Final Experiment

After doing some compositions tests in my sketchbook I decided on this composition.

I wanted to log the process of the experiment, so I could look back and analyse what worked and what didn’t.


Washes of oil paint, based on the colour sketches I did in the woods. Then added ink + bleach which only sticks to areas where there is no oil paint.


Adding charcoal that sits on top of the oil paint and ink.


What worked well 

The colour palette and amount of oils applied worked well, leaving room for the ink to sit and create depth.

Loose dry brushes of ink and bleach works well to create the impression of leaves and clustered branches.

Landscape composition suggests large forest that continues off the piece.

What didn’t work 

The piece feels very cluttered, with lots of unnecessary marks. I think I overworked the piece slightly. I should have left longer gaps between working on it, to give myself time to think about what the painting needed.

I still think I haven’t captured enough depth with the layering of colour and ink.

I could have added another layer of oil paint after applying some ink. However I can’t apply more oil paint after putting charcoal down, since the charcoal mixes with the paint to create a muddy grey colour. If I had more time in this project I would like to experiment with adding multiple layers of oil. And try acrylic paint as well, since that might work better as a water based medium with ink.


This piece has been successful because it has helped push my ideas forward, leading me to question how I can better my technique to support my process and concept work.

Although this is the final piece for this project, I feel as if this piece is an indication of how I could keep moving forward with the project.

Colour tests based on woodland sketches

After completing some sketches in watercolour on site in the woods, i wanted to do some tests in oils based on the sketches that worked best.

Working in oils suits this abstract work well since it has an intense colour and a wide colour range.

These tests also gave me a chance to test working on wood panel and stretched canvas, and compare it to working on paper:

IMG_4539Looking unclose at this test on wood panel you can see the brushstrokes from the gesso primer showing through under the washes of oil paint.

The oil runs down the board very easily since there is hardly any texture to hold it in place.

It would be interesting to test how ink an charcoal sit on wood panel as well. IMG_4538



This canvas test produces a lot of texture when washing oils. The paint doesn’t drip and bleed down the canvas very much because of the texture of the canvas.

You can see the texture of the canvas under the oil washes even if you stand far back from the canvas. However it’s not the brushstroke kind of texture that I want.

I don’t think I’ll work in canvas again. The only way it could work was if I worked on a very large canvas, since then the brushstrokes would be bigger and the texture of the canvas would be less obvious.

I took some photos of the woods when I was sketching them, to document the day, the lighting etc.

I like the images where the trees are silhouetted against the sky. It’s very different lighting from my previous experiments, but for this idea of context and on sight reaction I need to use these images. They demonstrate great height and grandeur very well which adds drama to my pieces.

Now I’m going to pick a photo and a colour sketch and combine them together in an A1 painting.

Current Experiment

Experiment in oil washes, ink + bleach, charcoal and white pastel.

The colours I chose reflect the mood, atmosphere, feelings I had before and after I took the image, walking around the woods with a friend.

What worked well 

Layering lots of mediums creates lots of texture and depth that works well on this scale.

Pink area in bottom right of finished piece is particularly successful. The dark pink fits the shadows in the image, and the white pastel sits brightly on top.

Scale and texture of paper work well.

What didn’t work so well 

The oil washes covered too much of the paper, so there wasn’t enough room for the ink to sit and create depth.

The centre of the piece is very messy, muddy and overworked? Something isn’t right. I think it’s because there is too much colour. There needed to be less, and more room for ink washes.

The composition doesn’t provide a focus for the eye, or lead your eye anywhere.

Moving Forward 

I want to try basing the colour element of these experiments on en plain air studies of the woods I am painting/drawing. This will provide more focus and purpose to the images, with more reason behind the colour choices and placing of paint.

I want to try more experiments learning from what didn’t work well here.

Finishing the reworked experiment

This is the final three stages of reworking this piece, with the finished piece on the far right.

I kept adding layers of charcoal, ink and chalk, and taking away by adding layers of white acrylic (some washes and some opaque layers).

I am much happier with the piece now that I’ve reworked it. It has far more depth and the scale is much better; it now suggests one is looking up at the tall trees far above.

Reworking this piece has allowed me to play around with adding and subtracting elements, and how to layer effectively. Since I wasn’t happy with the original painting, I felt I could push the layers further and try new things with much less pressure to make it look good.

Although the outcome is still the most successful in final appearances, I have learnt lots from the process, which I think is equally important in this project.

Current Experiments

I wanted to experiment with colour for my next experiments, so I began with two small primed pieces of paper and did washes of oil. I used oil because of the vibrant colours available and the texture you can achieve. The different coverage and texture was to see how that would affect the look of the pieces. The colours are based on colours and feelings I picked up from the photographs I used:

I wanted to try a variety of mediums I have used into the past, to see which were effective on top of oil and alongside colour. I knew ink wouldn’t sit well on top of oils but I wanted to try anyway, since bleach and ink produced interesting effects.

Ink on the oil created some interesting textures, since it couldn’t stick to the oil paint, although when the ink dries in areas it looks like it will start peeling off, leaving a grey shadow of where the ink was.

After realising ink couldn’t be the only medium I used, I started using charcoal which worked well. You have more control with charcoal, which is a negative since I want mediums that don’t give me too much control. The white pastel worked well to create highlights.

The colour creates a good middle tone that exaggerates the highlights and shadows. However the colour also makes the scene look very flat. And since I can’t apply watered down ink to suggest trees in the distant, it doesn’t capture the size of a big forest.

This second experiment I tried the ink again, knowing it would stick to places where there were no oil paints. I tried to wipe away some of the ink off in the centre of the page  but it just smudged and created a grey mess which I wasn’t happy with. My mistake was wiping it when the ink had already dried, and I think the oil paint was still slightly wet, so the ink mixed into the oil when rubbed together. In the future I need to sponge the ink off when it’s still wet.

I really like the way in which the ink only sticks to the blank paper. It makes it look as if the brushes of oil paint have been applied on top of the ink and somehow erased the ink underneath. It adds a lot more depth to the piece, since I could repeat this process of layering.

I did go back over the grey area of the page with more thinned oil paint in cadmium orange but the paint was too thinned and it mixed with the charcoal to create a muddy brown. Once it’s dried I plan to work back into that area perhaps with white pastel.


Looking at the two pieces together shows that this layering of colour has potential to be pushed much further. These two paintings, although not hugely successful as finished pieces, they have taught me a lot about combining unusual mediums, and the possibilities of incorporating colour into my work.

Images of artwork from library research & reworking experiment cont.


I mentioned a number of artists in my sketchbook, but here I wanted to keep a visual record of the artists that made the biggest impression on me. By viewing them together I can see the main theme is abstraction and the suggestion of a larger picture. By that I mean the patterns and shapes in all three paintings looks as if they are a small section of a larger pattern/ experience/ texture. Gross and Yi’s work suggest this because they both have no fixed point, no clear start or finish to the pattern. It is even and therefore has no apparent ending (regardless of where the canvas finishes). Abt’s piece Leve suggests a ‘larger picture’ because it appears that the subject is a zoomed-in view of a bigger, more intricate web of lines. I think it’s the smooth textures that suggest this macro view.

I want to incorporate this idea into my work; the idea of my paintings being only a small part of a big forest, or a greater experience. The experience of walking through a forest, that is greater than what’s on the canvas.

Experimenting with colour is the way forward for this idea. Focusing on layering washes of colour and the technique I have been using perviously – ink drawing.

IMG_0069 This layering has partly been inspired by this experiment that I am reworking. I have now done a sheer wash of gesso all over the piece, then added more ink on top with a pipette. This cloudy layerings of lines creates a new dimension to the piece that I want to explore.

Completed experiment and moving forward


I continued with the same combination of mediums for this piece; ink with brush and pipette, white pastel drawn on and sometimes smudged. I used paper with less texture for this experiment which I don’t think worked as well. Paper with more texture gives pieces a more ‘painterly’ feel, with more prominent brushstrokes and texture.

What worked well

Marks made with the pipette in washed down ink are very effective at giving the impression of branches. The chalk created nice texture to the trunks and works well as a highlight. It also adds depth by highlighting branches at the forefront of the image.

What didn’t work 

Too much chalk applied to the trunks, meaning there is too strong lines of chalky white in the image and not much elsewhere. It’s distracting and flattens the image. Being more sparse would suggest more and bring greater tonal balance. Too much grey, not enough black and white. This is partly because of the paper. The ink runs down it easily and absorbs the ink quickly. This means, especially in the lower half of the painting, the ink builds up and loses contrast.

What next? 

IMG_0068 I have begun to rework this experiment. I wasn’t happy with it so instead of starting again, I want to keep adding and taking away Buildings layers and playing with what works and what doesn’t.

I have started with a wash of white gesso over areas that are overdone. It’s lifted untouched areas off the page already.

I could do another wash to build up opaqueness in some areas, then work with more ink and pastel on top.. or colour..?




I also want to start experimenting with colour. At the start of this project I was intent on looking at colour and light, and how intensity of light affected the atmosphere of a scene. Perhaps I can return to this?

To begin this movement towards working in colour I want to do some research into artists that use colour in their work, and the theory behind it. The artist Mal Levittoux who I’ve already looked at is very relevant but I need to look at more examples.

Techniques for including colour so far:

  • Washes of colour – in acrylic? gouache? oils?
  • Linear work in coloured pastels. Could also smudge pastels for softer finish.

Completed Experiments


This is the first experiment I completed in ink, bleach and pastel. I am not too happy with outcome but I needed a piece to test the medium with. The problem I think is I was too controlled. Although my brushstrokes are fairly random and fast, the movement of the brushstrokes itself if too constrained. I was too heavy with these brushstrokes in ink, and the white pastel which meant I ended up fighting against what I had already put down to create something better.

The shading and texture on the main tree works well, it’s the trees and branches that surround it that is the issue.

At first I thought to just leave the piece and move on. But since having a talk with my tutor I am considering re-working the piece soon. Now that I have a clearer idea of what works and how to get what I want from the materials.

Perhaps washes of colour or white, to cover marks and build up layers. Letting parts show through, like the main tree, and others cover to build on top or leave blank.. hmm.


This second experiment is much more successful. I was careful not to apply too much too fast. Pausing between layers and making conscious decisions about each mark. I also used some new techniques, like using a pipette to drip and mark the page with ink. And dry brushing bleach onto the page, then adding ink which bleeds into areas the page has bleach.

This approach gives the medium more control, and allows me to describe less and give more of an impression.

The sense of height has also been captured well here, perhaps because there is less detail and ink at the top of the page.

I want to do another experiment in the same mediums, pushing this technique further, and pushing the limits of impression and abstraction.

Step by step Experiment


I want to document the process of my next experiment. This is so I can look back once it’s finished and review what layers work and which I could have changed. Since these current pieces are so focused on layers, this documentation of each layer works well.





Water and ink wash. With paper towels put on top when the wash is still wet.

I wanted to get rid of the stark white background, since the sky in the photograph isn’t white.

I added the paper towel textures because I wanted to create imperfections and impressions of where the trees would sit on top.







Putting ink on wet bleach in areas where the foliage is dense. What I found worked best is not adding too much bleach at once, so bits of the paper have been left. Then when you add the ink, it doesn’t bleed into all areas, just some, creating the impression of dense branches:


Next I added white pastel, to highlights on branches, and tree trunks I wanted to stay pale.











So far I like the half finished look of the piece. The fact that nothing is too detailed and specific makes the piece more interesting than my last experiment, which tried too hard to give too much away. There is a fine line between over working and underworking a painting.

Out of sketchbook experiment #2


For this second experiment I picked this photograph, similar to the scenes I have been using in the past. For the moment I want to keep the scenes I’m drawing similar, so I can compare technique easily. The contrast in light, and the amount of texture, line and pattern made it a challenge to draw, but I wanted to challenge myself.


A shot from when I was working on the piece. I want to document it here to remember the process.

I started with very gestural lines to block in the angles of the prominent branches.

Then I went in with blocks of charcoal that I could smudge.

Then scratched into the paper with a scalpel and rubbed the charcoal into the scratches to imitate branches.

I would then add more charcoal on top and erase some with the putty rubbeer and my fingers.

This method of working is different to how I’ve worked in the past. Many more layers to creating the final image, but I think it works for this type of scene because it allows the many layers and different patterns to be imitated.


This is the finished piece above. I think the outcome demonstrates how this technique and idea has potential, but there parts that I want to push further and improve.

What works

Scratching into the paper worked. It creates these delicate lines that stand out from the charcoal and give the piece more depth. The expressive charcoal marks play with the idea of simplifying light and dark, abstracting the image. I really like how gestural the marks are, the movements I make when drawing have been captured well.

What doesn’t work 

The images still feels quite flat, especially in the foreground. Although the putty rubber works well at creating light in the background texture, it’s difficult to get sharp lines and very white highlights with it, which means some of the highlights are too grey.

What next 

A bigger piece to work on would give more room for detail and more opportunity for gestural movement. Perhaps some different mediums – ink would give great contrast, and layering bleach and pastels would be interesting. I would also like to look at some more artists.