Project 3 – Exercise: Creating mood and atmosphere

Look at your early paintings and think how each subject could be handled differently to convey a more explicitly gloomy, moody atmosphere – or a different atmosphere altogether:

Overall I do believe that my paintings from project 2 are rather expressive and evoking powerful and at times mysterious atmospheres. With my paintings from project 1, I am not that sure, especially as I do not find painting #2 from exercise 1 that convincing. It has rather a touch of ‘unreal’ – not believable. Perhaps this is the key as not trusting the view outside, the window glass reflection could support this.

For this exercise I already found a subject and I really wanted to paint the night light scene outside in town. With the gloomy streetlights, the rainy streets and the at times shifting reality.

Final Painting:

Night scene in series – Gouache on paper (50 x 34.5 cm each)

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1

Preparatory work:

While looking at some outside places for my painting I had to go to town late evening, it was raining and while sitting in the car I was fascinated by the lights and reflections. Quite an interplay of tonal contrast and color. I decided to work on this subject as I found that the row of lights merging towards a vanishing point are equally relevant for the scope of this exercise. On the other hand I can work more freely with color and spaces to complement the drawn shapes.

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - Exercise 1 - Late evening impressions

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – Exercise 1 – Late evening impressions

My goal:
To depict the gloominess and expressiveness of the late evening, night lights on a rainy day. The lights and shapes seems to be rather un-real. The atmosphere is at times eerie and vibrating. It is as my eye can not focus, is overwhelmed by the flooding of visual information, searching for meaning within an otherwise known context.

My approach:

  • Loose style in gouache, expressive strokes, not to be to concerned about shapes or depth. The composition as such should be conveying a sense of my emotional state on location.
  • Working serial – as to allow myself to look at various viewpoints alongside a fresh and expressive painting approach. The hanging of all serial painting should provide another visual impact – the eye of the viewer jumping from image to image similar as my eye was jumping around to capture the fuzzy visual information.

Work in progress:

Painting #1:

Starting with bold application of paint and developing the scene further without a preparatory line painting.

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - work in progress #1

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – work in progress #1

Painting #2:

Starting with a line painting in monochrome to depict the scene, adding colors and developing the image further. Adding myself sketching (hand) in the foreground to depict a wider perspective and to include the Me as the one looking around. This could be the viewer’s hand as well.

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - work in progress #2

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – work in progress #2

Painting #3:

Stefan513593 - Project 3 - Exercise 1 - work in progress #3

Stefan513593 – Project 3 – Exercise 1 – work in progress #3


  • The first painting was done without any preparatory thinking, just starting to add paint to the surface while keeping the scene impression in my mind. The other two I started with some prep line work to ensure a certain perspective and as more elements merged into the image. The three paintings of this series do have different viewpoints and appeal. Still I find the first one and my approach there more appealing, fresher. Although I am aware that I had to adjust at times some elements in painting #1 due to ‘wrong’ placement and I had to paint over some areas more often.
  • I find it fascinating as with painting certain elements do appear: like the figures in the street in painting  #3. Here I deliberately including shapes to develop further into forms.
  • In painting #2 I added my sketching hand into the image. By that I widened the perspective and possibly the viewer can see her/himself into that position as well.

Next time:

  • Could I completely omit an underlaying line image and let this perhaps develop over the painting process?
  • Perhaps this series is not quite in the context of my research on mood and atmosphere associated with surrealism and symbolism. Question would be how I could possible simplify the image?

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