Part 1: Exercise 1.1 – Painting thin and small


Using your found images, make some small, quick painting experiments using thin paint on small surfaces. Use HP (hot pressed) smooth watercolour paper of any weight.

Remember, the thicker the stronger. You can use cartridge paper for this as they’re only exercises but you’ll find it rolls up because it’s not thick enough to remain flat. Cut the paper into 20 rectangles of roughly A5 size (148×210 cm). These don’t have to have perfectly straight edges.

Use watered down acrylic/gouache/poster/watercolour paint – at least one of each if you have them all – or just use the paints you have. These will be the backgrounds for your paintings and you will return to them when they are dry.

Paint splodges on three pieces of paper. Paint them however you like. It’s surprisingly hard to make a non-descriptive shape but have a go. Then make two of each of the following surfaces, covered entirely in:
• black paint
• white paint (don’t just use the white of the paper)
• grey
• varnish (spray/paint – you might have to wait a while to use this one so prepare it in advance).
• very pale watercolour watered down (load the brush heavily)
• thin black ink
• very thin acrylic or gouache paint.

Paint your image
When your backgrounds are dry, use the following materials in any order to make a painting of your found image. Try mixing materials creatively – for example, a matt acrylic or gouache paint onto a shiny background. Make 20 paintings.
• black paint
• white paint
• grey
• coloured paint
• very pale watercolour (water the paint down a lot but don’t load the brush too much)
• thin black ink
• very thin acrylic or gouache paint
• varnish (i.e. used as a paint to depict your found image).


In total I selected 18 images that I had collected, most over a period of time and some more recently (mainly from photographs I had taken). This meant that to complete 20 paintings, thin and small, I used 2 images twice using different media on different backgrounds.

Please click on each image to enlarge it and to open it in a new browser tab.

The 20 x A5 cartridge paper grounds:

Exercise 1.1 – 20 background cards

Black paint

Nice clean lines, shapes and a story to tell – grumpy and fed up!

Exercise 1.1 – “life’s a bitch”, Statics poster card [Black paint on white gesso]
Smily, happy features – kind of surreal with black on light blue.

Exercise 1.1 – Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, Kagyu Samye Dzong, Highlands [Black paint on thin blue gouache]
White paint

Curious peeking through the rock face out onto the sea. Painting negative space.

Exercise 1.1 – Rock formation, Solway Firth, B&W photo, SCB [White paint on black gesso]
Minimalist white mark making – the magic of mushrooms in the forest.

Exercise 1.1 – SCB photo [White paint on brown pottery glaze]
Grey paint

OMG – burn out!

Exercise 1.1 – “My favourite mouse mat” [Grey paint on coloured splodges]
The greyness of hard work and routine … keep going.

Exercise 1.1 – Franki Raffles “Russian women haymaking, Soviet Republic of Georgia, 1989” [Grey paint on thin green acrylic]
Coloured paint

OMG not again! A technicolour nightmare.

Exercise 1.1 – “My favourite mouse mat 2” [Coloured enamel paint on black gesso]
An impressionistic mediterranean feel.

Exercise 1.1 – Jules Bastien-Lepage “Going to School”, Aberdeen Art Gallery print [Coloured nail-varnish on pale yellow watercolour]
Pale watercolour

Expressive explosion of light and colour. I like the way the varnish ground peeks through.

Exercise 1.1 – Night sky, Mellon Udrigle, Wester Ross, SCB photo [Pale watercolour on varnish]
Wee boats in the harbour – kind of simplistic/childlike. It was quite difficult to paint against the grey gesso ground as the colours kept seeping into the background.

Exercise 1.1 – Emma Ball “Boats @ Ullapool”, greeting card [Pale watercolour on grey gesso]
 Thin black ink

Again the effect of the varnish ground peeking through the ink makes for some interesting results.

Exercise 1.1 – Ansel Adams “Yosemite Valley, Moonrise, 1944” [Thin black ink on varnish]
One of my favourite bands of the 60’s, and our German Shepherd dog was named ‘Salty Dog’ as he loved boats and swimming.

Exercise 1.1 – Procol Harum “Salty Dog” album cover [Thin black ink on pale yellow watercolour]
Thin acrylic paint

I think this is my favourite rendition – it just seemed like a natural match of mark making onto ground.

Exercise 1.1 – Sir James Guthrie “To pastures new” (The Goose Girl), 1883, Aberdeen Art Gallery print [Thin acrylic on coloured splodges]
Hard work and routine … but with a bit of colour and hope. Again painting on a darker background proved tricky.

Exercise 1.1 – Franki Raffles “Russian women haymaking, Soviet Republic of Georgia”, 1989 [Thin acrylic on thin black ink]
Thin gouache paint

A kind of spectral image – difficult to capture properly against the dark ground.

Exercise 1.1 – “The untold story”, greeting card [Thin gouache on thin black ink]
Animal portrait of dressed Clydesdale at show ground … tired and a bit wilted … imagine the surroundings!

Exercise 1.1 – Clydesdale horse at show, SCB photo [Thin gouache on orange pottery glaze]
Pottery glaze

A wee mollusc creeping through the sand-dune grasses.

Exercise 1.1 – Snail, Mellon Udrigle, Wester Ross, SCB photo [Pottery glaze on thin acrylic green]
I was once one of these beasties!

Exercise 1.1 – Giuseppe Arcibaldo “The Librarian”, 1566 [Pottery glaze on grey gesso]

Not much like the original cut and paste photos, but the vibrancy of the coloured ground shines through.

Exercise 1.1 – “Lichen world”, SCB photos (cold north, through temporal mid, warmer south) [Varnish on coloured splodges]
A dramatic coastal scene with the nail varnish shining out in depiction of the remarkable rock stacks. Shows that Caithness is not “the grey coast’ it is known as.

Exercise 1.1 – Rock stacks, Dunbeath, Caithness, SCB photo [Varnish on white gesso]

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
13 September 2016