Creating mood and atmosphere

The first three exercises in this module have so far produced rather sombre, brooding results (unintentional!!!) and so I wanted to create for this exercise an atmosphere of joy and laughter.  My models for this are my daughter and my granddaughter enjoying a day at a park. I have always loved the paintings of Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt – they capture all of the beauty of tenderness expressed in motherhood.  I looked particularly at Sleepy by Mary Cassatt and also the painting, Breakfast. Berthe Morisot’s ‘Julie Writing’ also expresses this tenderness and is a powerful example for me of mark making.  I enjoy seeing the pencil strokes so prominent and the transitory sense of the activity is enhanced with this method.  I feel at any moment Julie will stop writing, get up and move out of view.  It’s all about capturing a moment!

The first study was in pencil – trying to move the pencil quickly over the page to capture a liveliness.  The picture was continually moving with Katie wanting to slide off her mother’s lap and laughing and shrieking all the time.

Expressing this then in paint proved interesting! I used the paint quickly, just blocking in the areas…simply couldn’t get the head so finished by just scrubbing it out. It was worth keeping the study because I was learning all the time.





I liked the second study better and felt the benefit of where I had failed in the last one.  The first outline was done with the dropper out of the acrylic ink bottle – great freedom of line as in the pencil sketch.  I kept this approach throughout especially in the application of the paint – just strokes, no detail!  Although there are things which are not right about the drawing, I really like the atmosphere of lightness and joy!



Still not satisfied with the image particularly in what I felt was an absence of depth in the picture, I painted another image from the last one.  In this fourth study there are parts which have now come right eg the faces of the two figures but I feel it has lost the spontaneity of the previous image.  I wanted depth but feel I have sacrificed the immediacy of a moment of joy!!! Very difficult!  How to achieve both…………..


About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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