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.

Studio Set Up


Tidying and cleaning my studio puts me in a better phrase of mind to make more.

Taking down work that had become less relevant keeps my studio wall relevant and focused.

Ink drips on the floor and on the wall are building up. There is a clear history of what has been made before.

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.

Why add colour? and artist Howard Hodgkins

I have been talking about using colour throughout this project. Before my motive has always been because I want to capture the atmosphere of landscapes.

Looking through the book ‘Howard Hodgkins Absent Friends’ published by the National Portrait Gallery for their 2017 exhibition, I realise that colour has the potential to be used for more than to capture the colour and light in a landscape. (Note it’s interesting here that I say colour & light as if they are inseparable – idea that I think I promote a lot in my work – perhaps something to investigate?)

“Everything is locked into place, and a strange stillness is pervasive.”

P.13 talking about painting Memoirs. 

“Whether relying on descriptive elements or entirely compromised of autonomous painterly gestures, his work must be about something. It must possess meaning in the unequivocal sense that each painting has to refer to something beyond its pictured image or surface characteristics.”


Perhaps colour will bring this meaning into my work, since all my previous experiments I have been capturing the landscape with purpose being to push the technique. Is that enough? Or could I find something more with colour?





Layered on top, underneath. Colour lying underneath – washes, texture of brushes, think subtle layers with thick dark ink drawings on top.

“In a later interview, which took place in 1981, he [Hodgkins] stated, “They’re much more about myself now, or incidents which have personally involved me.’ Memory and emotion are central concerns, and the reasons are evident. We attempt constantly to fathom the significance of the world we inhabit. We do so by interpreting its visual characteristics.”


“the reality of things is not entirely – if at all – a matter simply of how they seem… appearance alone is an unreliable servant. To grasp the world and its occupants in a fuller and more complete way, we must reach beyond the merely apparent..”

P.14 – 15

For Hodgkin’s memory was his way of reaching beyond appearance.


Reading the essay by Paul Moorhouse at the beginning of the book sparked some ideas that I think have been growing for a while. Hodgkin’s work stuck with me since seeing his retrospective last year. Although his work and ideas are different to my practice, his work has been in my mind throughout this project.

I wanted to write out some lines from the essay that I think are important, but not quite sure why yet. I want them to be easily accessible here so I can read them again in the future.

This idea of layers, of colour and monotone, is really interesting. I want to explore this. I have some pictures in my head of work I want to make, but first I think I need to look at more visual inspiration, so that I have both visuals and theory to work with, and think about going forward.