Patterns of the Mind in Art

Through our inkblots we have discovered our mind is full of hidden patterns which it uses to make sense of what we see. The patterns triggered in one mind may be very different from those triggered in another.

Artist-tutor Brenda Nyhof uses her brain's pattern-matching to uncover shapes hidden in her paintings. As we found with our inkblots, the hidden shapes are often unusual and mysterious, fed by our imagination.

Follow the workshop as a group of students discover Brenda's technique. Along the way they will explore different qualities of paint such as saturation, opacity, transparency, glaze and wash...


Hidden in the painting - Mrs Nyhof explains her technique...

Using only five colours, paint is layered, streaked, dotted and splashed.

From single hues of the three primary colours - red, yellow and blue - a rainbow

of colours emerges as the layered colours interact with themselves and light.

Limiting the colour palette to only a few colours gives a unity to the final painting

as all the mixed colours will be related.

Adding dark blue for shades and white for tints the colours explode across

the canvas. Only then does the subject matter appear, as the brain's

pattern-bank triggers the eye to see the hidden shapes.


Let's begin...


Windsor & Newton Water Mixable Oil Colours

Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine, Russian Blue - all transparent

Cadmium Yellow, Zinc White - both opaque


Only a tiny squirt is needed...mixed with water...


Discovering transparency...

The paint was applied in different saturations, so the thicker the paint, the more it

covers. A darker hue will also cover more.


Blocking out with opaque Cadmium Yellow...


Filling gaps with transparent Alizarin Crimson...


Splashing... and then left to dry


Next ... opaque Cadmium Yellow on top of transparent Alizarin Crimson...

... an opaque, rather dull tan-yellow in the corner.

Session 2: Using Glazes

We layered over the yellow with some red, and the red with Ultramarine Blue.

We put some of the Ultramarine Blue over the yellow to get a green.

The opaque yellow over transparent red had a completely different effect

compared with using transparent red over opaque yellow.

We discovered that the quality of transparency leads to brilliant colours.

This is because of the way light travels through the layers and bounces back.

Opaque layers prevent light rays from passing through the paint.

Ultramarine when glazed over Alizarin Crimson makes beautiful purples.

Alizarin Crimson when glazed over opaque Cadmium Yellow makes beautiful


Cadmium Yellow Light on its own is brilliant, bright and a good covering.

Over other colours, ts opaqueness disguises and 'muddies' colours underneath.

Ultramarine Blue when glazed over Cadmium Yellow makes brilliant greens.

Ultramarine Blue enhances the orange when painted alongside.

Ultramarine Blue was very vivid over patches of white canvas.


Painting 1: Transparent Alizarin Crimson on top of opaque Cadmium Yellow ...

... a beautiful, vibrant orange


Painting 1: Strokes of thick Alizarin Crimson over cadmium yellow...

... almost-black on the thicker brush-stroke edges


Red and yellow in different layer combinations...


Painting 1: A glaze of Ultramarine Blue enhances orange when painted alongside.


Ultramarine Blue when glazed over Alixarin Crimson makes beautiful purples.


Painting1:A glaze of Ultramarine Blue over Cadmium yellow makes brilliant greens.


Painting 1: Ultramarine Blue was very vivid when painted over white canvas.


Painting 2: Opaque Cadmium Yellow disguises the Alizarin Crimson underneath.

A glaze of Ultramarine Blue on the yellow makes green.


Painting 2...


Painting 2: Some final splashes...


Left to dry for Session 3...


Session 3: Painting 1: Using chalk we outlined some areas we wanted to leave



We mixed some Alizarin Crimson with some opaque cadmium yellow to make

an opaque orange ready for scumbling...

Painting 1: To scumble we used a dry brush, a small amount of paint and a

gentle, scrubbing action, covering large areas of the canvas. We scumbled

over the chalk outlines for a soft transition around the areas to be left untouched...


Painting 1: Scumble brushstrokes up close... the strokes had to achieve a sense

of overallcdirection...


Next we mixed some Prussian Blue with opaque zinc white to make an opaque


Painting 1: We scumbled different areas of the canvas...


Painting 1: The combination of the areas we outlined and left untouched and

which we glazed last week and the opaque areas we added today have given

the painting a subtle depth. The untouched areas have a jewel-like quality

because the light is reflected differently through a transparent glaze compared

with an opaque paint which soaks up the light ...

Painting 1: We added some bold dark marks with Prussian Blue

Painting 2 with scumbled orange. When the brushstrokes are scumbled in

different directions the result has a frenzied quality and gives the work a lack of

fluidity and unity...


Painting 2 close up showing a dramatic scumble of Prussian Blue...


Painting 2: Left to dry for Session 4


Session 4: Painting 1: Laurie chalking in shapes suggested by the painting -

various forms of animals floating in space...


Painting 2: Lucia and Ginny chalking in a bird form - their painting has a very

definite space possibly because the cat face was so obvious they are working

around it as their starting point...


Painting 1: A line drawn across a painting can break it up into a foreground and a background giving it the illusion of depth...


Painting 2: We mixed up blue again, adding more white to get a lighter value.

Again using a small amount of paint the colour was scumbled on, leaving some areas with the under painting showing.


Painting 2: Scumbling different values of blue help to sculpt the cat's face...


Painting 2: The perfect purple with a flash of darker value from the under painting

to give the bird's eye depth. The depth is enhanced by the opaqueness and

thickness of the purple over the more thinly applied orange over the glaze of

Alizarin Crimson.


Painting 2: When a lighter orange is put on top, leaving the deeper orange

visible beneath it adds some depth.


Painting 1: Painting blue over some of the large orange area helped to balance the

painting. Using complementary colours also makes the area lively...


Painting 1: The scumbled 'scribble' adds a quality of texture to the area. The under

painting is as important as the defined areas.


Session 5: Painting 1 - using the scribble-scumble technique again to add some

visual cohesion between disparate areas...


Painting 1: Scumbling orange over blue to soften the clean lines...


Painting 1: Softening the eye motifs to prevent them from visually dragging back the

viewer's gaze. The chalk outlines have been removed.


Painting 1: Adding more sribble-scumble to visually link areas of the painting,

resulting in vibrant glimpses of the layers of the under painting...


Painting 2: Scumbling opaque pink to enhance and connect he similar tonal hues

of the purple bird...


... glimpses of the underpainting - the contrasting colour saturations give the

illusion of depth.

Painting 2: Chalk outlines removed and dark lines added bringing structure.