Black & White

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Lion.   White acrylic on black had more energy than the ink on acrylic.   A combination of the visible brush work and painting more negative space played a bigger part in creating a more dynamic effect.   The ink work tended to get busy with the outlines and I ended up trying to create textured floor which didn’t really work well as a whole, more a distraction.   The ink felt more like a sketch.

Old woman.  This time I tried a close crop of the eyes because of the small size and to try and focus in on what I saw as the key element of the facial expression.   The white gouache on black acrylic looked better than the black gouache on white acrylic, more expressive.   I tended to follow the photo and ended up with the thin black strokes along side larger black strokes which are not as consistent as the white brush work.   The consistent white brush work filled the page whereas the black work left larger areas in the bottom part more untouched.  Again the black on white feels more like a sketch.

Umbrellas.  Ink on acrylic worked and is my favourite because the umbrellas stand out more and theres more movement in the figures and background.   I let the ink run down the page to express the rain/wetness.   Gouache also worked well this time, I was able to control the gouache brush work to show the umbrella form.   They reminded me of jelly fish.  I also liked the way I could use the black ground to show the people.

Tree roots.  This one failed in both cases of grey acrylic on black and on the white.  The choice of picture is less obvious with such a crop and the grey didn’t give sufficient contrast to show the roots compared to the brick wall.   I should have used the black and white for this subject.   The grey may have worked well for the woman’s face.

Paint blower.  The black acrylic on white worked best partly because of the contrast between the dry brush work on the face against the wash background.  Furthermore the profile is visible though the negative space left from the wash.   This contrast made the face jump out and give it more energy.   Interestingly I applied a similar technique for the white yet overall the black works better. I think this is due to the dryer black brush work and it was done on rougher water colour paper compared to a smoother cardboard used for the white version.

Painting Thin & Small

varnish on thin black acrylic, varnish on thick black acrylic, gouache on grey acrylic, black ink on thick black acrylic

Umbrellas in the rain – I found experimenting with reflective /shiny medium against matt mediums interesting because of the way the reflecting light changed the colour in contrast with the matt area.  The first varnish on very thin black acrylic ground didn’t work out, the varnish was hard to see unless you angled the paper correctly with the light.  Then I tried again with a thicker black ground, this time the varnish was visible and either reflected the light or absorbed more light than the background depending on the angle.    Gouache on grey acrylic ground was dull because the grey came through the translucent paint and in this case inappropriate.   I also tried ink on the thicker black acrylic ground and found the reflection warmer, more subtle and interesting.   These reflective combinations are something I would consider using again. Although I’m unsure what would be a suitable subject because the form was not interesting.   I think this relates to the reflective/non-reflective nature and it doesn’t show the brush strokes so well.   I should look at different varnishes, the one used was an acrylic gloss finish varnish.   Its use maybe a painting of something on top of a painting, e.g. painting the umbrellas in colour then adding the varnish on top of the umbrellas.

watercolour on varnish, acrylic on varnish

Reflections – Painting on varnish was interesting, both watercolour and black acrylic didn’t absorb and collected and ran(although this movement is likely due to me painting vertically).   The result is slightly rough where the paint breaks up and collects.  Its not as shiny as I was expecting but I do like the overall effect and seems appropriate for the wet reflective subject.   I find the texture adds visual interest.  A closer crop may help improve this picture because I find there is too many lines relative to the flowers.   I noticed an interesting 3D effect where the paint collected at the edges of the stroke when dry and I think this related to the level of water used on the brush.   The flowers silhouette along the top right needed to be darker to balance it.   I feel this needed to be more glossy so perhaps the household paint might be worth exploring.

White acrylic on gouache, watercolour on ink, ink on watercolour.  Watercolour on white gouache, watercolour on plain paper.

Flower – The white acrylic on gouache produced the most interesting if a little subtle effect.  The gestural strokes help create the interest and texture which I think is important here where there is little depth or perspective.   Both the watercolour and ink flowers were a bit flat with not enough contrast or tonal variation.  The watercolour therefore looks better with the use of colour.  Another issue with the ink and watercolour was leaving some of the background and where I did leave it the effect was too subtle.

watercolour on gouache, gouache on watercolour

Paint blowing – This was fun, using the splodge of paint to mark the direction of air moving and using lots of colour.  I feel the splodge helped make this work by drawing the eye into the middle and showing the movement of air.  It was a difficult subject to get the effect and expressions.  I liked the energy of the watercolour.  The Gouache seemed calmer although more vivid.   The gouache didn’t blend as well on paper resulting in blocks of colour.   My eye is drawn more to the girl in the gouache with the stronger features and colour, it needed a similar light background in the middle.   Perhaps consider using a more messy style with exaggerated brush work to go more abstract and keep the vibrant colours in the gouache and use acrylic.


Ink on acrylic, black acrylic on gouache, black acrylic on watercolour

Tree – I wanted to leave the background more to show highlights in the tree.   I ended up trying masking fluid for watercolour which proved effective.   The acrylic was therefore harder to paint because I had to paint light and build up but I still ended up painting where I wanted to leave the background.  I like the ink on blue splodge because it adds something such as highlighting the hanging roots which I find interesting and following the direction of the trunk.   A closer crop with the trunk filling most of the page with the roots showing in the bottom part would help.

Lion – Again I tried to use the splodge in the picture as part of the movement of the lion as it dances.  What it also ended up doing was creating the effect of a tongue sticking out.  I tried using appropriate sized brushes to get more animated gestural strokes.    I still would like to see more movement, greater blur, maybe more layers.  I think black and coloured ink may work well for this type of picture.   The right eye ended up with too much paint and creates an imbalance.   Perhaps following the water painting by Gary Hume idea where there are multiple outlines of the lion in different positions of the dance could help show the movement but with appropriate colour to show the energy.

Ink on white gouache, ink on plain paper, white acrylic on black ink

Digger – The gouache reduces the absorbency of the ink compared to the white paper.  The ink appears darker and dries with a texture, this is also influenced by the texture of the ground.   This texture and greater contrast creates a more interesting picture.  I also found the gouache starting to mix with the ink if I happen to go back over the same area (something I didn’t expect).   There is too much happening on this picture, a closer crop on the digger arm and house may help.

Concrete – White acrylic on think black ink produced a interesting contrast of matt acrylic on reflective ink.  The white acrylic looks darker than the black ink ground.   The subject is not so interesting, perhaps a face may be more appropriate.   This is similar to the experiments with the varnish and could be considered as a layer within a mixed media to add something very subtle.

Black ink on black acrylic, white gouache on grey acrylic, Black acrylic on white gouache

Womans face – The wrinkled face was good for the white gouache on grey acrylic ground.  The gouache absorbed easily, showing the grey below.  I liked this mix because helped me show the expression and form with simple strokes.   The use of white lead me to focus on highlights which I think kept the brush work simple.

For the black ink and black acrylic face I found I was painting more strokes which got too messy/noisy for the ink version and didn’t work.  The black acrylic on gouache proved more interesting showing the brush strokes better showing more expression.  The ink needed to be kept simpler maybe more lighter washes with fewer stronger hints of wrinkles.  I found this image worked well and will be taking it forward for future exercises.

Research Point 1

Slick flat paint – Gary Hume

Water painting 1999 3×2.5m household paint on aluminium

Water Painting 1999 by Gary Hume born 1962

I feel relaxed and also a little on edge wondering what the woman is about to do.  The colour and the way the woman’s hands rest feel relaxing.  The approach and gaze towards the viewer makes me wonder what she is going to say or do.   The outlines remind me of a movie Ex Machina featuring a female robot.

I find my eyes drawn to the top eyes then down diagonally to the right then left.  Diagonals bring me away from the eyes and face down to the breast.

Abstract style and one of a series featuring overlapping outlines of nude woman.  The title to me suggest calm and reflective.   My understanding on how this was painted is that a small painting was done first and then projected onto the aluminium sheet.  The green household paint was then used to paint the gaps between the lines.  This suggests the outlines were already painted on the image to be projected.   Its not clear if the white of the lines is an undercoat or primer or paint.   The choice of paint produces a reflective finish which could act like water and reflect the viewer.   The large size creates a major presence, larger than life.

I’m planning to get some household paint and something like aluminium to try out some ideas.

Source Tate onlineBritish Council

Black & white  – Ali sharma

Doreen 2014 oil on canvas 30x25cm

I feel slightly energised by this bold painting.   This is one of series of portraits from famous movies.  They remind me of courtroom drawings showing the expression of those in the docks.

The headshot and contrast really draw your eye into the face and the eyes.

The style is gestural with each brush stroke evident.  The black and white brings out the expression and features.

Families 4 2013 oil on paper 35x27cm

The owls reflect a friendly , curious look.   I like the apparent ease by which the brush strokes capture the owl, expression and composition.

The eye is drawn to the eyes of the closest owl moving up and along the faces then down to the feet.  The owls seem at ease with being so close to each other, assuming its not the same owl then they are friendly.

Source Alli Sharma

I made some copies from the painting, continuous line drawings and a painting using appropriate brush sizes and black acrylic.  I tried to be gestural without going over the same area.  I like being able to show the brush strokes more clearly through thinner paint and not over working it.  This is obviously more challenging as mistakes are hard to correct in similar fashion to watercolour.


Loose thin paint – Mimei Thompson

Butterfly Oil on canvas 2014 20x25cm


I feel happy and impressed by the way it appears illuminated like glass.   It reminds me of animal glass sculptures.   The eye is drawn to the wings which loop round down to the body and out along the tail.

The style is gestural and delicate with each brush stroke visible.  Its like a detailed study yet very simple.  The colour choices are limited and complimentary.  

Untitled cave painting (1) oil on canvas 76x61cm


Feels dream like, other worldly and alive.  Eerie because of the organic shapes and colours.  Reminds me of a cartoon with because of the dark outlines and simplified forms.   The colours feel harmonious.   The eye is drawn to the bright lake which seems to be the source of light for this underground cave.  The eye moves along to the right then up and around the top and down the left side, maybe its drawing you out of the cave.


I really wanted to be able to create the effects by applying the paint with a single brush stroke.  But I quickly found that the paint consistency and surface quality were going be important.   I tried acrylic and oils on paper and canvas.  In both cases the paint was being absorbed by the surface too much.   I did then try coating the surface in a layer of gloss gel which reduced the absorption but still not enough. 


Colour & Patterns – Peter Doig

Blotter 1993 oil on canvas 249x199cm

Feel happy and excited because it brings back memories of playing in the snow and the quiet still atmosphere.   It feels cold and fresh.  I like the contrast of the woods against the snow bank and the interesting purple glow in the reflection.  

My eye is first drawn to the figure then down to the reflection then around and back up to the woods.  Background colours are muted and the foreground high contrast.  It seems as though there are many layers. The figure seems illuminated, in the spotlight.   The title refers to being absorbed by the landscape and also the process of painting.   Absorbed both as a painter and viewer.  Large size also means more time invested and therefore more absorbed.  Whilst I can’t see it in person I can see close up photos showing thin layered paint and thick blobs.

I felt I needed to get absorbed in painting too with a response and focussed on recreating elements of the painting through painting a series of layers.   I chose acrylic because its versatile and I don’t have appropriate oils.  I enjoyed painting this and found I liked the painting even more.  I omitted the figure because I was focussed on exploring the background layers and colour.  The finish is not as vibrant as I would have liked but I do like the blue glazed over the warm browns and greens.


source calsfieldnotes

Figures in a red boat 2005-2007 oil on canvas 250x200cm

I feel uncomfortable but intrigued about the mysterious boat drifting in a ghostly tropical landscape.  The blood red reflection makes me feel uncomfortable and intrigued by what they are doing.

The landscape is mostly hidden and slowly coming into view.  The eye is drawn to the figures in the boat moving along then up to the trees from right to left.    The colours are muted and complementary.  The background is painted very thinly and seems to be absorbed bled into the canvas showing texture of the material.

It is abstract.  The reflection is exaggerated and stands out of interest because its not realistic, seems to be showing something more.

Realistic – Chuck Close

Self portrait 1997 oil on canvas 259x213cm

Amazed by the overall realism generated by a very methodical use of colour and patterns.  It reminds me of the pixellated computer images.  Its not something I personally like but I’m impressed and intrigued by the idea.  My eye is drawn to the eyes then closer to the individual squares then moving around the features, constantly stopping to take in the wider view.   It is abstract. The colours are strong.

I chose to recreate a portrait using his technique.  I divided the page into 1cm squares then outlined the face and features.  The painted each square with a dominant colour appropriate to the portrait then filled the middle with a mix of contrasting and complementary colours.   I can see the face starting to appear and maybe with more squares and more time on choosing the right colour I think this would work well.


Messy – Cecily Brown

Wood  oil on linen 96×72″ 2003

Feel awake and wide eyed, there is so much visual interest yet its hard to describe it as a whole.   It reminds me of camouflage.  My eye moves around all over from shape to shape trying to see things.  I feel like I will always see something new in it.  The style is abstract and gestural.  Theres a huge amount of energy.  Theres high contrast creating form and surprising depth.  The colours are earthly and harmonious.   I like how the blue compliments the earthly browns. The subject is in the woods and fits with the title.  There is sexual nature to this as in most of her work.  This is not something I would normally like or consider looking at.

The adoration of the lamb 2006 oil on linen 78″x78″

This feels alive, fun.  I can’t make sense of this painting but it reminds me of a jumbled up painting from the cistine chapel with the striking royal blue.  Religion is a major theme in this painting.  I love the brush work and overall feel with the contrast, vibrant colours.

I decided the colours used in these paintings played a major role and whilst I’m not going to be able to recreate the painting I wanted to capture those colours and compare.   Theres definitely a calmer feel to the left compared to the louder right side colours.


source gagosian cecilybrown