Assignment 1 – Interior Stokesay Castle

We are encouraged to use as our subject either a still life, landscape or interior, which must be representational (not abstract) and not to be ambitious

I decided to choose an interior scene for this part one assignment.  The fortified 13th century manor house called ‘Stokesay Castle’ in Shropshire was a place I visited a while back and I was fascinated with the interiors of this very old building.  From my reference photos, I looked at two possible subjects.  One was a pair of deeply recessed casement windows that I’d photographed in extremely low light.  The other scene was of an old keg or barrel standing in a barren room, the light streaming through the portcullis window illuminated the derelict walls, cobbled stone floor and the keg.  Both subjects leant themselves to a chiaroscuro treatment.

I did some small colour sketches in my A5 sketchbook and after I’d done the recessed window in burnt sienna, orange, gold and black I thought it had the makings of a good tonal study to pursue further.  However, after I had coloured in the window/keg drawing in tones of blue, ochre and black, I felt that this was a more interesting composition.

I wanted to convey the age of the interior and its time-ravaged condition.  I felt I should use a medium and painting surface that would perhaps mimic the rough texture and decay of the walls, floor and brickwork.  The lone keg creates an anchor and is a typical historical object that sits naturally in this interior.   I chose some heavyweight Daler Rowner paper in A3 size.  I first drew a guide and then did a thin wash using acrylics – I used orange and yellow but watered this down considerably so that it was more of a yellow slightly tinged with orange.  I left out (masked) areas in the drawing where the light was most intense – the window itself and part of the wall behind the keg.

When this was dry, I started mixing the dark colours in Cobra water-mixable oil paint and continued working up the picture.  I used a variety of marks with different brushes, as well as my fingers, to generate the illusion of texture.  I went over areas with different washes to build up layers of colour depth and to create a variety of tones.

Working up tones

I constantly evaluated the darks and light areas to correct colour saturation and still maintain the glow of bright light coming through the stone window.  I built up tones on the overhead beams, painting in the negative shapes, also using chiaroscuro techniques in the shadow behind the barrel, beneath the window and on the overhead main beam.  I did some work with water soluble oil pastels to build up more brick texture and also used pencils to give a bit of definition to the rim of the barrel and brickwork.

Interior – Stokesay Castle  A3

Overall, I am satisfied with the finished painting.  I think I have created a good depth and range of tones. The painting is atmospheric and I have successfully portrayed the aged decaying wall, uneven texture of the well-worn ‘cobbled’ stone floor.

I have used a few techniques that we learnt in Part 1 – namely laying down washes both before starting the actual painting and continuing with these washes to build up layers of glowing translucent colour.  I have worked on a coloured ground, used  chiaroscuro, been careful to use a variety of tones and colour values. I used various brushes and mark-making techniques, including oil pastels, pencils and my fingers.

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