Project 2 – Exercise 1: Drawing in paint

While searching for an appropriate still life scene without too much hassle I went to the bathroom and felt intrigued by the shape and bright colours of commercial cleaners. I happened that I placed an empty bottle of turpentine on the same board. I thought about my researches on still life and rhapography, the beauty of common objects came to my mind.

I experimented with the still life in my sketchbooks, a bit outside this exercise (see under category ‘Sketchbook‘ – click here) with different materials and supports. At the end I decided for a more common board and using acrylic paint as I wanted to work on this exercise with loose brush and not thinking too much about details. I find acrylic paint can support this as it dries quite quickly (compared with oil). I did consider ink but found that first I need to manage ink properties better without using a dip pen or other thin line making tools. I will rethink ink for future exercises.

Final painting:

Acrylic paint on 50 x 40 cm canvas board

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - Exercise 1

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – Exercise 1


Preliminary sketches:

I started with my A5 sketchbook to look for interesting viewpoints, consider compositional elements and started to think about main tonal values.

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - Exercise 1 - sketchbook A5

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – Exercise 1 – sketchbook A5


Exploring linear qualities:

I was fascinated about the linear qualities of the objects and the surrounding space (rectangular tiles and cabinet, curved outlines of bottles, some simple shapes, written words, pattern on tissue rolls). I found that with deeper looking at linear qualities I can find so many different aspects of it.

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - Exercise 1 - sketchbook A4

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – Exercise 1 – sketchbook A4


Thinking about tonal values and colour:

I decided for a smaller 5 value scale to simplify my approach and to focus more on ”drawing’.

Stefan513593 - Project 2 - Exercise 1 - tone and color

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – Exercise 1 – tone and color


I found the composition with overlapping objects the most interesting as I supports visual depth perception. Also it enhances contrasts at the edge of two objects. My main colours were light green, dark green, dark blue-violet, and red with some yellow elements. Here I found that those colours are complementary to each other: violet-blue with orange-red, green with red. So I decided to look deeper into is and prepared my colours and checked even mix of complementaries. I decided to use at the two main edges of overlapping objects a line of the complementary colour as I’ve seen at some works by Pascal Danz (Schaffeld, weblog post 20 Feb 2016) of blurred edges and thinking about Chevrel’s simultaneous contrast. Not sure whether this would be successful or not – but worth to see.

I did further sketchbook experiments not mentioned in this post: click here 

Work in progress:

With my preparatory works completed I decided for the upward viewpoint with foreshortening and more interesting interplay of lines. I chose a horizontal format as I found this enhances better the compositional balance of the bottles ‘looking’ left side. A vertical format was for me too formal, too much highlighting the vertical shapes of the bottles. The converging lines of the tiles added a vertical element to the horizontal format.

My steps in painting

  1. Outline sketch on board
  2. Blocking in background (tiles) with brush and palette knife with white, black, and magenta
  3. Blocking in local colours of the main shapes
  4. Drawing details in paint
  5. Detailing and adding complementary color at the overlapping edges of left bottle – middle bottle and middle bottle – tissue roll.


Stefan513593 - Project 2 - Exercise 1 - work in progress

Stefan513593 – Project 2 – Exercise 1 – work in progress


After completing of this painting in a more drawing approach I can conclude:

    • Planning and working methods and composition: Deeper investigation of the scene and actually sketching my way through various compositions allowed me to find eventually a convincing composition. I find that working on background and thinking more about negative spaces helped to work more fluently on my painting.
    • Choice of format/scale: In the context of rhapography I think that a life sized painting (1to1) is appropriate for my subject. Larger would make it to extreme, smaller would reduced the visual impact and idea.
    • Colour interest: I found that simple and bright primary colours (green, blue, red) does quite support the man-made artificial objects. The punchy colours are contrasting nicely with the white-grey background
    • Use of tonal contrast: During the process of painting I took more risks to work on the lights and darkest values. I think that a bold contrast support strongly a believable scene.
    • Paint handling: This exercise was about drawing in paint and linear qualities. My subject matter did support me here nicely (lines of shadow and light, lines of tiles, lines of words, contrast of rectangular and curved lines). I still do think that I could have pushed it one step further into a more expressive drawing approach with paint as in some areas I flattened out strokes for tonal gradations. What I do think is not necessary when looking at my painting from a distance.


  • Overall I am pleased with my painting. It does reflect closely the actual colours and scene in very realistic perception.
  • I do think that the most successful elements in this painting are: strong tonal contrast especially at overlapping areas, selected highlights, blurred edges juxtaposed with hard edges.

Next time:

  • Rethink when tonal gradation for full form perception is necessary and when simple and loose strokes are more successful and more convincing.
  • Words and letters in painting: When very blurred and when sharp? How can painted words, letters support the overall perception of the painting?


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