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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.

"Red Onions": Conte pastel 8x9 inches approx

, 13:02

... Having given the Neocolors a run, I'm now back with the Conte pastel pencils, trying them again with water-washes on white PastelMat card. A group of red onions has caught my attention and I'm exploring the colour-schemes in them. With a relatively limited range of colour in Conte pastel pencils (and I have all of them), I had to just play with and overlay what was available, to try and get some of the elusive shades. The skins have an iridescent sheen to them and are tricky to analyse. I've also drawn these with softer pastels this week, and will post more on that next time.

There are shades of orange-ochre, purples, and a deep cherry-red (almost black) on these onions and they were not easy to capture precisely, so I aimed for what I could and make drawings of them, rubbing the pastel-dust lightly with a finger in places to spread. The watercolour work was done to place the onions on some sort of base....in reality this was a white window-cill with light coming from the side, but I didn't want to labour the washes too much because PastelMat permits rapid spreading.

Having established a few shadows in pastel-pencil (the daylight was very muted) I used the watercolour for reflections on the shiny window-ledge; when dry, they were painted again in ultramarine blue. When dry again, the left-most shadow was skimmed lightly with a dark grey pastel-pencil and rubbed lightly to spread the colour.

As well as fruit, I would like to try more glass items with this method, since the combination of transparent watercolour and overlaid pastel seems to suit the materials. Eventually I hope to produce a few more substantial works with this method, but at present it seems well-suited to small-scale....and that's probably where it will be best placed.

"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.

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.

Casual Gold: pastel 9x9 inches approx

, 17:56


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.

Apple Trio: pastel pencil 8x6 inches

, 12:28



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

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.

Lime Marmalade: oils 8x8 inches

, 09:38



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.

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.

Blue Jug: oil 8x8 inches

, 16:26

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.

Update: http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/blue-jug-and-fruit/622694

Zinnia in Jar; Oils 6x6 inches

, 14:14


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

Little Brown Egg: oils 6x6 inches

, 08:42



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

Fruitbowl: oil on MDF panel; 3.5 x 3.5 inches

, 17:45



https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/fruitbowl/614615
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.

Spoon-Bender: oil 8x8 inches

, 07:57



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

Bowl and Nectarine; watercolour 6x4 inches.

, 17:17




https://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/christine-derrick/bowl-and-nectarine/613958

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.

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

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

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.

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