Part 5 Exercise 1 – Impasto (1)

We are to create an impasto still life exercise (e.g. fruit) on a prepared surface using first brush, then palette knives and also scratching (sgraffito). I was really looking forward to this part of the course as in my private work off course I do a lot of pieces using heavy gels and mediums, as well as modelling pastes and even contractor’s grout. However, I don’t think my painting ‘muse’ or ‘self’ was with me 100% today, which is why I’ve decided to do two posts for this exercise.

I used acrylics for these test pieces and for my thickening agent I used an acrylic heavy gel medium (a brand I brought with me from South Africa a couple of years ago). I decided to use as my subject an arrangement of green pepper, cherry tomatoes and a garlic bulb on a plate. For the surface I used Clairefontaine Paint On paper gessoed white – I had previously tore a few A3-ish sized pieces and prepared them for this and other exercises. I taped the sheet down to the board and did a rough drawing.

rough sketch – pepper, tomatoes and garlic study – acrylics

For the palette i chose, Viridian green (which I eventually decided was too dark), emerald green, cadmium green, bright yellow green, cadmium red, cadmium orange, flourescent blue, titanium white and violet. I used one round tapered brush for this study.

mixing in gel to the paint
starting to apply thick paint with the brush

I found it quite hard to avoid the habit of not mixing colours on the surface – as we were told not to mix the colours but to lay them side by side on the picture plane and then roughly mix them with the brush. So that was a bit of a contradiction. I guess I do this naturally (mix colours on the picture plane) but I was trying not to do it and for some reason got horribly side-tracked … but in a nice way! This was really an exercise in play as far as I was concerned and the finished result is very naive and clumpy but I still like it.

Impasto – still life with pepper. Acrylics and heavy texture gel on paper – brush

I scrubbed in the background using a mixtures of violet, blue and oranges.

Next I decided to do the palette knife study using the same subject, thinking that it would be easier to work with the palette knife – as I’ve done this before many times.

rough sketch – peppers for palette knife treatment

I found it interesting that my rough sketch for this still life for the second exercise was way clearer and I’d just concentrated on shapes. I like that sketch! Anyhow, I used the same palette but this time two palette knives – my small trowel and small putty knife (they are both el-cheapo plastic ones)

starting to apply thick paint using knives

i didn’t use the veridian green so much in this pepper. I painted in the background loosely, scrubbing with tthe brush and basically using up left over colour mixed in with white, to get harmonious greys. This is the end result with knives:

Impasto – still life with pepper. Acrylics and heavy texture gel on paper – palette knives

I wasn’t all that blown away with either of these attempts at impasto on paper. Ordinarily I would use my fingers to manipulate the paint, especially into shadow areas. But I didn’t think we were supposed to use our hands or other implements for this exercise. I then had another go using a different subject composition and colours, also with knives:

rough sketch of apples, orange and bananas
applying paint

I used various yellows and oranges, substantially more blues and and very little green. This is the finished result (the bananas look yellower than in this photo).

Impasto – still life with orange, apples and bananas. Acrylics and heavy texture gel on paper – palette knives

Last week, in anticipation of this exercise I messed about with gel and acrylics on paper and ended up scratching/sgraffito – so I’m including that in here.

Impasto knife – acrylics and heavy gel with sgraffito – tree

I have ordered some more stucture gel and will do another post on impasto exercises, also try to use some oils next time.

I feel as though I should show my private work during these exercises, as that would give a better example of how I work with texture gels, mediums and pastes. These are a couple of examples:

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