Exercise 9: Tonal study on dark ground

Thinking about Exercise 9 tonal study on dark ground I decided I wanted to try and reflect some of the vibrancy of the wonderful autumn colours around in Glenurquhart at this time of year. Using a similar Gerstaecker canvas board as for  Exercise 8 for ease of comparison, I prepared the ground using a vermillion and black acrylic mix resulting in a fairly dark brown earth tone.

From a scene right outside our front door I then lightly sketched the outline shapes of a trio of cherry tree (left), bushes (centre) and rowan sapling (right) in their autumn dress directly onto the canvas board using a graphite pencil. I used blue-violet acrylic mix for the branches and stalks; orange and vermillion red for a darker orange mix; and mid-yellow and blue for a green mix.. I also used a small amount of yellow ochre for some darker shade amongst the brighter yellow leaves.

I used size 2 round and filbert brushes to complete the piece, daubing colour to represent the leaves in a very rough pointillist-like manner. This took me away somewhat from my usual chasing after every fine detail. The finished effort is probably a bit overworked, perhaps messy,  in places and some of the vibrancy in the greenery has been lost. However, I am reasonably pleased with the overall composition on the canvas board, with again some of execution leaving questions for me to answer.

Exercise 9: Tonal study on dark ground
Exercise 9: Tonal study on dark ground

In comparing exercises 8 and 9 my feeling is that both have some merit in meeting the brief for this project. I think that exercise 8 shows more of an obvious display of tonal values and the effects of light. Exercise 9 uses the negative dark space of the ground to let the brighter colours come to the fore. However, as this is the first time that I have painted on a prepared dark ground, I feel that the end result is not as satisfying to my eye as it could have been- perhaps some better use of highlights and I’m not too sure that the way I have handled the blue-violet strokes does the painting any favours.

Another learning point for me at this stage in the Practice of Painting process is that techniques need to be tighter, for example coloured washes area still patchy, so I need to get better at a) mixing colour and b) applying it properly to get more even coverage.