Pastel on Canson "Touch" brown pastel paper.
A local cottage has a very nice magnolia tree that spreads out across its front wall and flowers prolifically in the springtime. I have aimed to capture the Victorian window style and surrounding stonework, set against the blossoming tree.
Short post this time....very busy. This pic is listed at DailyPaintWorks.com
I've reached that point in the year when selecting and framing work for local exhibitions is occupying most of my time, so there's no image this week for the blog.
During my annual rummage through work, I often come across pieces that I've done and put away, and forgotten about; it is interesting to compare work done over a period of a year or so. I also re-discovered some old pieces done in the now defunct Carbothello pastel-sticks.....they produce pastel-pencils that are very good, but I used to love the square-section sticks, since it was possible to create broader strokes. Finding these pictures again has given me some new ideas. In fact, I still have some of the old Carbothello square-sticks, they must be all of forty years old now! Would be nice if they made them again, but I don't suppose they will. So, back to the framing....hope to have a new picture completed for around this time next week.
Often, just as I get on a "roll" with producing pictures, something comes along and puts a spanner in the works to slow me up. I've had to stop all my oil-painting for a while, since my workroom is currently being commandeered for other purposes. It shouldn't be for much longer but I'm a bit annoyed because my rhythm has been broken. Anyway....back to the pastels, and this little daisies-in-a-mug study was produced in around two and a half hours, over two days.
Mostly back online again now and trying to catch up on missed painting days. I am selecting a group of photos and sketches from recent canal-side walks and looking to make paintings out of them. Whether they will be oils or pastels...or both...has not been fixed, so I shall just work with whatever I think appropriate. I might even do a scene more than once.
The very long Thames and Severn canal has a focal point at Stroud, Gloucestershire; once off and away from the main roads, this walk reveals numerous hidden glades, woodland scenes and unusual viewpoints. The small painting here is a simple one; a hawthorn tree in full flower, of which there were many on the day I went out. I decided to return to oils for these small works and I have a couple more currently in progress.
Due to the crash of my main computer, after a virus attack, I am rather hobbled for accessing my website and this blog; so for the time being there won't be any further updates of new paintings. Most of my files are on back-up but it's a long job to extract them...I'm going to have to get a new computer in any case, and it'll be a completely new system. In the meantime, I am now back on DailyPaintWorks.com, to which it is easier for me to upload new paintings because they have FTP,...so do check in there from time to see what I have. This blog is hosted under my own website and I can't access the files on that either, right now!
I do have a couple of small oils completed now, and a pastel just awaiting final touches...they haven't been photographed yet, though. Select my DailyPaintWorks link on the menu in this blog.
After a brief spell of being below-par, I am now recovered and back on the pictures again. This picture of small boats was started a little while ago and just completed around the same time as the previous post "Summer's Yellow". Much of this work was done in harder Rembrandt pastels and looks more like a drawing than a painting. The sandy-coloured mud and water were both completed in softer pastels, however.
I don't often work this large, but it's quite nice to spread out a little further. There were more boats in the reference photo but I just chose the clearest-looking ones and kept to a small group.
I'm also back working with oils again on small panels; and this week I shall re-open my membership with Daily PaintWorks.
Somewhat indisposed right now and unable to do much painting; a couple of weeks from now should be easier. Managed this little one a few days ago, on UART 400-grit paper. The view is taken from a coastal walk done a few short years ago; looking down into a shallow valley en route, to see this white farmhouse nestled amongst sunny trees and bushes.
A couple of items completed since last time, here is one of them, although a bit out of season. My local lake-shores always put on a good display in autumn and I have been keeping the photo of this one back for a while, before finally launching out on it. It provided the opportunity to use some of the dull and brighter reds in the pastel-box.
This piece was done over several days, since I had positioned the items on a sunny window-ledge and wanted to maintain the same light direction. The pastel surface is mountboard, painted with black ink and then covered with clear gesso.
A limited number of pastels were used to make this work. Most of them range around sharp yellows, slightly acid to blue-green and softer mauves. A lot of the drawing and lay-in was done with Rembrandt pastels, which are hard enough to create good clear lines but also soft enough to provide clear and bright colour. The lemon was painted with an experimental method, using dilute acrylic medium as a spray to fix the pastel-grains. This avoided flattening the colour too much and permitted a pastel build-up as a second or third layer.
The final image was rather different than I had imagined it would be, but I am happy with it. Black always creates a rather ethereal quality when up against powdery pastels.
Oil pastels are a medium that I have dallied with before but never really found my way forward with them. One of the reasons has been a lack of seeing other artists using it, to see their methods and learn from. Also there seem to be very few intermediate-to-advanced books on the subject; apart from one by John Eliot and another by Kenneth Leslie; plus chapters in "The Pastel Book " by Bill Creevy. Youtube tutorials and images are good, but I personally prefer to see a book on the subject and get to grips with the written techniques, view a range of images and just "absorb" and process the info over a period of time. Watching videos is fine, but it's possible to spend all day just sitting down....and I never remember everything in a video, which then necessitates running it again. For me, it's easier to just pick up a book and turn to the sections I want.
One may imagine that oil pastels should look like oils when completed, and in the hands of skilled individuals they certainly have that kind of appearance.....although I don't think they quite get there. Oil pastels are often used with other media, being scribbled over the top of watercolour, or acrylic, for example; in fact they seem better suited to a mixed media approach.
Looking around in various galleries online, they don't seem to be widely employed as a stand-alone medium. There used to be an Oil Pastel Society in America.....that seems to have gone. However....in spite of all this, some artists have taken the medium on board and made it their own, with distinctive imagery and style.
A number of years ago I had a large batch of Sennelier oil-pastels and also Caran d'Ache Neopastels. I had intended to get down to some more serious exploration, but never did, and eventually sold them all on. Now I have a small set of Senneliers again and have started dabbling. The lemon below is on a 6x4-inch canvas-board. It was produced from the Sennelier Discovery set of six oil-pastels.
The half-lemon was simply perched on a table-mat with a mauve-green coloured piece of cloth behind it; nothing spectacular. I added the first outlines and markings, then did a little finger-blending. Over the top of this I added some Liquin impasto and left it to dry for 24 hours. The following day the surface was just about dry and I added more oil-pastel colours to build up the design. Then another light layer of Liquin. Finally, the few details were added with a brush, using oil-pastel scrubbed onto a scrap of paper and Liquin added to it, to create a "paint".
The addition of Liquin tended to dissolve the oil-pastel in some parts and create a rather interesting soft-focus effect. There was a limit to how much I could do with this picture, so it was left alone after day 3.
I did some more experimenting with a box of Pentel Artists oil-pastel (above)......and here I found some barriers. While it was possible to overlay the colours with Liquin, some of them dissolved to produce some mucky colours. Purples and violet were the worst, creating a somewhat unpleasant brown colour when combined with yellow. They are probably ok to use but I wouldn't include them in a more successful serious piece which might possibly sell later on. Whether the Pentels have pigment or dyes, I am not sure but suspect the latter. The simple answer is to use only high-quality oil-pastels, and there aren't that many brands around. Sennelier is the "original"; there's also Holbein (if you can get them) and recently I found out that Mungyo produce a Premium brand that is claimed to be artist-quality as well. You can find the latter on EbayUK, but beware of confusing them with the student-range.
Finally, a couple of experiments on gessoed MDF board:
Sky and Beach: 5 x 3 inches
Sunset: 4x3 inches
So, am I going to follow through with doing more oil-pastels? I don't know yet. I'm still playing with them; it's important to try and make sure they don't look like children's crayon drawings and that means paying more attention to techniques. I probably will add more oil-pastels to my collection, but slowly....my major focus will remain on soft-pastels. Speaking of which, these past few weeks have been spent looking at lemons....next post up, in a short while, a soft-pastel lemon.
This was worked on a sheet of watercolour paper that had been coloured with acrylic paint and then coated with clear gesso. Despite the gesso coating, I found that the paper texture still came through and created a rather more "pitted" surface than I had intended....but nonetheless I decided to complete the picture and accept it as it was.
I had some fun with the fruit. Having set it all up, I photographed it because I knew I wouldn't be able to leave the fruit in the dish overnight. At the end of the first working session (a couple of hours) the fruit had to go back into the fridge! On the next occasion, I took just a few slices of the fruit (peaches) and worked with them for their colour, but had to rely on the photo for their actual positions in the dish from the previous day.
The glass dish is quite an old one, a lovely blue-green colour with frosted panels. I hope to use it again for another still-life at some point.
The spoon was worked with several dark greys and one or two greeny-greys....in fact I found it more interesting to do than the dish, and have now generated some further ideas about metallic surfaces for future set-ups.
A subject like this is quite a step away from my usual stuff but it made a change and allowed me to get a break from intense, close-up work. Having said that, it took me a while to do all the windows....
This pastel is on Sennelier card, a warm sienna colour. It tends to be quite toothy and in some ways wasn't quite so ideal for some of the detailed parts, but it worked nicely in the grass and tree areas. The terrace of buildings, in reality, has been painted in various colours (thankfully none of them too brash) and add an extra dimension to a scene which would ordinarily be just a little drab during an English winter.
I used hard pastels to start the work with and also had to make a few starter attempts on the angle and positioning of the buildings---they start to slope downhill at one point. This layout I did at home, would have been tricky outdoors. The evening glow was built up with a layer of pastel pencils to start with, then soft pastel added on top. I resorted to hard conte sticks and pencils to get the windows and doors marked out. The park grass and trees were kept a little looser in working.
Back to painting; this small oil on Ampersand "Gessobord" is a little scene that I have had in mind to do for a long time, but never managed to decide the best format until now. I was fortunate to photograph Ben Lawers in Perthshire, Scotland, at a time when it had a covering of snow, accompanied by a long, low and rather striking cloudbank. The top of it is seen here across two steep-sloping ranges of dried grasses that were in deep shadow. The moon was also in view but I decided not to include it on such a small painting, focusing instead on the snowy slopes.
Colours used; alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, cadmium orange, french ultramarine, titanium white.
In February I shall be taking a long break from DailyPaintWorks.com membership and therefore, for the foreseeable future, there will be no new paintings posted to my gallery on that site. The usual updates on this blog, for DPW entries, will cease with immediate effect. Nothing is wrong....but at this time I simply can't keep up with the ongoing pressure of trying to paint something on a daily basis. Over the next few months I am also going to be caught up in a fair amount of house renovation; attempting to paint in anything like a serious manner will just be impossible.
Posts here will continue, but only when I have a piece of work finished. I would like to cut down on the plethora of little sketchy pieces and look at completing just a handful, over the next six months or so. There is little point in amassing a body of work, only to have it stored in boxes because no-one is interested in viewing pastels, or graphite, or whatever that just happens to NOT be on canvas. I am looking at new pastel techniques and want to be able to play with them without the pressure of completing a "finished" work. I'm also contemplating some quite different subject material and therefore don't want the bother of a daily painting "must post something" hanging over me.
Painting is a heavily intellectual exercise. Sometimes I just want to climb down from it and be creative at a lower level. I've dragged out an old rag rug and am gathering bits and pieces to finish it off. The work doesn't tax me as greatly as painting. The problems to solve are less demanding. It's....just easier, less tense, with fewer disappointments.
Have been waiting for this one to dry before handling for photograph. The original source reference was actually an autumn view with rather dull greeny-brown hills and mud, so I decided to winter-ise it. The stone wall slopes away to the right down a very steep hill and in fact my later photos in that area provide a few interesting possibilities for a larger painting. There is also a pastel of this same scene in progress; I haven't worked on it for a couple of weeks because I now have flu and am pretty much incapable of major focus for any serious painting.....so it will have to wait.
Winter Wall is on Arches oil paper, specially produced for handling the characteristics and properties of oil paint; it does not allow bleed-through to the back, permits thin washes and the application of impasto paint, and provides a smooth surface rather than the toothiness of board or canvas. It can be framed with a mountboard, or affixed to a suitable acid-free panel and framed directly without glass. The paint can be varnished, just as if it were on canvas.
I'm working on one or two more demanding pastels at the moment, so have backed off further small ones and returned to oils for a while. This one is a small 7x5 inch picture on gessoed MDF panel, with rainstorm clouds and green shadowed landscape.
(not for sale)
I'm using some new pastel techniques, to try and improve the way I start a picture and get colours laid down as a foundation to build on. For some years I've started with a standard pastel-paper or card, in the usual manufactured colours; but now I'm playing around with re-coating and re-colouring old failed works. The picture above was made on a sheet of pastel card that had once borne a fairly dull and ordinary green landscape. I scrubbed off a lot of the pastel with a 3-inch decorator's brush, then washed turps over it to fix the resultant green-grey colour. Once it was dry I brushed a coat of clear Winsor & Newton acrylic gesso over it.
The landscape was marked in with a square-ended hard conte stick. After this, areas were filled in loosely with lots of hatched lines, using other coloured conte sticks and the edges of medium-hard Rembrandt pastels. From here I set about developing the trees and grasses, with more lines and hatches. The willow-trees in my locality exhibit many tangled branches and twigs, so line-work was very appropriate for them. This was autumn/winter, so the trees were bare but often display reddish-browns and mauves on their branches, when seen in weak sunlight.
The steep green bank was the hardest object to create. These moorland rhynes ("reens") are often in deep cuttings, edged with reeds, trees and sloping fences. This bank had been shorn of all its reeds and was sporting a haphazard collection of dry grass, mud and green tufts...none of it particularly thrilling to paint, so I decided to just keep it simple.
Softer pastels were not brought in until the second session of work. I deliberately avoided them until I was happy with all the line-work and hatching. Softer colours were used for the yellow grasses, the distant tree clump, and to add rusty-reds to twig-tips. The sky was kept simple and a light-source created to hint at a hidden sun. Finally, two swans added at the river-bend, using the edge of a hard grey-white Rembrandt pastel.
Posted a while back, now at DailyPaintWorks for seven-day auction:
Pastel on pastelmat card; although the image is 10x10 inches (25x25cm approx), it has been slightly cropped here because I had to fit it into my scanner (which is only A4 size, or 8 inches across). The bottom edge was omitted but it is actually just ochre-yellow pastel.
DailypaintWorks entry date: will update this post when image has been uploaded; this should happen around 6th or 7th January. Oops! Almost forgot; http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/640261
This work was completed in early December but I had not got around to photographing/scanning it. At the time, the light-levels in my house were dreadfully poor during the daytime, due to thick cloud and drizzly rain. I set this still-life up on top of the fridge, where light was picked up through a small south-facing window. I completed the painting by resting my work-board's top edge on the fridge-edge, and remained standing for the two and a half hours it took to do.....no room to put an easel. I added a further twenty minutes the following day for minor details. The end result is very subdued, courtesy of a limited palette to match the limited strength of daylight. The glass eggcup is quite old and has been around the house for many years.
I have started 2017 with a landscape, still under way, to come on here when completed. (nb sorry, comments not accepted at this time due to excess spamming).
Last post before Christmas. An experimental piece on roughly textured paper, which is a piece of used PastelMat textured with clear gesso. A greeny-yellow gourd set against a contrasting magenta-coloured sheet of paper.
This one will eventually get onto DailyPaintWorks after Christmas, and I'll update this post with the link. UPDATE:
Starts 31st December 2016.
(nb I regret that comments to this blog are suspended due to excessive spamming. Trackbacks however are on).
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