Category Archives: 1 Tonal variation

Layering with oil and acrylic

I’m a little behind with posts this week. The house is in chaos as we are decorating. Paint and more paint! It is interesting that I have become much bolder in my interior design colour choices since starting the course!

Last weekend my dad gave me a lesson in one of the painting techniques he uses which I was interested in as it involves layering with different media, and we covered layering on module one of this course. Dad and I have never spent time together on a hobby like this before so I’m thrilled we’re able to enjoy this together. We jointly painted the canvas below, sharing each task as dad explained how to do it and why.

The background suggestion of foliage is achieved by dabbing white acrylic with a screwed up paper towel, focusing a concentrated amount where the sun / moonlight needs to be bursting through the trees. Black and grey acrylics are then applied with a sponge tool and brush to create the trees, bushes and pathway. Once the acrylic dried we applied liquid clear over the canvas to allow the oil to move around the canvas freely. We then applied two different blues, green, indian yellow and crimson to add the colour. For the sun / moonlight, we gently worked additional white oil over the concentration of acrylic white, dragging a few lines out to suggest rays of light.

I was surprised how fast this method of painting is – probably 2 hours in all. It taught me you can achieve a lot by the suggestion of what you are seeing, allowing the eye/brain to fill in the rest. We discussed composition and the trees leaning in to where the path leads to draw the eye through the painting. I can see how this technique would translate to charcoal and pastel, for example gently lifting it off where you want the light to appear. I’m not sure how you would achieve this in pencil so this is something I need to go away and explore.

Project 2.1: Tonal variation

The purpose of this exercise is to practice achieving a regular light, medium and dark tone using black conte on toothed A4 paper.

I found it surprisingly difficult to get the lines very close to each other due to the softness of the conte and the toothed paper. I was also surprised with the lightest tone how quickly my upper arm began to ache! I am not very accurate in achieving an even length. I think the light and medium toned pages do look like they were drawn with the same hand.


I think I successfully managed an even weight with the darkest tone although the length of the lines is as inaccurate as with the mid and light tone, probably more so. The thickness varied the most with the lightest and darkest tones, again I think due to the softness of the conte meaning it wears down very quickly.


The mid tone is where I have more marks than space in between. This maybe as a medium weight is what you are most used to using in every day writing and sketching.

For the final sheet I wanted to achieve a tone halfway between the lightest and medium tone but within a few strokes realised this would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, as they were actually already very close. I switched therefore to try working on an even lighter tone where I was barely touching the paper. This took quite a lot of concentration and was probably the least accurate in terms of getting the lines close together, but I was pleased with the lightness I achieved.


I wasn’t sure when I started of what I’d learn from this exercise other than the obvious. I can now see how , in addition to practising different tones generally, experimenting on the paper and the with the medium you intend to use for a piece is valuable. This will help you to explore what is achievable and what effects you like before committing to the final piece. This is more valuable preparation knowledge I will add in to how I work.

The challenge of finding the found object 

Collage, assemblages, found objects as valid art are all new to me since starting this course. The past three weeks I have diligently scoured the pavements as I walk the 6.2 miles every day to and from home, the station and work find papers and small items. This also leads on from my interest in layering – in this sense with items – from module one.

What a disappointing exercise! Nothing but bottles and bottle tops, drinks cans, sweet wrappers and the odd rizla packet down by the allotments where the kids smoke weed. But why? Is it a sign we are cleaner as a society? Hardly, by the volume of food and drink related detritus. I wonder if anything it is a sign we don’t write on paper as much. Brits are known for being heavy smartphone users. On only two occasions did I spot anything interesting and they were items too large to pick up so I photographed them instead – a shoe and a perfume bottle.

Happily this experience has led to an idea for a drawing but I’m still a little frustrated at the lack of interesting litter (although glad also that we are keeping our towns and cities pretty clean). I rarely wander at lunch but this week also had a stroll around London near where I work and found the same i.e. nothing but the odd food / drink wrapper or can. I read this week about Theaster Gates‘ work and how he uses items found in buildings in his locale, investing the profits in social regeneration e.g. through the Rebuild Foundation which is very impressive. This takes the concept on a level and shows beautifully how art can inspire and benefit communities using profit from found items.