Exercise: Still life with colour used to evoke mood


Empty flower vases on a window sill. Acrylics

As my exercise with complementary colours was leaning towards the abstract, I decided to keep the theme of glass but change the still life set up. I chose three glass flower vases and arranged them on a window sill so that the landscape was also in view. It was pouring with rain.

My aim was to try to evoke a melancholy mood… empty flower vases with an obscured misty, rainy landscape in the background including, raindrops running down the window. I worked with a warm yellow, burnt umber, various shades of green and black and white acrylic paint. I kept the colours muted to reflect the mood.


I feel the painting does evoke a melancholy mood and is therefore reasonably successful in terms of  the brief. It does of course have several faults.

I had the simplicity of a Giorgio Morandi (Italian, 1890–1964) still life composition in mind. Had I done some initial thumbnails (I know I should but for some reason this week I needed to go straight to paint or I wouldn’t have started) I might have chosen to reduce the height of the vases and let a little more landscape in. Morandi’s backgrounds are very simple and they take up a lot of the canvas but they are integral to the picture. I would like this painting to feel a little quieter and this might have been a way to achieve this.

I completely underestimated how difficult it would be to create a view in the background that was also reflected and distorted through the glass vases and well as the window. This was hard. The light kept changing, as did the refracted view through the glass. At one point I’d lost all the vase edges and I had just a blur of colours, so I put some edges in  using a green charcoal pencil. It helped.I hope it doesn’t rub off!

In the process of painting, sanding, dripping etc I’ve overworked the paint and stressed the paper/gesso surface quite a lot but I am learning a lot now about how to use acrylics and colour in a more individual and subtle way.



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