5-2-1 Exercise: Exploring one subject in a variety of ways

Now make at least four paintings in which you introduce a new medium or combination of media with each study. For example:

  • Pen and watercolour

  • Pen, crayon and watercolour

  • Crayon, watercolour and oil pastels

  • Crayon, watercolour, oil pastels and charcoal.

When you have completed your pictures, look closely at them all together.  Make notes on the following in your learning log: answering the questioned posed in the exercise brief.

The theme for this exercise is a scene which I painted and sketched a few times on my recent holiday to Wales.  It is a scene across the harbour at Aberaeron on Cardigan Bay.  On my holiday to Wales I made a visual diary of the places we visited during our time on the Welsh coast.  I enjoyed painting and drawing these scenes as I was relaxed and at ease on holiday.  Though wrecking my knee was not in the plan for the holiday.

I have done a series of quick watercolour sketches around the harbour.  What drew me to these scenes in particular is the rigid straight lines of the buildings with their range of pastel and bright colours contrasted with the curves and abstract lines in the water and the boats.


5-2-1-0-d5 5-2-1-0-d15-2-1-0-d3


Despite being essentially front onto the buildings I wanted to give a sense of depth and perspective to them to ensure they did not look like a movie set.  I also wanted to show a series of boats without the painting seeming to be crowded and not showing enough of the abstract water to contrast with buildings.

Composing the scene was essentially an exercise in cropping the scene on view.  The expanse of the harbour was all-around me – front rear, left and right!  There are various elements to the scene : the quay side wall, line of buildings with the prominent one being the Harbourmaster hotel, then the boats and water with the sky setting the scene weather-wise.  To ensure that the composition worked I arranged the elements essentially on the grid of “rule of thirds”.  I have taken the first painting and overlaid a 1/3 grid to highlight the arrangement of the elements in the scene.


The quay is along the lower grid line with the centre of the dominant building being on the left grid line. The top of the painting, the sky, is basically the top 1/3 of the painting, with building the middle 1/3 band across the scene.

All four painting involved careful drawing to ensure the buildings and boats were contrasted to be accurate and believable.  The watercolour palette is the same in each of the paintings.  The colours were varied slightly across the series of paintings and in each a different medium was included or used alongside the watercolour.

The drawing /painting mediums used in the series of paintings is as followings.

  1. Pen and watercolour study
  2. Pen, crayon, wax candle and watercolour
  3. Crayon, watercolour and oil pastels along with solvent to dilute and spread the pastel.
  4. Watercolour and charcoal

5-2-1-01 5-2-1-02 5-2-1-03 5-2-1-04

1                                             2                                      3                                       4

These can be seen in miniature above together and are reproduced larger below.

Questions posed by the exercise brief:

  • Which of your studies works best and why?

I am drawn to images 3 and 4 as the best works in the series.  Choosing one of them I would opt for #3.  The combination of the materials (crayon, watercolour and oil pastels) provide a series and a variety of marks and colours.  The variety of marks is possible as I was able to spread the oil pastels using a solvent.  This is most obvious in the sky region where the blue was softened and feather to indicate the edges of the clouds.

  • On what basis did you choose your various combinations of media?

The various combinations are a mix of traditional and experimentation.  The traditional combination of pen and watercolour (pen and wash) is certainly one of my favoured combinations both to view and to produce.  Charcoal and watercolour is a seemingly unlikely combination which works well together.  I think the charcoal was able to make a tonal underdrawing to which colour could be added to partially to give and end result which is a mix of monochrome and colour!  The mix of oil pastel, crayon and watercolour is not one I would have thought of but the course notes suggested it and some research reveals others having used it.  The pastel and crayon are especially useful for blocking in large swages of colour and mark making.

  • Are there any effects that have especially pleased or surprised you?

The wax of candle was used a resist in the second painting in the sky to reserve the white of the clouds.  Due to the texture of the paper not all the surface was covered by the wax and various small areas of unreserved paper resulted and when the blue wash of the sky was overlaid it resulted in a hazy blue effect over areas of the cloud.

Another unexpected and please result was the combination of charcoal with colour.  It gave and underlying tonal drawing which when coloured over produced a depth to the painting.

The solidity of both the crayon and the oil pastel give a structure which is unexpected in a ‘watercolour’ painting.  The softness of the oil pastel when diluted was also pleasing.

  • Which combinations of media will you want to use again?

I would use watercolour and crayon /oil pastel again; I think there are several possibilities for using these media in the foreground including scratching out etc. with watercolour in the background.  The light transparent nature of watercolour would be able to indicate the recession of the distant objects.  I like the structure that pen adds to a watercolour image and will continue to use this medium especially in my sketch book.  Crayon will also be a valued addition to media I will use my sketchbook.

  • In what way did this exercise succeed or otherwise?

All the paintings /images were successful, so the exercise from my viewpoint was a success.  The combinations of the various media were also a success and illustrate the possibilities of combining different media.  Another outcome of this exercise is the realisation that it may be possible to ‘rescue’ some watercolour images by re-working with another form of media to either hide, emphasis or enhance an element(s) of a ‘failed watercolour painting.

  • How have you found exploring this subject in different ways?

There are several adjectives that describe how I found this exploration of mixing media: Enlightening, refreshing, adventurous, illuminating illustrative of further possibilities and pleasantly surprised.  Not knowing what to expect with the combinations of some of these media the outcomes were a pleasant and welcome surprise.  There was also a sense of freedom as combining in a non-conventional way essentially meant there were no rules and the end result was not ‘guaranteed’.

  • Can you see further directions in exploring this subject?

The combination of several media along with watercolour in a painting can be beneficial for several reasons.  This can include:

  • Re-work an image
  • The addition of an opaque medium can enhance or hid as required. It is sometimes required to add highlights or light touches to a toned or coloured ground.
  • Using crayon to quickly block-in masses of colour and structure in a painting when working outdoors.

The subject I choose of the harbour side in Aberaeron is one I will continue to paint as there are lots of areas within the harbour to continue to give a host of different possibilities for painting.  Close-up views of elements with the harbour to sections to wide ranging views this harbour has seemingly endless possibilities.  I have already got several examples in my sketchbook of further elements in this subject /area.


1. Watercolour and pen study


2. Watercolour, pen, crayon and wax candle study


3. Watercolour, crayon and oil pastel study


4. Watercolour and charcoal study