Bridge 85, Mon and Brec Canal, Wales 14 x 10 inches
What to do for what is probably my last post of 2022? Taped to their respective boards are two completed pastel pictures, both depicting a scene along the Monmouth and Brecon canal. Recently finished also is a small sketch of a green pear on more traditional Canson paper. Across the room is an oil-board, in the early stages of a small fruit still-life. Alongside it is the outline sketch, in white pastel on paper. Finally, sat inside a pochade box is a little 4x3 inch oil-painting which may, or may not, make it successfully to completion. I do not have just the one work ongoing, at any time; there is always at least one other.
There is little doubt that a dry medium has many advantages. No water, oils or turps to tip up all over you. Everything contained safely in a box or two. This applies whether you're indoors or out. The main disadvantage is in having to have a sizeable number of pastels to hand, AND be able to carry them around. I have occasionally taken with me a "reduced box" of colours, only to find that actually the ones I really needed for the scene that day had been left at home. In recent years I have made a lot more use of my camera as a sketch-tool, as well as doing pencil drawings. When I say camera, I mean a proper one, not a smartphone snapper. The resulting photos remind me of the day and place and various details, but at the same time I find it important to make mental notes of light quality, inner sensations, state of the mind etc that related directly to that place and the reason I was there. These latter elements are things that a camera cannot record, but are essential to try and lift the resulting painting up from being merely a depiction of the place, and make it into something more special.
In today's picture, the canal was quiet, flowing silently below autumn-coloured trees; not filled with sunlight but rather dimmed due to the density of the trees. I was on a twelve-mile walk, no time to stop and paint. After taking photos, a period of time was spent mentally absorbing the feel of the area, like a sponge.
Back home, some days later, the picture was started with hard pastel-pencils and conte carre hard colour sticks. There is virtually no soft pastel in this one at all, which will explain why it looks more muted than my usual offerings. The dark shady areas were laid in first using many hundreds of cross-hatched lines, of dark blue, purple, deep red....mainly the deep dark colours. The bridge was placed with a white pencil early on, to get the picture balanced and allow all the other areas to be laid down. Paler greens and ochres were added in more sunny areas to assist with contrast and then develop the darker regions where required. Towards the end the sunlit edges of the bridge were added; fixative used on the really dark regions to permit further colour overlay. The end result is intended to be one of contrasts; quiet shaded tree-dense banks set alongside sunlit edges and patches. Hard pastels have a tendency to dull down somewhat when fixative is applied; the use of some soft pastel on top helps to revitalise colour where needed. I may yet add some to the right, where shadows were very dark but the leaves clearly visible as tan-gold colour.
That's it for 2022. With many thanks to all who have made purchases this year, I hope you are still happy with them. The new write-up for 2023 will start around...well, probably end of first week in January. Delivery of any purchases will be via other couriers, I won't be using Royal Mail until their backlogs have been cleared. So happy Christmas to all, have a good New Year and will see you in '23.
Evening over the Sea: oil 10 x 8 inches
PLEASE NOTE that I shall not be posting out any paintings after this week; the pile of deliveries at Christmas-time is too much for sending paintings---even if well-packed---and there are also likelihoods of postal strikes and things going missing. Therefore if you are interested in a piece, I can reserve it but not deliver it until the rush dies down.
I've had two oils ongoing these past few weeks. The beach wave pic is on the sidelines, while I revert to pastels, having suddenly developed an inner drive to push them forward again. More on that next time. Today's image is a darker, evening time view looking out to sea.
Despite having started my painting decades ago using oils, I still have many occasions when battle with a subject takes place. Low-light scenes are usually painted with thinner layers in the dark areas. The sea here is a deep blue-grey with equally deep greens touched in here and there; these colours (viridian/ultramarine/occasional thalo turquoise) are transparent in the tube and therefore behave very well when painting in thinner layers. The wave crests and foam marks were added later when dry, using touches of white paint that had been mixed with those sea colours. In the sky, trying to obtain brilliance with pigment can only be achieved through contrasting it with something darker, in this case the clouds. I spent some while juggling the cloud colours since, although they were dark, they were actually a fair amount lighter than the sea below, due to the sunlight shining on and through them. Dark versus less dark, finally contrasted with a setting sun. One colour that proved of great help was permanent rose...seems odd for a sea-painting, but it makes good purples when mixed with ultramarine; and very near black when combined with viridian or thalo turquoise.
This is off the coast of Devon, which is known for particularly interesting sunsets
Now, I'll probably get one more post before the end of the year put up. After that, at an appropriate point, this 2022 news-reel will replace the 2021 news on the website, so any text and pictures associated with 2021 will be gone. I have no special plans for '23, other than just doing what I'm doing now. It may well be that some subjects will be tried out in both oils AND soft pastels. I have examined some earlier oils (from a few years back) and feel that some might be capable of guiding me to the production of a pastel version; this is painting from a painting. I find pastels lend themselves much more readily to experimentation, being both a drawing and painting medium. Finally, I am pleased to see the little oil-painting View to Crook Peak making its way to a new home; another feeling confirmed that these smaller-scale works are much more in my line.
Tuesday 22nd November: RSS information update.
IMPORTANT; due to unusual behaviour in the website statistics, I will be removing the directory named news2 from the system. This does NOT affect my usual newspage updates, but it WILL affect anyone who obtains my rss.xml news feed from this directory. If you are using any directory called news2/feed on my website to obtain the rss feed, please note that it will be removed on or before 30th November. The easiest thing to do is re-subscribe using the link on the left column of this page, underneath the small picture icon. If you aren't sure, just re-subscribe anyway before the 30th.
Daisies and Chive Flowers: pastel 12 x 8 inches
The beach wave I have been working on is almost there, but giving me some problems with the canvas-board; the paint is drying too fast for my liking. This occasionally happens when the manufacturers have failed to paint sufficient primer onto their boards. I am pressing on with it, however, since the general image created so far is fine.
So....this week's picture is a pastel! and with flowers! In between working on two small oils, I spent a little time tidying up several boxes of pastels that have been lying around in a muddle for several months. The idea came to me to re-work an image that I had painted in oils several months ago, but never completed....mainly due to the fact that I had chosen a board that was a bit too large for the subject and had a lot of empty space. I sorted through some pastel sheets and selected a medium-dark tone of Pastelmat card. Using just the pastels that were in muddled boxes, I began to map out the oil-painted image. The big advantage here is that I referred only to the oil-painting and not the original floral arrangement (which was long gone)---this means much of the analysis had already been done. .
Part of the earlier oil painting; unfinished
The original arrangement had been on a window-ledge, lit from the righthand side. I chose to ignore the window-frame because in the oil-painting I had spent too much time on it...the real important part was actually the direction of light and not the window itself. One of my favourite pastel methods is to start off with fine hatched or wavy lines, using hard pastels; this creates a network of multiple colours. As the work progresses I can choose whether to lay more lines on top of them, or use softer pastels. With the background created in mauves and blues, the next stage was to mark in the positions of flowers and the glass jar, then work on those once again with harder pastels. The atmosphere in this work is much darker than in the oil-painting, but I didn't attempt to lighten it...it made a good background for the daisies.
The last stages involved using slightly softer, paler pastels for highlights on the flowers and the glass, since these will come forward and reflect a lot of light. Handling the light coming from the window was done with paler colours of the hard pastels, still cross-hatched, but occasionally mixed in with a lightly-applied veil of soft-pastel colour. A light spray with fixative followed by final small adjustments, and job done. I had a fairly casual approach to this piece, with few concerns about how it turned out; it helped to flex the "pastel-muscle" again after a couple of months of inactivity, and keep ideas alive.
Tranquil Mirror; Oils on Arches oilpaper 15 x 11 inches (37 x 29cm approx)
This work is on Arches oilpaper, which allows me to play around with experimental applications due to its smoothness. The view is on a wide stretch of river, flanked by reeds and bare trees. In similiar style to Two Boats, I wished to keep colour toned down. The choices were therefore burnt sienna, ultramarine; alizarin; yellow ochre, a little orange and white. I did sneak a brighter yellow in for the distant grassy bank. The fine tree branches were applied with the straight edge of a silicon-rubber painting blade. This worked well, but I later painted over some of them to insert brighter light. The same blade was used with a small blob of cold wax to spread paint across for the river, to try and obtain a flat, mirror-like finish.
We are approaching the end of another year and a lot has changed. I remain with two online galleries but, offline, a number of local art groups have struggled to survive. I currently belong to none at all. It's not a problem for me, I've been here several times before...but it does feel odd. My output has not been as great as in previous years, but there have been many distractions. Unless some really exciting and expansive idea comes into my mind, the paintings are going to remain fairly small. I paint to please myself even more than I did last year. .
Since June I've been very taken up with watery and coastal scenes. I am looking for simplicity as opposed to too much detail. At this time I am feeling more comfortable with skies, seas and not very much land; for whatever reasons. Perhaps the current complexities of life are weighing down too much and this is my reaction to it. One piece that is coming along is a simple beach wave; I am attempting to keep the number of colours used reduced...for example, I have two blues, a red-orange and a yellow ochre, plus white....so that's essentially blue, red and yellow. The aim is to mix these selected colours in various proportions to obtain desired shades, without using every other colour in the box, thereby maintaining some kind of unity and harmony. So far it looks promising and if I can get it completed, it'll be the next posting, or the one after.
Two Boats; Oils on Arches oilpaper 15 x 11inches (37 x 29cm approx)
On sale at Original-art-under100.com/artist/chrisd
I painted this duo of boats a few months back, in watercolour. It was selected again to produce a work on oil-paper, aiming to give a different atmosphere; this time of distant tide and mirror-like reflections on the beach. The colouring is subdued, via use of a limited palette; ultramarine, alizarin, raw sienna and ochre, primarily. The paper's smooth surface is good for using a painting-knife and spreading the paint like butter; sometimes on its own, sometimes mixed with a little impasto medium. The paper does absorb quite a lot of oil from the paint. Just about finished is another landscape with water, on oil-paper, with a few experimental techniques in it; more on that next time. A third coastal piece is in progress but still requires quite a bit of structure-work/paint building. And a fourth piece close to be drawn out, on a canvas-board.
I've put the pastels away for now; working in oils is allowing me to push on faster with ideas. My little bout of sickness became flu during last week, so for several days nothing got done at all! Pastels are too dusty to use under these circumstances, in any case, so no bad thing.
Evening, Portishead coast; Oils on board 12x9 inches
The unusual building shown here isn't a lighthouse, but a residential place on the Portishead marina complex in North Somerset. Whether it's a whole house or a set of apartments I don't know. This view is from a point further round the small bay from that part of the "village"; across the shrubs.
I am not painting much at the moment, having now found myself with a general anxiety disorder that causes body shake and a certain degree of nausea. I have two paintings still ongoing but nothing much beyond that; much depends on how I get through the coming weeks. I am sure it will gradually pass but I find it very distracting, I cannot apply myself to the projects I want to do. Thus....next post will be whenever I've completed something. At the moment, that is still on course for around two weeks' time.
Lundy Skies; Above the Old Lighhouse. Oils on paper 10x7 inches
It seems what I was needing was a change from pastels and a return to oils. I currently have three other oils in progress; two on paper and one on board. I have a particular liking for painting on smooth surfaces and Arches oilpaper provides me with that. Alternatively I select a white gesso-board such as those from Ampersand; or else I go for a mdf panel prepared with white gesso and a white alkyd-based paint. This latter is sometimes rather slippery when dried, so I might lightly sand it down by hand to provide some tooth. Occasionally I find some canvas with a low-profile "tooth" that allows easy layering of paint.
This painting encompasses much that is exciting about the skies experienced at Lundy, which sits about twenty miles out from the Devon coastline, in the Bristol channel. It is possible to see clear blue skies, storm anvils and massive cumulus build-ups all in the same week; and occasionally on the same day. The top of the island is primarily flat moorland, this view being just off a path from the village and taking in the wide-ranging sweep of grassland over to the old lighthouse. Although a small painting, I aimed to make the anvil cloud dominate everything. The smoothness of my chosen surface allowed rapid application of paint and also finger-blending (just like using pastel) to build some streakiness into the anvil base. The addition of the lighthouse was done using a small watercolour brush. In the foreground, some thicker paint application via painting-knife...and job done.
Towards Tibbetts, Lundy. Oils on paper 10x8 inches
Finally...a bit of respite from hayfever stuff, onwards and upwards. Today's painting is a small one on Arches oilpaper. It is a landscape from my recent holiday on Lundy, featuring a wide-open view across the island's moorlands. In the distance on the hill is Tibbetts, a former Admiralty Lookout, built around 1909. The landscape itself is fairly bleak, so I made the most of the dark sky and actually emphasised the colour, to give sharp contrast to the brightly lit grasslands. The walking-path is lined with old standing-stones at this particular point.
I had intended to bring the oils back out in a number of weeks' time, but I couldn't settle to working with pastels for this particular painting...so the oilbox was opened up. I also have another small oil in progress, of a more local scene; that will not be ready quite yet. Meanwhile...during exhibition in July, one of my favourite pastel pieces found a new home...Golden Rod and Lilies. Pastels seem to work well with flowers and dare I say it, probably better than for landscapes...but not always...much depends on the subject-matter.
Although I'm back to the drawing-board again, I'm still finding difficulties with summer allergies that cause me "brain fog" and drain bodily energy. Some days I can't work at all on anything. So I am upping the allergy tablets and looking for ways to regain some energy. As a result, I've decided to temporarily stop updating this news-section until I've got more painting done to satisfaction. I have a small watercolour landscape finished but it is very basic and will possibly lead on to a little oil painting a bit later in the year when I get the oils out again. Thus, next post will be at a date in September.
Koi; oils on canvas 16x16 inches
I've been away from my drawing stuff for over two weeks, and only just getting back into routine, so this week's painting is one that was completed a couple of months ago but never photographed. It is actually a "re-paint" of a small pastel work done a few years ago; I decided to do it again using a different medium. The photo here isn't actually as good as normal because I've had to take the canvas out in the rain to do the image; and the light is rather grey. I'll have to do a better photo at a more suitable opportunity. Anyway, the painting was done with reference only to the earlier pastel...not the original photo.
I'm continuing with trying combinations of pastel over watercolour underpaintings; occasionally the watercolour "feels" like the more suitable medium, so I am just letting it do the guiding. I am also eyeing up a few of the flowers outside, which have now recovered from the burning hot weather and are looking a little more perky....maybe one or two potential compositions there as well.
Cliffs and Seabirds, Lundy; pastel with watercolour 20x13 inches
Probably one of the largest pieces I've done for some time. Another experiment to combine watercolour with pastel, this time using white Pastelmat card. To begin with, I produced a charcoal drawing to work out the shapes of the cliffs, the shadowed areas and an overall impression of the final work. This drawing was then transferred to a sheet of white pastelmat card using charcoal rubbed on the drawing's reverse and then traced through with a slightly blunt pencil. Once complete, the sheet was taped to a large spare canvas-board for support. Watercolour washes in raw sienna and raw umber, plus ultramarine blue were casually added to the paper, in the approximate places for shadows and important shapes; the final effect being a very loose and fuzzy watercolour image.
From this point I worked with many neutral/grey/grey-pink shades of pastel to establish rock faces, crevices and shadows; avoiding too much obvious colour. Occasionally I washed water over the pastel and allowed it to dry before continuing. The main focal point of the scene was a tall rock, almost a column; standing at the water's edge and attracting many sea-birds. This needed to be drawn a little more realistically, although I still have not added every lump and crevice.
Once most rock faces were positioned, I worked on the rough grasses on the cliff-tops, preferring ochre-green mixes rather than sunny summer-meadow greens. Moving on to the seawater, this was created with three different shades of greeny-blue; scumbled lightly across the paper, starting with the darkest and moving progressively through to the lightest. Small areas were treated to pure white soft pastel for highlights. For this picture I actually kept away from my usual Unison pastels and used more from the Daler-Rowney and Rembrandt range; I have found that very soft pastels will clog the low-profile tooth of white pastelmat card rather quickly (and the grey one).
The image posted here still needs a little work done on it, around the cliff-top greens; but I photographed it anyway. My next post is due around the 20th, but.....I am overloaded with jobs at the moment and I doubt if any new paintings of note will be forthcoming by then, so it might be a little later.
The Landing Pier, Lundy; pastel with watercolour 16x16 inches
This one started off very well without the pastel and I was tempted to carry on with just watermedia....but didn't. This time the work was done on a sheet of Fabriano Artistico; unlike the previous entry, which was on Daler-Rowney multimedia paper and much smoother. I wanted to try and retain the simple shapes created by shadows on the cliffs; this would lead to a slightly graphic appearance. The darker watercolour was eventually worked over a little with dark pastels and the sunlit grass tops with various green and yellow pastels. The watercolour paper's grain was very helpful in breaking up the pastel as it was applied; this created sparkle on the sea.
Some darker grey-blue pastel was added to the underside of the clouds; but I decided to leave the whole picture with a slightly unfinished look....it is very easy to keep ploughing on, adding more pastel and actually losing the original light passages provided by the watercolour. Now...I'm doing very lightweight charcoal sketches of various things; the attic room I work in is exceedingly hot and I can't cope with more than an hour; nonetheless hopefully I'll have something ready for a couple of weeks' time.
Hartland Cliffs, Devon; pastel with watercolour 16x12 inches
With very hot weather setting in for a couple of weeks, I've decided to set aside the oils and acrylics to focus on the pastels; and this time I am working to find out how I can integrate pastels with a watercolour underpainting. This is going to be a quite new approach. I have no idea at the moment of how best to go about it; it will be a big "playtime". The above picture was finished over a two hour period; begun on a previously used sheet of multimedia paper, wiped over with water to dull down the original image (which was abstracty anyway) and then the base used for sketching in the rocky coast outlines.
A sky was roughed in with yellow ochre and ultramarine blue. The coastline was also completed in a rough-ish watercolour style; then pastel stroked on top when dry. This was then wetted and "painted" with a clean brush to add more colour. When dry I painted clear gesso on top to provide tooth for more pastel. The picture was finished with a limited range of pastel colours; the sky was lightly dusted with purple grey pastel for shadows and darker clouds. The overall effect retained luminosity in the sky while providing weight to the rocky landscape.
I have another similar one in progress. I may also do just watercolour images as well; some landscapes may be repeated several times using different methods.
Just a quick update, no new pictures right now as I've been on holiday but should be back to the drawing-board on Monday. Local exhibition at the end of July, I'm hoping to have a few entries on the walls there: St Andrews Art Group, Backwell parish hall, North Somerset; July 29th-30th 10am till 8pm and 10am till 4.30pm respectively.
Saul Junction, Gloucestershire; pastel on pastelmat card 14x10 inches
There are a few pieces of work ongoing at the moment, including two oils; but they are still a little wet to handle for photographing, so I've gone for another pastel. This one is actually drawn on a "recycled" pastel sheet (that is, one that has been used before but has had the pastel brushed off). This approach tends to slightly "grey" the original paper colour; in this case it was a sheet of dark blue Colorfix sanded paper). The scene was somewhat muted in colour, being early morning with a little haze. By keeping the colouring softer, the eye is taken by the sunlit building.
Next post will be into July; I have other committments until then.
The Lake, Tredegar House, Newport; pastel on pastelmat card 14x10 inches
Peaceful tree-lined lake in the grounds of Tredegar House, Newport, Wales. The park's trees are especially vivid in autumn. Despite being a short distance from the M4 motorway, these grounds are surprisingly relaxing. The picture was created from several reference photos, aiming to catch the autumn colour, some bird life and peaceful water.
I'm not expecting to get a lot of work completed during June, it's really busy; thankfully pastels come into their own during such times because they are "instant" and don't require any drying-time. Sketchy pieces can sometimes lead, later on, to something more complete, though.
Finally....there are some real exhibitions this year, and I've spent a little time framing up a few items, ready for mid-year.
Red Campions, Ashton Wood; pastel on pastelmat card 14x10 inches
A very green pastel painting, punctuated with pinkish-purple spots and dusty scatterings of red campion flowers. A busy couple of weeks has stopped me from getting on with my plan to create a few mini-paintings; plus the fact that new glasses are proving to be problematical and I'm back using the old ones again....which are still ok but not quite, if you follow my meaning. In my workroom are a couple more finished pictures that will probably be the subjects for the next few posts, giving me a bit of time to get one or maybe two new ones done before mid-summer.
Cumulus, Late Afternoon: pastel on pastelmat card 12 x 9 inches (30x22cm approx)
Today's work features an imagined beach but includes an actual cloud study. Sometimes you can't find a real landscape that matches your inner visions and ideas, so you have to make it up. That's what has been done here; a wave study derived from photos and other recent work, coupled with a group of clouds observed and photographed a while back, this year.
I haven't been painting every day, in order to give a break for the tension headaches and severe ear infection I've had since late March. It's been quite a while clearing up but is almost there now. So I decided to make a post for the Bank Holiday Monday. I'll be poddling along now with new work on a more regular basis....and have been thinking about getting back to what we call small-format art, which is incorrectly referred to as "miniature". They can be miniature in size but are not necessarily miniature in terms of the brush-strokes used. The nearest to small-scale art that I see online is usually the ACEO range (art card editions and originals)...these go well on Ebay but, from the painter's point of view, they are a lot of work for very little reward.
I work at around three to six inches square (or rectangles); (that's 7.5 x 7.5cm to 15x15cm for the imperially challenged). These are nice sizes to paint within, and avoid challenging the eyesight too much. When I visit exhibitions, I always make a point of looking at very small works; the majority of folk breeze by them, they don't use their eyes and subsequently miss some real gems. I have subject material ready to start, I just have to plan which ones I'm going to start with.
Evening Surf: acrylic on gesso board 12 x 9 inches (30x22cm approx)
Today's painting is in acrylic on gesso board; a recollection of a rolling tide in evening light.
Now, I have to say that further updates are going to be stalled for a while. I have slowed right down in painting because I am suffering from stress and vertigo, following an ear infection. I'm therefore not going to be producing much work for a while; how long, I don't know. So, rather than updating here in two weeks, the next one will be...in a month's time, maybe? Just need the time out. However, can still post out purchases.
Bossington Hill, near Minehead; pastel 14x10 inches
Back to the pastels this time, and the picture this week has a couple of interesting aspects. Firstly, though, the scene is a large and rather high hill, well known to Somerset walkers as being one with a commanding view towards the old village of Porlock and also out across the waters towards Wales. My stand-point was on a footpath that leads towards Bossington village; a typically hot summer day with everything green and gold. The working of this pastel began on white PastelMat card (instead of a coloured surface) with the profile of the hill; followed by laying-in the path and tree outlines; then a longer working session on the clouds. Next day was spent on forming the trees more fully, trying to keep deep shade and bright sunlight reasonably balanced. In reality these trees are in a fairly straight line, which isn't always ideal for compositions; but I left them alone because moving them might mean blocking a view of the hill. The footpath leads straight ahead and passes beside a stone wall.
The vegetation around the tree bases seemed to need something more than just thin pencil-line grasses; I tried out a pastel technique that I have rarely used, which is to scrape pastel-dust from a stick and let it fall on the paper; then squashing it quickly with a painting-knife. This scatters fine bursts of colour outwards, creating a sparkling glow. Ideal for tiny flowers, pollen, scintillation. From this point I couldn't decide whether or not to make more of the footpath; the painting has been left to sit quietly on the side while I think about it. Sometimes it's best to leave things as they are.
Just a point re the image; soft pastel can be tricky to get a sharp image with, simply because it is soft and doesn't provide the painting with clear sharp edges. This is especially noticeable on Pastelmat card which itself has a "fuzzy" surface. There will be a larger image available when I get it onto the gallery section.
Squall; acrylic 8x8 inches
I have two pastels waiting to be photographed, heavy rain has prevented me from taking them outdoors to do this job, so I've moved to the scanner this week and prepared this small acrylic panel. Produced in the same style as those from mid-February, using a limited number of colours; ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow/light yellow and white.
Every time I have attempted to use acrylic paint in a neat and orderly manner, my pictures have generally failed to satisfy me. By working in a much more rapid manner, thinking less and placing more paint, things seem to work out much better. The rapid drying time means I can paint over anything that's not quite right and just keep going, placing the elements as I want them and/or removing and reshaping them. The inner "fear" of getting it wrong simply vanishes and the painting session can be kept lively for a good hour or more. Acrylics generally dry with a hard edge (unlike oils which are softer at the edges); by approaching the painting in a more casual and sketchy manner, those hard edges can be kept to a minimum and only placed where felt necessary. Blending colours can be tricky with paint that starts drying as soon as it gets onto the board; the sky for example was laid on broadly, but the darker patch to the right was added almost straight away and just constantly worked with a flat nylon/Dalon brush until suitably blended. I need to learn how to handle the retarding fluid or flow-improver; that'll be up-and-coming on the next painting, which was started last week in outline.
I still feel that oils are better for "darker" scenes; most dark-coloured acrylics seem to look very similar when applied to a surface, whereas darker oils tend to have some sort of extra presence. The darks laid over acrylic moulding-paste make very good rocks, however....I do the rocks with a palette knife and leave them overnight to dry before painting over the set paste. Though I aim for generally realistic-looking scenes, acrylic seems to impart a touch of the unnatural....probably because it isn't an organic material...and somehow this seems fine with seascapes.
Sails at Chew Valley; pastel 14x10 inches
Today's pastel was completed a couple of weeks ago. Since then I have had some conjunctivitis in one eye and therefore decided to put the pastels aside until it cleared up. It is now doing so, therefore I'm actively looking at what my next pastel subject will be. Although I am not literally working in a cloud of pastel-dust, it is awkward to cope when you have dusty hands and itching eyes. The lake scene is an evening-time view, with the sun very low and, in fact, it is below the hills in this particular viewpoint. The yachting activity is distant but makes the focal point, with foreground growth reduced in colouring to allow the eye to skip over the top. I have a liking for scenery with lower-level light, the results are perhaps less colourful but I usually try to compensate by emphasising the sky.
Despite the dribbling eye, I have continued painting, this time working on some more acrylic seascapes. Another similar to the previous posts has been finished; along with two more, one on canvasboard and another on a smooth gesso board. I had considerable misgivings about acrylic paint when working on floral subjects and finally gave it up some while ago, being dissatisfied with the results. It was a little surprising therefore to discover that the paint worked quite well for me when dealing with a seascape; the rapid drying time has allowed me to get more done in my work-session. More on that next time.
Rain over the Sea; acrylic 8x8 inches
Today we have two new small pictures. In between my pastel work, I have been looking at numerous old photos taken on various coastlines during holiday-time. It's often the way that one sees a particular view and photographs it, to capture a mood, or something transient....and the resulting photograph is somewhat boring. I have been wondering whether some of these images might be put to use in terms of creating a painting. The capture of cloud formations, rock shapes, cliffs, even storms and rain can jog the memory-bank. While it is good to actually sit in front of the scene and paint it, the process of studying the photo in the work-room---away from the real scene--- allows for more inventiveness.
Today's first painting was based on a rather dark and gloomy photo during a thunderstorm...doesn't matter where, what matters is the "remembering" of the dark sky, the water and rocks, with swirling waves. The second painting is from a photo of the same coastline sector, about an hour later.
I chose to do both of these paintings using the same very restricted palette; ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow; plus white; and an occasional dab of cadmium red. The medium is acrylic. It's not always my first choice, but in this instance I wanted to get some paint down on the boards AND DRIED---allowing me to continue the next day without churning up previously-placed paint. (I could have also used what we call alkyds, which is a fast-drying oil-paint----but at the moment I haven't got all the colours that I wish to have for these explorations).
Anyway...to work, and the goal was to create atmosphere in the painting, based on the mental "feedback" from the photo.
Painting Two, again the same goal, to create an atmosphere. I think there are definitely two different environments here; and I was satisfied with the way the restricted choice of colours worked.
Clearing Weather; acrylic 8x8 inches
Quite a lot of the work was done with a small painting-knife, particularly the rocks and the beach-rocks in painting 2. A thin but wide (about 1.5 inches) and flat nylon brush was employed for the skies and general lay-in of colour, plus placement of wave-crests. Even a finger was roped in for touching-up work! I kept the paintings small in size, to be able to work quickly and get them finished. The larger the canvas, the larger the tools you need and I don't have space for creating big pieces. Having completed these two, I found myself wishing to just carry on; but could not, because I needed to research a few more of my pictures. For me, this is a good sign; I'll have a few more at some point in the near future. Same size, probably; or maybe a little larger.
Finally, a note for the near future; I am carrying out a re-shape of the website, something I normally do every two or three years to keep it tidy. Not quite ready yet, but most links will have the same names as they do now and the main front page will stay as it is.
The Wild Patch; pastel 14x10 inches
My aim to get a floral subject underway and completed has now happened. These flowers formed part of a large soil-bank at a local park; an area which had been deliberately broadcast with wildflower seeds and left then to its own devices. By summer the tangle of twigs and stems had been joined by an array of small flowers, including poppies and bright white daisies on incredibly thin stems.
The pastel painting is on a reddish-mauve pastelcard, much of which has been covered but still remains showing through in places. Although the positions of the main flowers were marked in at the start, I chose to create a general tangle of pastel-marks, to indicate the nature of the wild growth. It would be impossible to mark in every leaf and stem. The deep shaded areas were indicated with a mix of deep green and black pastel, with some purple, then sprayed with fixative to encourage it to darken further. The work continued on top, building networks of lines and leaf-like marks, plus poppy seedheads here and there. The main flowers were added at the later stages, gradually building them up with the softer pastels.
There is often a tendency to overwork when creating looser styles like this, so I had to make myself stop at various stages to assess what had already been put down on paper. Once the main red and yellow flowers were in, plus daisies, it just required placement of a few more background coloured shapes to finish it.
I'll be looking to get a somewhat better image of this one as soon as I can; not enough sunlight outdoors today.
Woodland Light; pastel 14x10 inches
This post is about a woodland stream encountered on one of many walks during autumn. It is a fairly unremarkable place, but on this day had an air of solitude, as if everyone had forgotten it was actually there. It had been raining and the light wasn't especially bright. Such scenes can be a bit drab, so my aim was to make the trees stand out against the gold-green leaves. I also added some very bright yellow-orange leaves in between the tree trunks. The rest of the scene was kept as a gentle haze. The only really hard work was trying to decide how to tackle the foreground, because it was brightly lit...but I didn't want it to grab all the attention. It was eventually done in a more sketchy manner, a bit indistinct with flashes of yellow, a few twigs and subtle greens.
I am working slowly through a group of selected images that have shown potential for being the basis of a pastel painting. At the time of writing, I am into the fifth one...however, the two following on from Woodland Light have given me some technical grief....as is sometimes the way, after merrily producing two satisfactory works in succession. Despite that, it has allowed me to stop, step back and rethink the nature of the paper I was working on. Pastel number five is now slowly assembling itself, built from the accumulated experience.
I have some other landscape images which I think will be better done in oils. If I can get one going, it will help to decide if there's a small series possible from them. Just to note, I have now detached the abstract section of this website, I feel the project has dried up so it's time to put it aside and try something new. My gallery at Original-Art-Under100 is in need of some new work, especially in the under100 section; it is in here that I tend to aim my more experimental pieces. The preferences here seem to be for oils and acrylics; so it means I have plenty of incentive to keep two media on the go.
Along the River Severn; pastel 14x10 inches
Last time I was setting up to do a new pastel; and here it is. Started on the 2nd, finished on the 5th. It's been many weeks since I completed a pastel subject, so I was rather pleased to get this one constructed and done to a level that I was happy with. It is on pastelmat card. The subject was bathed in afternoon light during the month of November, giving good contrast, but at a low angle. The view is framed by tall poplars on the left, with a distant sunlit house catching the eye up-river. I don't always apply pastel heavily to the paper; I find it better to start gently, and maybe later add more pressure where stronger lighting/colour is required. It's easier to add than take away.
As much as I enjoy using oils and experimenting with them, I found the return to pastels was easier than expected. I felt more at ease, somehow. It is a factor that I should take note of. Pastel number two is already underway.
I have a lot of pastel paintings tucked away in a box, sandwiched between sheets of newspaper. The box is getting quite full now and I suspect it will be time soon to begin a new container. I don't frame everything, but every now and then I take a section of them out and re-consider. I have more pastel pictures clipped together with bulldog clips, hanging from a cupboard door, several of which really need framing up for longer-term protection. The major good thing about this medium is that there is no drying-time!.
Summer at Backwell; pastel 12x9 inches
As the paint dries on one canvas, I have started preparing some more boards for oil painting. These however are taking second place to getting the pastels started again. It is several months since I last used them and during the Christmas break I spent some time watching pastelling videos in order to revitalise my interest. I have a few subjects in mind and yesterday managed to set up and get a new one underway. Early days yet for that one; so for this post I'm putting up a piece that was done in mid-2021, and yes, I had put it away and completely forgotten about it.
The view is a typical green summer's afternoon at the local "swan lake"; the aim here was to try and portray the greenery with a variety of shades, rather than the same one throughout. Thankfully the mass of trees is broken by a house-roof. On a sheet just 12 x 9 inches it is not desirable to try and create too many tiny details; the expanse of water was kept simple, with a few patches of floating "duckweed"; the swans put in with the sharp edge of a harder pastel.
The oil painting just completed was seen (in progress) in my penultimate post from December '21; it has come out ok, but I am feeling that it still needs stronger highlights. We shall see. I am tempted to do it in pastel as well, and make a comparison. Again, this provides me with another exercise. As well as actual painting, I am going through a rubbish clear-out and re-organisation of my media. Stuff that hasn't been used for years is being binned and/or carefully boxed up; old drawings cleared out, maybe the better ones retained in a folder. We are often told that as artists we shouldn't throw anything away...well, I don't have the space to file my entire life, so some things have to go! Next post in a couple of weeks, when hopefully I'll have progressed the new pastel.