Part 2 Project 3 Exercise 4 – Still life with complementary colours

We are asked to use the same subject/composition for this and the next exercise that we used for the colour accuracy exercise. For this one, we are to create a painting using only two colours (complementaries) and maybe the addition of white.

I drew an accurate representation of the source image, using a trace off technique from the photo, which had been printed onto A4 paper. I lightly shaded the reverse of the photo with a 6B pencil and then traced off the main lines onto Bockingford paper using a 4H pencil. I did this because I had a feeling I might end up doing several version of the same image in different colour combinations and didn’t want to have to spend too much time on the drawing part of it.

Traced-off image onto A4 Bockingford paper

I initially felt a blue-violet/yellow-orange pair would work well and this time.

Blue-violet/yelow-orange watercolours

I found it quite tricky to get the tone up (or down) to the right levels and in some places went over with a white wash to dull it down. I wasnt entirely convinced with the result. And in retrospect, I realised that I had purposefully not mixed the complementary colours to create a grey, which is maybe where I should have started from!

Still life under Covid19 – watercolour complementary colours A4

I decided to have another go with red/green complementaries- using water-soluble oil pastels, again on Bockingford paper (which I find is one of the best to use for a lot of wet mediums like watercolour and water-soluble oil pastels, ‘cos it can take the working about on its surface without degrading). I still tackled the painting the same way – i.e. using different huses of green and red to build up the tones.

Red/green complementaries – water-soluble oil pastels

I didn’t like the result at all. It was lifeless and indistinct. I then decided to mix green and red to see what kind of a ‘grey’ I’d get. It was a lovely burnt ochre, so I watered it down a lot and went over all the green areas, in various degrees of pigment strength.

Still life under Covid-19 – red/green complementaries water-soluble oil pastels on Bockingford paper – A4

I have done a lot of smaller experimental tone and colour studies of this arrangement, in between making the paintings, so I’m starting to get a little bit sick of it!

When I look at all the studies now (as they are on the wall (see next exercise), I am finding that the red/green study seems to work the best – but they all have a uniqueness.

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