Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight © Niall O'Neill
I was tempted to call this "Hadji Bey". Corkonians will remember the Turkish Delight manufactured by Harutun Batmazian, an Armenian immigrant who left the perils of the Ottoman Empire behind him and arrived in Cork, Ireland, around the time of the International Exhibition of 1902-3 to set up his famous sweet shop on MacCurtain Street in Cork, which was emblazoned 'Hadji Bey et Cie'. The business eventually declined following the retirement of Harutun's son Eddie in the 1970's and the Hadji Bey brand became but a faint memory. Until revived by L.C. Confectionery in Newbridge, Co. Kildare.

The design was sketched out on light tan Pastelmat, 15.5 x 12 ins, and the underpainting developed in its basic tonality.

Once the brass charger was developed in shades of blue and green, the spire of the rosewater sprinkler was delimited by the dark blue that would become the background.

The underpainting, done in hard pastels and pencils, was now developed further with a selection of Sennelier and Jackson soft pastels, with ochres and yellows glazing the blue and green undertones.

Further infill of the background allows me to estimate the relative values of the piece overall. I have worked from left to right, and top to bottom. The sweets were underpainted with yellow and pinks, and very pale tints of these colours were glazed on top. Some almost-white pastel was scraped and drifted over the sweets to create a sugary effect. Some loose pieces of "sugar" fell onto the plate. The background dark was intensified.  Only the reflections of the plates remain to finish. Meanwhile the sugar/oil in Turkish Delight has been absorbed by the paper bag and unfortunately has become inedible!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wishful Thinking

Wishful Thinking © Niall O'Neill
We have an abundance of bluebells in our garden; they grow with enthusiasm and spread themselves about, both the blue and the white varieties. I wanted to paint some in a little brass jug, to get the colour harmony between the complementaries. After trying out some other sundry objects in my collection of bric-a-brac, I decided to put the brass jug on a little Buddhist stand, and used a cloisonné snail as a whimsical note.
This is the initial sketch, which as you can see is very cursory, and a fill-in with basic colour and values.
The colour change on the background is wholly down to lighting conditions when I took the photos, and my complete inability to match them from session to session! The basic colours are greens, brown, off-white, black, and three shades of blue for the flowers - all Carbothello pencils at this stage.

The next stage is to finish the flowers with the colours I require to make them as realistic as possible. I used Sennelier Blue-Violet 331-335; and Prussian 464 for the shadows among the flowers. I outlined the flowers with the background colour to verify my values, started and continued with the brass jug, which has Rembrandt greens,  umbers and ochres; intensified the black top to the stand, worked on the facia, and began the shadows underneath. A check at this point shows me that the stems of the bluebells do not fit within the jug and will need correction.

I pull down the background almost to the horizon line; intensify the shadows under the stand; correct the bluebells by narrowing the stems and fractionally widening the neck of the jug. The snail starts to get a fill of greys, greens blues and Indian red (Carbothello again, Caran d'Ache umber, and Rembrandt). Note the dirty fingerprints on the untouched area! Tricky to keep clean when handling such dark colours, but I also know that I will cover this area later. Finally, I fill in and adjust the background with Senneliers darkest blue mixed with green, which intensifies it; the base is green and black, also blended together. Reflections are adjusted, soft pastel highlights added to the snail, and the piece is signed - and consigned to a temporary frame until I recheck it in about a month.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Foo Fighters

Ok ok, I know it's an offshoot of Nirvana. But Foo Dogs, or even Temple Lions would also cover the subject, but not as catchily.
I bought a pair of Foo dogs off eBay, in two different attitudes, I had wanted to paint them since I saw Jane Lund's lovely rendering of the subject.
Image © Jane Lund

The set-up was simple - a pair of ceramic dogs on black glass, black velvet backdrop, and a carved Chinese plinth to vary the levels of the two. I photographed the set-up and converted the image in PaintshopPro to 16 colours - effectively posterizing the image. I used that image for the base drawing and  blocking in. The difference in ground colour is due to the change in ambient light between photo sessions.
At this stage I am using hard pastels only - pencils and a few Rembrandts.

Here we are looking at the finishing of the left hand figure, and the blocking in of the plinth. I am still using Rembrandts for the finer details, but Schminke and Sennelier are participating in the colour fields on the statues.

At this stage the figures are nearing completion, and I want to check out the contrast between the lights, the planned dark background, and the edges of the figures against the background.

The background is filled in; the plinth completed with pencils, Rembrandt, and Caran d'Ache; and the foreground filled in too. The background is a mixture of  Sennelier's darkest blue (463) and darkest green (177). The foreground has black and green in it.

Foo Fighters © Niall O'Neill
Final image has reflections added and highlights refined. It will be put aside, and maybe adjusted before being framed and displayed.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Portrait of K #III

I decided that the earlier version was too chubby and decided to give it another go. Inspired by the Portrait Artist of the Year competition, where artists have just four hours to paint the sitter, I determined to waste no time on this, especially since I had already done it twice. So about 4 hours work over a couple of days completed the piece. Whew!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Portrait of K #II

Although the colour of the ground suited the portrait in that it echoed much of the skin tone, I decided not to leave it as the background; there was a red brick wall behind the subject that added interest and texture without losing the overall colour scheme. So I added it. I took the opportunity to narrow the face slightly, working on the shadows on the left face (as you look at it) and tidying the eyes, especially the sclera and the lower lids. It's framed now, so that's that!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Portrait of K

It's been a while since I posted any work on this blog, and I am breaking the logjam with a child's portrait - an unusual departure for me, as I usually stick firmly to still life. This was a challenge - doubly so as the contrast and information in the photos I had to hand were not really adequate. There is so much more character in an older person's face, that I found the smooth tones and transitions in a child's skin far more difficult to interpret.
I started out with a chosen photo, and reduced it in Photoshop to 16 colours, as is my normal practice. However, I did not use this posterized image as an underpainting on this occasion, but kept it beside me for reference as to the outlines of the value changes. 
The first layer was put in using only hard Nupastels and Derwent pencils in shades of Burnt Sienna, Brown Ochre, Terracotta, Spectrum Orange and Orange Earth.

This first layer was lightly blended by my fingers before proceeding - no fixative was used at any stage.
I started to lightly stroke Rembrandts in lightest tints of Burnt Sienna, Gold Ochre and Orange, and roughed in the shirt and side of the head,
This is a shot of my armamentarium! There are  few light greys out of shot - and black!

These are the skin tones I used - I compared them on a grey background, as my support was too close in colour to use for this.
Nearly there. Some adjustments were needed in the lightest lights on the face, to soften transitions and adjust the areas occupied by the lights. Some Jackson soft pastels and also Blue Earths were used for rich darks in the hair.

Final result - the only thing left to decide is whether I will paint in a background (there is a red brick wall in the reference photo) or leave it stand.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Colour Analysis of Pastels by Paul Centore

I wish to bring my readers' attention to the work of Paul Centore, as expressed on his pastel colour website, Colour Science for Painters, a website that applies colour science to understanding of the use of colour in painting, in particular with pastels. Paul's analysis depends on the  use of the Munsell system's concepts of hue, value, and chroma, which are fundamental to understanding colour in painting.

While the website is somewhat technical, the results Paul achieves are fascinating, and the pages on Colour Analysis of Pastels, with links to pdf documents of the work carried out on Rembrandt and Unison brands respectively give an idea of what Paul is faced with, as he intends to apply similar techniques to analysing more pastel marques.

In order to progress his work Paul requires the cooperation of keen pastel artists, in particular those who possess a comprehensive range of a particular brand. How one can assist is explained on the website - rest assured, you do not have to part with any of your precious sticks!