PAINT WORKSHOP: Working on top of Green Underpainting

Today, I attended the paint workshop, where I started working on top of the Green underpainting that I have been working on this week. Prior to this workshop, I had a tutorial with one of our tutors – Susan Adams, who suggested that I worked in monochrome to highlight the one person that is in colour within my work. I think this is a great suggestion and I will experiment with this technique throughout the further stages of my project. In this session, based on the feedback I have been given, I decided to work with a monochrome layer on top of the Green underpainting, and I was interested to see how the green would shine through the greys.


I started to realise that I had already done a lot of the work by putting detail into the underpainting and that I could use it as a guide to work on top of.  I focused on creating dimension and tone in the underlay and this definitely helped the success of the paint I was applying on top because I could follow the tones I have considered and thought out previously. I have employed dry brushing techniques here so that the glow of the green underlay is allowed to come through. I have been researching artists that use these techniques within their work and I came across the YouTube video’s of George Ayers, who incorporates much of the detail into a green underpainting and like me uses it more as a guide to work on top of.

I am really pleased with how this piece is turning out. Before these sessions, I never realised quite how useful an underpainting could be and how it really does inform the outcome. It is definitely something I will be condsidering a lot more in my future as an art student and an artist.


I will continue to work on this piece this week and finish it ready for next monday’s session where we will be exhibiting what we have created and presenting what we have learnt.



In the Letterpress Workshop,  We learnt about setting type, arranging the text correctly and working with a Dana Press. Historically, this  is how type was printed. A whole industry was based around the use of lead type and trays before the invention and commercial use of computers to create type. Letter press is a very lengthy, fiddly, incredibly time-consuming and a complex process. Commercially, there were a team of people working with the Letter press, the Printer, their associates and the Printers Devil.  The job of the Printers Devil was to put all of the type letters back from the hell box into the lead box and type case, in the right order.




Typing on a computer as I am doing now, loses the tactility of type set text. You are dealing with the physical letters and there is an embossing effect in the paper once the type is printed, you can sense its physical nature.

The text tray is arranged in a Californian layout of tray type, Designed by how frequently the letters are used, not alphabetically. In this workshop, I used a composing stick to lay out the letters that I would like to print, it held the text in place whilst I composed it. All the letters had a notch at the top and I had to arranged them upside down but so that the letters still read correctly left to right. It was a really fiddly process and took quite a while to master. All type letters regardless of their size or materials are set at the same height. I set the text into a Chase and packed it in tightly with metal pieces of leading and wood furniture before tightening it all together with adjustable blocks. I checked that I had placed all the letters in correctly by taking a rubbing of it.


Next, I screwed the chase in place in the press and inked up the plate on top.



Next, I placed a piece of paper opposite my text and pulled the handle of the press to ink up the rollers and roll the ink down onto the text before pulling it all the way and compressing the paper and inked up letters together creating an embossed outcome. Below are some of the outcomes I produced in this workshop.



I also experimented with embossing the paper with no ink. I wanted to link my workshop into my City project and so printed the words “The Hidden Loneliness of the City Life”.



This was a highly interesting workshop and I love the tactile and physical qualities of the outcome, However, it was incredibly time-consuming to just print these six words, I can’t imagine printing a whole book this way for example. I am always keen to try out new techniques and even though this is not something I will be revisiting in this project, I have learnt a new skill that could inform future projects or make more physical sketchbook titles etc.

Worskhop: Mechanical Aids to Drawing

In this workshop, We looked at David Hockney’s book “Secret Knowledge”. Within this text, Hockney talks about how Vermeer and Renaissance artists used optics and mirrors to aid them in creating accurate portraits and art works. There was a highly interesting timeline in this book which opened my eyes to how new technologies affect art and the way artists work. Until 1839, artists only had the use of optics such as mirrors and lenses, in 1839 the first fixed photographic camera was made which made the use of optics in art more elaborate. The 1930s saw modern art spring up and interestingly so did television and then computers which gave possibility to digital art.

In  this workshop we looked at 3 mechanical aids to drawing: Camera obscura, Camera Lucida and Projection. We worked with a kind of Camera Obscura using a lens and a mirror to project an image onto paper than can be drawn from. We got into pairs and drew each other using this method, one sat opposite the camera under light and the other went into a dark space and drew them for just 2 minutes.


Here is the result I achieved below: It was incredibly difficult to draw accurately because you couldn’t see the lines you were drawing very well.


We also worked with projection in this workshop and used flash photography to produce images of each other to project onto the wall and draw on top of to create accurate portraits. Below are images of my partner drawing me and my projected portrait of her.




After drawing one image of my partner, I decided to project another one on top and draw it to create an abstract kind of outcome. Projection is a modern-day aid to drawing, but is it cheating? you are not really drawing the image and I feel as if it becomes more the creator of the piece rather than an aid. However, this was a useful exercise in helping me developing my portrait skills and facial proportions.


Lastly, we explored the Camera Lucida. The Camera Lucida is an optical device that enables you to look at something in front of you through glass and it reflects the image onto the paper. Unfortunately, using an authentic Lucida was not possible so we used a modern-day version in the form of an App on the Ipad. The result I produced from working this way is shown below:


I’m not really sure how I feel about mechanical aids to drawing. I think if you are an artist purely making art for a commercial sale and need to make many successful pieces in a short space of time it is quicker using these methods and I guess would be beneficial. However, technically this is not your own drawing, it is like tracing something and if you are an artist like me, distinguishing your own style and creating art that has a personal reflection on you, it may be classed as cheating and the personal element is gone. I found that even the portraits I created in this workshop, even though I enjoyed creating them, were lifeless.

PAINT WORKSHOP: Session 2: Colour, Pattern and Dry-Brushing

We were asked to bring our Green tone underpaintings along to this session with a view to working on top of them with more realistic colours. The idea was to see how the underpainting informed the painting produced on top. The tutor showed us an example of a green underpainting that he has been working on and showed us a few techniques to think about when painting on top of our pieces. He asked us to think about pattern, and how using pattern in painting can be effective. He used the example of wood grain within our still lifes and delicately showed us how to apply thin brush strokes using a small brush. Next, he showed us a technique known as “dry-brushing”, which is when you almost scuff the surface with paint. It is best to use an old brush for this and it was a valid way of applying paint for us in this workshop, because the highlights, lowlights and green tones of our underpaintings could show through the new thin layer of paint being applied.


We were then left to experiment with these techniques and start building up a more realistic image of our still lifes using more accurate colours. I started my piece by observing the texture of the surface that it was on, this week there were no tables left and I had placed my items on an orangey brown canvas chair which worked out really well for adding colour to my painting. I used a dotting effect and spotted pattern to render the chair and then used the dry brushing technique to add a scuffed orange colour over the top, allowing the green to show through slightly. Dry brushing over the pattern also gave emphasis to the dots themselves and it started to look highly textured and effective.



I continued employing these techniques and built up a substantial amount of colour within my work. It was really interesting how I found myself being informed by the shadows and highlights that I had thought about when producing the underpainting in the first place. The green tones showing through also seemed to give my painting a lot more texture made it look more three-dimensional. The green underpainting definitely effected the colours that I painted on top. For example, The photograph that is laying on the book was painted in dark greys but when applied on top of green, pink tones were emerging, which was highly interesting.

I have learnt a lot from these sessions and underpainting and dry brushing are definitely techniques I will be using in my painting in the future. I will now continue working and finish this piece in my own time ready for the next session on Monday.

Working with Grounds

After undertaking a grounds workshop and learning that the colour and texture underneath the paint affects the outcome, I want to experiment with working on different grounds.  I usually just paint onto a white surface but recently I have been working with darker colours and I learnt that working on a dark surface like black emulsion or brown could dull the colours I’m using and give my images more dimension.

I have produced six grounds to work with: black emulsion, burnt umber, a mid tone beige colour, a cadmium yellow  ground and two textured grounds, one red and one brown.



In the workshop, we talked about how grounds can make painting easier for you, and that it can also make it harder. I predict that the textured grounds are going to make painting more difficult for me but they undoubtedly will produce an interesting effect and created texture within my painting that I produce on top.



I am really interested and excited to work with these grounds and to see how they affect my outcomes, I plan to paint images portraying loneliness in the city, in monochrome and sepia tones on all six and observe how the grounds effect the colours and if the surfaces and textures create a desirable or undesirable outcome.

PAINT WORKSHOP: Underpainting Finished

Today, I spent the afternoon working in my studio and finishing off the underpainting I started in the painting workshop on monday. There are many green tones used to make up this underpainting of a still life of my book, photograph and headphones. They are darkened with red and blue and lightened with yellow and white. It is now ready for the next layer of paint, which I will be embarking on in next Mondays painting session.


I am intrigued to see how the underpainting affects the final result of the piece and if and how the green tones beneath the colours that I apply on top change them at all. I am also excited to see whether the green ends up showing through the painting in any way and if the highlights and shadows that I have already created in the underpainting, inform the highlights and shadows I apply in the next layer.



I must admit that I don’t usually underpaint when producing artwork, I tend to just go for it on a white canvas or piece of board or paper. It is great that I am learning a new technique and I look forward to applying the skills and knowledge that I learn to the work I am producing in my City Project.

Paint Workshop : Paint, Mediums and Glazes

Today, I attended an incredibly interesting workshop, where the tutor talked about paint, mediums that we can mixed with both oil paint and acrylic paint, varnishing, adding colour, layering colour and glazing with many layers of paint. I learnt so much this morning and I will outline all of the things that learnt during this workshop below.

Oil Paint and Acrylic Paint is made from the same pigment. Burnt Sienna is an exception to this rule, as art students we probable rarely use real burnt sienna pigment, it is now mostly synthetic. Certain pigments within paint have certain qualities, for example Naples Yellow has a thick and buttery quality to it and Rose Madder comes from a natural dye and is more of a liquid paint. Paints have very individual qualities but the only reason for this is the medium that is added.

Commonly, artists may use turpentine to thin oil paint however, turps evaporates and leaves nothing for the colour to bind to. Turpentine is not a medium and it shouldn’t be used to think  oil paints. Linseed oil is the correct medium for this purpose, the colours don’t become transparent when using it and the paint binds easily. The thinner the paint you want, the more Linseed Oil you would add. Mediums give you the potential to change the consistency of paint by adding them to it. You can also use mediums to increase the drying time of oil paint.

To make oil paint, you use Linseed oil, you use it to extend oil paint also. Refined Linseed oil will slow dow the drying time when using oils. Stand oil is exactly the same material as linseed oil, its a lot thicker in consistency and because it is thicker, it tend to get rid of brush marks when it is mixed with paint and applied. If making acrylic paint, you wouldn’t use Linseed oil, you’d use an acrylic medium and copolymer, a colourless acrylic paint with pigment. This mixture should then b ground together as if you don’t bits of pigment will be floating in it. However, this could be a desirable effect to use within your work. If you extend acrylic colours with PVA Homopolymer the paint will become glossy and plasticky. You can add a matting agent to if afterwards if you want to get rid of the glossy effect. The paint will be a lot thinner when you add copolymer but you can thicken it uo with copolymetric thickener. The more you add the thicker it gets but if you put too much it will solidify. It is really interesting to me that making and using mediums is like baking and following a recipe. If you wanted your paint to be thick, chalky and dry you could add powders to it. With Acrylic, you could paint a thicker mixture of paint and powder on and it would be dry and ready to work with in just 30 minutes. Acrylic paint is a glue, if you were using it with collage, it would stick the collage material to the painting. Acrylic is a lot less harmful than oil paint. Oil materials involve solvents and chemicals, also acrylic paint has a greater rang of consistencies. For example, you cannot make matt oil paint. The possibilities are greater with acrylic but oil paint is still favoured.

 Acrylic didn’t used to be very permanent when it first came out, it cracked and the colour often faded over time. Colour Field artists were given acrylic paint to experiment with and started creating new ways of applying large expanses of colour like pouring it onto the canvas.



Now acrylic is a lot better and almost on parr with oils. Oil Paint comes in many different grades. The difference between student grade oil paint and an artist quality paint is that there is more pigment in artist quality paint and it contains real pigment where as student paints tend to be coloured with dye.  I didn’t realise until undertaking this workshop that paint can carry a safety warning. Naples Yellow is  like arsenic, it is highly poisonous. In student quality paint, there is no real Naples yellow pigment so its safe, but artists quality is toxic and does contain it. The reason you would use artists quality paint is usually if you were adding mediums to it, you would get more mileage out of it and the colour would still be rich even though mediums have been added.

Mediums and Varnish being different is a myth. Mediums and varnishes are the same material. If you are putting the material into paint it is known as a medium. If you are painting it on top of a painting it is known as a varnish. The way the material is used affects its name, not the material itself. A typical medium make up is 1 portion of oil, 1 portion of varnish and 4 portions of turps. You can obtain varnish in crystal form. It comes from a tree and is what you make damar varnish from. You would put a crystal in a cloth bag, hang it in a jar and fill the jar with turps. Damar varnish is a finishing varnish. Years ago, artists thought that the surface of a painting should be even and covered it in varnish to bring the painting to life. The disadvantage of all varnishes is that they eventually yellow and could turn a shade of brown. Industrial varnishes yellow even quicker. Varnish can also be used as a dryer. All paints conform to varying levels of transparency. If you make brighter colours transparent on a white background, they glow.

Wax is a painting medium, and allows you to work with incredibly thick paint, Microcrystalline wax is cold wax and is very thin but has a definite presence if used within art work. Hot wax makes an incredibly thick paint when oil paint is added to it. This can be seen in the work of Jasper Johns.


Wax has a quality that is unlike oil and acrylic, it is sort of in-between. Egyptians used it to bind the painting they did onto caskets. Wax painting holds every single mark of the brush used to apply it. Another artist that has worked with wax is Terry Setch, he uses buckets of it and embeds things within the wax.


Layering paint is an interesting idea. Painting one colour on top of another colour makes a third colour. In Rembrandt’s work. There are about 30 layers of slightly different colours, creating a new colour every time. Landscape Painters used layering to produce greens back when they were inaccessible. It is very difficult to describe the amalgams of colour that are created through layering. The combinations of glazes can be incredibly complex or incredibly simple. You can use layering and glazing to modify a colour. If a colour has become too cold, yu can make it warmer by applying a thin yellow glaze and vice versa, if it has become to warm you could use a thin blue glaze to cool it down.

You could mix up a heavy dark colour of glaze and use a soft cloth to take glaze away and allow the white behind it (as long as you had used a white ground) to come through. you can reveal the underneath colour and build up highlights and shadows this way within a painting. Rather than adding white, you are creating volumetric space. Layering glazes creates volumetric colour and depth.

Today there are many new mediums that are ready-made like synthetic resins. Liquin is an example. Spectra-Gel means you can put a glaze over something with thin, minimal colour, but with an incredibly thick paint consistency. The medium itself has a jelly like consistency and makes thick paint dry a lot quicker. Alcaflow is treacle in consistency amd tends to get rid of brush marks. Spectraflow is a thinner version of spectra gel. Spectra gel responds to friction, if you used a palette knife to apply it, it can flatten out if you over work it. Synthetic resins are much more prone to yellowing than traditional varnishes. You wouldn’t use synthetic resins as finishing varnishes.

Under taking this workshop has made me want to get samples of mediums and just have a little play  with them and investigate how they change paint. I am going to experiment with how using a ground changes the end result of a painting and I will also experiment with how mediums can effect end results of pieces too. I came back from the workshop with a Jar of acrylic co-polymer to play around with as a starting point.