“Gourd with Flowers”: pastel 8×8 inches

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.

 

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