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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.

"Ascent": acrylic on canvas 24x20 inches

, 17:28 - Permalink



Having had some fun with "Dimensions" (which is currently with a prospective buyer), I elected to do another piece in similar colours. Blues and purples are sometimes hard to photograph with a digital camera because they are less sensitive to this end of the spectrum. Added to that also the problem with moderate winter light and this one proved no less awkward to photograph outdoors than the previous picture.
The most ideal set-up is indoors with bright directed lights and maybe white sheets to spread the light around and discourage shadows; unfortunately I don't have suitable lighting, it's all too yellow in tone.

These abstracty pieces are really experimental and sometimes they don't work out....every few years I ditch the canvas off of old stretcher-bars where grand ideas have flumped dismally in the first few hours. Occasionally the canvas is recycled, especially when it has only one layer of acrylic....passes good enough for re-use on smaller stretchers (like 10x8 inches for example), for either another acrylic or an oil.

I am changing some of my acrylic colours over to Ara, made by Old Holland. They come in large 250ml (and bigger) squeezy bottles, which is much more economical than the usual small 60ml tubes. They are lightfast, easy workable (not quite so heavy bodied as W&N) and apparently are classed as a good mid-range acrylic. My metallic paints are by Golden (USA)....not cheap but nice to use.

I'm planning another painting with a different colour-scheme...meanwhile it'll be back to the oils and I'd like to get started again on some still-life pieces.

"White Horses Tower, Portmeirion": oils 8x8 inches

, 13:12 - Permalink



Finally, a new small oil painting, pretty much complete and now drying. It won't go up for sale just yet but I may put it onto the website anyway. I am planning a little series of paintings from scenes around the model village at Portmeirion, North Wales. For those who know nothing about it, there's plenty of info online....but it became well-known as the backdrop for Patrick MacGoohan's "The Prisoner" TV series way back in the 1960's. Today it is a holiday village (and no doubt for many other events as well); the buildings are Italian in styling and although they look huge, many are actually relatively small inside, with modest accommodation.

The location has some excellent woodland and coastal views; and in summer the skies are often filled with great banks of cloud. The picture posted here is of a view at the seafront, looking towards what is known as the White Horses Tower. The brightness of the painting is owed to the pure white surface of Ampersand gessoboard, which is great when seeking clean pure colours in an image.

I may just put a little darker glaze on the tower a few weeks from now, since it is actually in "bright" shade (contradiction in terms but it means a shaded area that still has a lot of light bouncing into it).

Another small painting in progress is another cloud-scene from Portmeirion...should be completed soon, maybe this coming week. Finally, another larger painting also in progress is yet another cloudscape, 24x20 inches....this is a real long job and it will be some time before completion (if it gets there!).

The website has now been updated with two new templates and some page-link names have been changed, so don't be surprised to encounter 404 error messages on occasions if you have old bookmarks. I am also making more of linking my images to my account at Original-Art-Under100.com......mainly because it seems people are happier to purchase there than from me directly (not sure why, but there it is). I am discontinuing Paypal buttons on my website and will invoice buyers for any item that is requested directly.

New painting and website templates

, 18:42 - Permalink

Finally, a new small oil painting is completed and just drying off, will be photographed shortly when safe to pick up. Size 8x8 inches, on gessoboard.

Every couple of years or so, I re-consider the website layout. The current templates serve o.k but are starting to look a bit ragged, with various things that have been added in during the past two years. I have been looking around for some new ones. I think I've found what I need and am currently working up the coding for them. The gallery pages will, I hope, have a tidier look to them when finished. Navigation remains on the left side for most pages; but the gallery-style pages will carry a top menu instead.

Most pages will keep their identity, such as "sold", "links", etc; but a few will change; the 404 error page will be configured to assist.

I am also giving up with Paypal buttons on the website. Not many people have made use of them; enquiries have been followed through with Paypal invoicing instead. I am also aiming to make more of my connections with Original-Art-Under100.com, since this gallery has been finding buyers for me quite regularly.

The only thing that won't change is the blog. I did think again about using Wordpress, but, so many templates are entirely unsuited to displaying paintings. I use one of them for SmallArtStuff.co.uk....I don't want to repeat the same thing.

Dimensions: acrylic on canvas 24x24 inches

, 18:25 - Permalink

An abstract using overlaid squares and rectangles in shadowy shades of deep purple, blues and black, offset with scatterings of silver and accented with creamy-white. This painting almost didn't happen. It began life as a semi-abstract landscape-style layout, which became too dark and was systematically scraped down then overpainted with deep blue-grey. Using the resulting variations in contrast (black to blue-grey and into a steel grey), a patchwork of rectangles was devised, to create an air of mystery and some hidden "dimensions". Most of these were painted with the edge of a knife, pulling and scraping the paint to create colour overlays and light texture. Blues and mauves were mixed with metallic silver paint and the occasional touch of pearlescence.

Outdoor light levels not brilliant for photographs but look ok for the blog; I may repeat the session to try and get a better shot for online gallery use.

Getting There...

, 17:26 - Permalink

Have spent all this week on one acrylic painting, 24x24 inches. Still not quite finished but hope to do so by next Tuesday, when I'll aim to get an image up. Remaining with abstract themes at present, which is quite liberating, not being tied to a precise still life or landscape view. However, I'd like to get another oil underway soon, focusing back onto clouds in the landscape; having been successful with several sales in this genre during 2017. They won't be 24 inches square, though...

"Lightburst": acrylic on canvasboard 16x16 inches

, 12:21 - Permalink

I've decided this one is now finished and have managed to photograph it today while the sun is shining and above my horizon; by 2pm it will be gone! (the sun, that is). Is it a skyscape? seascape? something else? You decide.

I want to spend more time this year exploring abstract approaches. I often see many excellent local landscapes which are just so huge, so broad, that it is impossible to capture them and their atmospheres by representational means. By nature, I tend to go for details and this is just not suited to such large landscapes. Late last year I took many photos in the southern stretches of my home county, where grass and moorland dominate, with reeds and sparkling rivers; and I really wanted to do something different with them, with regards to painting. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.

To get myself more in the semi-abstracted mood, I have been working on several pieces, both in acrylic and oils. They are not derived from any particular "real" subject, but are exercises in trying to balance shapes and colours. I have a particular liking for the cross design in abstract work and also rectangles and lines; recent forays through Pinterest and printed books have highlighted this to me. I also rather like paintings where paint has been built up in layers, and scraped or scratched, providing texture. I would like to see how this works out in my own paintings through the year. Acrylic tends to lend itself best to this, but I am also finding it feasible in oils as well, by adjusting my painting technique. Of course, these take longer to dry....I'll post up my in-progress oil when it's dry enough to handle. Must admit I prefer the softer and more gentle handling of oil paint; acrylics always seem to have that "pile it on fast" feel to them.

And what of my smaller pictures, and pastels? well, they'll still be ongoing. Internet sales tend to lean heavily towards large paintings and it seems to be more difficult to sell smaller ones. Conversely, abstracts are not popular at local exhibitions (not where I live, anyway), so that's where smaller representational stuff comes into its own.

Starting a New Year

, 08:51 - Permalink

As 2017 draws to a close, I am now thinking about what paintings to get underway with. The last couple of years' sales and general web-stats have provided me with some insight into where I should be focusing some more effort.

There is still a definite trend for larger paintings; and even though I don't tend to produce large works by choice, I am now having to consider it. These would be in oils but I'm also experimenting again with acrylics and working on several more abstracted pieces. These will, for the time being, be simply based on shapes and colour-balance. I have found the process of layering paint to be rather interesting, since it can be done quite quickly due to acrylic's fast drying properties. I will also use the power of sharp contrasts (tone or colour) to try and create some interesting images.

Oils take longer to dry and I will be looking at how to utilise liquin impasto medium in a work. My Sennelier oil-bars have proved to be interesting tools; they were used with oils to paint "Scintillate" (in an earlier post) and I was pleased with the final result.

Cloudscapes were going well through 2016 and have done so again this year. I need, at present, some more outdoor study and sketchwork for these but that will come.

Some pastels have sold this year too, but I may create fewer for the Internet and more for local area exhibition; smaller ones will most likely go onto the SmallArtStuff website.

Last post's abstract work in progress is now finished, unfortunately I can't photo it right now...I normally do this outdoors and the weather is wet and very windy.

In Progress---Abstract 16x16 inches, acrylic.

, 14:11 - Permalink

With little time to spare for concentrated focus on more detailed subjects, I am digging the acrylics out and looking at a few abstracted pieces. This is a realm I rarely tackle, but there are some aspects that appeal. Freedom to treat colour simply as colour for its own sake; not attempting to portray a real subject; opportunity to use texture with fast-drying paint.

The particular one shown here is approaching a finish point, I feel, but seems to want a little more. It is intended to try and balance a sharp contrast with more delicately-coloured larger and smoother areas. The colours used are ultramarine blue, quinacridone gold, burnt sienna and titanium white, plus a little black. The upper area already has some texture as the result of a previous work which was laid in with some moulding paste but not completed. No composition was planned but it hovers between being sky or seascape. I am not in a rush to complete it and will play about for a while with it until Christmas.

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