Project 3 – Exercise 5: Still with color used to evoke mood

Continuing with my same still life scene but how being free to explore colour and colour interaction in a way that it evokes mood.

 balance, serenity and calm atmospheric.

My final image:

Oil on unprimed canvas (40 x 60 cm)

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 5

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 5

The relationship of colour and mood was articulated some centuries ago. JW Goethe explored the in his color theory the physiological aspects and how they subjectively affect us (see Goethe Color Circle – ref). Kandinsky explored the difference between warm and cool colours in his book ‘On the Spiritual in Art’, 1911

The healing power of colours is going back to ancient Egypt, Persia, China and India. In the context of psychology of the nineteenth century those aspects became also interested to artists (Gage, 2007). The meaning of colour becomes at times quite symbolic. Colour Therapy and some psychoanalytical Art Therapy practices are looking at the affects and connotations of colour on human’s health. I am a bit careful about this as people may tend to interpret into colour a personal meaning what I find dangerous. Nevertheless I mention this hear as it gives some insight in the various meanings of colour (Art Therapy blog 2015a and 2015b).

Looking at some paintings with atmospheric appeal that attracts me

Contextual Research:

=> violet yellow complementaries

=> yellow, red ochre hues merging with

  • David Cox (1783 – 1859)
    – ‘Still life’
    [online image] Available from: [accessed 02 July 2016]
    => David Cox depicts a still life with a sense of movement (as Turner does often) that conveys a great sense of serenity and calm through its simplicity and interplay of sharp and blur (ambiguous)

Other inspiration related to luminosity and high key paintings:

  • Pascal DanzInterior‘, 2009 (see my exhibition visit – click here)
  • Silvia Gertsch  ‘Summer’, 2008 (see my exhibition visit  – click here)

=> abstract and blurred marks/strokes that enforce a distant view and

Preparatory sketches:

  • Experimenting with bold strokes with wide brush:
    Acrylic, gesso, mixing on plate and on the paper) – A3 sketchbook
    => visual difference with a more orange or a more purple object. The luminosity is increased with the orange although the tonal values are that different from each other. Grey background enhances saturation perception although the background color adds to a specific atmosphere.
  • Experimenting with luminous and blurred strokes:
    => increasing luminosity through bright, saturated colours (see above). Here also the effect of transparency of the top layer plays a role.
    => increasing luminosity of colours juxtaposed to grey or desaturated areas (see also my studies on complementary color and color wheel P1 Ex4 – click here). Thinking about warm and cool greys and how they resonate with the saturated colour (same or opposite)
    => increasing luminosity through multi layers of transparent washes (as my assignment 1 piece – click here) or my coli field experiment with washes – click here.  Also the visual effect of gloss versus matt finish. Works well in oil (turp media = matt, oil media = gloss)


  • Experimenting with atmospheric fuzzy washes:
    inspired by D. Turner and W.H. Stokes
    -> Sketchbook A5 with water-soluble crayons (NeoColor II) and washes

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 5 - sketchbook prep

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 5 – sketchbook prep

=> At the beginning I was nots are whether to go for a high luminosity or a rather calm atmosphere. From the various sketchbook studies I decided to go for the last one with red and blue and violet in between to convey a sense of balance, serenity and calm atmospheric.

My painting approach:


p style=”font-size: 16px;”>Mood: Atmospheric, serenity, calm, a touch of blurred vision (see Turner and Stokes)
Media: Oil on unprimed canvas, turp and quick drying oil medium
Tools: Finger to move, to merge onto and to rub paint into the surface, palette knife to make edges and to scrap, wooden stick to shift paint, and finger brush to rub into the surface harder (in reference to my own intimate approach with pastels as well as the painting approach on unprimed canvas by Helen Frankenthaler and rubbing approach by Nancy Eckels)

Work in progress:

During the later stages I played with the colour directly on the canvas till I was satisfied with the overall colour and tonal perception that would support my intention best. Leaving part of the canvas unpainted to show to beauty of it and its rawness associated with my painting process.

I started with the tomatoes to get value and color mix right. Working heavily with the wonden stick and turp to shift vertically the paint downwards. Surrounding spatters do show this process.

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 5 - progress

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 5 – progress

=> I feel that I could have left the background more un-painted as I think that #3 in above work in progress serie has a special appeal to it that got lost when I painted the background (#4). I had to elaborate and paint back and force on the background in the following steps without possibly adding more to the painting (besides pulling the bright color of the glass backwards – glas painted more impasto). I consider this as a study and lesson learned.

The final painting is on top of this post.

After finishing the painting I was looking up what I will find in the internet on ‘Balance, Serenity, and Calm’:

Giovanni Bellini (1426 – 1516)Giovanni Bellini_Madonna with child and saints_1505
– ‘San Zaccaria Altarpiece’, 1505
Oil on canvas, transferred from wood (402 x 273 cm)
San Zaccaria, Venice
[online image] Available from: [accessed 09 July 2016]
=> A feeling of serenity and spiritual calm through harmonious and balanced presention of color and light


Did I achieve through my color selection a similar mood perception? I chose blue, red and violet – three colors also depicted in Bellini’s work.


This reminds me of how contemporary artists do refer to traditional and old master paintings like Bridget Riley. She turned at times to compositions by the Old Masters for inspiration and their uses of colour and line. On examples if here reference to Raphael‘s (1483-1520) painting ‘Saint Catherine of Alexandria‘, 1507 – click here (The National Gallery, 2010)

and Ian Davenport who’s s influences are “as colourful and diverse as the paintings themselves. His puddle painting ‘Colourfall‘ is inspired by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) ‘The Ambassadors‘ – click here. Davenport speaks about that:  “Holbein’s painting is really about red and green and black, and how the colours punctuate the space, so I’ve broken that down in my painting, using his unique colour palette against a dark green background. And I also think there is something rather beautiful about how the distorted skull in the Holbein is echoed in the paint lines that merge at the bottom of my work.” (Petersen, 2014)

=> For it is inspiring to see how other artists are referring to old master by their color use and transform this information into their own works. The two artist above turn it into use abstraction.


    • Working without brushes and on canvas is a very intimate an engaging process for me that I like
    • Shifting and layering colour with a stick, knife and my fingers allowed me to make a atmospheric painting in the context of W.H.Turner and A.Stokes
    • My approach worked best when I started from light colour and moving towards card (quite watercolour style). By that I could merge the lighter colour into the background and keep the darker colours on the objects. This depends on my subject.

Next Time:

    • Doing some further prep work on colour interplay for background
    • Re-thinking how much of the background need actually to be painted
    • Considering my initial painting approach with wooden stick and how I can work in such manner on the entire painting
    • Inspiration from referencing to other artist in the colour use.


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