Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rose fougère

This is a little pastel that I completed last year. The original image was that of quite a different flower, but I wanted a red rose (for Valentine's day!) to contrast with the complementary green vase. The background is a Japanese paper screen, and I tried various methods to make it as realistic as possible, including overlaying an off-white colour and scratching through to a white base colour. The final result is a hybrid of this, plus flat broad vertical glazes.

A la loupe...
The rose was an exercise in edges and shading. Generally, the leading edge of a rose petal has a sharp edge, but this sharpness fades with blending or hatching the colour shift towards the next, inner petal. (This colour shift is probably best seen in the drooping petal on the upper bloom).  The darkest red used in the picture is a very useful Madder from Schminke, hue 045, shade 068B. The support is Canson.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spanish Candle

This little candlestick cost me 50 cents at a vide grenier (car boot sale - literally attic clearance) and I thought it would make a colourful still life. I tried out various backgrounds - light as per Andrew Hemingway; dark as per Na Luther, who usually has a very dark brown background. I liked none of those and eventually settled on my favourite really dark green and dark blue Senneliers blended together, getting my hands  really dirty in the process. The support is Art Spectrum, which I have not used before. I don't like it as much as Pastelcard - although Pastelcard does not tolerate being wetted. My absolute favourite remains Clairefontaine's Pastelmat.
The photograph is not as good as it might be, as my camera could not deal with the contrast.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yellow and Blue

Finally got around to finishing the blue tits on the clothesline.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


It's been a little while since I have been able to post anything, either on this blog or on Artists in Pastel. However, I want to post this portrait of a dear friend, who passed away earlier this year at the good age of 90. I had not attempted a portrait before this, but Madeleine Meunier was a great and kind lady, and had welcomed me to France some years ago like a  long-lost member of the family. This is my tribute. Pastels (Rembrandt and Sennelier) on Clairefontaine Pastelmat.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blue tits

When is a painting an original, all one's own work? To what extent may one make use of images or ideas that one finds elsewhere - e.g. on the Internet?
This painting of Blue Tits is a case in point. The idea for this painting came from a photograph taken by Mark Hamblin, It was a perfectly good photograph, and would have made a fine painting; but I did not wish to copy it slavishly; and I also wanted to include more detail in some areas.
So, the concept - blue and yellow birds and blue and yellow clothespegs.  I did not use Mark's birds: I searched for other models, and found two more based on a further pair of photographs. The bird feeder is a composite - the net, its contents, and the twine, are all from separate sources.
As for the clothespegs - I must thank my wife for those!

First  - the peanuts! One at a time; CarbOthello and Derwent pastel pencils, on Pastel Mat.

Then the first birds:

Background blocked in loosely, after much of the detail has been done - don't want any smudging.

A more completely shaded background, moving from my workhorse Rembrandts to Sennelier.

There is still some detail to refine - tomorrow!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bleeding Hearts

Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Hearts, or Lady-in-the-Bath) is in flower in Irish gardens right now.  So is Forget-me-not. I thought they made a nice composition.
This is a pastel on Ingres paper (which I don't really like); the original is 16 x 12 ins, or 40 x 30 cms. The sequence is self-explanatory.

The sketch was done with Derwent pencils and with CarbOthello. Derwent Magenta 22B, 22D and 22F; and Crimson Lake 20B, 20D and 20F.

The background was kept to greens and blues of like value, mainly Sennelier 394, 293, 294, 351, 764, 395, 336 and 947. Rembrandt got a look in with 618.9 and 512.9.

Initial block-in of flowers was Rembrandt Red Violet Light 546.8. Phthalo Blue  570.5 and Yellow Ochre 227.5. Sennelier 947 is a very light mauve-violet, used for the transparent part of the Dicentra.
The blues for the Myosotis were Rembrandt 506.5 and 506.7. 

The Dicentra were Sennelier 710-713 in the main, also 52, 54, 56, and 378, 380, 383, 384. And one dark magenta Schminke!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fuchsia Bells

This is a little painting on Pastelmat, sheet size 18 x 24 cm (7 x 9.5 ins).
The first picture is of the initial drawing. The flowers are done entirely with Derwent and CarbOthello pastel pencils at this point, in order to work out the colour range. The background is a mixture of Rembrandt and Sennelier  for the leaves, and Sennelier dark green (179) and dark blue (465) for the background. The first lay-in was sprayed with fixative as I did not want the darks getting into the flowers.

Second round was to detail the flowers, using mainly Sennelier - 361-367 purples; 323-329 violet purple; 940-94 violet magenta; and blues 388-395. I also used Schminke madder lake for a different colour bias in the pinks. I did a little more work on the leaves, adding a Sennelier teal to the colours, but not over-emphasising them, but keeping them back. The stamens and styles were last, and in order to keep an even thickness in soft pastel I drew a line with a sharp craft knife in a strip of masking tape, and carefully  separated the two divisions about a millimetre apart, placing them on the background before painting the detail in the narrow gap. No fixative was used after the initial spray. Job done. Sign and frame.
I had a black frame lying around for this size support, so I popped in the painting to see how it looked in black. There are reflections in the glass of course, but you can see the effect.

Cahermee Horse Fair

I thought I would start this new blog with a record of paintings that I have either completed recently, or am currently working on.
This first post is therefore removed from its original position in, April 2010, and re-posted here.

Je voulais ébaucher une nouvelle page sur les tableaux récemment achevés, ou sur lesquels je travaille actuellement. Cela semble être le style de la plupart des blogs sur la peinture, et je tiens à garder le blog principal distinct de mon propre travail.
Ce premier post est donc supprimé de sa position d'origine dans, avril 2010 et re-publié ici.

This post is a example of how I use Photoshop as a tool for analysing a complex piece, and simplifying the painting process. This painting was based on a series of photographs taken at a horse fair in Ireland, and in particular the photograph posted here.
Because the photo was so busy, I needed to lose unnecessary information, like the grille on the window, the post in the centre of the image, and the trailer to the left. I also wanted to see the tonal balance, so I used photoshop to view a monochome version.

The darkest dark is in the top left corner window, with a touch in the tail of the horse on the right; the brightest light is on the top of the rump of the right horse, but even more in the woman's trousers.
My next task was to reduce the colours to an intelligible number. I used Photoshop to reduce the image to a 16-colour version, thus:

I then matched my pastels as near as possible to the sixteen colours, (mostly Rembrandt, but some Sennelier) which I identified as follows: White, Light Blue Grey (R. 707.9), Deep Blue Grey (R. 547.9), Olive green R. 620.5), Light Green (S. 174), Light Pink (S. 946), Deep Pink (S), Purple Pink (R. 347.5) , Deep Green (unidentified R. fragment), Plum Grey(unidentified R. fragment), Muddy Green (unidentified R. fragment), Light Brown Pink (R. 231.3), Brown (R. 371.3, Deep Purple (R. 538.5), Buff (R. yellow ochre), Light Blue (unidentified R. fragment). Mind you, this was an underpainting, so all these base notes were going to be pretty well covered.
The drawing was done with pastel pencil approximating the base colours where they were to be laid in, on a cream-buff support.

The first lay-in established both tone and underpainting simultaneously.

I then started to refine the features of the characters in the painting, without getting into the final overpainting just yet.

Now I was ready to begin an overlay with softer pastels, almost all of them from the Sennelier range. These are almost pure colour, soft and friable with very little filler.

Further definition was needed in the pavement, clothing, windowframe, the horse's ears, the cellphone, and the background characters who were having their own conversation, which was the title of the piece - Conversations. (18 ins H x 18.5 ins W)