Project 1 – Exercise 1: Impasto

The last part of the course is me setting out on a series of experimental and rather abstract painting approaches. I haven’t decided yet how to included those as part of my personal project or to keep them strictly separate. Thus I decided for this first exercise just to look at it with fresh eyes, not to be bothered with my project and see where it will take me to.

I will experiment in the exercise around with acrylic paint and use of impasto and glossy medium.  In order to work not complete abstract I decided to set up a simple still life with to apples and one persimmon (Kaki fruit) on a white paper plate. I decided just to go ahead, forgetting my personal project for a moment and just to see what is coming out of my experiments.

The exercise asked for thick and impasto paint application with brushed and knifes and possibly other tools.

Sgraffito: This is basically a  technique used in painting, mural painting, pottery and glass of two putting two successive layers and scratching through the top layer to reveal parts of the underlying layer. (Available from Wikipedia:  and  Britannica: I remember to use sgraffito technique in my childhood with wax pastels, underlying layer various blots of color with top-layer black pastel and then scratching drawings onto it. It was fun as the top layers concealed the underlying colours and at times it was quite a surprise to discover again all those colors [accessed 16 Jan 2017].

One can find tremendous images searching on Pinterest under the keywords ‘Sgraffito’ and ‘Painting’ – Available from:[]=sgraffito%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=painting%7Ctyped  [accessed 17 Jan 2017] I find most of them do convey a rather decorative appeal especially on pottery and its equivalent in painting. I like the works by Christian Hetzel for the rather abstract visualization of close to nature shapes e.g. those found on:  or [accessed 17 Jan 2017]. Another abstract and rather minimalistic approach to sgraffito are the paintings by Tracie Cheng ( – [accessed 17 Jan 2017])

A) Impasto still life (acrylic paper sketchbook) with brushes

For the first painting approach I used brushes and worked on three painting the same time (one in my sketchbook). Inspired by the ‘Six Persimmons‘, 13th century by Muqi Fachang I decided for a bottom focused composition on bright blue background.

The background on the first one with made a brushes and the second made with palette knife. I applied paint roughly on the surface and used my brush only to build the forms by blended quickly  and to some extent only.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - #1a

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – #1a


B) Impasto still life (acrylic paper sketchbook) with palette knife

Similar approach but with palette knife only. Background painted with palette knife with gestural strokes. Paint applied with knife roughly and blending slightly. Keeping a rough and unfinished appeal. Letting the gestural strokes be the dominant part of the painting.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - #4

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – #4


C) Impasto still life (watercolor paper) with palette knife and scratching:

Similar approach but with palette knife only. Background roughly textured with gesso, using a comb and edges of knifes to module ground texture. Later background colored with an acrylic wash with tissue. Paint applied roughly with palette knife – without much blending.

D) Impasto still life (watercolor paper) with palette knife and scratching:

  • Application of single coloured paint and scratching marks to build form.
  • Overpainting and scratching through to disclose underlying paint and forms.
    => I was facing here the challenge of drying time of acrylic paint, too fast and at times my scratch marks didn’t get through the paint any longer. In future I would need to use retarder with acrylic paint or use oil paint.
Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - #2a

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – #2a

E) Experimenting with impasto and decalcomania / monotype technique on still life (sketchbook):

I wanted to see how I can combine impasto technique with decalcomania / monotype technique.

– Impasto paining still life (#1) – later added overpainting (wash) as background
– Taking a print with a sheet of paper with following prints onto an empty page of my sketchbook (#2 – #4)
–  Overpainting and scratching through to disclose the underlying printed images (#3 and #4).

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - #5 - progress

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – #5 – progress

F) Experimenting with impasto and decalcomania / mono print technique on still life (acrylic paper sketchbook):

Using various effects from previous experiments I made another painting with more heavily back and force scratching across the paint (tearing apart the paint), This is something I tried before in part 2 in my oil painting (project 3- Ex5 ‘still evoke mood‘)

Here I used a comblike tool to scratch the paint over the surface.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - #6

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – #6



G) Experimenting with scratching technique, dry pastels and linseed oil paint (PastelCard paper):

I haven’t worked with dry pastel for while and I was wondering how I possible could combing dry pastels with paint. As dry pastels are watermixable I choose linseed oil as an overlayer through that I wanted to scratch and disclose the painted pastel image.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - #7

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – #7


I mixed the linseed oil with zinc white to obtain an thin wash, not titan white as I was concerned about opacity and risk of completely covering the underlying image. The pastel colors quickly disappeared, scratching – or rather moving the oil mix around the surface – disclosed only partly the colors (step 2)

I like especially on the dark ground the atmosphere and mystic appeal of the white wash. After a while I stopped and waited a day to et the oil dry, partly. Eventually I painted with dry pastels onto it to bring make the colors (step 3)


Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 1 - #7 -progress

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 1 – #7 -progress

=> This was quite an engaging experiment. I do consider the first painting not that successful. However the second painting has a unique appeal created quickly with the linseed oil wash and repainting with pastels. There is movement and depth in the image.


  • I especially like the combined monoprint and paint layering alongside scratching to create quickly expressive images. Applying thick paint onto the surface side by side can be tricky if I try to blend too much with a muddy result. Careful application of paint and a few conscious gestural strokes is all what is needed.
  • Scratching can be applied through the paint and across the paint.
  • I believe those techniques are giving quickly a fresh and expressive look to a painting. In cases where I was more concerned with accuracy of oberserved forms and layering paint rather thinly onto the surface, the final painting looked rather dull. To add impasto and scratching technique for blending and mark making would make those paintings more a life.

Next time:

  • Be clear on what I want to achieve with the applied technique. Doodling around doesn’t work.
  • Using retarder with acrylic paint when working with scratching technique (on top layer).  Or use oil paint.
  • Considering how I could use impasto and especially sgraffito effects within my personal project.

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