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Gourd with Flowers: pastel 8x8 inches

, 10:20

... With several works in progress all at the same time (and in different media) it can be tricky getting one to completion without being distracted by the others. Today's pastel was, however, started one day and finished the next.

I currently have three gourds in the house, courtesy of one of the local shops. I've tried growing them before but not had much luck in obtaining the wide variety of colours and shapes. These, however, are rather nice and will be featuring in some still life work until they go mouldy or squish up.

This still life was a quick set-up, without a lot of planning. The purple zinnia is featuring in a coloured pencil drawing, so has been provided with a glass of water to keep it going, indoors. A dwarf marigold was picked to add balance to the glass and also team with the gourd's colour. The working surface is clear gesso on mountboard, mixed with a little pumice powder. In the end, I felt the surface had been a bit too rough for this work, but went with it.

After positioning the main shapes with a pastel-pencil, the flowers were worked in, using slightly harder Rembrandt pastels to start with. Likewise, colour was added to the leaves and water-glass with harder pastels. Then, very dark blue and dark grey Rembrandts were applied to the background (the backdrop was a black cloth). Since the support surface was rough, skimming the pastels over it left white areas between the coloured grains; some of this was covered over by light rubbing with a finger.

At this point the whole thing was sprayed with diluted acrylic polymer medium, which acts like a fixative but also has a dissolving effect on the pastel, in places. Further working with harder pastels added colour to the gourd; and then softer pastels went in to the flower-petals and centres. It was not possible to define sharp detail on this rougher surface.

Finally, some violet worked into the background; the gourd markings added and some tiny hairs to the stem. The finished surface is still rather dusty; I could have continued spraying and building up more pastel on top, but felt it might be better for a simpler subject.

Three Red Onions: pastel 8x6 inches approx

, 16:44

...

With plenty of red onions still around at home, I decided to continue the theme, this time taking the soft pastels to work with. I recently acquired a full set of Sennelier iridescent pastels and these onions offered a good opportunity to try a few of them out.

The skins are pinkish-purple in general but there are also shades of metallic, coppery, bronze, even orange in them. As with most of the iridescent colours, they don't photograph too well (if at all) and remain elusive in reproduction. But they can add an interesting dimension to a piece of work.

This was a slightly unfortunate choice of pastel-paper, being an oddment from my drawer; it was a sheet of watercolour paper painted with black micaceous iron oxide. I've used mic.iron oxide fairly successfully in the past for pastels, but on this occasion I could probably have done without the extra sparkles and the pitted surface. Having started, I decided to complete it and in the end it was quite satisfactory; it might well be used to produce a further onion picture in similar style and colouring.

The pinkish-purple Unison pastels were pulled out for this painting, and worked along with two of the iridescent pastels that had similar colouring....a pale orange-peach shade and another with a kind of buff-cream colour. The two blended well to create some delicate new shades. The darkest patches of skin were almost black, but not quite black...I had to work in a very dark purple-red and combine it with a black pastel to push it as far as possible....towards black, without being actually black....difficult to explain as well as do. The onion on the right was especially awkward, to ensure it didn't merge with the black paper.

Finally a background was needed, along with a base. The onions had been set up without any thought to their surroundings, so I worked with harder Rembrandt pastels and just added a mesh of coloured squiggles. The morning's exploration of iridescent pastels now over, I put the work aside and make some small sample squares from the other colours, just to see what they looked like. I will have to think now how I can use some of the other colours in further pastel subjects.

Right now, I don't have any major pieces approaching completion, but am working on an oil seascape "experiment", along with some pencil drawings that may form the background for a floral work, so in time I'll write about those when more progressed.

"Summer Vase": pastel 14x10 inches

, 15:29

..... Here's one more before the English Bank Holiday break. Again continuing with the hatched-lines underpainting using pastel-pencils. This one perhaps not quite so successful in respect of the underpainting, since the overall tone of the picture is somewhat darker than "Pewter Mug". That latter was done on white Pastelmat card and I did the same with Summer Vase.

As it happens, the tooth on white pastelmat card is not as sharp as on other colour card. It is quite tricky to layer soft pastel on it and in Summer Vase I needed more pastel to intensify the yellow colours of the flowers. The picture was begun with hatched lines of pastel-pencil to create the main areas of light and dark; the vase was outlined in, the flowers drawn and the light coming from the window hatched in pale yellow and pinks. From there I glazed softer pastels over, to make the pinky-purple flowerheads and the grey-blue backdrop. The "core" of green foliage was scumbled in with several green mixes and softened by an occasional light finger-rub or hatching over lightly with a harder grey-blue pastel. The yellow flowers needed a more intense input of soft pastel, using yellows from both Unison and Daler-Rowney ranges. The brown markings were made with a deep reddish-brown from Unison.

On the right, a rather nice creamy-yellow Unison provided the sunlight, glazed over the hatched pastel-pencil lines. The vase had some subtle reflections in its pottery surface and would have been a nice subject for oils; in this instance I made the various coloured patches with hatching, followed by glaze-over with soft pastels. The dark reflection was rather too much like a dark hole, so it was glazed lightly with a purple-grey and grey-blue to break up the shape a little.

NB the line you can see going across the lower half of the picture is not really there; I had to scan the painting in two halves and join the images together, which often leaves a faint joining-mark.

I am finding that this hatching technique shows through the softer pastel and breaks the top colour up, giving an impressionist mix of many colours, rather than a solid slab of one single shade. I'll be carrying on exploring the method and seeking suitable subjects.

For the next couple of weeks I may not have time to do much painting or drawing at all, since it is a major holiday period here and other requirements come into play. But if I do have something completed, I'll post it up.

Rudbeckias: Pastel-pencil 7x14 inches

, 11:03

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.

Pewter Mug and Daisies: 12x9 inches approx

, 18:20

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.

Fruit Dish; pastel 15x12 inches approx.

, 09:55

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.

Pear on Plate: pastel 8x11 inches

, 09:36

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


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.

Forgotten Treasures: pastel 11x9 inches

, 20:51

This is an experimental piece, following on from "Peared Off", which was worked by starting the painting in lots of cross-hatched strokes. It is a method shown in Bill Creevy's excellent Pastel Book, although of course he does it far better than I can! The base is mountboard, textured with Art Spectrum clear pastel primer. The subject appears, at first glance, to be rather dreary...it was a photo of old pots and bottles set in front of a partly boarded-up window. Complete with cobwebs and dust, the atmosphere in the room where I took the snap was a little forlorn, and there was a feeling of "time-capsule", like time passing by this little shelf and nothing ever moves. The white board was washed over with greeny-blue watercolour paint (the walls of the room were a similar colour). Then I marked in the outlines of the window and objects, before beginning a series of cross-hatch in various colours, using Conte A Paris pastel pencils. Since the room was primarily a dark one, I used deep blues, greens, purples, occasionally black and also some red-violet. I worked these colours around the objects and also into them where they had deep shadows.

After doing so, the picture began to take on a sparkling look, where the colour of the mountboard peeped through the hatching. I then moved to using some Conte a paris sticks, then to some softer Rembrandt pastels. Layers of cross-hatching continued to build up the forms and the darkness around the window. I also have the remains of some old Winsor & Newton pastels to use. I had planned to finish off by skimming some very soft dark Unison pastels over the darkest areas and depositing colour; but decided to leave it all as it was.

I've decided that I like this technique and plan to do more work with it.

Peared Off: pastel 13x9 inches

, 19:29


This blog hasn't got a "secure" padlock but the main website is now fully on https and all seems to be up and running, bar one or two pesky images that refuse to show up. They'll be fixed in due course. Last week I was forced off any painting by family events, so a little rattled not to get something completed. However, Peared Off was finished and is currently on the website and also at OriginalArtUnder100.com This one is worked with a lot of crosshatching in harder pastel, before laying on soft pastel gently for the fruit and little white cloth.

Nectarines: pastel 7x5 inches

, 17:03



Another quickish pastel, this one on a piece of gessoed mountboard. Nectarines do not have quite the same velvety bloom on them as plums do, but there are some nice colours to be found. My local shop doesn't always sell them, so here are two from a batch of eight (four of which have already been eaten!).
These two were perched on a window-ledge and I had to pastel them by resting my drawing-board on the ledge and partly on the radiator underneath, to get the viewing-angle I wanted. This proved to be a rather tiring position, so I shortened my time on it. I'd like to do them again in another medium, so if there are any fresh ones available next week-end, I'll stock up.
https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/nectarines/613776

Magnolia Window: pastel 10x10 inches

, 11:32



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

Sunlit Daisies: pastel 11x9 inches approx.

, 17:41

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.

https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/sunlit-daisies/586939 $75

Seven Boats: pastel 20 x15 inches approx.

, 16:18

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.

Summer's Yellow: pastel 6x7 inches

, 13:33

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.

Lakeside Trees: pastel 15x13 inches approx.

, 11:37

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.

Somerset Rhyne: pastel 10x11 inches approx.

, 21:04

(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.

Buddleia Visitor: pastel 8x8 inches

, 09:44

Posted a while back, now at DailyPaintWorks for seven-day auction:

https://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/643379

"Glass Eggcup": pastel 10x10 inches

, 19:48

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; https://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).

Run-Up to Christmas: and Tomatoes

, 18:10

As we head out of November into the last month of the year, I tend to slow down a bit with painting. Photographing new work becomes more awkward, due to the low light levels outdoors (I always photograph outdoors if I possibly can). Posting purchased work also becomes more frazzled during the build-up to Christmas, as the post office handles ever more parcels. Delivery abroad has lots of cut-off dates. I may have one more entry for DailyPaintWorks prior to Christmas, but if not then activity will resume in early January.

This past week I have completed a small pastel still-life (more or less), just a little tidying-up to do before attempting a scan or photo. In stark contrast to this, I returned to my acrylic box and almost finished off a 24x16 inch canvas......very rare for me, these days....that too needs some alterations but it was a refreshing change from dry media.

I will soon be starting to sort out my harder pastels....a recent purchase of 90 Rembrandt sticks now necessitates an overhaul of my "hard" box and removal of any dye-based pastels that have been lurking for some years. I use Unison as my softest, along with Daler-Rowney; Rembrandts are somewhat harder than these and are very good for "cutting back" into soft pastel when a colour change is required or a section needs reworking. There aren't that many hard pastels available in the UK....Rembrandt fills the role very well. I'm also about to test out some Koh-I-Noor Toison d'Or sticks.

Finally.....continuing with experimental hand-textured surfaces, the tomatoes picture below was worked on a piece of acid-free mountboard, first painted with a light coat of ochre acrylic, then a layer of Winsor and Newton clear gesso. No granular texture such as pumice or sand, just the gesso. The work was lightly fixed at several stages, with a final light spray at the end.

https://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/629261 starting at $38.

This will be the last for 2016, on DailyPaintWorks, but I'll be continuing with new work during December.

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