04 February 2014

Painting Exercises

I've been doing some painting exercises. I think it's a good thing for an artist to do every now and then. I never fail to learn something from them, which I can then take and use in my daily practice.


In this exercise I did 10 minute timed colour thumbnails. Each was about 2" in size using a number 6 brush or palette knife on unprimed paper. They are supposed to be disposable so you don't want to use canvas or anything good. You don't want to place any value on the paintings or form a mental attachment to the work by using anything you don't have to toss. The idea here was to just get the colours and value relationships down quickly. No small brushwork or fiddly brushwork allowed. Be quick, be loss, be free.

At first I was a bit apprehensive and didn't think I'd be able to do a small painting in 10 minutes since that includes the mixing of colours. You can't mix your colours and then start the timer. The first couple took me the full 10 minutes, but by the last two I was able to finish before the timer went. Granted some of those colours were already on the palette from the previous paintings.

I used a limited palette of primary cyan, magenta, cad yellow light, and titanium white. I've been working strictly with this palette for a couple of months (with the addition of black). I think I'm ready to progress. I've found myself frustrated on a few occasions - especially when trying to mix darks; although overall sticking with this limited palette has done more for my understanding of colour and values then anything else I've done to date. So maybe I will just switch it up and trade my cyan and magenta for ultramarine and cad red.

One of the other exercises was to paint a painting using only the secondaries - green, violet, orange - with the addition of white. You had to pick a pile of each of the three secondaries and remove all other colours from your palette. So if you needed to adjust the tone, tint or shade of a colour you could only do so by mixing in one of the other secondaries or white.

I went in thinking how could those colours possibly produce a good painting - they aren't my favourites. But I was surprised just how well they did work. I like my little colour study so much that I'll probably do a larger version of it eventually.

Meadow Sheep Study - 6x9" - Oil on canvas
This was again with the limited palette I mentioned above. It's based on a photo from a few years back when we were pasturing sheep. (Apologies for the bad photos - these are just quick iPhone photo from the studio.)

I have several more exercises planned - most revolve around colour mixing and values.

These exercises have come from a variety of locations. Some of these exercises have been found online, some from books, some from workshops, and some I'm making up. Try it yourself!