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.
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.
Back now, after a rather washed-out holiday in southern Scotland. Sadly no painting of note done, due to very heavy rain, but hopefully some references to use in the future. "Blue Jug" was painted directly from the still-life set-up a few weeks ago, on Ampersand gessobord. Going to DailyPaintWorks shortly.
A quick one on this occasion; small still life with zinnia set up and painted over a couple of days instead of my usual couple of hours, due to other home activities. It would have been nice to have more time to spend adjusting the really fluorescent red colouring of this flower, but unfortunately not to be. I completed it in a more simple graphic style and decided to let it rest there. http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/zinnia-in-jar/618826
Maintaining the current pace with oils at present; this little still life was set up to work with blues and contrasting white, plus a touch of metal. The egg adds a splash of something somewhat near an orange colour. Pleased with this one; completed in around 2 to 2 1/2 hours; seems a long time for such a small painting but the spoon gave me most work to do, to fathom out the colours to represent colourless metal.... https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/little-brown-egg/617011
Things are on a roll with oils right now; four pictures in 5 days, all worked directly from the subject.
So, before the final demolition of the remaining nectarines, here they are in a bowl, painted in oils on a very small-format piece of
gessoed MDF board; measuring just over 3 inches square (around 75-80 mm).
I continue to like painting things in these mini-scales. They are often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, as people rush headlong through life seeking only the biggest, brightest and jazziest canvases. But at least I have plenty of storage space for my small pieces. For several years I've preferred the smooth surface that gessoed boards provide. I still have canvas and canvas-boards, but now I treat them with several layers of acrylic gesso to smooth out some of the tooth.
I set this small board up in my pochade box, which takes a max. size of 6x8 inches (and will handle an 8x8 inch board with the top flap open). It makes a useful table-easel (although small). I have also used it a number of times outdoors, resting on my lap and steadied with one arm (this again can be difficult if the pose is maintained for a couple of hours, due to arm cramp). Some folk have fitted tripod legs to their pochade boxes.
Occasionally I have a go at DailyPaintWorks' weekly challenge, and this week the theme is water. My subject isn't overly full of colour, but the refraction of light creates an interesting double image of the spoon. The oil was painted on a canvas-board that had been previously textured with some gesso, for another project that didn't happen. You can find the painting at DPW here: https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/spoon-bender/614832
I don't often pull out the watercolours, but this year I am thinking of taking them away with me on day-trips during the main holiday period. As much as I like pastels, I have found it difficult to work satisfactorily out of a small day-sack with them. I have selected various fragments of colours to try and get a good spread for outdoor work; then sorted them into two or three small plastic segmented boxes. Such a method should work ok, and it does....unless you drop a box. A couple of years ago I did just that, and was lucky to salvage all the pastel fragments. I then kept them indoors for the remainder of my time away and resorted to a small set of Cotman watercolour pans for any further draw/paint efforts.
I've spent so much time in recent years with pastels and oils that I've tended to forget how useful watercolours are for simply sketching things. Last week I sat out in the garden and made a passable attempt at a cottage window amongst the flowering weeds; done on hot pressed paper with the intention of adding a few ink lines (which never happened).
This very small painting of a two-handled cup with nectarine is a follow-on from last post's pastel nectarine duo. With the gradual softening of the fruit, it became necessary to start eating them up before they finally collapsed. The painting is pretty simplified and I've just aimed at representing the cup via the dark mass of blue-purple behind it; plus a bit of pale blue-grey shading; and then the darker colours for the fruit. It gets me back into the process of using translucent paint rather than the opaqueness of pastel or oil. I have found the Langton Prestige range of paper to be rather nice to use and it seems particularly good when making use of the granulation effects of certain colours, like Ultramarine Blue.
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.
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.
This piece was done over several days, since I had positioned the items on a sunny window-ledge and wanted to maintain the same light direction. The pastel surface is mountboard, painted with black ink and then covered with clear gesso.
A limited number of pastels were used to make this work. Most of them range around sharp yellows, slightly acid to blue-green and softer mauves. A lot of the drawing and lay-in was done with Rembrandt pastels, which are hard enough to create good clear lines but also soft enough to provide clear and bright colour. The lemon was painted with an experimental method, using dilute acrylic medium as a spray to fix the pastel-grains. This avoided flattening the colour too much and permitted a pastel build-up as a second or third layer.
The final image was rather different than I had imagined it would be, but I am happy with it. Black always creates a rather ethereal quality when up against powdery pastels.
Oil pastels are a medium that I have dallied with before but never really found my way forward with them. One of the reasons has been a lack of seeing other artists using it, to see their methods and learn from. Also there seem to be very few intermediate-to-advanced books on the subject; apart from one by John Eliot and another by Kenneth Leslie; plus chapters in "The Pastel Book " by Bill Creevy. Youtube tutorials and images are good, but I personally prefer to see a book on the subject and get to grips with the written techniques, view a range of images and just "absorb" and process the info over a period of time. Watching videos is fine, but it's possible to spend all day just sitting down....and I never remember everything in a video, which then necessitates running it again. For me, it's easier to just pick up a book and turn to the sections I want.
One may imagine that oil pastels should look like oils when completed, and in the hands of skilled individuals they certainly have that kind of appearance.....although I don't think they quite get there. Oil pastels are often used with other media, being scribbled over the top of watercolour, or acrylic, for example; in fact they seem better suited to a mixed media approach.
Looking around in various galleries online, they don't seem to be widely employed as a stand-alone medium. There used to be an Oil Pastel Society in America.....that seems to have gone. However....in spite of all this, some artists have taken the medium on board and made it their own, with distinctive imagery and style.
A number of years ago I had a large batch of Sennelier oil-pastels and also Caran d'Ache Neopastels. I had intended to get down to some more serious exploration, but never did, and eventually sold them all on. Now I have a small set of Senneliers again and have started dabbling. The lemon below is on a 6x4-inch canvas-board. It was produced from the Sennelier Discovery set of six oil-pastels.
The half-lemon was simply perched on a table-mat with a mauve-green coloured piece of cloth behind it; nothing spectacular. I added the first outlines and markings, then did a little finger-blending. Over the top of this I added some Liquin impasto and left it to dry for 24 hours. The following day the surface was just about dry and I added more oil-pastel colours to build up the design. Then another light layer of Liquin. Finally, the few details were added with a brush, using oil-pastel scrubbed onto a scrap of paper and Liquin added to it, to create a "paint".
The addition of Liquin tended to dissolve the oil-pastel in some parts and create a rather interesting soft-focus effect. There was a limit to how much I could do with this picture, so it was left alone after day 3.
I did some more experimenting with a box of Pentel Artists oil-pastel (above)......and here I found some barriers. While it was possible to overlay the colours with Liquin, some of them dissolved to produce some mucky colours. Purples and violet were the worst, creating a somewhat unpleasant brown colour when combined with yellow. They are probably ok to use but I wouldn't include them in a more successful serious piece which might possibly sell later on. Whether the Pentels have pigment or dyes, I am not sure but suspect the latter. The simple answer is to use only high-quality oil-pastels, and there aren't that many brands around. Sennelier is the "original"; there's also Holbein (if you can get them) and recently I found out that Mungyo produce a Premium brand that is claimed to be artist-quality as well. You can find the latter on EbayUK, but beware of confusing them with the student-range.
Finally, a couple of experiments on gessoed MDF board:
Sky and Beach: 5 x 3 inches
Sunset: 4x3 inches
So, am I going to follow through with doing more oil-pastels? I don't know yet. I'm still playing with them; it's important to try and make sure they don't look like children's crayon drawings and that means paying more attention to techniques. I probably will add more oil-pastels to my collection, but slowly....my major focus will remain on soft-pastels. Speaking of which, these past few weeks have been spent looking at lemons....next post up, in a short while, a soft-pastel lemon.
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).
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.
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.
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.