Project 3, Exercise 1 – creating mood/atmosphere

I decided to concentrate on trying to make a painting using the bare minimum of colours – white/black .. greys.   This was inspired by a recent short break I had on the North Wales coast.  We arrived in the middle of Storm Francis with winds up to 75 mph, the sea was especially violent (we were right on the seafront).  The next morning all was calm but devoid of obvious sunlight, just grey and silver tones, the sea was flat calm, I found this very atmospheric and beautiful.  I took my sketchbook with me on this trip and I attempted a quick brush pen sketch, I also took a reference photo.

Brush pen study of seascape in sketchbook

Once back home I wondered if I could create the glitter like effect of the grey toned sea using tin foil as a base for the painting.   I tried the idea out in my sketchbook – first glueing the foil down and then I used cotton buds to daub the paint onto the foil surface.  Depending on what angle you are viewing this little painting from it can look quite sparkly – it doesn’t photograph very well! It is bordering on ‘craft’ and I wasn’t sure it would work as a larger painting.

I started an oil (A2) on paper, first putting down a ‘grey’ mixed from ultramarine blue and magenta with titanium white. 

‘Grey’ wash for oil painting

While I waited for this to dry, I tore an A3 sized piece of paper and got out the soft pastels.  I used ochre, cream, white, black and a tiny bit of blue to create this study, which took only a few minutes and I think it’s the most successful.

Working with soft pastels
Soft pastels – seascape on Clairefontaine paper – approx A3

Anyway, once the wash had dried, I started working up the painting using Cobra black and Jackson’s titanium white (both water-mixable oils).  I added a tiny dot of yellow light.   I really battled to get the tones I wanted as the titanium white is very thick and hard to mix, it comes out of the tube almost like plasticine and once water has been added to it, seems to lose pigment.  I’ve ordered some more Cobra white, as well as a couple of other colours, as I found Cobra very creamy and lovely to use, plus it is highly pigmented.   This Clairefontaine paper is okay but doesn’t take much working on the surface, it ripples no matter how much prep you do on it, or how you anchor it down with tape. I’ve splashed out and bought a few sheets of Arches and will try that paper out in forthcoming exercises. 

Oils – Seascape on Clairefontaine paper – A2

Initially, I was more pleased with the soft pastel painting, it’s not overworked and conveys the atmosphere of the place I took inspiration from.   However, once the oil had dried I compared it with the soft pastel and I am undecided now – they both seem to work quite well.  I’ve caught the shimmering grey/silver tones of this area and the looming storm bank coming over (it continued to rain heavily the next day).

Both paintings side by side on wall

I think this seascape would look good as a very large painting on canvas – something to think about.

2 thoughts on “Project 3, Exercise 1 – creating mood/atmosphere

  1. Some very good ideas here, as a painter/artist myself I like your experimentation. I will share.

    Liked by 1 person

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