Exercise: Tonal study on a dark ground (1)

First attempt – I went off on a bit of an experimental tangent here so I had a second go at the exercise which you can see here. I struggled with this exercise and had several attempts at it. Painting on a dark ground felt quite alien to me and I didn’t achieve the  vibrant, sharp colour contrasts that I hoped for.  I had trouble capturing subtle detail and light and shade and sometimes had to paint out the ground colour with a lighter one (e.g. for the napkin with the asparagus). However,these were valuable and enjoyable exercises and I now have a  better understanding of how paint behaves on a darker ground if not great mastery of the art.

Asparagus painted on very dark ground of paynes grey and ultramarine


Asparagus (A3) acrylics

Initially I experimented in my sketchbook with several different types of veg but in the end simplified my still life arrangement to a tied bundle of asparagus on a striped napkin on top of a small wooden stool. My inexperience at painting with acrylics really started to show. I found that the green did not cover the ground colour well and I had to apply several layers. For the linen napkin I had to paint out the complete area in  off white first. I painted in the stripes of the napkin and then obliterated them  as I tried to add shaded areas to depict the folds of the cloth.I’d hoped to be able to add a transparent grey for the shaded areas but this ended up making things look grubby.


Sketchbook exploration (ink)

The background colour looked a bit unremittingly uniform so I lightly sanded it and this worked. Then I sanded the asparagus and then the wooden stool and that was OK too. But when I sanded the cloth what little resemblance it had to fabric disappeared. I thought about painting back in the stripes but decided to leave the painting as is  i.e. asparagus atop some kind of unidentifiable amorphous object!

Lilies painted on a paynes grey/blue ground liliesMy initial painting of the lilies was very odd. Initially I tried to paint the petals using a very dilute wash of white acrylic so that the blue showed through. This left the lilies as patterns with no form so I filled them in with opaque white,  pale green, and grey for shade but the picture did not please me, the petals now felt too heavy and solid. So I sanded the whole painting down lightly and painted another on top very quickly with palette knife and used up all the leftover paint.


Sketchbook lilies

As a background the underpainting  worked  and taught me that less successful paintings might be given a new lease of life as the ground for another. While the composition of my palette knife painting isn’t great, the picture has captured the character of the lilies so I’m not entirely unhappy. It might, however, be time to put the sandpaper down for a bit…


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