Project 3 – Exercise 1: A figure in an interior

In this exercise I will look at how to depict figures in an interior scene. As this subject can be very complex and challenging to paint I will try to simplify and to focus on key elements in my paintings.

Final paintings

Painting #1: Acrylic and oil on acrylic paper (40 x 30 cm)

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - #1

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – #1

Painting #2: Acrylic on primed canvas (50 x 50 cm)

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - #2

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – #2


Mostly I do refer to the works by Walter Sickert, especially his later works in the camaieu technique  (see my research on ‘Broken or muted Colours‘- click here). I would like to explore this technique but with a more contemporary touch.

Another source of inspiration I do get from the paintings by Eric Fischl and Adrian Ghenie  (see my research on ‘Figures in Interior‘- click here)


Preparatory work

I started with my interior sketchbook studies from part 2 – project 4 ‘Quick sketches around the house‘ (click here). I decided on a few most interesting ones and added a few others asking my model to sit or to stand in an appropriate spot.

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - sketchbook#1

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – sketchbook#1

I selected two of them for my paintings (the top two from above) and did quick color studies on them. Again my theme of luminosity is becoming obvious.

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - sketchbook#2

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – sketchbook#2

From these preparatory studies I decided to make two paintings in different approaches:

  1. With camaieu technique learned form Walter Sickert (see my research on ‘Broken or muted Colours‘- click here)
  2. With inspiration from Eric Fischl and Adrian Ghenie with a bolder approach with brush and spatula (see my research on ‘Figures in Interior‘- click here)

Both paintings will work around the red shirt and the rather blue-violet background and with touches of warm red-brown for furniture.

Work in progress

Painting #1:

For this painting I used a acrylic painting paper 420 g /sqm

I decided to apply the camaieu technique from Walter Sickert (click here). I wanted to depict the cool light coming through the window curtain. According to the camaieu approach I should apply warm colours in the shadow and cool colors in the light areas before continuing with local colors and overlayed washes.

  1. Direct paint application on support. Applying in acrylic paint warm tones in the shadows and cool tones in the lights
  2. Blocking in the shapes with mixed colors (Azo Red, Ultramarine, Azo Ye, white)
  3. Applying in oil washes in local colors: blue tone for the shadows, and light orange for the lights
Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - #1 -progress

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – #1 -progress

=> Overall this painting reminds me of neo-impressionistic work. Context : Eric Fischl ‘Bad Boy

Painting #2:

  1. I prepared first a linen canvas with hide glue and champagne chalk to achieve a rougher surface wit more texture
  2. Outlining major shapes in pencil, charcoal. I added part of my flexible easel to the left for compositional balance and as a reminder of me as an artist working with a model.
  3. Blocking in major areas in acrylic paint (warm, cool) –
  4. Continuing with additional washes in acrylic paint (ultramarine, Alizarin, Hansa Ye, Zinc white). Subtractive strokes with spatula to add more roughness to the painting. Using Titan White for more solid mixes.
  5. Adding with fluid paint the pattern on the window. This adds a point of interest and links to the sight view of the figure. Also it enhances the white-orange light.
  6. Final elaboration with washes to achieve desired contrasts.
Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - #2 -progress

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – #2 -progress

some close up views of final painting #2:

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - #2- closeup

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – #2- closeup


  • I find the simplification I made in painting #1 satisfying. I tried to apply the camaieu technique (cool light, warm shadows, adding local colors) but I simplified it perhaps too much (not enough tonal gradation of the underpainting)
  • I do find my approach to start with acrylic and continued with oil washes quite rewarding. It does speed up the process and it gives a more luminous appeal than just with acrylic paint.
  • Overall I do tend to complicate clothes and fold too much. I could learn more from other and applying broader areas of tonal values.
  • I do find a more interactive approach with additive and subtractive strokes with different tools more appealing.
  • During the process of painting I was thinking more about what could be behind the scene, thinking about a narrative already. I find that both paintings due to the figures poses the viewer can ask questions about what is it that they are looking through the window? Painting more of a narrative, story will be the focus for my next exercise.

Next time:

  • Applying broader areas of a few tonal values (2-3) as simplification, especially for clothes with folds.


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