The process of making several studies (concentrating in turn on line, tone and colour) provided me with a treasure trove of information which made it possible to make the painting away from the subject. The only thing I got in a bit of a confusion with was the intricacies of the fireplace – perhaps I should have spent a little time while doing the line study getting these clearer in my mind. The shadow of the pole on the standard lamp foxed me – where was it? In the end o decided it was tucked away in he corner between fireplace and wall, but maybe that’s not entirely convincing.
While painting, I found I largely relied on the memory of what I’d learned doing the studies instead of looking at the studies themselves. This, and being away from the subject definitely gave me freedom to develop an interpretation and my painting style. I used colour in a more imaginative way, creating an atmosphere of warmth, light and harmony. I painted in a looser way instead of fussing over tiny details being ‘correct’. I inserted things from my imagination – for example the colours and shapes in the paintings on the floor, the blue in the door, the turquoise and magenta in the wall. In my opinion these are the touches that make the painting more creative and more interesting.
This is what I did:-
Before starting on the three drawings I made some quick thumbnails to help me choose a subject. The notes on the sketchbook page helped me select the fireplace composition, but I’d like to paint the bedroom scene too given time. Both have strong shapes and contrasts of light and colour, and enough interest to engage the viewer’s attention.
The fireplace composition on reflection had a shallow picture plane, and the brief suggests using a corner of the room or a window, reminding me that I should be looking for ways of depicting depth in my painting. So in my line drawing I kept the square format but zoomed out slightly, to better show the linear perspective of the rug, sofa and armchair. The notes in the sketchbook show how I also use overlapping as well as the cropping of my elements to indicate depth.
Happy with the line drawing, I transferred it to another page in my sketchbook and next morning when the light is best, added tone with willow charcoal.
The aim of doing the tonal sketch was to record information in the sketchbook and in my memory; I’ve gathered quite a lot in the process of investigating and exploring the subject. In the painting I may make the contrasts more subtle (the darks less black), but I’ll try to keep the effects of the morning sunlight on the wall and lighting up the of the objects.
I transferred the line drawing again, this time to a sheet from a canvas pad for my colour study, which I did in acrylic, the medium I intend to use for my painting. I painted quite boldly, usin realistic colours, figuring now was the time to gather as much factual information as I could before interpreting my subject in a larger painting.
It was a mistake to introduce lemon yellow for lightening wall, chimney breast, armchair at the very end. Otherwise I like this quick colour study; its fresh, not fussy or tight. I must try to keep hold of that spirit in the larger painting. The painting of the rug’s successful – in the painting I’ll add its left edge, somewhere under the armchair (it’s linear perspective will contribute depth). The lampshade is more red than brown in real life. I forgot the stool – I think the composition needs it.
Back in my studio, away from the subject, I taped a piece of watercolour paper to my board, gessoed it, marked out a square 45×45 cm, and then painted all over yellow ochre. Meanwhile, I put a grid over my line drawing on my iPad, and drew a corresponding grid on my paper when it was dry, then transferred the drawing square by square.
I set up my studies around me where I could refer to them and started painting, mapping in some darks and lights, working all over the support, . I wasn’t satisfied with the wall as a literally painted cream colour, so experimented with emerald green, ultramarine and white; using acrylic retarder I was able to paint wet in wet, and so I added more white into the mix on the support, semi-blending to give an effect of light; then, lower on the wall, magenta and yellow ochre toned the turquoise mix to a shift shadow colour.
The door as a flat dark brown lacked subtlety. I dry-brushed white, giving a sheen, but it seemed too stark a contrast. Inspired by my turquoise wall I added a layer of pure ultramarine to the door. The sheen was still there, but softened, and the blue added depth and a harmonious mood.
The pictures in the composition were painted as shapes of fairly bright colour, to give an impression of landscape, still life etc, and from then on they became the focal point of the composition, clustered around the fireplace. Similarly the mirror on the chimney breast contains an impression of reflections; in the final stage I lightened them, making it less like another picture, but I still didn’t quite achieve the distinction somehow.
The foot stool was flat turquoise at an early stage; it needed bringing to life, and I found that sketchily adding pale yellow gave it light, texture and form, keeping the harmonious turquoise as an undertone.
The sofa on the right became the main bugbear; I changed its colour several times, settling on another harmonious shade of turquoise and blue. I think it’s the biggest weakness of the painting, and I’m still searching for a solution.
Here’s my work in progress gallery, with the final painting and my reflections on the outcome above, at the top of the post.