5-2-3 Exercise: Mixed media on coloured and white paper

Make four small studies in your sketchbook in any medium you like of a scene or collection of objects.  Make at least two studies on pages that you have coloured.  Then make two other studies on plain sheets.

Choose your most promising study for a larger picture (A3) on coloured paper and make a painting using a wide range of materials.  Begin your painting using any medium you like (but make a note of the medium you choose). Go on to develop your picture by changing your medium often. Work quickly

Next, choose a second study and make a similar painting but this time on A3 white paper.  Begin using a different medium from the one you used to start your last painting with.  Work quickly and try to get as much energy as possible into your finished picture.

Compare all four pictures and make notes in your learning log on any effects that coloured paper had on your work, either in terms of your methods or in terms of the results you obtained. Your notebook notes may help you.

  • In this exercise what was the initial effect of working on a coloured ground as opposed to white? •

  • Are either studies more successful than the other?

  • Do any of your pictures show a strong sense of abstract composition? If so, which ones?

  • Do you think any of your paintings or studies could be looked at primarily for their abstract qualities?

  • How could you develop greater abstraction in your work?

????????????????????????????In this exercise I used as the subject a cottage I sketched and painted a couple of times whilst on holiday in Wales a few weeks ago.  The cottage is set along the river Arth and about 50 metres from where the Arth enters the sea.

For the first in this series of drawings/paintings I choose a red paper which somewhat light-weight for water colour but can accommodate crayon and pastel.

Starting, I quickly made a few pencil line marks to indicate the placement of a couple of the main features.  I then quickly used a white oil pastel to indicate the gable end of the cottage and then the clouds above the tree tops and background hills.  I then switched to crayon and drew in areas of foliage and tress in various sections around the scene.  This was followed up by hatching is a blue for the sky and also on the roof tops.  Some more blue was utilised in the river and swapping between greens, yellows, and blue more areas of foliage was developed.  The media used was a mix of crayon and oil pastel.  The shaded areas were cooled by hatching blue and then the river was developed and the surrounding banks quickly and economically indicated.

The oil pastel was layered over the crayon in places though this was not possible the other way around.

I next moved onto a blue tinted paper and worked on this in a similar manner to the red based picture initially completed.

I next completed a similar scene on white paper and this theme was further developed again on a white sheet of paper with a viewpoint from further back.

Working on the white sheets I was able to utilise the ground as the base of the cottage gable.

These were more crayon drawings as little oil pastel was used and mostly entirely drawn with coloured crayon.

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Setting all four pictures side by side I chose the first image on red and the last on white to develop further as mixed media paintings on bigger sheets of watercolour paper (A3).

These are shown below.




Using an A3 sheet of watercolour paper I painted a flat wash in a strong red over the entire sheet.  I tried to match the colour, tone and temperature of the manufactured red sheet of the A4 picture.

Once this was dry I marked lightly in pencil where the main elements were located in the scene.  Then using the white oil pastel I drew and developed the gable of the cottage and then the other walls.  Swapping to crayon I then developed the background hills and trees and also the river banks. Next the roofs were indicated with a blue crayon and then further marks to indicate the wall, river edges and some other elements were drawn.

Further greens and yellows in all the noted media were used around the scene.  The sky was developed using Artbars and these had the intensity of the colour reduced by diluting them on the page with water dissolving the colour and allowing the ground to show through and reduce the intensity of the media colour.  The river surface was toned and coloured with deep shed blues and browns.  The river was finished by applied gouache with a palette knife and scraping it over the surface utilising the rough paper surface to break the colour and add water surface sparkle to the image.

Media used in the red ground image

  • Oil pastel- white
  • Artbar (watercolour blocks)
  • Coloured wax crayons
  • Gouache applied with palette knife
  • and various coloured oil pastels.

This theme of the riverside white walled cottage by the sea was continued by developing the idea further with a white ground image.  This was completed utilising a similar process and colour and media as was used on the red ground image.  In order to reserve the white ground, white wax candle was used around the image.  Additionally watercolour paint was used in this image across the sky and over the green river banks.

The remit for this exercise posed some questions to address in the notes.

In this exercise what was the initial effect of working on a coloured ground as opposed to white?

The initial effect of working on a coloured ground was how quickly and dramatically the focal point of the image was able to be developed.  The use of white on the red allowing the red to show through creates a shimmering effect of red in the image.  This effect is also noticeable in the colours around the scene with many of the colours and tones affected by the underlying strong red ground colour.

Are either studies more successful than the other?

Either of the red images is more successful than the other blue or white ground images.  This success is in part due to the drama imparted by the red ground and then this red showing through in un-painted areas or through the areas which have media applied.  The strong contrast between the ground and the white walls also contributes to the success of these images.

Do any of your pictures show a strong sense of abstract composition? If so, which ones?

All of the studies, both the A4 quick studies and the larger A3 images have strong elements of abstract composition in them.  Apart from the strong linear elements of the cottages and buildings the rest of the image is in the main ‘abstract’.  These abstract elements are due to the mark making and layering of coloured media etc. over the coloured or white ground.  I have cropped the smaller red and one of the white ground drawings to illustrate the abstract nature of most of the image.

5-2-01-crop5-2-03-cropDo you think any of your paintings or studies could be looked at primarily for their abstract qualities?

Yes, several of the paintings can stand on their abstract credentials.  I have noted and selected two images above as examples.  Despite them showing essentially the same section of the scene their treatment and depiction varies greatly from each other.

The images could be cropped further or rotated to remove all trace of the scene it represents.  The depiction of the various elements in each of the images are abstract with only the recognisable shapes of the buildings to anchor then in reality.  If the buildings were abstracted further this would probably remove all traces of scene recognition.


How could you develop greater abstraction in your work?

I can incorporate greater abstraction in my work by dissembling the scene.  this could be done by taking one or two elements from the scene and concentration the painting on these elements.  This may include the colour shape or the rhythm of the scene.

Tight cropping on to an element of the scene such as the river would result in an abstract depiction of it.  It may be based in reality but due to its isolation and divorced from the other elements it would be unrecognizable.


5-2-03-crop-bI have included two tight crops of the paintings to illustrate some of the abstract elements in the images.  The first of these is a crop of the foliage in the scene to the right of the cottage and the second is a crop of the river surface.