“Catching the Light”: pastel 14×12″

This week’s picture comes back to pastel, which at least allows me to create something and photograph it straight away, without waiting for drying-time. Now, I prefer to work directly from the real thing when doing flower subjects, but since we’re in January and there isn’t a lot out in bloom right now that is immediately available to me, I chose to do this.

The flowers were on a table in a small Devon tea-room. It wasn’t possible to sit and draw them, too many people coming and going, so the camera did the work instead. The reason I snapped it was because the daylight was sifting gently in through the window, via net curtains. The room itself was quite old, with sandy-coloured painted walls; the atmosphere created was quite relaxing, especially with cups of tea and plates of scones around.

Working from the photo, therefore, on mauve-coloured pastelmat card, the outlines of the flowers and vase were laid in with a grey-blue hard pastel, to begin with. Having got that, the window was marked up, and then, using harder Rembrandt pastels I hatched in a background (the walls) using dark green, purple and brown colours. This rather odd approach (and colours) is to lay the ground for softer pastel later on.

Red flowers can be finicky to do, especially very dark sections, so I used harder pastels in purple, deep red and a little black to pick out the shaded parts. Working from a photograph means that colours have to be guessed at a little, in combination with memory of the setting. At this point I added some softer, brighter red pastel for the highlights, just to get an idea of where the whole thing was going.

Soft Unison pastels were lightly scumbled over the hatched work for the background, using colours from the yellow-ochre range. This allows the hatched colours to peek through and add a sparkle; the ochre colour isn’t solid. From here, the light at the window was created with stronger strokes of soft pastel (greys, off-white); the tablecloth was hatched in, in similar fashion to the walls; then scumbled with a mix of softer red-violet and red-orange colours.

Finally; the vase was marked up in a greeny-grey, the cut-glass lines added then highlighted with a pale blue-grey pastel. Bottom corner a bit empty, so the top of a chair was added, blending it back so as not to be too prominent.

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