The brief is to use the same grouping of objects as in the last two exercises to evoke a mood or atmosphere. My aim when I was planning this painting was to achieve an atmosphere of brightness, hotness, joyful activity, chaotic disorder. By using intensely saturated colours, and thinking about their placement relative to each other (for example I’ve juxtaposed colour-opposites in several places), and also the proportions of warm versus cool colours I think my colours interact to evoke the mood I was aiming for.
Here’s my final painting –
Thoughts on creating a mood in my painting
I thought about how all these factors can help evoke a mood –
- Colour – warm v cool; bright v muted; contrast high or low – I’ve used warm, bright, high contrast colours. Yellow, my dominant colour, denotes sunshine, joy, enthusiasm, hope. Orange is friendly, inviting, happy. In this context my blues and greens are meant to counterbalance all the hot colours with a soothing, calming element.
- Handling of paint – brushwork, varied edges – my foreground has movement and varied marks relative to my fairly peaceful background. I tried to make the front of the yellow cloth and the tassels look as though they were twisting, squirming with joy!
- Choice of objects – the objects have curly shapes and playful twirly stalks,
- How they’re arranged – the chair is symetrically placed but the objects on it are intended to look as though they’re strewn higgledy piggledy, by someone in a bit of a rush.
- Viewpoint – the viewer is looking down so all the objects are displayed
- Lighting & Tone – my high contrast is meant to evoke bright sunlight.
- How they’re depicted – sharp realism, soft focus, abstraction – I outlined some of my foreground forms, giving them hard edges, to contribute to the effect of a colourful mosaic, or sun shining through coloured stained glass.
“The objects chosen for a still life painting often have a special meaning, either on a personal, cultural, societal, religious or philosophical level. The themes surrounding the artwork often provoke introspection and reflection in the viewer. The way that the objects are depicted can evoke a wide variety of emotions, depending on their arrangement, as well as the lighting, color choice, and handling of the paint” http://www.art-is-fun.com/still-life-paintings/
Thoughts on colour moods generally –
Clashing colours – busy, noise, activity – looked at Derain, Matisse Collioure paintings – the Fauves used colour to express feelings and impressions, not to describe the subject
Harmonious colours – in Degas’ Blue Dancers – complementary colours harmonised by modifying each with traces of the other
Muted colours – gentle
Deep, opposite colours – anxiety, panic, impending doom; I’m thinking of Edouard Munch’s The Scream. Also melancholy – The painting below is by Wassily Kandinsky, Autumn Landscape with Boats, 1908. The image rekindles the melancholy I feel each year when the season has changed to autumn.
Light, saturated, bright colours – playful
Warm earth tones – nurturing
Neutral earth tones – serenity
Pink, pale orange, peach – romantic
Dark, rich colours – drama and mystery
Red, orange and yellow are ‘warm’ colours – associated with fire, heat, sun, warmth, intimacy
Red – heat – Derain’s Beach at Collioure; exciting, passion
Orange – friendly, inviting, happy
Yellow – enthusiastic; hope and cheerfulness eg Van Gogh Sunflowers
Blue, green, purple are ‘cool’ colours – associated with water, chilly, sky, distance
Blue and grey – sadness and despair – note Picasso’s ‘blue period’ after the death of his friend, as an example his painting ‘The Tragedy’
Blue – also restful, serene – can be cold or calm
Green – calm and soothing
Purple – dreams, fantasy, mystery; also luxury
Colour as symbol
White – sacred, pure, clean, light
Pale blue – purity – the Virgin Mary
Dark, earthy Browns and greens – the earth – eg Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters
Black, red and white – evil, Nazi
Planning my painting
So, returning to my group of objects – how did I pick a mood? It seemed difficult to assign a mood to prosaic objects – to pick any mood at random for them would seem meaningless. I tried to weave a story around them; I picked these vegetables from my summer garden, the sun beating down; it’s bright and hot in the kitchen. I’ve gathered them together on the yellow cloth on the chair with these utensils, ready to prepare the evening meal. I want to express a joyful summer atmosphere, activity, heat, and a bit of chaotic disorder!
I looked at André Derain, The Pool of London, 1906, the contrast between warm and cool colours, complementary opposites, together with the clashing diagonals creating a sense of noise and ceaseless activity. The colours form a bright pattern. There are reds juxtaposed with green, purple against yellow, blue with orange. He uses cooler and lighter colours in the background, intense bright, darker colours in the foreground, giving the illusion of depth. Derain has reserved yellow and green for the water and sky; this yellow-green backdrop gives the viewer breathing space and unites the hectic scene.
I aimed to have this atmosphere in my still life, so I decided to use all the objects I started with, and to try and organise a busy mosaic of colour. This is a world away from the simplicity and serenity of my Picasso and other still lifes I looked at in the Colour Accuracy exercise.
My thoughts on organising my colours were –
-don’t stick to real colours, exaggerate. Have two cool analogous colours as backdrop (cloth and background) eg lemon yellow and pale yellow-green, darkening and warming in the foreground to reds, yellows, oranges. Objects will have intense, darker tone red, blue, orange, Paint objects with complementary colours next to each other eg
- Orange pepper – blue dish
- Red pepper – green pepper / stalk
- Purple aubergine – yellow cloth
I made a sketchbook study using watercolour pencils, aiming for high colour contrast with bright colours; trying to use the contrast of warm and cool colours in foreground and background respectively to help achieve depth in my symmetrical composition. Her are versions of it as it developed.
Although there’s lots I would change in this study – for example, expose part of the front edge of the rush seat in the foreground – a gold-yellow colour – to add detail and bring the foreground forward – it gave me the confidence to go ahead and start on my painting.
Painting in progress
Here’s the work-in-progress development of my painting, with the final version at the top of the post, showing how layers of colour were built up using acrylic inks diluted with water and flow improver, for a transparent, watercolour effect. Rags, an old credit card, kitchen paper all came into play to manipulate washes and create texture. Masking fluid saved highlights on shiny vegetables and pottery. An opaque white ink pen was only used at the final drawing in of tassels in the foreground. The painting was done on 50x70cm gessoed, dampened and stretched watercolour paper.
I applied colour in big, flat, layered washes, with a sponge, rag, or ‘found’ tools to create some texture, but using a minimum of subtle shading and blending. I outlined some of my foreground forms, or made them hard-edged, to help create aerial perspective, but also to contribute to the effect of pattern, or mosaic, or sun shining through stained glass.
I had to solve a number of problems as I made the painting –
My washes didn’t sink into the support as I’d hoped and expected from my experiments with staining. This support was different from the ones I’d used then so that may have been the reason. Instead they floated around, precipitating pigment patchily and drying relatively slowly. I had to accept this and work with it, adapting my methods.
First time using acrylic inks, I had to familiarise myself with them as I worked; the range of six colours in my standard set seemed limited, but became surprisingly versatile when mixed. Using the pipette dropper straight onto the support was fun and helped move me away from pallid washes. On the whole it’s a good acrylic medium for me at present; in summer heat battling with normal acrylics’ short drying time is an unwanted headache. Also the use of damp paper, with frequent additional sprayings and wettings helps lower the temperature all round!
Reflecting on my still lifes in this project
2.3.3 colour accuracy
2.3.4 still life with complementary colours
*** 2.3.5 still life with colour used to evoke mood
The different effects I’ve been able to create using the same group of objects
Laying out my up three still lifes side by side I first of all notice that all three are quite colour saturated. I haven’t gone in for muted colours or light tones much! I may try and redress the balance in the next project, by doing studies and/or paintings that are light toned, with harmonious colours.
However there are differences in mood and atmosphere between them.
The group on a pink cloth can be characterised by a calm and restful atmosphere, despite having some complementaries (in fact the dark pot and light backdrop are so different tonally that their colours don’t contrast as much as they would if they had similar tones). The muted shadows; the quiet, warm, muted tones of the chair and the backdrop; the dark, restful grey floor; the cool pink and blue-grey of the cloth, all add to an atmosphere of quiet waiting.
The yellow cloth group by comparison jumps out and screeches for attention with its clashing complementaries, busy composition and big tonal contrasts.
My group of nine pepper paintings is harder to characterize. Each one has its own atmosphere, from light and airy (top left) to a more general tendency, influenced by the deep terracotta background, towards drama and mystery, or that feeling of melancholy that I describe above in relation to the deep opposite colours of Kandinsky and Munch’s paintings.