1.5 Assignment 1 : Your first watercolour painting

Choose from a variety of options including landscape, still life, an interior etc.  I choose to paint a still life as my first assignment.

Make some sketches in your sketch book and do some colour studies.  Experiment with the techniques learnt earlier in the series of exercises in this section.  Include at least two of them in this, your first assignment.

A1 arrangement

A photo of the arrangement I used Assignment 1










1-5-02 prep


The early stages of planning for this first assignment where first of all to select my genre and then the subject.

I chose to do a still life as I have been filling my sketchbook with lots of studies of items found and picked on walks during the summer months here in Kent.1-5-03 prep

I selected a range of objects to show different surfaces, textures and colours and to also have a common theme.  Essentially here is a kitchen collection for a still life in a range of reds (mostly).  A cut onion, and a whole onion, cherries fresh from the tree outside the window (poor crop of Morello’s in the garden this year), tomato, chili, and some cut stalks of lavender.  To add some
height and contrast to the arrangement I have included a white porcelain mug.

1-5-04 prep

Tonal study abandoned – wooden board

Once I had the arrangement set up I tried several arrangements and rotations of the still life.  I was trying different light directions and overlaps etc. on the objects.  In some versions I have included a white saucer but I felt that this object did not add any value to the arrangement and ditched it.  Initially I had the arrangement on a wooden chopping board but I felt that was tonally very close in value to many of the objects and cast about for a replacement.  I found it.  A light coloured and toned marble chopping board.  The light tone would should the darker still life to best effect and also add tone on the lighter end of the scale.


Final arrangement and tonal study, marble base board

Once I had the final setup I did a pencil tonal drawing of the still life.  The first of these was with the chopping board, I have left the chopping board light in tone.  It was doing this drawing that I realised that the tone was too dark for what I had in mind for this still life.  The later tonally drawing shows a study with the marble base in place!

The reds in the scene are the mid red of the tomato and chili, the dark rich red of the cherries plus the blue red of the Spanish onion and finally the red – blue of the lavender flowers.

Is it what I want?  Not quite, the chopping board is too dark – stopped shading as I knew it would result in an heavy oppressive drawing.  Leaving it as is better helped me to see what I wanted to achieve once I found a suitable base.


Additional colour study of a still life

As an extra study I did the still life.  The view is a selection of different coloured peppers a courgette and mushrooms with a brown cider bottle placed on a wooden chopping board.  This was set in front of a window with a view into the garden beyond.

Once I had my studies completed I also had to settle on the painting method and techniques to incorporate from this section of the course.  For the background I used the ❶ crumpled Clingfilm, highlights were reserved by ❷ masking fluid and ❸ wax and ❹ masking tape for the mug shape and the lower edge of the dark background.  To help achieve a marble like texture I have also used ❺ salt crystals in this area.

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In the process of doing the final piece for Assignment 1 the following techniques were also used:

❻ Layering washes, the table top; ❼ Glazing, the back section of the the table top to introduce a sense of recession by putting a blue layer over it; ❽ Lifting out, of the highlights on the cherries and edge softening of the table edge where it meets the background wall.


Some of the earlier attempts at using resist for the highlights were a bit coarse and overdone.  In the final version I was able to keep these techniques subtle enough to look more natural.  Without reserving the stalks for the cherries it would have been impossible to get the pure light green of them.

The highlights and the shadows were produced by the light from a window rather than an artificial source.  This has made then soft and light without being too heavy or bright.

I was especially happy with the multi-coloured background to represent the blanket.  Painting it the natural black it was in reality would have resulted in a dense colour absorbing background which would have dominated the still life.


Assignment 1- Final Piece


Reflection and Self-evaluation of Part 1

Self-evaluation against Assessment criteria points

Noted below is a self-assessment and critique of my work in this section and for the assignment of this section; Section 1 : Making a Start.  The assessment criteria are noted in the box at the start of each set of paragraphs.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

I have tried to use a wide range of material and techniques for this section of the course and in the main I have succeeded.  One thing I must do in future sections is utilise the other watercolour media I have, such as Inktense pencils and bars and art bars plus water colour pencils for location work and quick studies.

To improve my visual awareness I have tried to do a watercolour a day and have produced many supplementary watercolour sketches additional to those required for the coursework.  The picking of leaves and wind falls during a dog walk and painting it later in my sketchbook sometimes multiple times is improving my compositional skills and design for placing objects on the painting plane.

Quality of Outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The content of my work and application of the knowledge gained from the studies and sketches I have done is hopefully increasing in quality.  The presentation of my work in a coherent manner including my learning log and on-line blog are clear and well laid out reflecting the organisation which I have attached to doing this course.

Communication my thoughts and ideas is improving as I work through the course sections and with the use of my sketchbook for both field work and studio work.  Conceptualising these works into the finished pieces in the sketchbook and the course work is all a function of how much importance I am attaching to the use of my sketchbook.

This sketchbook and the additional none coursework studies in watercolour are contained within the on-line gallery on my blog.


Demonstration of Creativity imagination

Experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

The last project of this section – experimenting with different uses of watercolour and how to obtain unusual textures and results was quite enjoyable and useful for building a range of techniques and skills which can be utilised later in the course and within my work in general going forward.

Devoloping a personal voice will come by looking at the work of other artists and analysing these and brining elements and ideas from these into my own work.  Now that I have the beginnings of watercolour I can continue on the learning journey examining. Analysing and being inetive with techniques etc.

I read widely on both artists and art techniques from the internet but more particularly the local library and Amazon.  My personal library has greatly expanded in the last couple of years with most of either devoted to art technique or artists and movements.  Seeing how other approach their work, reading and exploring new skills will all lead in time to my own personal voice developing further.

This is the third OCA course in the last couple of years and with each I develop and expand my artistic language and breadth of knowledge.

Context reflection

Research, critical thinking (learning log)

In the research I read extensively and visit local and national galleries, I also take the opportunity to attend and interact with OCA Study days where possible.  Recently I attended the Ravilious exhibition for the second time as it brought much to this course in particular.  The second of these was an OCA led visit where I was about to discuss both own work and the work of other artists, including fellow students work etc.

My learning log is treated as a tool to gather knowledge, record my research and work chart my progress along the path of the course and as an aspiring artist.  The learning log is also where I record my additional work and gallery visits.