3.2.7 Exercise: Painting with prepared elements


On an A3 sheet sketch the simple outlines of each feature. Determine the tonal structure of the painting.  Paint the lightest colours, let dry and gradually add your darker colours.  Keep everything free and add detail at the end.

The earlier sketches of the castle gatehouse and the church and oasts across the fields were now painted up as A3 watercolours.  The gatehouse has a Disney-quality that is present in the actual building.  It was painted using a very limited palette.  The greens were mixed from some of the other colours used in the painting and layered to represent the highlights and shadows within the foliage.

Castle Gate-House

Castle Gate-House


Working with this process.      Was it helpful?

By this process I am referring to the method of doing several drawings and preparatory works before painting.  I find this method and the process of it very helpful to clarify what I am going to paint and how to paint it.  In my sketch book I also painted other scenes or snippets from scenes to clarify my mind how to achieve an effect of method that I wish to progress further.  The use of this process is also helpful to clarify the composition and even the time of day to represent.

If the scene lacks tonal variety at a certain time then it may be more structured with greater tonal variety with the sun at a different angle showing light and shad to greater effect.  The weather may also influence the scene again either muting the tones or enhancing them.  Overcast days have an effect on the scene muting and levelling out the tonal variety in the scene.

What did you learn in your preparatory drawings?

How were the drawings useful (or otherwise) in preparing for your final painting?

Did you feel that your composition was successful or not? Say why that is.

Other things learnt from doing the preparatory drawings was how the scene fitted together with the various elements within it showing like they below.  This is evident in another series of scenes of St Margaret’s church.  The grave stones  don’t sit within the scene or contact properly to the ground but by a process of continuing to do and trying different effects and how to produce them I was at last able to show the as ground based and belonging to the scene.

The use of tone and line in prep drawing helps to clarify what to include and how to structure the composition.  Prep drawing can clarify what to simplify in the scene.  Most scenes can do with simplification to reduce the clutter of the actual scene to a more pleasing and paintable scene.  Simplification as makes it easier for the viewer to read the scene without the distraction of small or insignificant objects.

The composition is reasonably successful in each painting.  However, there are several things that could be done to improve each.  The gatehouse is placed right in the middle of the page.  The composition would have been better served by placing the gatehouse to one side or the other and having the turret placed on one of the one-third lines.  I did include some elements of the ‘thirds rule’.  The top and bottom lines of the foliage are roughly placed on these lines, as are the edge of the building.  However, this has resulted in the building being bang in the centre which makes for a static image.  Two versions of the scene cropped should how the painting might be improved by cropping.  Doing it again I would move the gatehouse to the side by including more of the scene on one side or the other.  Probably on the left!

Looking at your final painting and comparing it to the first sketch you made, what do you notice?

The gatehouse first sketch was a quick block in of the main tones and shapes within the scene  The first thing that scene shows me is the big contrast between the light stonework in the sunny side and the deep dark tones of the background foliage.  This wide range of tone has been carried through to the final work.  The wide tonal range is the key ingredient which attracted me to this view and this is a main principle of the composition.

The Church and Oast-house scene first drawing shows the builds dwarfed by the background hillside.  The dominant trees loom over the tiny buildings showing the insignificance of man’s achievements compared to natures.  I wanted to show a sense of the buildings and man being a tiny element in the scene with nature the dominant overpowering force.  Man may have tamed the tilled fields of the foreground by he hasn’t made must impression to the hillside behind the settlement.

Have you kept the spontaneity of the drawing or have you created a new image based on the first drawing?

The first drawing of the gatehouse just hints at the basic shapes whilst the painting is a painting with great detail and variety within the shapes.  The painting loses the vitality of the quick sketch but does give more information to the viewer.

The spontaneity and freshness of the drawings is lost in the flat toned painting.  The painting needed to be more like the drawing to achieve what I was really after in this scene.

How successful were the colours and the mixing that you practiced then used?

The colour mixing helped in particular with the greens.  Green is the dominant colour of the background in both scenes and if it was very wrong it would ‘jar’, I don’t believe they jar in either of these scenes.   Other colour which I experimented a bit with was the colour of the stonework in the gatehouse.  The church and oast-houses were easier as they are quite distant and primarily manufactured from earth materials so earth colours work ok here!

The colours seem reasonably successful in each of the scenes.

How successful are the tonal arrangements in your painting?

The tonal arrangements were partially successful in these paintings.  There is a wide variety of tones in these scenes but the gatehouse is more successfully with regard to tone.

Gatehouse : The tone is necessary in this painting to help describe the scene to the viewer.  The main aspect that attracted me to the scene was the big difference in contract between the light stone and background foliage.

Church and oast-house : the tones above the edge of the foreground field are all very much the same and as such this results in a boring scene with little to lead the eye around it.  I have tried to achieve some variety of tones and show the trees in regressive stages as they recede by the use of different greens but I could have achieved a better tonal balance in this part of the scene.

What is your assessment of the value of the detail that you have included?

In the gatehouse scene the level of detail is medium.  There was a lot of detail and architectural fanciness which was not included.  The foliage and the flowers and shrubbery around the gatehouse has been simplified and reduced.

Church / Oast house scene. The level of detail is low with a distant view and a simplification of the overall scene.  The foliage of the distant trees, fields and the buildings has all detail eliminated leaving just the bare essentials of the various components so the viewer knows what he is looking at but lacks enough detail to discern anything other than what the objects actually are.  These are more shapes that fully described objects.

What have you learned overall and what might you do differently another time?

The detail of the gatehouse makes for a sterile scene in the end.  Is a painting of a view or a painting of architecture, it probably falls between the two!  Maybe less detail in places.  Hinting at some features may have overcome the sterility in the scene and helped the viewer become more involved in trying to read it.

There are a wide variety of tones in the painting but I think the buildings tone is too much matched with the background.  Doing it again I would place more emphasis in achieving greater tonal variety between the church and oast and the foliage.

How has this exercise helped you to select the right subject for you?

I seem to like scenes with elements of man included such as buildings.  I like the contrast of the rigid defining lines of a roof to the tumble of shrubbery and foliage around it.  Doing the initial drawing helps select the right potion of the scene to portray and to compose it.  The ‘right subject’ can be depicted in many different ways and the drawing help you clarify to yourself what you are trying to achieve.  Doing the drawings helps simplify the subject and ‘make’ the scene as well as selecting the elements within the actual scene to be represented in the painting.

Has this process helped you to see picture elements more clearly?

This process does help see the picture elements of composition, tonal variety and balance etc. more clearly.  Doing the initial drawings identifies if something is not working and then helps to define how to make it work if it is not quite right in the beginning.

The drawings also assist with which elements within the picture work and which don’t, better to discover this at this initial stage than trying to resolve these problems in the middle of the watercolour painting.

Hill-side Church and farm with Oast-houses

Hill-side Church and farm with Oast-houses