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Rudbeckias: Pastel-pencil 7x14 inches

, 11:03 - Permalink

A Slightly different format today. A while ago I used my sets of pastel-pencils to create a starter-drawing for a dandelion painting; Casual Gold (further back in the posts). Over the weekend I got them out again to complete this piece "Rudbeckias". I spent an hour or so outdoors, along with the wasps, making some line drawings in ink of these flowers. Having selected six or seven blooms to draw, I then took the sketches indoors and spent a while selecting five for the final work. I wanted to do a longer, slimmer work that would encompass the flower heads and also allow for the stems. I picked a piece of plum-coloured pastelMat card...tempting to choose black, but I resisted it and used the plum colour to work towards both light (for the petals) and the darker centre.

The initial sketches were worked again in white pastel-pencil on the card surface; not heavily, just enough to indicate the shapes and positions required. I chose to use my Conte and Carbothello pencils for this artwork, both of which are harder in quality than say Derwent or Caran d'Ache. I rather like the dusky finish that these harder pencils give. The colours are not as brilliant in the final effects as chunky soft pastels but I am happy with this. I could add touches of soft pastel if I wished to, later on.

The dark sections of each flower were put in first, working towards the darker petal markings and then on down through orange-reds to the bright yellow tips. It is difficult to make these darks really intense with harder pastel pencils; it is their nature. The stems were worked with touches of purple and green together for the darker parts (purple tends to enliven a rather flat dull green)...and then added to with lighter green. I have a small set of Russian Olki pastels that are very useful for detailed work; the sticks are small and slender, permitting a closer approach to drawn lines. They're very soft, but produce lovely linear marks.

Finally, the background was added using black, dark green, blue and purple pastel-pencils, working in curly swirls and overlaying the colours. A light spray with fixative and the piece is complete. Yes the fixative does darken the colours a little, but it's necessary to fix the pastel-lines because even the dust from hard pastel-points will brush off.

On other things; I have decided to have a go at placing my artwork on ArtWeb.com I've been a member there for four years but never really gotten around to using the system properly. Now that I have quite a bit of work, I've uploaded some for sale at my own section; the link is in the blogroll to the right. My latest pieces usually go online at my own website and also Original-ArtU100.

General updates and info

, 11:05 - Permalink

My other website SmallArtStuff has now been taken down from its hosting-site. I might relaunch it at some future date, but right now I want to concentrate on more painting, after a hectic few weeks. If you visit my main website, you'll find the majority of paintings are offered via Original-ArtUnder100.com, which is an independent online gallery. Up until a few years ago, I used to mark up every painting on my site with Paypal buttons; despite doing so, most sales seemed to come via other channels. I therefore decided to give up on this and row in with OAU100's sales route.

I'm now painting on only about two or three days per week, on average. Not by choice, but more through having to do so, to accommodate other work and responsibilities. Despite that, the number of pictures produced so far this year has been very satisfactory; I am not prolific and don't generally work "large", so these factors help.

I am slowly resigning myself to the fact that I must paint within a number of constraints....small workspace, limited time, limited display opportunities. Pastel is an excellent medium for achieving this because there is no drying-time and things can be either framed immediately or stored away for later. I have tended to have a battle with acrylics, but recently created three very small-format paintings in a tight style, which worked out well (see "Cottages and Garden" in earlier posts)...again, drying-time is fast and work can be quickly put away upon completion. Two of the themes were local, so not a wide audience-interest...I will consider producing some more small-scale works using acrylic on smooth board, and try to find some wider-interest subjects.

And what of oils...much longer to dry. I have been very tempted with recent articles on the use of cold wax with oils. The majority of folk seem to be producing abstract works with it, but I've also seen paintings which I'd regard as more impressionistic....recognisable subjects but infused with glowing patches of light and texture. In a few cases I thought initially they were pastels. There may be some scope here for me for my "playtime".

Finally...how to add more interest to the website. Some years back I used to produce the occasional video, made up of still-frames. Rather time-consuming and rather lost on You-Tube; but might give it another go, now that I've got a better camera.

Pewter Mug and Daisies: 12x9 inches approx

, 18:20 - Permalink

Trying to get back to pastelling after several weeks "downtime". This piece was started last month but put aside due to other interruptions. The pewter mug was set up again and this time I completed the reflections and got the daisies in within a couple of hours. The technique is a somewhat scribbly-hatchy one, adopted from Bill Creevy's pastel-painting book. I used it to create the background in pale green, yellow and purple-grey pencils before overlaying with lighter tones of cream and yellow. Similarly with the mug reflections. Silvery-coloured objects can be difficult to select pastels for, but if it is possible to discern subtle shades of colour (such as greens, blue-greys or ochres) then these can be used to build the patchwork of reflections.

The daisies were, I'll admit, a little rushed. They were already rather tatty so I had to spruce them up a bit. I repeated some of the hatching technique to provide a backdrop for their greyish-white petals.

Six paintings off to exhibition at Backwell, Bristol, tomorrow; for Friday and Saturday openings.

Green Sunshine: pastel 12x9 inches

, 08:42 - Permalink

Many hold-ups this past two weeks, unable to do any artwork, scanning, nothing at all. However, here we are with a pastel that was underway during the last post back in late June. The back garden apple trees are quite old and have twisted trunks and branches. This one is casting a lacy pattern of shadows on the lawn, allowing an interplay of light and dark colours. The tree was drawn freely to begin with, keeping it at the upper end of the pastel paper to allow space for the shadows. A limited few colours were used from the Rembrandt pastel range to do the drawing, and ongoing shading of the branches; green greys, grey-browns and touches of yellow-green.

The lawn was initially begun with a spread of cross-hatched lines done with conte carre sticks, using magenta, dark blue and a purple; this helped to lay in the pattern of the dark shadows. The lighter areas were also hatched in, using paler greens; followed by a light fixing spray. From here, softer pastels went in for the shadows, using Unison's dark greens, along with touches of complementary red or violet. Even in shadow the grasses and small flowers were perfectly visible, so these areas still needed to display some detail.

The background to the tree was created with darker blues and greys and "grubby" browns, smudged a little to reduce the edges of the individual marks. The mass of green leaves was worked with various soft-pastel greens, allowing for areas of strong sunlight in brighter yellows. Touches of red were added to give a little "flicker" of complementary colour.

Eventually the sunlit areas of grass were worked in, using green-yellows and a golden yellow; dotted with tiny marks for the blades of grass, seeds and flower-heads.

The pastel paper used was white PastelMat. I decided to use white in order to assist with the luminosity required for the sunlit patches.

Hot weather and Internet changes

, 11:18 - Permalink

Very high temperatures in England this week have been tiring and I have only just completed a small pastel, which will probably go online early next week. I've also been busy with framing work, so not much in the way of new images to show. I had recently announced that I would be closing the SmallArtStuff website. Certainly the hosting is too expensive now and I am withdrawing the site from that hosting company primarily for the financial reason. However...

There are now dangers from the European Union, which intends to pass into law Article 13 (if it hasn't already), which will severely hinder hyperlink facilities and most likely expect people to pay for linking to other websites....no matter what they are. I am therefore looking at shifting SmallArtStuff to servers outside the EU. My main website in my own name is still on a British server, with a year's hosting still to run; that probably won't change unless the hosting company upsets me.

I have no intention of having my sites messed about with by authoritarians and being walked over by jackboots. All artists rely on links to other people, galleries, resources, etc so it has to be fought. If I find another host for SmallArtStuff I'll post the link here (before anyone charges me for it).

Fruit Dish; pastel 15x12 inches approx.

, 09:55 - Permalink

This week's post was completed back in early May, during a short session of working with fruit still life variants. The dish is an old one that has been with me almost my entire life, rarely used because of a large crack in its base. I set it up with a few fruits on a window-ledge. Most attention was focused on the fruit, rather than the bold pattern of the dish but it was still necessary to indicate something of design. The work surface chosen was a spare, previously pasteled sheet of Canson Touch; the original painting was brushed off leaving an overall neutral tone to the paper.

It is likely that the month of July will be very busy and time for painting will be extremely short. With that in mind, posts here may still run weekly but with smaller and less exotic finished pieces.....for a while.

Cottages and Garden, small paintings

, 12:35 - Permalink

I have taken a brief break from my usual pastels and returned to some very small paintings, basically to produce a few entries for a local event. It is some while since I painted this small, but I found it relatively easy to return to it. The cottages above are 4x4 inches (10x10cm), painted on a heavily-gessoed canvas panel, using acrylics. The next painting further below is a large court-garden folly, probably used for shelter from sun and rain. It is painted on a 4x3 inch gessoed mdf panel, again in acrylics.

Some years ago I used to produce 3.5 x 2.5-inch ACEO paintings (art card editions and originals) and put them through Ebay; these days it just isn't a viable exercise, by the time one has paid listing fees, sellers' fees, and what have you. Each of these paintings took me around 4 hours to complete; maybe a bit more. When such works only fetch on average £5 to £10 on Ebay, it really isn't worth the effort to list them there. I do occasionally do them, but only for myself or maybe a local event/exhibition.

Website change

, 09:24 - Permalink

Just a note to say that towards the end of July I will be closing the SmallArtStuff website. The host company has raised the price to rather more than I'm prepared to pay, so that's one reason. The other is simply that the site does not get as many visitors as my main one, under my own name, so there is no point in going on with the two.

Now....all this GDPR nonsense. let me say now that I do not personally collect the emails of anyone visiting this site. My hosting company does record IP addresses for stats purposes, but that's about all. I don't maintain a mailing list or contact list of any kind. That's it. end of.

New paintings to be posted here shortly.

Casual Gold: pastel 9x9 inches approx

, 17:56 - Permalink


After a brief break sorting out framing requirements for this year's exhibition pieces, here is another completed pastel. The work was originally started with Conte pastel pencils on burgundy-coloured PastelMat. I sat with the jar of casually-arranged dandelions for a couple of hours, drawing them in and laying down some general colouring. Conte pastel pencils are much firmer than standard soft pastel sticks; this was an attempt to try drawing the subject in general terms before going in with soft pastels afterwards.
The work was done out of doors in very hot sunshine (too hot, in fact for me)....having acquired the drawing and general colouring, I was forced indoors. The following day was sunless....the next a little brighter, but the dandelions had of course completely changed their gestures in the jar. I used soft Unison pastels to complete the piece, which included inventing the tablecloth and adding a little background greenery from a nearby bush.
This one now awaits framing, ready for a local summer show.

Pause for Framing

, 14:08 - Permalink

I have a few paintings to photograph, but have cut back my working time on new ones in order to get on with some framing. I have a lot of other work to do as well, now that summer weather has arrived and this means more time outside (but not painting or drawing). I am also reaching a point in life where long-standing art group memberships are starting to fade....there are no new possibilities on the horizon at present. I will probably simply push on alone, as I have done in the past.

Longer hours spent on larger canvas paintings may be coming to an end, too; there are few local outlets for them and I don't have the room to store many. I am looking again at small-scale paintings; under six inches. I already work fairly small in general and concluded long ago that these sizes were best for me. Not in pastel, though....small paintings are tricky with this medium. I am re-considering acrylic at this scale, due to its fast drying time; I prefer oils, but may be able to include it for final layers.

Next time I hope to post one of the newer pastel images.

Apple Trio: pastel pencil 8x6 inches

, 12:28 - Permalink



This one is also over at SmallArtStuff; haven't got much time for scanning this week, but I have just completed a nice little still life of dandelions that was actually started off with these same pastel pencils. That'll be for the next post.
The apple sketch was done in just over an hour, using all Conte a Paris pastel pencils; on a sheet of Colorfix paper. Yes it's quite gritty for pastel pencils but works very nicely; deposits quite a bit of loose dust and a little bit of light smudging is needed to keep it down (bit of fixative as well in the process). The range of Conte pencils isn't especially large (48 in total) but there are enough to create some nice images. The colours are more muted, not as brilliant as soft pastel because of the binder in the pencil-pigment. It is a little tricky to overlay the colours on this rougher surface since dust is created and the pencil-point makes furrows. It's simply a case of doing it and working out the problems en route.

Pear on Plate: pastel 8x11 inches

, 09:36 - Permalink

Local exhibition time approaches, a couple of months' time, so I need to over-view my products from the past six to twelve months and decide what to frame up.

Today's pastel is a very simple one; just a pear on a plate. I had been tempted to add a spoon, or even a lump of cream to the plate, but somehow couldn't bring myself to do it. The surface is a sheet of watercolour paper that has been painted over with white gesso. I started the general drawing of the pear and plate with a Conte stick; once the outlines were in place, I began to lightly fill in colour on the pear using a few Rembrandt pastels. For the plate I put down a few blue-greys, and marked in a darker grey for the pear's shadow.
At this time I have been experimenting with using acrylic polymer medium as a fixative and also as a fluid for "painting" the pastel. Bill Creevy's 1990's book "The Pastel Painting Book" contains a number of examples where he has used acrylic medium as a fixative; and Dawn Emerson also talks about the use of acrylic matt medium as a "painting" fluid in her "Pastel Innovations" book.
The thing to keep in mind is that the medium will dissolve the pastel and muss up any patterning or fine detail that you may have laid in; so it's best not to do too much of that. Bill Creevy's aim was to build up pastel layers; you can add dry pastel on top of the acrylic-medium treated work with little problem, when it is dry.

In my case, I was just playing with the technique to see what would happen. After initial pastel layers were put down, I got a soft-ish brush and painted acrylic medium over the pear and over the plate. Now....at the moment I only have the gloss medium. It does work fine, but tends to leave some shiny areas. I will be getting myself some matt medium in due course. When dry, I continued pastelling. I coloured in the background around the plate; initially it was a red-brown with some deep-blue streaks, but I didn't like it and tried to add another colour on top to change it. As a result I filled the tooth of the surface.

So....after brushing a lot off, I painted over it with acrylic medium and left it to dry. Now, the whole picture had been fixed. A thought of further experimentation seized me and I picked up my pot of clear gesso, covering the whole painting with it and creating more tooth.
The rest of the painting was completed by adding the pear's markings with soft Unison pastels; putting in the plate's gold rim and indicating subtle shadowing on what was actually quite a flat plate; and finally going for a complementary deep blue background. In the end I am glad I added more tooth to the surface; and I also proved to myself that it could be done partway through a work.

A Place to Reflect: pastel 14x11 inches

, 11:11 - Permalink


Following my inner struggle to complete the recent small oil painting of marmalade jar and dish, I have managed to recover and successfully complete not one, or even two, but FOUR pastel paintings in the past week. Today's image was begun last week on a sheet of white Pastelmat card. I chose white because although I wanted a deepish green atmosphere to the whole thing, I didn't want a UNIFORM green all over. Starting therefore with white, I painted over the pastelmat surface with diluted ink, mixing together a deep blue with a deep green, plus a little touch of orange-red which took out the slightly garish appearance of the first two. I marked in the positions for the background trees, leaving an upper middle area white, which was actually a background field. The tree sections were darkened suitably to provide shadowy depth. The ink painting was carried on down into the water area, keeping it slightly lighter. The whole thing was left to dry.

Not all pastel papers cope with ink or other wet media. PastelMat seems to manage fine, and Colorfix is particularly amenable. I have also used fluid on Canson Touch. However do not use fluids on Sennelier Pastelcard, because the surface will flake off.

Once dry, I was then able to plan out the pastel. I say "plan" because in reality I tend to work by instinct; each picture I do is actually begun in a different way every time. I chose to mass in the darks for the trees on left and right, and also add dark "holes" for the central greeny-grey shrub. The upper pale yellowy-green field was added early, to provide contrast. From here, I simply worked downwards, marking in the horizontals for the landing-stage before continuing with the yellowy green growth and adding further colour to the background trees.

The bench was drawn in lightly with a harder Rembrandt pastel, using a pale blue-grey and working into it later with near-white. The boat was drawn in with the same harder pastels, ensuring the boat-curves were visible, before later adding softer pastel. On each side, the mauve-pink shrubs were created with medium greens plus suitable purples and pinks. Finally, moving to the water, all the same colours as used "above" were employed for the reflections, dulling them slightly by occasional light rubbing.

Unison's Dark Jewel range is especially useful for subjects like these; and smaller pieces of broken Daler Rowney pastels provided easier execution of the mauve-pink flowerheads. The work received light fixing-spray at several stages, particularly for the water, where the surface was brushed with acrylic medium at one point to dissolve the pastel dust and move it around. Overall, the result is very close to what I intended.

Lime Marmalade: oils 8x8 inches

, 09:38 - Permalink



After the rush of paintings earlier in the year, I have been unable to settle to finish anything much. However this one is now done. Oils are especially useful to portray juicy glistening materials such as jellies and marmalades. The colour scheme for this picture was kept primarily in the pale yellows/acid greens sector, balanced by mauve shading, mixed from cobalt blue and alizarin crimson. With local exhibitions due in July, I really need to get a move on....so far this year I have very few pastel works finished and those that are complete seem to feel like little more than exercises.

Reading new books

, 08:11 - Permalink

I have a small oil two-thirds completed, but decided not to put it up as a work in progress because I don't really think most people are fussed about seeing half-finished pieces. It is a small still-life, worked directly from the items set up on my usual window-ledge. My play-time pastels have been going along quite well, although I don't have anything substantial to display at the moment.

I recently picked up two books...."Experimental landscapes in watercolour" by  Ann Blockley and "Pastel innovations" by Dawn Emerson. I rarely do watercolour, but the book is highly valuable for the various techniques and I could probably consider a number of them as backgrounds for pastel work. Dawn Emerson's book includes very unusual techniques, including pastel on monotype which is something I was playing with late last year.

I have selected one of her exercises using charcoal as the main base for the picture....my first effort almost worked out well, so I'll be trying another as soon as I get the opportunity.

Three Pears: pastel on cheesecloth board 8x8 inches

, 12:23 - Permalink



Minor ill-health these past few days leaves me somewhat lacking in interest. While casually trawling search engines for pastel articles, I found someone using cheesecloth as a ground for pastel-painting. There were other unusual materials as well, but with only enough energy to tackle one I picked this to try out.

The cheesecloth fragment has been mounted on a blank board, using acrylic polymer medium and some gel gloss. Matte gloss would be better but I haven't got any. Once dry, the cloth is coated with clear gesso to provide extra tooth....even though the cloth is actually quite rough, it is surprising how some extra tooth aids the pastel particles.

I began the pastel work directly with soft pastels, rather than harder ones. These conference pears are not especially colourful but are nicely mottled, which seemed to work well with the cheesecloth. Once a layer of pastel was on, I used a technique from Bill Creevy's Pastel Painting book.....spraying the work with diluted acrylic polymer medium. This tends to dissolve the pastel somewhat but dries quite quickly, allowing further colour to be added quite soon after. It acts as a fixative.

The final layer of pastel was fixed with a normal fixing spray.

The final effect was rather subtle, bearing in mind that the pears were a rather dull cool green with browny-gold mottling. The cloth was interesting to work on, certainly providing a rough surface. The surrounding board is painted white (though it's a bit grubby in this photo due to handling). For framing I'll have to think carefully because an ordinary mountboard isn't suitable due to the board weight.

Honister Pass: oil 12x9 inches

, 09:58 - Permalink

Very busy week, no real time for painting, but here's the second of two small oils completed a week or so ago. The Honister Pass in England's Lake District is a spectacular route through steep-sloping mountains, offering amongst the best views in the country. This painting is based on a view from near the slate mine.

The painting is on canvasboard. The slopes were mapped out in thin turpsy wash, using burnt sienna and a little cobalt blue, then left to dry. Various mixes of ultramarine blue, cadmium orange and cadmium yellow were used for the foreground grass-slopes; alizarin, ultramarine blue and off-whites for rock faces and more distant features. My usual colour-set is ultramarine blue, thalo blue, occasionally cobalt, cadmium yellow, pale cadmium yellow, cadmium orange; alizarin crimson, titanium white.

I might possibly add a shadowy glaze to some of the rocks on the right in due course, but it's a bit early yet...just leaving things to dry before doing more.

"Solar Fire": acrylic 12x12 inches

, 10:45 - Permalink

Back to the acrylic experiments, and this one completed last week on a box canvas. Having followed the books of Rolina van Vliet for a while, I have been trying out some of her technique exercises. It is interesting to add colour to a canvas randomly to start with, and then work at building it up into some sort of balanced image. The canvas on this particular work has rather prominent horizontal lines in its weave, which don't always assist when scratching and scraping paint. The lower section was originally very bright orange, so it was toned down by adding a more brownish mix of cadmium red with ultramarine blue; small highlights were then added back on top. All balanced against a black upper corner (mixed from thalo green and magenta, rather than tube black).

In the process of dabbling with acrylics on paper, I remembered that pastels are a good match with acrylic paint. The poor old pastels have been a little neglected of late, but as I had commented earlier, there seem to be fewer Internet buyers for pastels than "paint". I am, however, working on my own little sideline projects and there will be some pastels up here in due time. I'd like to explore combining acrylic underpainting with pastels on top but have to find suitable subjects close to hand....still life is the most obvious choice.

"Clouds over Portmeirion": oil 12x9 inches

, 08:48 - Permalink



Oils on canvasboard, 24cm x 30cm (approx 12x9 inches). Another from North Wales...Viewing the sky from a high vantage-point close to the Town Hall in Portmeirion. In front of me directly was quite a lot of open space and flat rooftop, not exactly inspiring material....so I cropped my photo down to exclude all this and concentrate mainly on the sky. A fairly quickly-executed painting; the first stage was done in around 2 hours and then I had to leave it for a couple of weeks; finishing it the day before yesterday in around an hour and a half.

My second painting, also completed on the same day, shows a different part of the country; that I'll put up here early next week.

"Patchwork Jazz": acrylic 24x20 inches

, 13:20 - Permalink


Still working on some abstract ideas at the moment. With a wish to move on from the blue theme of the previous productions, I elected to use a random choice of colours to produce this patchwork. At present I am looking at several potential subjects that contain squares and rectangles....they're a little more realistic than abstract....so for the coming days I'll be working on paper, drawing out various designs in pencil and possibly pastel too. Whether I will create them in acrylic, however, is another matter....I still find this paint tricky to work with, with regard to natural subjects such as flowers and landscape. It'll probably be back to oils, where colours tend to be softer and easier to blend where required. My acrylic box is mainly heavy-bodied paint; whether I should gradually move on to liquid formats is something for me to think about, since I have found acrylic inks, for example, to go well with pastel and other line-work. All part of the great exploration.

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