Contextual painting: Rothko and stained glass

I got curious about the interplay of light and color, the visual effect color can do, and the ‘accidental’ color that light brings. Mark Rothko used quite opaque layers (to my understanding) and in the context of stained glass. One early example of light and color is the stained glass image of the Prophet Hosea in the Augsburg Cathedral (c. 1130):

Prophet Hosea

Reflecting on the visual depth of Mark Rothko’s paintings in limited color palette and the idea of interplay of light and color made me to experiment further and make a larger scale painting myself. To experience the process of making it as well as to experience the visual impact of colors in front of me.

I decided to use red and green as in above stained glass image. I chose oil colors for its more luminous effect compared to acrylic. I have two red and two greens as a starting point: Cd red med (opaque), Alizarin crimson (Trans), emerald greed (opaque), and sap green (trans.).

My intention: a very simplified application of washes to increase visual depth and to enforce light-dark contrast. The greens have in saturated layer a lighter tonal value than the reds, i.e. the green is enforcing light and the red is pushing dark = an interplay. I will use layers of complimentary red/green to indicate a kind of frame as in stained glass.

Concern: red and green are complementary colors, the overlay wash may be just grey as by my learnings from previous exercise. Possible correction: use two colors that are closer together towards the yellow area. Sap green and Cd red should be better than emerald green and Alizarin crimson => to be tested.

First experiments (sketchbook and oil colors):
=> transparent versus opaque colors, layering. Would blue help? Considering shapes. I decided to work towards darker layers of complimentary color to indicate the sense of a frame (similar to stained glass frames)

Work setup: Sized paper around 100x100cm taped to the wall. Standing in front of the painting would allow me have an intimate contact with the surface and to be engaged more with bodily attention.

Progress (all wet-in-wet with strong turp diluted paint):

1) Alizarin crimson and sap green in one layer

2) Next layer same colors

3) Layering stripes in green over red, laying out a pattern of horizontal and vertical fields

4) Following layers mixed more with linseed oil (standout). This gave a thicker consistency and a gloss.

5) I added a middle horizontal areas in Cd Red (opaque paint) to see the visual and contrasting effect.


Ex2_Overlaying washes_addition_Stefan513593_Page_2

Intermediate image:

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - color field experiment

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – color field experiment








  • This exercise for myself raised several questions that are important also in future paintings: What colors, pigments to use? What works together? Transparent and opaque pigments?
  • I enjoyed the process and the final image gave me a better understanding of what colors by it own can do. Initially I thought it would be easier at it turned out to be.
  • I have a better understanding what painting is compared to drawing. All about colors.
  • The paper added texture to the painting. With wet-in-wet layers of turp diluted paint small areas of disruptions and interference appears. Darker blots came out, some area more shiny some stayed rather dull.
  • The painting process was quite heavy on turp. fumes. I was happy that it didn’t disturb other than me. Had to keep window open day and night. Have to think how to maintain this in the future.

=> I am not sure when I will finish this painting. For the moment I wait till the it completely dry and than see if I add more layers and how they would interact.


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