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Green Glass and Lemon: pastel 12x12 inches

, 09:40

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.

Messing About with Oil Pastels

, 09:23

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.

"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; 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).

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.

http://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.

Pears on Plate: pastel 8x8 inches

, 14:03


After last week's brightly coloured apple on Uart paper, this week's fruit is a little more sombre. It is also the first piece that I have worked on a hand-textured sheet of mountboard. The board was coated with a couple of layers of clear gesso, using a bristle brush. No grains of pumice or other particles, just gesso. There is enough tooth created by the gesso to hold the pastel very well. (another idea from Karen Margulis' blog!). Working on such a surface was quite a different experience from PastelMat. The board is firm and you can push pastel over it without fear of ruckling up a paper surface. It also sands your pastels down, but the result is a much more painterly effect, no hard edges and not much opportunity for fiddling details.

The pears themselves were a soft golden brown with patches of green and muted highlights. The plate below them is made of glass. Light is coming from top right (the plate was on a window ledge in natural light, albeit rather dull). I did need to spray the picture at a couple of stages and also tap off loose dust but it has all held together very well.

I like this rough surface and have completed a further picture which will go up in a couple of week's time.

Fruit of Autumn: pastel 6x6 inches

, 15:15

Here's a small pastel painting on Uart grade 240 paper, which is the roughest of all the Uart grades.


Certainly eats the pastels, but you get some good rich colouring as the paper grabs the pastel in greater amounts. I've just got trial/sample sheets at the moment but hope to order some fullsize sheets very soon. There is a wavy type of "grain" to the paper which becomes visible as soon as pastel goes onto the surface; but it is not unpleasant and I expect to find various ways of coping with it. The paper itself is a kind of grey-beige colour and will accept wet media, so there's plenty of opportunity to experiment with wet underpaintings.