How to Choose a Colour for a Tonal Ground (My Top 5 Pigment Choices)

How to Choose a Colour for a Tonal Ground (My Top 5 Pigment Choices)

Inspired by the dramatic, dark Flemish oil paintings I saw in Antwerp; I’ve just started working on a still life set up of some fab oversized pink peonies. I’m going to begin simply with acrylics then build up the piece using water-mixable oils.

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of a coloured ground and how this very simple step of preparing your canvas, can transform your working method. And I received lots of emails asking
‘How do you go about choosing a colour for your tonal ground?’

Well, the first thing I do is make a decision.

What is the most important thing or the most important problems that I can foresee within the painting I’m going to be working on?

For this still life, judging the values of the flowers and getting the drawing right are going to be the two trickiest areas –  but get them right….and they can pull the whole painting together. Choosing a sympathetic tone for the coloured ground will help me achieve this.

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Inside the Artist’s Studio, Ruben’s House & the Art of Antwerp

Inside the Artist's Studio, Ruben's House & the Art of Antwerp

Peter Paul Rubens, Detail from The Assumption of the Virgin, Oil on Panel, 1626

The rhythmic sound of African drums echoed through the vast interior of the Cathedral.

It was an unexpected acoustic experience, and the historical tour we’d seen advertised was looking increasingly unlikely.

There was just Vanessa and me waiting patiently at the back of the Cathedral when the tour guide arrived; she was getting extremely agitated. She hadn’t known the performance was on, the volume was too loud, a new musical set had just started, and her tension was building.

She was miffed.

But then our saviour came, a gentleman from Romania. Our tour of two had become three. We were off to the races.

I was in Antwerp (just last month) exploring Ruben’s home and studio, but nothing had prepared me for the pure brilliance of his works that lay only a few steps from our hotel lobby, hidden behind the doors of the Cathedral of Our Lady. 

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Capturing Sunlight with Sorolla (inside the Artist’s Studio)

sorolla-strollng-along-the-seashore

Joaquín Sorolla, Strolling along the Seashore, Detail, Valencia, 1909

In the heart of bustling Madrid, behind a protective brick wall, sits the elegant former home and studio of Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863 -1923)

Huge decorative iron gates lead you through a lush Andalusian courtyard garden to one of the best-preserved artist houses in Europe, an absolutely priceless experience. 

musee-sorolla-casa

musee-sorolla-garden-entrance

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Monet & Architecture at the National Gallery (London)

Claude Monet, The Thames below Westminster, about 1871

Claude Monet, The Thames below Westminster, about 1871

“Other painters paint a bridge, a house, a boat, I want to paint the air that surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat – the beauty of the light in which they exist.” – Claude Monet

The French Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) is best known for his brilliant paintings of landscapes, coastline and water-lilies, but this month saw the opening of a new exhibition ‘Monet & Architecture’ at the National Gallery, London.

This show highlights his interest in architecture, not only compositionally, but how he used it as a backdrop and tool to capture the changing effects of light and I was fortunate enough to catch it this week!

Bringing together over 75 of Monet’s paintings from all over the world, the rooms are unconventionally grouped following architectural subject matter, The Village & the Picturesque, The City & the Modern and The Monument & the Mysterious.

The idea of creating paintings based on ‘picturesque ideals’ influenced Monet’s early work and this concept was part of the larger ‘picturesque landscape’ debate originating in England.

Professor Richard Thomson, the curator of the show, explains,

“One of the points of this exhibition was to take a very famous artist, who people think they know, but to take a look at his work in a different way

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Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

We arrived in Paris to catch the last few days of a retrospective exhibition of the Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920)

Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

After a snowy week in England, we woke to blue skies, warm croissants and this amazing rooftop view from our hotel room. I couldn’t resist a quick pen sketch of the row of chimney pots in the distance before we hit the show, check out those windows!

Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

Sketch from Hotel, Rotring Art Pen (F), Pentel Brush Pen and Pentel Aquash Water Pen in A6 size (10 x 15cm) Seawhites of Brighton Sketchpad (140gsm All-Media Cartridge Paper)

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The Immersive Power of Painting (a Painting Truth you can Learn too Late)

The Immersive Power of Painting (a Painting Truth you can Learn too Late)

How often have you heard yourself say “I’d love to paint but I’ve got too much going on… I’ll have to wait till I’ve finished work….the kids have grown up….

“I wish I had more time to paint but… but, but, but”

Just finding space to set your paints out means upheaval of something else and squeezing a free window of time feels too difficult to plan in an already jam-packed calendar.

And then, having to learn how to paint on top of that ….uh, I can see why you’d think you’d have to wait until you retire!

But is it possible by not painting now, you’re missing out?

What if you don’t need more time to paint, but you need to paint, to give your mind a much-needed refresh?…

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