Understanding Painting Media Part 5 The Paper Museum – Research Point

After much deliberation the three artists I decided to research are George Shaw, Anna Atkins and Walter Sickery.

In Drawing 1 I came across George Shaw. His focus was painting urban scenes of his childhood home on the Tile Hill Estate in Coventry.

Shaw’s paintings are semi-realist, highly detailed urban landscapes painted using Humbrol enamel paint.

I remember reading that he liked to paint on metal panels because of the reflective quality of the metal and its smooth surface. The enamel paint has such a strong pigment combined with the reflectiveness of the panel that George Shaw’s paintings, no matter how mundane the composition, have a certain warmth…an almost glow if you like.

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In his exhibition ‘My Back to Nature’ Shaw created over 50 paintings and drawings in which he explored what nature is to him. In a short vimeo he spoke about how people use nature to make dens, to go for their first drink, to take their partners and as he said “God knows what happened in there”1.  He remembers playing in the wood as a child and how he would always to return to the nature. Shaw dismissed the notion that nature is where you can go to ‘discover yourself’ as baloney… he maintains that You don’t find yourself, you lose yourself in nature.   His paintings reflect a love of nature and a sense that others have used nature…although I might argue that they have abused nature. Nonetheless, his paintings reflect our interaction with nature. Where he grew up the woods were on his doorstep. Many of his paintings include broken pathways leading to the woods, houses on the estate with broken gates, battered lock-up garages and rubbish everywhere. No human figures in his paintings yet this man-made world has a resonance that people have been there. The artist Peter Doig creates a similar feeling where he paints buildings or boats behind thick trees to hint that life exists beyond the trees. However the feeling created in Shaws paintings is slightly eerie by comparison to Doig’s work. The observer creates a narrative about what might have happened in the woods or in the street. It isn’t too hard to paint the narrative in your head because this is the world we live in where kids play in the woods, teenagers gather there and people walk their dogs. Unsurprisingly people will leave their rubbish behind. The paintings by George Shaw reflect todays world. In the vimeo ‘My Back to Nature’ he spoke about the similarity of the woodlands painted by Titian, Poussin or even Constable where people ‘lost themselves’ or where people went to perform rituals. In a sense his paintings are really just a modern day version of the past.

Shaw spoke about the mysterious world of the woodland where mythical creatures live and where you might expect to lift something and find something from a different work when in reality all you find is rubbish. I identify with that because as a child I lived on a farm at the edge of a forest and spent much of my time there running from witches, chasing bandits and making perfume. Now, when I rummage through the woodland I find all sorts of rubbish and it makes me sad. I get what Shaw is saying that the rubbish reflects the things that has gone on in the woods bu I want it to go back to the place where there are fairy houses and mini swing-parks, albeit they too are man-made them but the woodland is a wonderful place to take your imagination. In a sense Mimei Thompson’s art shifts between reality and mythology as she paints plants, insects and everyday images in a surrealist style. I have never been ‘high’ or drunk for that matter but her work makes me think that I might see the world like that if I got drunk or high. I guess I connect more with George Shaw’s paintings probably because his world is the world I see and I share his love for nature. His sketches reflect the untainted woodland -detailed and so beautifully drawn with paths leading you to somewhere more beautiful.


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I think Anna Atkins had a slightly different view of nature. She was a botanist and the first female photographer. Anna Atkins’ mother died when she was baby so she was brought up by her father, John George Children. He was a well known scientist associated with the British Museum. As a teenager Anna worked with her father to illustrate his work on shells. When the camera was invented she became interested in photography with a particular interest in the cyanotype process or sun printing as it was called.

As a botanist Anna Atkins studied the environment of plants and algae. She would classify them and record diseases that affected their growth and she used cyanotype to illustrate the plants and algae she found.

The cyanotype process involves painting paper with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide then leaving it to dry overnight in a dark room.   Flowers/leaves are then laid on the paper and a glass plate placed on top. The plate is then exposed to sunlight for a short time. The flowers/leaves are removed and the paper washed and left to develop.

When the paper is developed it leaves a blueprint of the flower showing its delicate petals and stem in white against the blue background. The process is time consuming but incredibly beautiful. It is a celebration of plants…the tiny veins running through the plant, long thread-like roots, beautifully sculpted leaves and the layers of petals and leaves of each plant.

As an observer Anna Atkins’ cyanotypes give me a sense of awe and an overwhelming maternal connection to artistry of mother nature. How many poets and writers have articulated our connection to the treasures of the soil? You reap what you sew, the root of success, the root of all evil, family tree, someone is said to ‘blossom’ and the fruits of your labor are all figurative language in which we liken ourselves to nature. As a botanist using the cyanotype process to record plants and algae, I am sure that Anna Atkins did not consider the far-reaching possibilities beyond her interest in plant science and photography.

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Nature is incredible when you really think about it. For example, the golden ratio appears in plants – when they start to grow a new cell is formed after a turn.

The Christian belief that Gad gave his only son so we could be saved is mirrored in the life of a plant – For a seed to bear life, it must first fall to the ground and die. It is through this process of dying that the seed gives new life and is reborn. What a beautiful thought. I know that Anna Atkins did not record any of this in her books. As she handled each plant, recorded its individuality then showed them to the world she was telling us how beautiful nature is. John Berger would say that we bring knowledge to the paintings we observe, and that knowledge gives us a different way of seeing things. My way of seeing Anna Atkins’ cyanotypes might be different to that of yours. I love the contrast in colour, the overlaps of roots and petals and variety of characteristics of each plant that is shown in her work. For this reason I love the work of Anna Atkins.

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The third artist that I want to look at is Michael Landy. Probably best known for his performance piece ‘Break Down’ Michael Landy generated public interest when he destroyed all of his worldly possessions then displayed and catalogued them in an old C&A building in London. It was a clever stunt to capture the public eye. He then went on to create etchings of weeds which he displayed in his solo exhibition ‘Nourishment’.

Landy collected weeds from cracks in pavements, verges of car parks and derelict urban buildings, watered and fed them and spent hours drawing them on paper and copper plates. It took over two years to produce the series of life sized etchings and sketches.

Artists such as Albrecht Durer and Georgia O’Keeffe advocators of the beauty of weeds influenced Landy to create his delicate little etchings, sketches and paintings of weeds

The notion that such an intense study of nature could be a form of meditation would link to the work of Anna Atkins. Neither artists has created an over romantic dialogue about this process. Indeed, their work it would seem was purely botanical. However, to devote such a huge amount of time to something that is often dismissed as mundane would be a tenuous denial of love and appreciation for such flora.

My choice of artists is based on the beauty rendered by them as well as a shared interest and appreciation of nature. I love the narrative in Shaw’s work, the process and colour of the cyanotypes by Anna Atkins and the attention to detail in those delicate sketches and paintings by Landy.




https://www.southamptoncityartgallery.com/whats-on/george-shaw-my-back-to-nature 1








Understanding Painting Media Part 4 Assignment 4

Assignment Four


Make a circular or oval painting of an area in your house, either from life or from a photograph. Refer to the work you produced in the exercises to choose a subject and composition that works well. Use heavyweight paper, card or board as a surface to paint onto.



Before I begin to paint I would like to take look back at my work during Part Four. In the first five paintings I was getting used to working on a circular surface and getting to know what worked, didn’t work and areas that I need to develop or give more consideration.

The tondo was not without its challenges. I found myself using trial and error to achieve perspective as it was all to easy to drift away from using points of perspective and to move the circle during the working process. I felt that my assignment should test my abilities in terms of perspective.


One of my considerations came when I was looking at the work of Charlie Day, and that was the placement of objects in a composition and how the space frames the picture. I particularly like the notion of representational art. Charlie Day painted objects that represented important things in his life. A single tape represented the music he sent to his girlfriend (now wife).


I recently used my mannequin with a child in school who was experiencing difficulty with a family breakdown. She bent the head to show how she was feeling. It gave me the idea to use the mannequin to represent my own feelings.


After a lot of deliberation I chose to paint a view of my bookcase where I keep my painting things. I did move objects on the shelf in order to isolate the objects I wanted to include. The objects I chose for my painting include paint tubes, a mannequin that represents me and a box that represents secrets. The box was in fact an old watch box that I thought could store bits and bobs. I toyed about with the objects on the shelf as I imagine every person does when they are trying to gain order…or is that me overthinking. My idea was to create a composition using objects that are representational of significant events in my life yet anyone looking at them would dismiss them as Elaine’s art things.


My dad bought my first set of oil paints and brushes and so I wanted to include this in my painting.

I wanted to arrange the composition in a way that would create a story. Artists have created narratives since time began. Cave paintings, ancient civilisations created language through pictures and even today artist paint stories. Artist Annabel Dover often paints objects that have an attached story that helps the viewer to understand their significance. I felt that I could use my work to weave a narrative if you like. As children learn through visual cues and gestures I figured that I would use visual representation to encourage the observer to ask questions and begin to form my story.

I bent the head of the mannequin and placed it beside the paints, holding the paints and behind the paints. In the end I sat the mannequin on top of the box to represent the fact that it was me who was protecting the secrets. I placed a tube of paint in the mannequin’s arms and sat the other tubes beneath the mannequin. I decided then to remove the paint-brushes. That could signify sadness or frustration at not being able to paint and to express myself. The box I hope might be given the same credence of Pandora’s box – the box that looked like a gift but was in reality a curse.


Once I had settled on the composition I decided that I would use the base my son’s birthday cake as a base. I primed the board with gesso then painted the scene loosely in watercolours using a filbert and round brush. The paint took a little while to dry, which was useful in terms of manipulating it on the surface. I built up the tone using several coats of watercolour. When dry I decided to use oil paints rather than acrylics because it suited the narrative as well as being altogether more malleable than acrylic. I used an angular brush for the edges of the box, a filbert for filling large areas and a fine round brush for finer detail. I built up the tones on the box using light layers of very thin oil paint. This technique didn’t actually come from my work in Part 4, in fact I learned about this when I studied the work of Annie Kevans in Part 2. She used very thin layers of oil paint, gradually building tone from light to dark.


In my minds eye I wanted to create a similar texture to that of my painting of the living room or the painting of the dishes. They were watercolours over-painted with thick paint in parts. This created a contrast of textures and hue. I like these contrasts as they created a lively feeling in the paintings.


Having used gloss to highlight areas of in the painting of my trainers (exercise 4.3) I had it in my mind to use the gloss to highlight areas on the manikin where light would make the varnish appear glossy and parts of the metal tubes of paint to seem to shine more where light touched them.


The layers of watercolours created a blue shadow that I hoped would convey a sombre mood. Not quite the Picasso Blue Period but a facet of grief nonetheless. The bright colours (paint tubes) simply indicate warmth… the warmth of love for my dad.


I think the arrangement is aesthetically pleasing. I’m not sure that the observer would make the connections. I hope by asking the questions that we ask when studying a piece of art that the observer could create a narrative…perhaps not my story but at least they will get the mood in which it was created. It is well known that in Renaissance art, a time when the tondo became popular, much more is going on than the surface image might allude. I rather hope that this is evident.

Limitations of the tondo

I think in order to make the tondo work you need to embrace the limitations. For example, the circle obliterates some of the surroundings that often compliment the painting or serve as a route to draw the eye towards the centre. Perhaps the tondo should be thought of as a ‘peephole’ that excludes everything other than the focus.

So, the artist is limited in what they can represent in the tondo. Therefore the content and composition is everything that is a tondo. With every part on the tondo being a focus the method used to paint is important and the artist needs to plan everything carefully.

The size of the tondo can limit the artist. A larger surface provides more scope for the artist. The background of the rectangular painting provides scope to include imagery that plays a part in the composition. The plants and animals in the background can represent life, wealth, status, emotion et al. The todo compresses or omits this information. ‘The Alba Madonna’ is a tondo with an extensive background. The Madonna with cherubs is the focal point in the foreground and the background although painted in perfect detail is tiny. This perspective is a challenge for the Tondo artist – it must create distance without making it appear to be forced perspective. I think this is an opportunity to spotlight the main subject of the painting.


Developing the Tondo

If I were to develop the Tondo to include my final piece I might like to investigate other emotions such as anger, frustration, hate or even fear. I quite like the idea of creating a fictional shadow as opposed to the actual shadow. Artist Craig Davidson creates beautiful pieces featuring children playing dress-up role-play based on fictional characters with the shadows of the fictional character as a second focus for the viewer.

I wouldn’t want to emulate Craig Davidson but I like the idea of creating shadow that could compound the emotion expressed by the characters within the painting. More like the out of body experiences we have when we are faking a smile at someone when in fact the emotion we are really experiencing is far from that happy smile.

Another way that I might pursue the tondo would be to look at other representational objects that would tell a story. For example, on my windowsill I have a rusted coupling from an On/off ferry chain. I love the layers of rust and the shadows created when light shines on the holes where the chain has worn the part away. Next to it is a collection of driftwood and shells. I think there is a story in all of these objects – I create these stories with my imagination but the notion that we can build a relationship with these objects through mindful consideration makes them worthy candidates for a painting.


What does my tondo say about me and my house?  I don’t think it would take much to work out that my house is a clutter! I recycle and up-cycle everything. The charity shops are filled with things I cannot bear to throw away. I am fascinated by the history and beauty of an object.

My tondo is about emotions and is just a way of expressing grief, anger, fear and frustration. The other way I express myself is to fight it out on the Karate mat. Painting is a safer option!


This is my finished painting.

What went well?

I like the loose brushstrokes and use of thick paint.  The contrast between watercolour and oil is both tonal and textural.  The composition is simple with overlapping shapes and shadows.   I think I created a mood of sadness through use of colour and the bowed head of the mannequin.  The texture of the cake board ground adds to the overall effect of the painting.  Using watercolour over gesso allowed me to manipulate the paint and play about with the the brushstrokes.  The oil took a bit longer to dry than I had hoped but the effect of bringing life to the painting.  The space surrounding the composition frames the painting.  The composition eludes to a story.  I hope this is reflected in my sketchbook.

What didn’t go so well?

I think I could perhaps have included other ornaments on my shelf.  It was never a consideration at the time as I just wanted to show how I used Charlie Day’s technique of using representational objects.  Perhaps I could have made more use of thick oil paint to create more texture and shadows created by thicker paint.  My second tondo did not have the ‘immediate’ sense of sadness that I had injected into the first tondo.  I think I was ‘off the boil’ with the emotion at the time.  I think you have to be in that zone to be able to project it in your work.  I do however like the reflection of the paint tubes on the bookshelf.  I could make more of that by experimenting with strong light on the composition before painting.


Next Steps

I would like to experiment with these loose and expressive brushstrokes.  Whilst I enjoyed painting my miniatures I have an overwhelming desire to work with big brushes and big grounds.  I think this is an area I have to explore in order to develop.  I would also like to apply the technique of loose painting and oil paints/acrylics on landscapes and seascapes.  I also like the idea of exploring emotions through colour and brushstrokes.



My second tondo on MDF, coated with gesso and painted using watercolour and oil paint.










Understanding Painting Media Part 4 Review of my work

Reviewing work part 4


I found this part very interesting. I don’t think I had ever considered the Tondo before. Sure, I have seen circular paintings but usually religious scenes that I acknowledged as just that but never really questioned them. Part 4 of Understanding Painting Media has made me more aware of the Tondo and appreciative of how artists have used them.


In this review we were asked to reflect on the frustrations, successes and failures that we have encountered and consider how to develop this in Part Five. I need to consider my work against the success criteria, the artists who has influenced me and how my work has progressed. I also need to think about next steps in my learning and things I want/need to develop.

The first difficulty I encountered was the starting point. To begin, I created the paintings without thinking that every time I picked up my ground that I was turning it slightly. When frustration kicked in I marked the top, bottom and quarters of the circular ground and the circular viewer so I could match them up and hopefully transfer the scene accurately onto the ground. It seems logical now but before painting on a circular ground I didn’t realise how the eye naturally lines things up with the vertical, horizontal and edges when using a rectangular ground.

The next difficulty was in putting the observed image into perspective on a circular ground. On a rectangular painting it is relatively simple to extend lines of perspective and marry them respectively with their vanishing points. Not so with the circular painting unless the circle is cut after the lines of perspective has been established. In retrospect, I probably should have done that when painting the fire-place, the chair and bedside table. I then researched perspective when creating circular paintings/drawings. I found out different ways to create perspective using 1, 2 and multiple points of perspective. The style of some paintings can force the observer to forgive the artist for abandoning perspective. Anthony Green’s paintings of interiors take on perspective from numerous viewpoints but his use of paint and beautifully eccentric approach detracts from his bizarre use of perspective. I cannot claim to be like that. My perspective, or lack of, is something I need to work on.

I found a few different approaches to perspective when creating circular drawings/paintings.   By using a single point of perspective in the centre of the painting the eye is drawn towards the middle of the painting.

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Three point perspective is effective when painting boxes or cubes.


The method we choose to create perspective depends on what we want our painting to be like.


The tondo offers that a unique pulling power…the curved line draws the eye towards the image. It is a bit like the unseen force of gravity pulling us down, the circle of the Tondo also pulls you in. That sounds bonkers but it seems like logic to me…I just hope that is how others see the tondo.

We were asked to study some of the artists who painted interiors as well as artists who painted Tondos. I was drawn to those who painted impasto or bright colours but the artist who particularly interested me was Charlie Day. I liked the sentiment in his work and how the objects he painted were representative of things that bore significance in his life. I realised that when I painted I wanted to paint things that I liked rather than the mundane. In Part 2 I decorated a box with a poem and inside the box I placed a stone on which I painted the harbour at Balintoy where I took my dad on holiday before he died. It was significant to me…no one else, just me. I remember the emotions that I felt as I worked and how the piece still reminds me of the time I spent with dad. When Charlie Day painted the cassette tape he was thinking of the songs he gave to his girlfriend, now wife. I love the idea of the connection between the artist and the object. When I painted the plant in the windowsill, it reminded me of the plant given to me be by my friend. It was a money plant that she blessed as she gave to me, and wished me good health to enjoy it. I guess I learned that my own passion is important in terms of motivating me and in the way I handle paint.

I also felt influenced by Annabel Dover. I liked how she would paint a collection of objects that together formed part of a story. When I painted my son’s bookshelf, the VW campervans represented the holidays that we used to have with him. These objects hold meaning for me. I remember watching a Vimeo by Vija Cemins talking about how she manipulates objects and forms connections with them before she paints them.   Not everything we were asked to paint held a particular meaning for me, nor could I generate feeling or emotion toward them.   However, I still learned from the experiences. I think my research into the styles of different artists has helped me to focus on a style and begin to understand myself.

Painting impasto over thin paint was a lovely experience – it was playful and quite refreshing to watch an otherwise plain painting come to life. The painting began loose and flat then came to life with every brush stroke of scrape of the knife. The dull tones of the watercolour were a beautiful contrast to the texture and vibrancy of the acrylic. This contrast was exaggerated by the addition of gloss on the acrylic. It seemed to create a movement as light catches the eye and is drawn towards the soft layers as they created shadows, which in turn encourages the observer to explore the painting.

Through my research I noticed that often circular paintings were complimented by a frame. It concerned me that my circular paintings would, without a frame, appear unfinished. However, When I was looking at the work of Charlie day I began to realise that the space surrounding his paintings of single objects became the frame. In my assignment I wanted to use space to frame my painting.

In exercise 4.3 we were asked to use gloss varnish and experiment with its effects. I went online to see how to apply varnish and why artists use it. It was very interesting to see that on some surfaces the varnish can appear patchy as it absorbs into the painted ground in places less dense with paint and that artists often apply an undercoat then a top coat of varnish in order to remedy this.

I painted gloss on a variety of colours to see the effect. On reds and yellows and black the gloss made the tone much deeper. The other colours did appear deeper. I then decided that I would paint only areas of my painting to see the effect.

I liked the use of gloss on areas to bring little sparkles of light to the painting. As I thought, it altered the tone making the pigment seem darker and used only in areas, rather than over the entire painting gave it highlights. I think that the overall effect was that it added life to the painting.

As a result of doing Part 4 I have developed an interest in circular paintings. In the super markets I noticed how the circular shape of adverts really draws the customer in.   You see them on jam-jar lids, on advertising, on boxes of chocolates amongst many.

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In a TED talk by Phil Hanson, ‘Embrace the Shake’, he discussed how in order to fully understand our limitations we need to explore what doesn’t limit us.   Inspired by Phil Hanson, Annabel Dover and at the same time thinking of the limitations of the circular painting and the supermarket jars and packaging I decided to try miniature circular paintings. I used the lid of a miniature pot of jam as a ground to paint a picture of my son’s bookcase, a 2p coin to paint my teapot and cups and a circular pebble to paint the baking table in my house. The notion that the miniature tondo really forces the observer to look closely amuses me somewhat.


When I painted the miniature of my son’s bookcase the shelf was filled with campervans but I selected not to paint them all. I felt the books represent larger chunk of Mark’s life, whereas the campervans represent him growing up. I think that the position of the campervans became an important part of the composition – the campervans driving towards the centre of the painting naturally leads the eye in that direction, whilst the campervans also represent his journey in life. I think that I learned a lot about composition in Part 4. Sometimes the composition could take over the entire surface and other times the artist would use the unpainted canvas to frame the composition or a single object.


I also enjoyed painting the miniature still life of the baking utensils. They represent me when I was growing up. I used to bake for a local restaurant when I was saving up to go to university. Now, I bake for my boys all the time. I think the representation of objects is something that I identify with – probably why I like Charlie Day’s paintings.

However there is a part of me that doesn’t want to be hemmed into a particular style. Geraldine Swayne paints sensual and almost pornographic portraits. My first reaction was shock but then I thought about how she painted portraits with fading form, blurring the lines between pornography and the beauty of the body. Because I like painting miniatures I like the idea of painting a shocking little scene that by the time the observer realises what they have seen they are already shocked. Part of the thrill of doing this is the thought that they will have a second look! I might try that one at some point!


Did my work marry up to the expectations of the success criteria?

Technical and visual skills including materials, techniques and observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills –

Materials – I have used a variety of grounds including tick and thin card, paper plate, MDF, foil cake plate, stone, tin and copper. I have also used watercolours, coloured pencils, acrylics and oils in Part 4.


Techniques and observational skills –

The exercises allowed me to draw and paint with a variety of media. I used the technique of using watercolour on gesso. This allowed me to push the paint around before settling for the desired effect. Painting impasto on a loose wash and using varnish as a medium demonstrates a range of techniques. I also used marked my view-finder and ground in order to place my composition accurately. I used the technique of 2 point perspective.   I think that I have talked about my thought process throughout. This I hope indicates my developing visual awareness. For example, when I looked at Charlie Day’s paintings of singular objects my observation led me to conclude that the unpainted area creates a frame for the painting.

Design and compositional skills – my choice of subject and composition is evident in my work. I have given thought to the composition of my miniatures which I hope is reflected in my writing as well as on the paintings.

Quality of Outcome

The content is set within the course and I feel that I have applied my previous knowledge to develop my work. I made reference to my previous research and understanding of work done by other artists. I think that my research has also supported my development as I have tried to link my research to my learning.

Demonstration of Creativity

I think that my experiments with miniatures took my learning in a different direction. It allowed my to go beyond the limitations of the tondo and explore other possibilities. Although I have ideas about how I would like to develop my work I think it shows that I am becoming more aware of my personal voice. The representational pieces reflect me. I do think that I need to be more daring and follow through with a few of my ideas.


Reflection research, critical thinking

I think research is an area that I do reasonably well. However, I am not sure that I was as rigorous as I could have been with analysing work. Perhaps I kept some of my reflection within the parameters of my inner-monologue rather than writing about it.

I think also I need to spend more time reflecting on my work against the criteria for observing an artists work. This said, I think that I have had a few moments outside the box when I have looked at the work of an artist taken an aspect I have liked and painted something unique to me. I am thinking about my miniatures but I know that my assignment is being forged in my mind with aspects of my learning that I want to apply. I want my painting to be representational, to have made use of perspective, oil on top of watercolour and the use of colour to create mood.


To summarise what I have learned in Part 4 I have bullet pointed below:

  • The tondo’s shape naturally encourages the observer to look towards the middle of the composition
  • Using impasto over a watercolour or loosely painted surface creates a textural contrast as well as a contrast between flat and vibrant paint
  • Perspective is challenging and forces the artist to consider what the painting will look like before choosing the most appropriate method to obtain the image required
  • The Tondo can limit the content of the painting so the artist must be careful not to cram to much into the painting.
  • When composing a drawing with a single object, the position on the page is important: the distance of its edges from the ‘frame’ of the composition.
  • The style and techniques employed by the artist will depend on what it is the artist wants to express.
  • For some paintings the most appropriate shape would be a circular surface. Eg, The abstraction of a cut diamond, some optical art pieces and advertising products



Understanding Painting Media Part 4, Exercise 4.4

Using the paintings you made in Exercise 4.1, look at the scene you painted and add thicker paint to the thinly painted works. Leave areas of the thinly painted work visible. What effects have you created by applying areas of thicker paint?

When I painted areas of the painting with thick acrylic paint the dull little painting came alive. I was deliberately slap-dash with the brushstrokes to make it interesting and expressive.

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Painting 1

Although the perspective of the hearth wrong the brushstrokes

It was a bit disorienting because I tended to turn the circle as I painted.

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Painting 2

I had already changed the colours and the layout of the wardrobe so the change between watercolours and thick acrylic is quite dramatic. The thick paint has a lovely texture which in itself adds a different light to the painting. The undulations cast little shadows and the pigment of acrylic is much more saturated than watercolours. The contrast between the two is interesting – flat, dull watercolour to strong vibrant acrylic.

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Painting 3

This paper plate painting is not too dissimilar from the original painting in exercise 4.1. There is a lovely difference in the texture and I did add flowers to the side plate. The flowers are thick blues and lilacs with dashes of white. The plate still feels too transient for my liking. I enjoyed painting on the pebble and on the jar lid but I am not sold on the paper plate at all.


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Painting 4

I was never too keen on this composition but adding the thick paint did make a difference to the overall effect of the painting. I think it could have been thicker as this would have added more texture. I did add pink to the curtains and the pigment changed the overall tone of the painting.

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Painting 5

This is my favourite transformation using thick paint. The tone is different ant the contrast between the watercolour and acrylic is nice. The thick paint makes the brushstrokes very visible. It helps that I am in love with the holiday home in Wales. I love the quirky ornaments on the windowsill – they all seem to work together. On their own the ornaments are tacky but together they just seem to work. I am pleased that I chose this view to develop.


I have learned a lot about texture and contrast between watercolour and acrylic. Moreover, I have learned that the two forms of media can compliment each other. Watercolour is beautiful on its own yet with the addition of thick acrylic paint the flat, dull colour comes to life.

Understanding Painting Media Part 4 Exercise 4.3

Make a very fluid painting of any subject on the list. Once this has dried, paint or spray gloss varnish. Use any size, any surface any media. What effects can you create by applying varnish? Make some notes in your learning log.


I chose to paint my red canvas shoes. They are by no means beautiful. I chose not to coat the entire painting in gloss because I figured that the effect would be ‘all over’ whereas with only patches of gloss there would be untouched areas in which to illustrate differences. I was very random with the areas I choses to highlight using gloss. The first thing I noticed was that the colour/tone seemed more saturated by the gloss. The surface shine made the texture lively and sparkly. I thought that this would be good to highlight areas and show the contrast between the dull and the vibrant. I used the gloss in order to highlight areas so when the light caught the gloss the effect would be lively.


It is perhaps not obvious in the photograph but I coated the second and fourth row with gloss varnish to see the difference in effect.  In reality the contrast is quite stunning.  The gloss deepens the tone and gives the paint a lively shine.  Where light hits the surface the colours bounce back giving it a little sparkle of light.

I can see how using gloss on the entire painting would give it a beautiful lift.  However the contrast between flat paint and shiny paint is also quite lively, so it really depends on the effect desired should the artist choose to coat all or just highlights.

Understanding Painting Media Part 4 Tondo Exercise 4.2

Make a series of three circular pencil drawings, using coloured pencils, of a scene in your house.  Choose from the list, or something different.  Any size, any surface.

In this exercise I drew from a photograph of a chair like the chair in the hall of the holiday home we visit in Wales, my own bedside table and the bookshelf in my play-room/office. I am not a lover of pencils because I feel that I never get the strength of colour that I would like. My furniture is oak but for the purposes of these drawings I have made them white. I dare say if I went to an art shop I would be able to buy a pencil that might give me the colour of oak but the nearest art shop is over an hours journey away so I will make do … so white furniture it is.


I like the playroom shelf because the colours are bright and the shapes are varied and interesting.


I like the composition of the bedside cupboard and bed.  The colours are a little bland and don’t really reflect the wall behind.  I am changing the colours because they are a little tired but I had hoped that the pencils would not make the colours appear quite so tired.  It is time for a change.


The chair in the hall is not in perspective so I really don’t like it. If I had drawn the picture on a square or rectangular piece of paper, then cut it into a circular shape I may have managed to get the correct proportions. It is difficult to manage perspective in a circular drawing. Not being able to secure a vanishing point makes perspective challenging.

Perspective is one of the challenges of circular paintings/drawings.  I looked at other ways to create perspective in a circular drawing/painting.  I hope this will help me as I progress through Part 4.

Understanding Painting Media Part 4 Exercise 4.1 Tondo

Exercise 4.1

Make a series of five circular paintings using thinned-down paint. You could use watercolour, gouache, acrylic or turps-diluted oil paint for this. The subject of your painting can be any of the following:

  • The interior of a cupboard
  • A shelf or mantelpiece
  • The interior of a drawer or wardrobe
  • A ceiling light
  • A pile of post
  • A dishcloth or flannel, in situ
  • An unmade bed
  • A bedside cupboard
  • Shoes, wherever they are kept
  • A wash basket or pile of clothes



I decided to do all of my paintings using watercolour base. I felt that watercolour was thin, a requisite of this exercise, and depending on the surface I might be able to manipulate the paint.


Painting 1

This painting was the mantelpiece done in watercolour. As a first attempt I found it very strange to paint on a circle. The card was the back of a sketchbook coated with gesso. Although I got the perspective of the hearth wrong and the dimensions of the wood-burner a bit too small I think it will be fine as an under-painting.

It was a bit disorienting because I tended to turn the circle as I painted.


Painting 2

The colours in the wardrobe were not right. I changed them about a bit and I added another row of coats because I didn’t like the mish-mash of rubbish. I am not sure if I was meant to do that but wardrobes are not the most interesting subject matter. I find it quite tricky to paint subjects that are not important to me. There are things I paint that are interesting or of sentiment that engage with me. Mundane objects do not inspire me. I think this is evident in this painting.


Painting 3

This was a painting of dishes I bought from Tesco for a previous exercise in Understanding Painting Media (I photographed them on the shelf then took them back to Tesco – a bit too flowery for my liking)

I painted this on a paper plate coated with gesso. The difference between this painting and the others perhaps lies in the fact that I liked the way the light shone on the dishes and the shadow created.


Painting 4

This is a small painting of the windowsill in my garden toilet. I like the boat but I hate the room. I liked the reflections of light on the dark glass. The boat is just an ornament to cheer up an otherwise empty shelf. The painting is small and if I am honest very boring. I went on to experiment with other paintings at this point.


I made three miniatures to see what I could do. The first one is of my son’s bookshelf and the second is inside one of my kitchen worktop. I had been studying Charlie Day at the time. He paints interiors with a focus on representational objects. I liked that idea because I am generally not a materialistic person but I have kept a few objects that represent a time in my life that I have enjoyed. Toys belonging to my children that represent their childhood, things the boys have made for me and the painting of campervans represents a transitional period for my eldest son. When we were on holiday, the last holiday he came with us, he became fixated on campervans. Or so it seemed. Apparently it was just one particular campervan that he had watched five beautiful girls get out of. I teased him so much and every year since I have always bought him a campervan back from our Devon and Cornwall holidays. It signifies my son growing up.

On the bookshelf behind the campervans he has a collection of Darren Shan books. These books are from his teenage years when he was an avid reader of Darren Shan books. This little painting was very much a representational painting for me.


The teacups and teapot was a ‘wedding present’ from my brother-in-law. It wasn’t our wedding …it was his wedding present, a doubler, so he thought that my husband and I were ‘tea-jennies’ and we should have it. It really does represent us. I painted this on the tails of a 2p coin. It was an experiment with a tiny tondo painting.


This was a miniature painting done on a pebble.  The pebble is almost the same size as the miniature jam-jar lid.  I like this one because it is just me…always baking scones and pancakes for the boys.  Tiny as it is, I think you can see every brushstroke.


Painting 5

This is a painting of the kitchen shelf in the holiday home we go to in Wales. It is a house filled with quirky things that I would never buy but find them fascinating. In the same way that Ali Sharma painted objects that felt had a story to tell, I feel that the objects are old and were probably loved by someone. The wire chicken is bonkers as is the huge earthenware fish. What were the owners thinking when they bought them?   I have a money-plant at home. It was a gift from a friend.


I will return to these paintings in Exercise 4.4