different to anything I have done before. I have never made use of line in a painting or drawing before and I like the way it turned out. It didn’t turn out as I expected but I was experimenting throughout the assignment from initial studies to the final piece, not just with line but also with colour and form. I feel that I have managed to evoke the mood that I intended to and the white boarder adds to this.

Things that I am not sure about

I am still in two minds to whether I should crop the painting as maybe I zoomed out a bit two much. If i had zoomed in more and painted the basket bigger like in the original sketch I could have spent more time on the detail and the subjects would probably look a lot looser. I’m still not sure whether there is enough shadow on the painting.


Colour Relationships 2 – Successive Contrast

Successive Contrast

Successive Contrast

This is something that we encounter a lot but we don’t think about how it happens. The first part of the brief tells us to find or paint a large area of bright colour, stare at it for 30 seconds and then close your eyes and wait for an after image to appear. Because I chose red the after image that appeared was the complimentary colour green.

Successive Contrast - Flourescent Pink

Successive Contrast – Flourescent Pink

From there I painted an isolated square of my most vivid and intense pigment, which happened to be fluorescent pink, I did the same with this then after 30 seconds I shifted my gaze to a white space on the same paper, the after image that appeared was an intense turquoise, Its complimentary colour.

These effects are caused by the stimulation and exhaustion of the receptors in the retina. By Exhausting the receptors for red, for example, only the remaining combinations of colours that mix to produce blue green are seen when you turn from looking at red to looking at white.

White light, as Newton showed, is made up of all the colours of the spectrum. The human eye has full colour discrimination through the rod and cone cells. The rod cells in the Retina distinguish light and dark, while the three types of cone cells respond to red, green and violet which make up colours.



Still Life 3 – Still Life with Flowers

For this exercise I was to set up a still life with flowers that could remain in place for a day or two, keep the arrangement simple. Notice the outlines between things – Negative shapes – and try to create interesting and varied spaces and interesting intervals between the objects in my arrangement.

Subjects and Composition

Due to the shopping mall where I work being shut down for refurbishing I was a bit stumped on where I could find some flowers for this exercise but while having a stroll around my apartment complex looking for interesting flora to make a flower arrangement I came across a white flower with a yellow centre growing on a tree in the grounds of the next apartment which I know know to be a type of Plumeria called Frangipani so I went out when it was dark with a pair of scissors and clipped a few off.

When I got them back to the room I realised they weren’t enough by themselves so I went out and found another flower, Heliconia that when closed reminded me of a crab claw to add to the arrangement, These in a vase together with my christening silver and placemats that we brought back from England with us were all I needed to make an interesting composition.

Subjects used in the composition:

  • Silver serviette ring
  • Silver egg cup
  • Silver Spoon
  • 2 Simple floral placemats
  • Vase with Flowers
  • 1 Egg

By using the subjects I chose was to set up a fresh and simple narrative of flowers with breakfast.

Working in my small 1 bedroom flat I am limited to where I set up a composition and what I set it up on as I don’t have many shelves or units. I chose to set the objects down on a black chair which gave me a black background. I played with the subjects trying them in different positions and looking at them from different angles but there seemed to be only 1 composition and one angle from which this still life would work from and for me the first charcoal sketch confirmed this for me.

I wanted the silverware to look bold not delicate, and at the angle that I chose with the light illuminating the composition from the right hand side the eggcup looked goblet-like and the serviette ring almost regal. I deliberately placed the eggcup at an egg-cup’s distance away from the vase with the serviette ring between them both to create the most interesting negative shapes.


1 - Charcoal Sketch - Notes

1 – Charcoal Sketch – Notes

1 - Charcoal Sketch

1 – Charcoal Sketch

I had painted my assignment piece in landscape so for this one I really wanted to paint in portrait, adding the Heliconia behind the Frangipani meant that I could paint the eggcup and the vase on a large scale in portrait format while making the best use of the paper in this format.

Because I was using a black background but wanted to paint a fresh-looking still life I placed the light source very close to the composition facing down from the right, this gave me less shadows with light bouncing off everything.

Choice of Colours

There are certain colours that I associate with breakfast, light blue, salmon pink, yellow and light green and this composition seemed to have all of them but I wasn’t sure how the black background would affect the outcome. Thinking about the yellow-orange in the flowers and what I would describe as pink-orange tones of the egg I felt that a primary coat of light blue under the black would bring those colours out, making them a lot brighter. I tried this out in a quick acrylic sketch of the composition and I felt that the result was a positive one.

3 - Drawing in Paint

2 – Drawing in Paint


2 - Acryic Sketch

3  – Acrylic Sketch

From the quick acrylic sketch I managed to put together a list of colours which I used in the quick sketch and I stayed true to this in the finished piece. These were:

  • Primary Blue/White (Light Blue)
  • Titanium white (although I either mixed this with blue or c finished drawing to tone it down)
  • Titanium white buff
  • Orange pearl
  • Payne’s Grey
  • Ivory Black
  • Primary Red/White (pink)
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Orange Cadmium
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Burnt Umber


I thought about painting this on a small scale as that would have probably helped to develop my painting skills more but after working on the acrylic sketch I decided that it would be better to paint a larger than life piece so that I could capture all the detail.

2 - Acryic Sketch - Notes on Colours

4  – Acryic Sketch – Notes on Colours

Like the acrylic sketch I began the final piece by drawing in acrylic paint rather than pencil as I used to do before the Drawing in Paint exercise. It did take a bit of reworking but not much. This final piece took me about four days to complete starting with the flowers as I knew they wouldn’t last me long as they started dying as soon as I removed them from the tree, this was a wise decision as the rest of the painting with the reflected light took the longest time to paint.

I worked mostly with large brushes, painting thick layers this helped me too loosen up as I have so far been too worried about getting my paintings to look exactly like the subjects that I am painting, to me this looks more like an impressionist still life and that was the look that I was going for.


4 - Finished Still Life

4 – Finished Still Life in Acrylic

Understanding Colour 3 – Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are the opposite side of the colour spectrum. One way to learn about locating and mixing these colours is to make your own colour wheel.

Like the brief instructed I drew a circle on an A4 sheet of paper ( in my mixed media XL book) with a compass, drew a much smaller circle inside of that and then also with the compass as well as ruler divided up the wheel into 12 separate segments.

Then I tried to mix the colours from Chevreul’s wheel beginning with primary red, red-orange, orange yellow and so on. I worked on the colours I was unsure about several times on a sheet of grey prepared paper but the ones I was confident about I applied directly from the palette.

Colour wheel

Colour wheel

As I started writing this up, I realised I may have gone at it a bit too quick and that also laying them on a white background to pair them up may have been betters so I decided to have another go.

This time I tested out all the colours on a grey ground with colour mixes from each of the two colours on white. I could have probably done more colour testing with colour scales between  each but even with the flow-aid the paint was drying fast.

Testing colours

Testing colours

From there I applied the mixes to the colour wheel as I did in the first attempt.


Colour wheel 2nd attempt

Colour wheel 2nd attempt

The second attempt proved that I didn’t need to do anymore work on this exercise as the hues were the same even though the tones were slightly different. Now I had 2 colour wheels to use for reference in the coming exercises.