Exercise 3.3: Watercolour Studies

The aims of this exercise are to:

  • explore and gain an understanding of opacities of colour through the observation and recording of transparent and semi-transparent objects
  • extract colour palettes and proportions of colour from a self-selected first-hand visual source

The brief of this exercise was to paint out a series of stripe designs based on the colours and proportions of colours I could see in a still-life arrangement of glass objects. It was recommended that we use watercolours for this task and as I found it helpful in the gouache task to create a sample of each colour I owned I decided to do this again with my watercolour pigment blocks. The chart created can be seen below.

I collected a range of glass objects which I placed on a white background to act as the focus of my colour study. The first arrangement is shown below. It should be noted that the colours shown in the photos do not match those I observed when I was completing this exercise from the still-life set up but give an idea.

In this stripe design I tried to pick out the colours I could see and represent them in both proportion and position across the arrangement. I also tried to represent when the colours repeated as some could be seen reflecting off a variety of surfaces.

I was intrigued to see whether the colours would change if I reversed the arrangement and obtained the following stripe sample instead.

In this arrangement the colours appeared far more muted and there seemed to be less variety than the first still-life. This stripe arrangement seems more sombre than the first.

For my next arrangement I tried to create a still-life that emphasised the range of colours and came up with the one below.

For this stripe sample I changed the section to a 10cm square (instead of the rectangle 20cm x 5cm recommended in the exercise as a starting point) as I felt that my arrangement was closer to a square. Instead of representing the colours in all the places they could be seen, I tried to represent them more abstractly by amalgamating them into stripes that represented their overall proportion within the arrangement.

For the next stripe sample I focussed on the two largest glass items. I rotated my stripes to mimic the configuration of the colour stripes in this section.

The fifth stripe sample I created was based on the two green tinged glass items.

I was going to stop here but just as I was about to pack away the sunlight brightened and the twisted glassware started to create a more vibrant colour mix which I had to capture below.

In this final sample I allowed myself to play with placement and repeats to represent the patterned texture of the glass and tried to capture the vibrance of the new colours created. This final sample has a brighter mood than the previous ones painted when the sky was a little overcast. It reminds me a little of beach huts or ice cream and summer.


If I am honest, this was one of the tasks I was dreading as I wasn’t confident that I would be able to capture the colours correctly with watercolours and I do not tend to work abstractly. In the end, I really enjoyed this exercise and had a lot of fun playing with the arrangements of stripes. It was interesting to see how altering the colours, proportions and orders seemed to create different moods when they all came from the same source material (in this case the still life). I think this is an exercise I will repeat in my future work as abstracting the arrangement gave some surprising results with each series of stripes creating a different association whether it be the predominately green stripes that remind me of the South Downs or the candy stripes of beach huts on the coast on a sunny day.

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