Reflection on completing Part 4


Snowdon – Assignment 4

Time continued to be a scarce commodity, particularly as I have been overseeing builders in the new house and cleaning up after them! Milo our Hungarian Puli dog has been  poorly and I have had numerous visits to the vet. We lost his sister in July so I was worried we’d be saying goodbye to another much loved pet. Fortunately Milo has recovered and is back to his bouncy self and demanding a lot of walks for an old boy of 15.

Snowdon - Painting from a photograph exercise

Snowdon – Painting from a photograph exercise

Looking back at my work, I feel I’ve achieved quite a lot despite the time pressures. I can detect a growth in confidence and competence as I worked through the exercises. I’ve learnt to be more patient and wait for one layer of acrylic paint to dry before applying another as this helps to keep the colours vibrant and avoids them becoming muddied. This might be obvious but in my hurry to complete the exercises I have sometimes produced muddy messes. In the outdoor painting and working from a photograph exercises and Assignment 4, I feel I have finally produced more expressive work. But I’ve a lot to learn and still consider myself a relative beginner at acrylic painting.

I’ve become more confident about drawing outside in public. While on holiday in Umbria I did several quick watercolour paintings in my sketchbook while sitting in cafes and these gave me invaluable material to work with later. I also continued to go out and about sketching every two weeks with a couple of friends, one of whom is also studying with the OCA and this has helped to overcome my self-consciousness.


Painting outside exercise

I resolved at the start of Part 4 to be more experimental and to make better use of my sketchbook (make it my best friend) and I feel that  I have achieved these aims to some  extent. I’ve used a lot of different techniques (some more successfully than others of course) including:

  • painting on a smooth and textured grounds
  • adding coloured ink to gesso and sanding
  • creating an underpainting with gesso and sanding to reveal it
  • mixing PVA glue into paint
  • used brushes, toothbrush, credit card, palette knives and sponge to apply paint
  • painted with subtle and vivid coloured grounds as well as white
  • started to paint in layers giving each time to dry.

My assignment piece at 40 x 32″ is the biggest painting I have ever created, so that was an experience in itself. More than ever I felt the value of preparation and studies as it is literally difficult to see the big picture when working close up to a large canvas. I’ve begun to see that sometimes my paintings have been at their best at an earlier stage… I need to keep an eye on this and try not to overdo things. It takes confidence to know the right moment to stop and I often get this wrong.

I’ve ranged all over the place in my sketchbook and as well as looking at landscape, I’ve done some work on figures which may be of help with Part 3 which I plan to tackle next.

I’ve been into galleries throughout Suffolk and Essex (not all written up in my blog), and also visited some in Umbria. I twice visited a massive Open Exhibition at Colchester’s Firstsite and also went to see John Virtue’s The Sea. I attended a full day workshop on Shakespeare through Artists’ Eyes and came away feeling more equipped to interpret paintings. I had tickets for Ai Wei Wei’s London show but unfortunately had to go to the vet instead!

I’ve dipped in and out of the course reading books, particularly Vitamin P1 and P2, and  make a point of reading the OCA Weekender Bulletin. I find the student work features fascinating and often inspirational.

I am leaving landscape painting reluctantly as I’d just begun to feel a deeper engagement with my subjects. I’ve got a lot of ideas I would like to pursue and plenty of material in my sketchbook that I’d like to develop further and that’s a good position to be in.

Looking ahead to Part 3 my aims are to:

  • Make better use of my sketchbook
  • Try capture the essence of my subjects and avoid unnecessary detail that does not contribute to the message
  • Continue to experiment with layering, brush strokes and palette knife and improve my technique
  • Try to improve my use of colour… some of my work is a little muddy and not as vibrant as I would like.
  • See and enjoy as much art as possible
  • Be brave!


Sara Waterer


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