5-3-3 Exercise: Magnification

You can find abstraction through observation is to draw or paint your scene or subject and then to isolate an area of it that interests you. You can then look at your study and draw a rectangle (either landscape or portrait format) or square and simply scale this up to your chosen paper size (A2 or A3).

You could then refer back by direct observation and include or exclude any detail or adjust any colour, line or tonal areas. If you have found an interesting abstract composition and worked on it in local colour, think of how you could create new paintings by working loosely on the same composition but varying your approach each time.

When you have worked on several new paintings, take a look at all of them and assess their effectiveness and reflect on your experience and involvement with this exercise.  Make an honest assessment of your experience and your paintings in your learning log.

Yachts, sails, wind, salty smell, water, waves, the clink of stays against masts – the senses are fully assaulted on a visit to the sea shore.  Here I have picked colour as the overriding theme.




On a series of paintings I have zoomed in on the sails on a set of small yachts (dinghies at the shore.  Just before and after the start of a small boats race there is a maelstrom of confusion as everyone jostles for the prime position on the start.  In this confusion the boats seem a single object which twists and turns, expands and contracts as they weave in and around each other.

Isolating a few masts changes this dynamic to a sculptural one where the masts seem to soar upwards much like swords held aloft.

The cooling blue of the cloudless sky pushes the brightly coloured sails forward.  The tension in the sails as they ripple and strain with the breeze is captured by the stress lines and folds across each multi-coloured sail.

If Mondrian was to have painted this he would have reduced the coloured elements to a few coloured geometric shapes.

Again these sails were in keeping with the theme of the Welsh Coast holiday.    Another way to develop this further would be to reduce the geometric elements to more abstract shapes of the colours and to apply these in a haphazard arrangement possibly in a spiral such as the manner in which Matisse depicts his ‘Snail’ to a few coloured geometric shapes.



Moving onto another painting subject I further developed this exercise by using a photo of a dandelion head which had gone to seed.  Cropping to achieve a very tight close up I drew this on an A3 sheet of watercolour paper.

This drawing was then coloured in a natural representative manner, the end result which is shown below.  Over the drawing I reserved the spines and tips of the seed flowers (dandelion parachutes).  Once this was dry I then applied a few colours wet into wet to achieve the out of focus background.  Then the interior bud of the flower was painted to develop it as a 3-d curved shape.  When dry the geometric anchor points of the seed were denoted.  Background reserved seed parachutes were painted over with a dilute blue wash to indicate the recession into the background of some of the seed florets.


Natural Colour Dandelion head


Abstract Coloured Dandelion head


Monochrome Dandelion head


Further studies of the dandelion head close-up were done as an abstract coloured version, a monochrome version using black ink and as a multi-coloured collage using various materials including – string, cocktail sticks, coloured card onto black paper with oil pastel and watercolour added to develop the colour and texture of various elements.

All the works have various points of merit but two in particular are better than the others.  These are the naturally coloured and monochrome versions.  The naturally coloured one has interest both in the background subtle coloured hues and the contrasting white of the seed florets.  The monochrome version has a poster quality and this along with the black and white image makes a bold and assertive statement.  It cannot be ignored as it pulls the eye.

The abstract coloured version is a pale coloured version of the monochrome one without the boldness which makes that image attractive.  One fault within this image may be that the blue in the background is not a flat single tone.  The boldness of a plain blue along with stronger oranges in the florets would have lifted this image.

I found the exercise and the process quite liberating as I was ‘able to think outside the box’, without the restraints of convention to colour and depict these paintings.  The collage piece was a bit of fun and several things I tried to form the spokes of the floret spines did not work.  I had the idea to develop these in a manner that a bobble is made for a bobble hat using string and round cardboard to make what ended up as a tangled mess that sprang out of shape and knotted the instance the cardboard was removed.  I was able to retrieve some of the string to continue with the exercise.


Collage, Oil Pastel and watercolour – Dandelion head