Part 2: Exercise 2.4 – Painting on a painted surface


Paint a thin wash of colour on three or more sheets of A4 paper using ink- or water-based paint and leave them to dry; make some dark and some light. Now choose a paint medium you’d like to try and depict another of your collections. This time really look at the tone of the collection. Which are the darkest and which are the lightest areas? You may find ink, watercolour, acrylic or gouache most suitable for this exercise, but feel free to experiment.

As an extra exercise, you could paint a collection of your choice, leave it to dry and paint a different collection on top on the same piece of paper.

Whatever medium you use to paint with, remember to consider your surface. You might want to paint the surface you’re using with a dark acrylic paint first or a white acrylic paint or ink. Use the techniques you picked up in Part One and repeat any you’d like to experiment with further.

Conclude your work on Part Two by looking at some contemporary artists who work on metal or mirrored surfaces. You might want to do your own research into the work of these artists and others who work in a similar way.


I selected six collections for this exercise:

Buttons collection photo
Ties collection photo
Thread collection photo
Blues collection photo
Painting tools collection photo
Drawing tools collection photo

The ‘collection’ paintings

Buttons collection

I had originally intended to paint this collection as part of Exercise 2.1 using Pebeo Cerne Relief paint and face painting sticks. Rethinking this I chose to include it instead in Exercise 2.4. With a black gesso wash on an A4 sheet of 300gsm HP watercolour paper, once dry, I used gouache paint to place out the various sets of button cards and then picked out the individual buttons in relief paint. My original idea for using face painting sticks was a non-starter as it proved far too messy to obtain any real sense of proper button shapes. I think this composition works quite well. However, trying to obtain tonal niceties in this piece proved quite tricky.

Ties collection

This is a collection of ties which I stopped wearing once I retired. The ground is a light wash of brown/orange acrylic onto which I have painted the ties in a manner akin to a celtic art motif. The original ties had many colourful designs and images on them, but I decided to edit this down to a more minimalist rendition. This time I have tried to subtley capture more of the tonal variations of the collection.

Thread collection

This painting again started out with a darker brown acrylic wash that I immediately disliked, so I sprayed varnish over the surface and sprinkled ‘Ballast medium buff’ sand over it (this is intended to realistically act as crushed rock and stones for model railway enthusiasts to sprinkle between the tracks!), which was slightly darkened with brown and white acrylic.

Painting on this surface proved tricky, but I think that using thicker applications of acrylic paint to the spindles and threads was reasonably effective. I am also happier with the rendition of tonal variations in the overall composition.

The Blues collection

This is another collection that I decided to move to this exercise. It was originally intended to be depicted in pottery glaze on a black gesso ground for Exercise 2.1. But, rethinking things over I chose instead to use an A4 sheet of 300gsm HP watercolour paper washed over with light blue acrylic paint.

This collection of Blues magazines and CDs was collected over a number of years in the early 1990’s and still holds shelf and listening space in our home. I was intrigued by the idea of curating a collection of a collection and I quite like the way in which the ring binders are stacked against one another, hinting at the hanging magazine sleeves inside the binders. I have a thought that there is something of the design evident in the work of the Glasgow artist Hannah Frank:

Hannah Frank (1932) “Night Forms” [Accessed: 5 December 2016].
Media used for this painting was Relief Paint for the binders and pottery glaze for the sleeves and shadows.

Painted collection on painted collection

Painting tools collection

Although somewhat pushed for time to finish this exercise I took up the challenge of painting a collection on top of a collection. I used a previously black gesso washed A4 sheet of 300gsm HP watercolour paper over which I placed a greenish acrylic wash.

Onto this background I sketched and painted in my brushes collection using acrylic paint.

Drawing tools collection on painting tools collection

I had originally intended to paint the drawing tools collection in total over the top of this background, but looking at the dynamics of this it became obvious that in doing so I would lose too much of the painting tools collection. So, what emerged was an edited and ‘chopped up’ version of the drawing tools collection overlayed onto the painting tools collection.

This has a kind of abstract feel to it which I like and I decided not to overdo the delineation and toning of the pencils in particular to avoid over-busyness.

Further research

Conclude your work on Part Two by looking at some contemporary artists who work on metal or mirrored surfaces. You might want to do your own research into the work of these artists and others who work in a similar way.

This research point is dealt with in a different post:

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
5 December 2016


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Open College of the Arts (OCA) student currently studying Drawing 2

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