Alison Dollery

This is my student blog for the Painting 1: Practice of Painting course that I am currently studying with the Open College of the Arts. I have recently completed Drawing Skills and Creative Arts today theoretical module as part of gaining degree credits towards completing a BA (Hons) in Fine Art.




Self- Portrait



Oil Paint (Approx A3) Self Portrait January


Close up of brush marks

I perceived this exercise to be quite difficult t the point of concerns I would paint a facial shaped umpalumper in orange.  I have been struggling the past few days to concentrate (due to a cold) especially with my life drawing class yesterday where I was disappointed with the results ( which I will hesitantly blog later).

I made the decision to do this exercise before the research point on self portraits as I wanted a painting as a visual starting point to build learnt knowledge upon (My tutor asked in my last report where do I want to go?) This is an attempt at starting to ask the question. As I learn visually I can can then interpret from the research and apply what I have learnt. It also stops me getting overwhelmed or over inspired by looking at too many artists at once as already after reading the exercise brief I have strong images of  Elizabeth Peyton’s portrait of Justin Bieber, Lucien Freud Leigh Bowery and Picasso’s Self Portrait 1901 (Blue Period) in my head ( I will add this to my research).  Finding inspiration or visualising is something I find very easy. I have also watched several different you tube tutorials on blending flesh tones, although they focused on more realistic approaches and using dry brush techniques.


  • To get a likeness of myself and produce a portrait that I find visually interesting.
  • To establish my own understanding/ knowledge of a self-portrait (based on inspiration above) to use as a starting point to build upon.
  • Only use 3 rough primary colours (Cadmium Red, Yellow and Ultramarine.

What I have learnt

  • I have gotten a really good likeness. Although I have painted myself older than intended (think this is because of the grey reflections on my skin from my grey scarf, pillow and clothing).
  • I have captured my miserable January mood and sadness that I feel at the moment.
  • Cropping/ closer up image of the face and angel of face has worked positively instead painting a head on view of myself, I find it more interesting.
  • I need more conviction with my initial brush marks with the skin to avoid muddying the colours.
  • Growing confidence in painting from observation (no under drawing).
  • Mixing flesh tones from 3 rough primary colours only. I feel quite confident with this now and have a growing understanding of how to manipulated the mixes/ tones of colour.
  • Staying away from black outlines gives a more natural approach. I tried not to use black at all unless it was mixed with one of the primary colours for a more natural look.
  • Got the tones in the correct place although through blending they became murkier than I would have liked but I can resolve this through practice and a stronger conviction of brush strokes.
  • I used the same brush strokes with my Filbert brush applying wet on wet, liquid and other colours on wet to re-created the brush strokes that my tutor wanted more of on my last assignment on the scarf and pillow to show light and smoothness.
  • In places I have approached the marks like a patchwork or construction of marks. I actually prefer this to when I attempted blending. I find it visually more stimulating.
  • Composition I have tried to use the line of sight from my eyes, the corner of the right pillow and lines in the scarf to add a  visual dynamic within the composition to guide the viwer  to the right hand corner where I am staring.
  • Starting to understand how thickness of paint and brush marks can manipulate and form shapes and depth.
  • Growing confidence of removing, smoothing, blending paint with a rag, different brush strokes, using a cotton wool bud to scratch remove paint and my finger also to blend when needed.

What I would do differently

  • I am now going to research portraits as per the learning point.
  • I want to be bolder with my brush marks. But without making the paint muddy.
  • I mentioned before that I really admire photo realistic paintings/ drawings but realistically once I have admired the patience of the technique of the artist I get bored with looking at it. So I have answered my own question I posed in part one-that I think I am more interested in the composition/ marks/application of paint than producing a photo realistic image.  Its my representation- not a copy of a photograph. I can now channel my research/ technique to reflect this.
  • The eye on the right is slightly bigger than the one on the left (which is a true to life), I need to be careful of how I represent this.
  • Re think some of the tones of colour yellow around eyes, whiteness of flesh (nose) and red lips are little too obvious. Overall to improve on this as a staring point.I also re painted the eyeballs 5/6 times as struggled to get the direction, colour and light representational.
  • I need to explore coloured grounds and colour-How does a coloured ground or monochromatic under painting effect skin tones.
  • Changing size of Canvas,

Further Reflection on Colour Mixing

I also had a very interesting and helpful email from my tutor from my last blog post discussing ‘true’ primary colours as in their isn’t any. Although I am happy with the range of colours I produced from the 3 primary’s in this exercise. I am really interested to see how this changes with the changing of the 3 Primary shades.

Stages of Painting




Observing the Human Figure

I have some personal aims for this part of the course.

  • Explore Oil Painting Techniques
  • Explore the Painting Techniques (Oils) of a range of artists I viewed at a recent exhibition in Cardiff.
  • Colour mixing- only using 3 rough primary colours to find a range of colours, tints and tones to use in my paintings including exploring Flesh tones.

Colour Mixing


Despite experimentation of Primary Colours in part 3 I am still unsure which 3 pre- mixed colours I am defining as what I would describe as an exact or True Primary colour. I think whilst I have the luxury and safety of year 1 experimentation I do not want to commit to a definition of this.

I think Ultramarine Blue is my go to Blue but for the Red and Yellow I was torn between Cadmium red/ Yellow and Brilliant Red/ Medium Yellow.

However I settled on Cadmium Red and Yellow as my rough primary to use for experimentation for part 3. Above is some colour mixes and notes to how I found/ the shade, tone of the flesh tone. I think Zinc Mixing white will be more productive to use as it less chalky and more transparent than Titanium white.

Drawing the Human Figure

Some of the Sketches from Life Drawing Class

Linear Figure Study Sketch


Please see inspiration below. Its been a while since I have drawn the human figure and I need re-tuning on the drawing of proportions again. Proportions are something I find very hard to get right, I am hoping attending a weekly life drawing class will help with this. I have made extensive notes in my sketch book of techniques used for the above sketch. I am pleased with the different marks made with paint. I didn’t quite capture the palete of colour I was aiming for but have stuck to the primary colour mixing only. I think this is interesting and could be the basis for further experimentation but I need to get the proportions correct.

Inspiration for Linear Figure Sketch

Underwater Love, Marit Geraldine


Energy Body Sketch, Fred Hatt



Assignment 2 Tutor Feedback (Response in Black Italics)

Assignment 2 Assessment potential
I understand your aim is to go for the Painting Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment. In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.

Lily in vase
I can see that you have used the black wall and stems in the vase to experiment with
drawing with paint. The flowers are quite stylized and flat. This contrasts with the slightly moody / shadowy black stuff so I am not sure it is intentional? No it wasnt intentional it developed as I was painting. It will be a device I can experiment with in future as the contrast is interesting it pulls the background forward frames the flatness of the flower.

Your drawings of the lilies did not focus on tone and structure so perhaps it was tricky when you started painting? Yes the structure and tone of the flower was something I could have considered to explore more in the sketches that would have developed later into the paintings something to consider for part 3. When doing preliminary work I need to think about how the marks or drawing/ sketch will translate into paint.

The vase is nicely handled. The mint green and black feel invented rather than observed – is that rue? The black background was invented, although I have since started setting up mock still  life groupings against coloured paper to make backgrounds to manipulate light/colour (See photograph previously) this is something I will always use now when capturing still life (learnt from the Dutch Painters manipulation of still life settings). The vase did contain the mint green in the glass however had to make judgement on where the black/ green would be so yes it was invented.
The drawing is nice and solid so the weight and proportion are all good. The thick black outlines around everything flatten the space and make everything look like a stained glass window. Removing those will give a more natural effect. Something I will try going forward.
Your triptych was ambitious. Thank you I enjoy challenging myself. The colour mixing here is very simple – almost non existent in fact so I think you could usefully continue to focus on that for the next assignment.  My colour mixing was intentionaly  very subtle and I will focus on colour mixing  in my next assignment.
The painting with orange pepper and onion has a very nice composition. Again, the
construction is very solid and convincing. The colour of the tiles and surface are well
managed. You could have been more confident and ambitious with your colour mixing for the pepper and knife etc. Have another look at an onion skin and see just how many colours there are. Using a limited palette did limit this but I need to explore colour mixing further. I also had a lot of pop art images and blocks of one colour in my head that influenced this piece along with the composition and construction. I am possible being to simple with my mixing and need to push this further. Thank you for the notes on the onion, I will re visit this.

The final piece with blue tea towel has a lovely approach to the worktop which really works well. You still have the thick black outline round everything which detracts from the subtlety of some of your observational work. Where you have not done that – in the reflection – it works  better. I 100% agree and the focus of work in part 3 will be to develop a more natural outline using contrasting colours in shadows  and depiction of more observational colour. If I was to use this work for assessment I would rework the final piece as suggested. The colour mixing is still thin, but the worktop has some nice work with putting the red into the black – more of that! Thank you it has been noted.

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
I think you could develop a keener eye when drawing from observation and trust yourself more to cut to the chase visually. Don’t draw everything you see with equal importance, but rather search out the essence of the view and the key visual power within it.  Noted. 
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
You have followed up all the leads I gave you. As a painter, I think you could be doing more to really elicit what is important about the way these people are making their art work for you– what can you steal from them? How does your work compare to theirs? What direction could you take in your work that would satisfy you, learning from any of these or reacting to them? This is really helpful. I think learning to critique artwork was a massive learning curve for me in previous courses and applying this to painting techniques will really help my development.
You mention that Lucian Freud’s painting application is gritty and you appreciate it. The Cardiff exhibition sounds as if it was a great way to see a lot of different artists in one setting. I hope you have more extensive notes from it and that I see more evidence of you using what you saw there to influence your own practice or to better understand it. I will revisit this and reflectively look at how their practice influences mine or to better understand it. Using artists to better understand my own practice is not an angle I have considered other than just influences.
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
You are conscientious and working through the exercises carefully. I would like to see you being more explicit about what you want to develop as an artist and to read you being constructively critical about your outcomes so that you can identify steps to achieve your goals. If I know where you are heading I can help you more effectively. Since reading this paragraph I have had several reflective questions/ thoughts around “what I want to develop as an artist and the steps to achieve my goals” at present my answer is everything but appreciate how unspecific this is an I will reflect further on this during part 3. I need to be more proactive in asking questions finding answers. As well as reacting to learning points in the course. 
Suggested reading/viewing
You need to look again at the artists in the Cardiff show and really unpack how they used paint – it sounds like an encyclopedia of painting techniques laid out for you. Many of these works cannot be appreciated digitally as the paint surface cannot be read via a photo.
Pointers for the next assignment
● Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.
● Please try to mix colour using just three rough primaries
● Try dropping the black outline for now – you can always reinstate it later
● Don’t rush through the course – give things time to make sense to you.
● Be more critical and opinionated about your own work so that I can get a sense of the artist you are working towards being.

The above feedback is so insightful, constructive and helpful. Very genuinely thank you for the advice that has given me lots to think about and work towards. I will reflect further on each pointer as I work through part 3.  

Assignment 2


Assignment 2 Still Life A3 Oil Paint

From the research and paintings I have produced within Part 2 I have been exploring my relationship with objects, where they sit within space (Composition and perspective).  I like to depict objects true to scale and proportionally correct in relation to each other. However I also wanted to explore how the colours, shapes, abstract in the reflections. I could continue this exploration a lot longer and may return to this subject at a latter date as the discoveries here are limitless and open to many interpretation especially in relation to colour.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills/ Quality of Outcome

On top of learning about colour theory- which I will continue to revisit throughout the course.I have met my own personal aim for part 2 which was to solely use and gain confidence using oil paint which I now have a strong preference to over Acrylics. I feel much more in control of how I apply oils and how they work together on the canvas using rags and surprisingly baby buds to remove or smooth paint. I have researched and practiced layering techniques, glaze applications of paint and its subsequent effects, this has also lead to investigating grounds how they appear alongside colour through the paint (using ultramarine and monochrome). I am also examining my processes of which order I apply paint- dark to light or reverse and amount of paint applied. I need to do more drawing as I  have noticed my drawing skills lapsing where I am spending time researching and painting.  I also think going forward the quality of outcome of my work will be more of a focus than of quantity. I am pleased with the quality of outcome of my final piece as it uses the context of reflections, applied my gained knowledge of colour theory and how this translates within paint application. There is an element of realism, surrealism and abstraction (which was intended) as I explored the objects. I have continually explored the composition of the objects and how this relates to the final assignment.  Drawing the same objects over and over has changed my relationship of how I view them and increased my skill in depicting them. I think I can see improvement in my technique as I continue through each painting. The biggest criticism of the final assignment is that I may have used too many different colours as oppose to using a smaller range to mix my own, however wanted to experiment with this effect too. I feel very confident to use a monochrome ground to manipulate final tones of colours.

Demonstration of Creativity 

I have tried to show independent judgement by using the triptych in 3 different colours to explore my relationship with colour and mood. I have tried to interpret my own subject (reflections) through the various exercises instead of producing  unrelated subjects.


As always I have completed the course research and tutor recommended research which I have focused towards my own point of interest, technique and how this is applied within my own work. From reading other student blogs, forums and online research I have discovered many other colour theories (how colour absorbs light, building of colours as glazes, different hues of primary colours) I would like to explore this more and I could get caught up within theory however I learn best from my own application and exploration.

My work is very much inspired by David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield and a new discovery of current artist Laura Smith. I found the tutor recommended research really inspiring regarding artists different relationships with objects and using pre- existing media as a basis for their work alongside awareness of the different types of objects that could be used for a still life.



Simple Perspective in Interior Studies


This exercise was inspired by Patrick Caulfield’s use of perspective within interiors. It continues my theme on reflections within objects.


Still life with reflection from granite splash back. A3 Oil Paint

Unfortunately I haven’t quite got the perspective right on the alignment of the tiles within the reflection of the kitchen. I enjoyed the experimentation with a limited palette of colour of Orange, Ultramarine, Black and white.

Colour Chart and Pepper Experiment with Credit Card.


Tutor Reccomended Research

Laura Smith

Out of the artists my tutor asked to investigate, Laura Smith has been the most memorable for me. Its been falling for a long time 2017 and Pink Ribbon 2016 use different and matter really interesting objects that are memorably often represented using a distinct range of colours with flatness and texture side by side.

“I position my work somewhere near the edge of still life painting, where it approaches abstraction. I aim to dissolve our familiarity with ordinary objects and create spaces that are ambiguous in both scale and nature. I am trying to set up tensions between stillness and potential or encapsulated movement, thereby giving emotional weight to the details of the everyday” (Laura Smith-

Other information:

Permission given by Laura Smith to use images.

Glass V

Glass V 2014 Laura Smith

Luc Tuymans 1958- present 

Portrait, 2000 Private Collection. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Luc Tuyman Front Cover of His Book Glases Copyright Luc Tuyman

Point of interest

Michael Borremans 1963- present

Point of Interest


MB2012 07 MB2013 11 (1)

MB 2012 07  Michael Borremans       MB 2013 11 Michael Borremans

Chrisptopher Orr

Points of Interest

  • Painted from existing media images such as Ladybird books, science text books and old master paintings.I had a very quick look at Penguins ladybird books for grown up’s and I see a resemblance in the figures.
  • What I really like about his work is his use of absence and emptiness that leaves the viewer to interpret the rest of the narrative.

The Gloaming

The Gloaming 2007 Oil on Linen Christopher Orr.

“Orr has reduced and simplified his images, often removing the drama found in his source material, to create subjects that are at once banal and arcane. These works possess a painterly rather than narrative tension. They test the level of detail a painting must undergo to be finished, their brush marks evident, lyrical and uneven. Pigment has been thinly applied and at times scratched off to reveal bare canvas; ochre grounds beneath the figurative paintwork are lambent, showing underneath and between the surface brush strokes and stealing a part in the action of the scenes. Orr continually explores the manipulation of images from one medium into another. He tests the objectivity of the scientific depictions, photographs, diagrams and paintings that he uses; their eclecticism of style and content saturate Orr’s works with the competing perspectives and mentalities of different eras, fostering an enchanted state” (

Geraldine Swayne, I had a brief look at her images, her images are more abstracted and expressive, some erotic. It was interesting to see how her body of work has progressed and that she uses a lot of close ups within her compositions. Considered an accomplished portrait painter. Her website has strict copyright. I do enjoy the patches circular in the backgrounds. Smoothness of the paint vs expression.


Research Point Interiors

For Assignment 2 I would like to represent my still life within an interior setting or the interior to be used as a compositional device.

Patrick Caulfield.

Although he did not consider himself aligned with ‘Pop Art Movement’ and his subject matter stays away from pop culture, famous faces and brands. “He saw himself, he said, as a ‘formal’ Artist” (Feaver 2005).

“I like very structured painting,” Caulfield said. “I simply try to make a logical, a seemingly logical, space that could exist.” (Feaver 2005). I enjoy the bold coloration, simplified forms, black outlines, simple images of his 1960’s however his 1970’s paintings continues with simplistic lines using perspective and adds a touch of photo realism in one specific area or object which stands comparatively to other flattened forms within his paintings. Interestingly he was also a year behind David Hockney whilst studying at Royal Academy of art.

Fig 1 Patrick Caulfield After Lunch 1975 © Tate, London, Image Copyright of Patrick Caulfield Estate.

After Lunch 1975 is a structured around line with two tones of blue indicating the light. The fish tank sits against this realistic pictures. The composition directs left to right with a right sided triangle composition whilst you view the objects or interior as if you are within the composition.


Fig 2  Autum 1978 Patrick Caulfield. Copyright the estate of Patrick Caulfield

Fig 3 David Hockney Large Interior 1988

I have chosen this interior by David Hockney as he is probably my strongest influence. For me his work is a narrative the objects appear real yet distorted. Sometime the paint strokes are used to depict texture, line, space other times the paint is flat. I really resonate to how interpret’s shapes and maps out his composition which folds in its self. The painting, similarly to Hockney’s joiner photographs the image allows you to view areas you wouldn’t see if true perspective was depicted.





Feaver , W (2005) Obituary Patrick Caulfield The Guardian [online] at: (accessed 3/12/17)

Fig 1 Patrick Caulfield After Lunch 1975 © Tate, London, Image Copyright of Patrick Caulfield Estate.

Fig 2  Autum 1978 Patrick Caulfield. Copyright the estate of Patrick Caulfield

Fig 3 David Hockney Large Interior 1988

Other Research

November 2017 Bacon to Doig Exhibition at the National Museum Cardiff.

I was really impressed and absolutely loved this compact exhibition of just painting after painting by Peter Doig, Francis Bacon, Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach, Ben Nicholson and sculptures by Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Barbara Hepworth and two Grayson Perry vases. It also featured work by the 20th Century’s best british artists which included, David Hockney and Lucien Freud. Personally for me viewing a Lucien Freud now that I have started this course allowed me to analyse the gritty texture of the paint application.

British Art at war, Nash- BBC 4

This was a good reflection on Paul Nash’s work after visiting the Paul Nash Exhibition at the Tate Britain earlier this year. Having viewed many of the paintings this programme discussed it was fascinating for me for the programme to show the real places. It gave a real insight to Paul Nash, state of mind and how this was interpreted through marks.

Recap and points of interest:

  • Lyrical landscapes, sense of place created through layers of cross hatching and essential form and rhythm in his work.
  • The Cherry orchard the tree’s are lined up like dead bodies bearing no fruit.
  • He never painted a self-portrait and used tree’s to depict people.


For Future reference from the Museum of Modern Art.


Lucien Freuds Technique:

How to use Glazes:


7 stages of glazing-technique:

Colour- Zorns Palatte

Research Point 4 Interiors Dutch Realist Genre

During the 17th century “the varied subject matter known collectively as genre painting depicted scenes from everyday life” (Meagher, 2008). The artists aimed (using contrived scenes) to create paintings that portrayed people from different social class’s, (commonly women) undertaking various activities. The objects were depicted in use by the people or as a central focus of the painting within an interior setting.

The interior setting was used as a narrative to the whole scene, capturing a realistic view of life and a device to create depth to draw the viewer into the painting. …there are also paintings of interiors without people empty rooms can speak eloquently of the absence of their occupants (Oca, 2017).

Here is an interesting article on Vermer and Dutch Genre painting at a recent exhibition at the Louvre (2017):

Image result for vermeer and the music lesson

Fig 1 Johannes Vermeer The Music Lesson 1662- 1665 Oil on Canvas

Dutch san van hoogs

Fig 2 Samuel van Hoogstraten, The Slippers/View of an Interior c.1655-62. Photograph: RMN Grand Palais (musée du Louvre).

A Woman Reading a letter and a Woman Sweeping, Pieter Jansessens Elinga

Fig 3 Pieter Jansessens Elinga, A Woman Reading a Letter and a Woman Sweeping 1668 Oil on canvas

Devices employed by the painters to draw the viewer into the experience of the occupants in the room(OCA, 2017):

  • The floor tiles receded, directing the viewer with theoretical or visual lines indicating depth.
  • Window and window frames follow linear perspective pulling the viewer to the focal point.
  • Exterior sometimes hinted at.
  • Door frames, ceilings, walls frame the image.
  • Position and size of people and objects.
  • Painting, mirrors and objects in the background act as a focal point.
  • In all three paintings on the right hand side of the image all have a sequence of objects that direct you to the main subject. The Music Lesson uses the table, blue chair, cello to guide you to the person playing the piano. In the View of the interior Hoogstraten uses the door handle, door frame, door keys before you arrive at the objects at the back of the room. In Elinga’s double subject painting he uses the chairs and light from the window’s to highlight the women reading.
  • The light and shade are also used to create visual dynamics and lines.
  • In reflection the three images I chose to study, the main subject matter, object or person is centrally placed often distanced in the background. I did some more research at this point and this appears to be a common device used within dutch genre interior paintings. Possibly highlighting to the viewer to the subject matter of each painting.
  • Looking at multiple Dutch paintings, there is evidence of triangular compositions similar to the still life compositions. I have noticed in some paintings  objects are placed on the left side but appear more delicate than objects on the right. Is this because we read from left to right and if you place an intrusive/large object on the left it blocks the viewer?


Fig 1 Vermeer The Music Lesson 1662- 1665 (accessed 2/12/17).

Fig 2 Samuel van Hoogstraten, The Slippers/View of an Interior c.1655-62 Image copyright of RMN Grand Palais (musee de Louvre) At: (accessed 2/12/17).

Fig 3 Pieter Jansessens Elinga, A Woman Reading a Letter and a Woman Sweeping 1668 At: (accessed 2/12/17).

Meagher, J (2008) Genre Painting in Northern Europe [online] At: (accessed 2/12/17).

OCA P70 Background, Practice of Painting, Open College of the Arts.

OCA P71 Research point, Practice of Painting, Open College of the Arts.

Meagher, J (2008) Genre Painting in Northern Europe [online] At: (accessed 2/12/17).