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Experimenting with water based paints and mark making

25 September 2017

Tree study (Copyright Blair Thomson)

Tree study (Copyright Blair Thomson)




Recently I was asked by a student about this image and how it was painted. It was made during an outdoors art session – working from memory of being in the landscape and trees.

We used shirtcard (plastic coated paper) with three colours of acrylic paints – titanium white, burnt sienna and ivory black. We didn’t use any brushes or palette at all! Instead we went for a very direct and fun approach – using the paint from tubs with a single piece of A5 card to scoop the paint on and make marks directly on the paper.

I placed two pieces of A2 paper next to each other (taped on the back) and worked initially portrait format, inspired by the memory of a pine tree I had drawn earlier that day, looking up to towards the sky. We dipped the card into water or poured water on the piece also to dilute the paint and get some drippy energetic effects. We experimented with capturing the variety of textures of the tree and forest and spaces, contrasting wet and dry marks.

Working flat on the ground we could move around our pieces painting freely – changing the composition or which way we wanted to work on the piece. We painted for about 45 minutes.

The idea was to capture the essence and mood of being in the landscape – so using a really limited palette of three colours and one painting tool (the bit of card) was really helpful to speed up and get into the process and mess about with mark making.

Category: Art Groups