“Three Red Onions” pastel 8×6 inches

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.

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