Monday, December 23, 2013

Onion Soup 2

This photo was taken on my out-of-date phone so apologies for the quality.
As you can see, the background has been filled in behind and back of the tureen and onions. I can now get an idea of the contrast between the subject and the background, and I am satisfied that the neutral greys that mainly compose the porcelain are adequate to express its white material.
I am almost tempted to leave it unfinished, with just the hint of a sketch in the foreground where the reflections will go. But that is a little contrived, so I'll soldier on - after Chrismas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Onion Soup

I have deferred finishing the kashkul picture until this present one is done. It's a question of what pastels are on the worktable at a particular time, and the selection that I wanted to use for this latest pastel are staying at hand until I finish (before Christmas) when I will tidy everything away back into its place and pick out the appropriate shades for continuing an earlier work. That's just how I go - not necessarily the best method of working in terms of time and motion, but hey, it's my painting, and my interest waxes and wanes depending on what I find fascinating at any particular moment. Sometimes finishing can be a chore, albeit a necessary one. And I usually get excited nearing the end of each piece.
The Onion Soup piece came about because I have a collection of decorative soup tureens picked up in garage sales, car boot sales or vide greniers/brocantes, depending on your location; the tureens are completely impractical, their only value decorative - and even that is questionable! But they make great still life subjects. So I chose one of the smaller ones, and three onions, for this set-up.
The first image shows the under-painting for the tureen and some finished colours on the left-most onions
Here we have the handle and lid pretty well done, and more under-painting on the body and a pattern emerging on the left. 
Note: No white has been used thus far in this pastel!
Lid and left side of body (except bottom of same) reasonably complete. Colours are mostly Schminke neutral greys, with some Rembrandts stroked in too. I also got to use a lovely pink from my French Artisan Pastellier set.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jackson's Pastels

Jackson's Pastels are new to me (as of November 2013) are are manufactured by Jackson's Art Supplies. The full set consists of a modest 64 colours supplied in square half-sticks. There is a very useful range of neutrals in grey and in earth shades; two rather day-glow shades of pink and orange respectively; and a set of blues and greens that includes shades for blue and turquoise seas. When I checked the catalogue the full set appeared to be retailing at an astonishing £7.95 - at that price they are perfectly pitched at the beginner who wants a decent range of colours without breaking the bank. This set retails at the price of about 3 full sticks from the main pastel makers. I have given them a brief trial, and they glaze well over existing layers on paper such as Canson Mi-Teint Touch. They are much softer than Nupastel, and harder than Blue Earth - somewhere in the region of Rembrandt perhaps. There is no colour chart, so I have photographed the set for posting here. I have no information on light-fastness or pigment to binder ratio at this time.
Jackson's Pastels

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kashkul 3

More work has been done on the bowl, and the cup and fallen fruit are connected now by the shadow of the negative space between the objects. The colour cast is due to this photo being taken in a different light to the previous one.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Kashkul 2

Not a lot of progress to report on this. Some work done refining the fruit in the bowl, and the fallen physalis near the goblet is established; also some lines indicating where the base of the bowl will be painted.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


The initial drawing for this painting is in the previous post. Here I have started to develop the fruit (physalis,  or Cape gooseberries) in the begging bowl - or "kashkul" as I have discovered.
Technical note:The ellipse that forms the mouth of the brass cup was carefully calculated and drawn using a loop of string and a template.
I knew what the long axis and the short axis of the ellipse needed to be by scaling a photograph of the set-up to the required size and measuring it. I then applied a formula to those measurements (it in not difficult, but you can go to this website and use the online calculator:

First of all, to draw an ellipse with a loop of string, you need two foci (F21 and F2 above). Place pins in these foci and measure the string so that the loop is twice the length from F2 to X  - this length will equal the sides of the triangle from F1 to Y to F2 and back to F1. (The short radius "b" is the distance from the centre C to Y; the long radius "a" is the distance from C to X, and is equal to the distance from Y to F1 - or Y to F2!)
Loop the string over the pins in the foci, pop a pencil in and stretch the loop fully as you draw, and you will get a perfect ellipse.
For the pastel, I drew the ellipse on a spare piece of card, carefully cut it out, and used the card as a template to draw the ellipse on the support - it's safer and more accurate than drawing directly on the support.

Initial block-in of cup and fruit was done with a selection of pastel pencils, both CarbOthello and Derwent, and a few Rembrandt sticks.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On my easel

Since my last post in June I have been in France, to see (and to participate in) some pastel exhibitions and to conduct an interview for the Pastel Journal. I don't bring a full set of pastels with me, so I tend to start an underpainting with hard pastels such as Nupastels or Rembrandt, and bring the unfinished work (or ébauche) back to the studio to complete. So here are a selection of works in progress that I will post on as they progress.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Don't fence me in

A couple of years ago I painted a hydrangea pushing through a wooden fence, next door to us in France. Don't fence me in was an obvious choice of title. The following year I photographed an Ipomoea (Morning Glory) winding its way through some metal railings in the town of Melle, and intended to use the photo as the basis for a companion piece. I finally got around to completing the second painting; I have no progress photographs for this painting, but I used a mix of pastel pencils, Rembrandts and Sennelier for the painting, and it is painting on my usual Pastelmat support.
Both have been framed in shabby-chic frames picked up at brocantes for about €5.00 each! And neither painting is for sale!
Don't fence me in #1

Don't fence me in #2

Monday, June 10, 2013

Parfum final

This is the final result of the perfume bottles painting. I have painted the reflections; this was done on top of the dark background, which I mostly used as the background within the reflected images, except for the left most bottle, which needed a dark blue background. The surrounding background was finally darkened some more with Sennelier's blackest pastel. Some odd lights and highlights added. Time to stop.
“Parfum” © Niall O’Neill

Monday, June 3, 2013


Patrick Susskind's disturbing novel was probably in the back of my mind when I started this painting back in October last year.  I put it aside as other projects took priority, but it's back on track, with only the reflections to assess and paint.
The first picture is pretty well as I left it in October. Hard pastels only to that point.

Image 2 is showing some detail in hard pastels on the lettering; the bottles have been repainted in soft pastels. And the background is being tentatively blocked in.

In the third photo the background colours have been determined. There are greys from Rembrandt in the top right corner, proceeding to the left on dark blue and dark green from Sennelier. The bottom half is Sennelier's dark green (177 again) and also black - an interesting black; I tried black from Rembrandt and from Roché, but Sennelier's seems warmer. By the way, the Hypnose bottle has two white brands in the big white patches - the upper one is Sennelier,  a very soft, creamy pastel. The lower corner is from Roché; I found this much more grainy in texture than the Sennelier, and more controllable. The little red bottle has Rembrandt's Mars Violet as its dark centre.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Brassy Tulips

I had wanted to paint tulips for some time, and Spring is the obvious season, when they are available in many shades and stripes. These copper-colour blooms caught my eye and I could imagine them in one of my brass jugs that was waiting to be painted.
I could not get the arrangement I wanted as the flowers were standing upright, so I took the water out of the vase and caught them when they started to droop.
The pastels used were a mixture of Rembrandt and Sennellier; the shades were yellow and gold ochres, some light oranges, and some orangey pinks. The blossom on the left is in shadow more as the light is from the right. I started with a light block in of approximate colours and values with hard pastels and pastel pencils.
I started to block in the background in order to get a feel for lights and darks once the flowers were nearing completion. I can't do it too soon as I will certainly dirty the light colours inadvertantly.

Time to start work on the leaves and vase. The greens were an interesting mix of bronze greens and blue greens.
The brass goblet on the left was quite in shadow, and barely registered in the set-up. I decided that I has to lose the edges both right and left to achieve the effect required.

Nearly done; but something not quite right - maybe too much empty darkness on bottom right? And of course the reflections were not complete.
“Septet for Brass” © Niall O’Neill
Time to stop. I added the fallen petal, even if it is a bit of a cliché. The reflection of the goblet was barely visible in the set-up. Believe it or not, it is exaggerated in the painting. Pastel on Clairefontaine Pastel Mat, about 24 x 18 ins.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ellen Eagle - Pastel Painting Atelier

Artists in pastel are like any other interest group, composed of members with hugely varying backgrounds, but fiercely unified in their medium. Only they appreciate the enormous variety of expression that can be attained with what seems to the uninitiated to be fairly limited means. But when you see,as I do in my blog, the great number of individuals who pursue their art with unique vision, personal style, and devotion to a theme, exploring the medium on all manner of supports, exploring the technique, inventing, creating, always learning in the never ending pursuit of perfection.  And make no mistake about it, among contemporary pastellists there exist great artists, and great art.
So, when a new book on pastels is published, all pastellists worthy of the name prick up their ears and want to know more. We all have a library of cherished works, containing “how-to” books and glossy “best-of” – I like both, although I think the latter may well have been superseded by the website. But for sheer hands-on practical purposes, a book is needed – for techniques, recipes for pastels and grounds, anecdotes – to slip bookmarks into and to read in bed!
When Daniel E. Greene wrote his seminal book, Pastel, in 1974 it was too soon for me, but I found Alan Flattmann’s 1987 book  hugely informative and influential. The Art of Pastel Painting inspired me,  showed me how, amazed me with Alan’s paintings, and remains a firm, often consulted favorite.  I have acquired many pastel books since, and have learned much, but nothing quite matched Flattmann’s work – until now.

Ellen Eagle is in the same tradition as Flattmann – a practising artist who talks lovingly and knowledgeably about her art.  Her book is for the practising artist, and as such is divided into practical chapters, covering a little history, the materials, the techniques, the genres. There is something new to be gleaned even for the most experienced. To begin with, Ellen referenced some pastellists from history that somehow I had missed, and was able to talk about rare paintings she had taken the trouble to see.
After that, her main divisions, in logical sequence, are: Basic Materials; Advanced Studio Practices; A Look at the Genres; The Working Process; On my Easel; Display and Handling.

Basic Materials
The advanced artist might be tempted to skip this section – but hold! Have you thought of testing your colours for their lightfast qualities? Ellen has, in a simple but clever sunlight test. She demonstrates the effects of varying wet and dry marks – and marques – on differing supports. She explains the difference between many of the major brands that she uses; she shows how to sharpen those hard pastels to use in her smaller, exquisite portraits. And she shows how she likes to organise her pastel collection – I’m glad to say we are like-minded in this regard, we both make colour charts and like order to prevail in the studio!
The important topic of toxicity is discussed adequately, without fuss. Then Ellen tests  some pastels on various popular supports  - an essential part of deciding how to proceed with a project. How much tooth will you need? Will you want to wet the support at any stage? What about tone? Do you want to make your own ground? Your own pastels? Ellen knows how – she paints on her own gessoed boards.
Are you lucky enough to have space for  a studio, or are you just putting up with a painting space that could be improved? Read Ellen’s thoughts on light, ambiance, backdrops, easels, mirrors. And above all, I urge you, keep a notebook. Use it for notes on what you do, what you used. I learned this early on, and it saved me painful repetition when painting series, even though I tend to keep a sub-set of pastels aside in those circumstances. Random thoughts rub shoulders with thoughtful analysis. The progress of a painting - or not – is recorded; it’s personal, not a  literary endeavour. Just keep it legible and try not to smudge it too much with charcoal!

A look at the Genres.
I was really looking forward to this section. Ellen on Portraiture was bound to be special. If you know her work, you will realise that this artist has immersed herself in painting the human spirit; there are no trite, banal portraits in Ellen’s oeuvre. Even her smallest scale works stand out as paintings that have taken time and consideration and effort to achieve. Her subjects vary in age, gender, race, aspect, stance, dress, opinion – yes, you can see that in their faces. “My Portrait of Julie” is a case in point – a painting from a ruin at Pompeii, full of history and wisdom  – the texture, the direct gaze, the jewellery! ( It is also instructive to see what other paintings she included in this segment  - Harvey Dinnerstein’s enigmatic self-portrait with plumb line.)
It is such a privilege to read Ellen on portrait painting. This is an artist at the height of her powers, talking about what she knows and loves best. This chapter alone justifies the book. Her patience, her stillness, her empathy – all are necessary  to achieve her purpose. Read, and contemplate, and learn.
Since I work mainly in still life, I was particularly interested in what Ellen had to say about this genre, and who else was featured – my absolute heroes in this genre are Jane Lund,  Andrew Hemingway, and Dan Massad – Dan is featured here. Ellen considers still life to be portrait of items chosen out of the artist’s affection for them. This certainly gives them a personality and a value the artist must convey to the viewer. She may arrange objects, or find them ready and waiting, another facet that I am in sympathy with. Her own paintings in this genre are, well,  unexpected!

The working process is explained at length – not just the physical process but also the thought process, which is perhaps more valuable. Ellen keeps daily notes of her work, so that her diary may in form both the work in progress, and future paintings. This section also answers intellectual challenges faced by her students in the Art Students League, a clever way of expounding further on artistic problems.

Finally, Ellen talks us through work in progress on her easel, a selection of six pieces, including three portraits and three still lifes. Again, both the mental and physical progress are probed and analysed with affection and intelligence. A minor complaint in this section is that the painting of the Bee Balm is shown larger than life, and while it is easier to see its development  “à la loupe”, I would like to see the little 11.6 x 7.1 cm painting life size.

Display and handing
The book ends with a section on framing, display, and caring for pastels; and closes with an extensive list of museums world-wide where pastels may be seen – including some in the National Gallery in Dublin that I was unaware of!  
There are some small areas I might suggest could be altered in future editions. When Ellen discusses supports she refers to Canson as a paper whose tooth is rapidly filled, and this is indeed the case; but there is also Canson Mi-teintes Touch, which is a sanded paper quite different from the standard Canson, and not mentioning it might give rise to confusion for beginners.  Nor does velour get a mention, although I can quite see how Ellen would have little use for it in her practice. And after all the book is not meant to be an encyclopedia of pastel. More seriously, when Ellen writes about manufacturing one’s own pastels, she suggests the wearing of latex gloves to avoid allergic reactions from the pastels. But latex is itself prone to give rise to a very unpleasant allergic response, so it might be better to suggest vinyl gloves, or some material other than latex.

Apart from those minor caveats, I believe this book deserves to become a classic. It is a major addition to the literature, written by an experienced and sensitive artist and teacher. I shall return to it again and again, and slowly savour the advice, the wisdom and the art of Ellen Eagle.

Pastel Painting Atelier; Ellen Eagle; Watson Guptill $35.00

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Slipper orchid

I can't believe I first started on this subject in October of last year! Lots of things - other paintings, commissions, other interests, all got in the way until I recently decided that any unfinished work was either to be completed - or dumped!
So - here are the last few stages of this painting.

Some background had been filled in for weeks, giving me the contrast needed to decide on the brightness of the uppermost petals. Work is progessing from left to right with pencils and with Sennelier. It was just a matter of more of the same to completion - the frame was waiting!
Paphiopedilum parishii © Niall O'Neill

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Marmalade #4

This is close to being finished. I need to let it sit for a while and not even look at it, so I can better spot what remains to be done. The porcelain pot has given me some trouble in that, unusually, both edges are soft - the left is is shadow because of the light source, but the right is also in the cast shadow of the brass scuttle; so it loses definition on both sides. I used a warm neutral grey in the background, then did a contrasting foreground in cool blue, black and green; the reverse of what one might expect, but I needed the shadow of the scuttle in left back; and I wanted to have some contrast with the scuttle and kumquats - I had already achieved that for the porcelain. I hope it works!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Marmalade #3

Rather than finish the brass base of the scuttle, I moved on to the kumquats, partly because I already had enough brass around which to manoeuvre without smudging it; and partly because I wanted to try out a new set of hues. 
The first photo is an assembly of ochres, browns and oranges in Rembrandt and Caran d'Aches sticks, and Derwent and CarbOthello pencils. You can probably make out hues such as Spectrum Orange, Orange Earth, Burnt Sienna, Terracotta etc. (I did add a couple more later to extend the value range)

Contrary to my normal practice, I used the softer pastels first, crosshatching and blending to get a tonal. I then worked into that base with the harder pencils, modifying, hatching, scumbling to create more variety. I have a much greater range of orange tints and shades in Sennelier, but these are really too soft to work into with pencils. I might revert to them at the end, when I do a final assessment. The highlights are very pale lemon yellow, not white. Reflections of the fruit will be re-visited when the brass is completed, the reflection of the porcelain is done, and the background finalised.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Marmalade #2

This is a continuation of the previous post. I have begun to fill in the background rather more, staying with the darkest of the neutral greys from Schminke; this is a soft pastel and spreads readily to give a nice even background.
The porcelain jar is about there. I have emphasised some lights and darks, especially in the pattern, and modelled the left side more carefully.
The brass scuttle has been worked on with Rembrandt pastels, with a few Schminke greys and a couple of Caran d'Ache sticks. The handle has been given its second layer; and the lion's face in the centre has been modelled.
I will continue with the brass - the base of the scuttle - and then return to the fruit before moving on to paint the reflections.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marmalade #1

This is a set-up that contains a brass scuttle with a white and blue porcelain handle, a white porcelain jar with a blue design, and a handful of kumquats - mandarins were too big, and anyway I have a recipe for Kumquat and Pear Chutney that goes well with duck....

The set-up - note that the jar has been resized down in PaintShop Pro - it was originally the same size as the scuttle, creating a conflict of interest between the two major components of the composition. You can clearly see where I merged the layers on top of the left-most kumquat!

The next task is to interpret the colours in the subject. To that end I reduce the photograph to 16 colours in PaintShop Pro.

Using this image as a reference, I block in the underpainting with a limited selection of hard pastels - CarbOthello pencils, Nupastels and Rembrandt sticks. The support is my usual Clairefontaine Pastelmat.

Next I start to develop the porcelain jar, using a range of Rembrandt greys from lightest through about four darker shades. I also make use of the Rembrandt blue-grey shades to obtain a greater sublety in the colours; all are blended by finger. The darks surrounding the jar are in the main the darkest neutral grey by Schminke, which is a very warm grey, to contrast with the cool greys of the jar; this will also harmonise with the colours of the brass scuttle, assuming I continue to use it behind that section.
To be continued.....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Coffee #2 Final

This is at the point where I leave it for a while until I figure out the finishing details - highlights to be emphasised (edges of coffee pods), edges to be lost (and found too - see the right edge of the jug, nearest the coffee mill); at least I know how it will be framed.  
The reflections were basically the same colours as the main objects, but the more greyed versions within the hues. I considered using the original colours for the reflections, spraying that section with fixative, going over them with a very soft neutral grey from Schminke, and then partially blowing off the overcoat with compressed air. But I think I'll experiment with that idea before trying it on an almost finished piece!
Pastel on Clairefontaine's Pastelmat - as usual! 14 x 11 ins (35 x 27.5 cm) unframed.

Pastel Painting with Sophie Amauger in Mayo

The Société des Pastellistes de France have 2 spaces available for the pastel landscape workshop that Sophie Amauger will organize at Rock House, Co, Mayo, from 8 May to 3 June.
The workshop will last 4 days with 1 day at leisure in the middle. The rate : 
1,000 per person all in, including transfers from Dublin Airport to Mayo.
Contact Liliane Desmarest, President of the Société des Pastellistes de France at or else visit the website of the Société des Pastellistes for an overview.

Le Seau Orange © Sophie Amauger
Sophie Amauger is ideally placed to teach this course. Sophie has been teaching creative arts for children and adults since 2003. Inspired by nature, she paints pastels that she has exhibited both at home and abroad. Her website address is
I suppose it would be useful to be able to speak French, but it is not essential.

Rock House Ballycroy, Nr. Westport, Co Mayo is a large 1820s lodge on a 30,000 acres sporting estate in North Mayo, one of the wildest and most unspoilt regions of Ireland. The house is surrounded by thirty acres of mature parkland. This contrasts perfectly with the stark beauty of the barren, mountainous landscape that is so characteristic of this region.
For  Rock House, the phone number is +353 (0) 85 212 15 64 or email them at

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Coffee #2 cont.

This is where I begin to fill in the background, once it will not interfere with the objects in the painting. It allows me to weigh the contrasts, and decide on how much I want to lose edges in the shadow areas. The coffee mill has been developed with soft pastels in the ochre hues, mainly from Rembrandt, with a nice red/brown from Caran d'Ache - (actually Dark Carmine 089.)
The background is a mixture of soft dark green and dark blue from Sennelier.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Colour Charts

This is an update on the original post, as I have added two more manufactureres and their colour charts to the original list posted in May 2012.

One of the most useful tools for a practising artist is a personal colour chart of all the pastels in his/her collection - leaving room for additions either by hue or tonal value.

The next most useful tool is a set of manufacturers' colour charts. These will allow you to see the full range of colours available, and also permit you to preselect pastel sticks before sending your hard-earned money into the ether.
Most manufacturers provide a colour chart online - either a pdf document or a set of jpeg images. Some makers will provide a printed chart, with or without an online version; the posher ones will do a handmade chart - at a price.
I am listing here the major pastel makers, with a web address for their colour chart pages. Apologies to any that I have still left out. You may email me for inclusion.

I missed out on Blue Earth pastels in the original post, so I am adding them here.
Blue Earth Pastels are available in 10 boxed sets, each consisting of 21 individual sticks, organized by hue, value and intensity. Six of the boxes represent the warm and cool side of the primary colors and three boxes are devoted to the secondary colors. Each contains the pure color hue represented in six values from light to dark and 12 grayed variations. The tenth box is composed of warm and cool grays, warm and cool whites, and black.
Here is the Blue Earth colour chart.

The website is and the pastels are available from Dakota Art Pastels.

Henri Roché Pastels provides ten magnificent charts provided on their website.

Pastels Henri ROCHÉ are currently available in 650 colours.
A colour chart is available as 10 jpeg images, as a pdf nuancier, or as a hand-made colour-chart of 648 nuances for 240 euros.

Sennelier Pastels, also French, are very soft and come in a range of 525 colours including the glitters. 
You may download a pdf chart at

Swiss manufacturers Caran d'Ache have just (April 2012) launched a range of pastel "cubes" (square sticks) and pencils in a range of 84 colours, to complement one another. The colour chart may be saved as a pdf at  

The very soft Schminke pastels of Germany likewise provide a pdf version of their selection at

Belgian manufacturer Blockx has 204 colors in individual sticks or assortments. Again a pdf is provided at

Dutch maker Rembrandt has a range of 214 colours - each colour enlarges on screen on mouseover, but you can download the chart at

Great American Art Works
are available in 468 colors. There are four charts presented as savable jpegs: Earth; Grey; Unique; Chromatics. The link is

Back to France. Pastels Girault has 300 colors, although they are aiming for a range of 526.
Currently these colours are graded by theme into four sets: Portrait, Landscape’ Flowers/Fruit, Background. Click on each colour to see it at sidebar - they cannot be downloaded. The whole website needs a makeover. It seems stuck in the same time warp as the French Pastel Society used to be before it escaped! Roché Pastels currently has the coolest website - it was designed by Antoine Leblond, son of pastellist Camille Leblond.

Artisan Pastellier in Albi, France: Didier Boinnard's shop is in the historic centre of the city, at 5 Rue Puech Berenguier.  His products are based on vegetable dyes, including Isatis tinctoria - woad, or pastel in French! 
You can buy packets of four for €13.90 to €15.00 depending on the colour range; one can of course buy larger sets of 10, 20, 40, or indeed the complete range of 50 colours. The sets are also available as portrait or landscape selections. The catalogue is available as a pdf download and the pastels are available via mail order on line.

Terry Ludwig
has a 515 colour pastel line. Only hand made charts are available at 40 dollars each - I don't know if that is per set, or for all 515. No charts are visible on line, so I have not given the web address - it is easy to find with a search engine.

Diane Townsend
has three lines of pastel - softform, terrages, and thin line. You can download a jpeg image of the collections - boxed sets, not a chart.
There are sets of all 120 Solid pure colors, 120 Light (L) and 120 Dark (D) variations of each color and 48 exotic colors set (10 fluorescent, 7 iridescent, 15 pearlescent and 16 metallic). That comes to 408 in total.
Go to and choose the line you want.

are a Japanese product. The 144 colour line is made using an entirely computerized process to ensure uniformity of both color and consistency. The medium soft consistency and the square shape are suitable for edge, lines and detail. You can buy a handmade colour chart for 15 dollars from suppliers such as Dakota. The Holbein website has a range of colour charts for their various products, and you can print off the chart you want. If you want to download the pastel chart you must right-click on the link and open the link in a new tab or window. Or just go directly to:

Mount Vision
has 347 colours with 3 duplicates added to make an even 350. Greg Biolchini chose the colors for the 50 Workshop set. It is an all-purpose set containing colors that mix well, with the selection weighted toward darker colors. The 25 Basic, Portrait and Landscape Add-on sets allow you to expand the Workshop 50 set with no duplication of colors! A handmade chart is available from supplier for 25 dollars.On the website the colurs are present as sets of 3 to six shades ( there are 11 greys) and these must be saved individually; you can also right click between the colours and choose the print option. Go to

Australian manufacturers
Artspectrum have a range of approximately 150 colours. The chart can be printed off the website, but not saved as am image, although again the individual colours can, if you have the patience.
The web address is
Note: the mis-spelling of "pastles" is a real error in the web address; use it as spelled, do not correct it.

Faber Castell
have a range of soft pastels, and pastel pencils, that complement each other. Colour charts are available as downloadable pdf files - you will nee Adobe Acrobat reader (or an alternative such as Nitro pdf reader.) THe 60 Pitt pastel pencils chart is at
The 120 Polychromos pastel sticks link is

Pan Pastels
are available in 20 pure colours, 20 tints, 20 shades, and 20 extra darks. Go to to d
ownload a pdf file. Or go directly to and miss a step.

charts are available from a number of websites. There are 96 colours in this range of square section firm sticks. You can download a blank chart in which to put your own colours from
If you want a pre-coloured chart there are several options:
and go to this link for the complete NuPastel colour chart as a downloadable GIF file:
or here as a pdf:
Or you can download a set of seven small images at

A hand-made chart for the Korean
Mungyo Gallery Artists semi-hard pastels has been posted on the WetCanvas forum on  Just scroll down the page until you find them. 
The Mungyo range includes extra-fine soft; soft; and semi-hard pastels (oil pastels too).  To download the most comprehensive colour chart ever, that encompasses the whole range, go to  

Derwent Pastels
36 square hard pastels chart:
For the pencils, go to  and click on the colour chart link at the bottom of the page.

Stabilo CarbOthello
pencils don't seem to have a chart that may be downloaded, but you can print this page if you right click and take the print option:

Finally, from the United Kingdom,
Unison Pastels.
There are nearly 400 colours ranging from subtle greys and earth colours to brilliant reds, blues, greens and yellows. The pastels are supplied in Mixed, Portrait and Landscape colours in boxes of 8, 18, 36 and 72 colours, but are also available individually.
The colour charts are available only on screen – they cannot be downloaded except, curiously, as individual colours – have fun! The best you can do is download the image of the half-stick set of 63, on
You can email the manufacturer for a printed version. Of course, you can always use the Prt Sc button on your PC and paste the image into Photoshop or some such program and save it as a jpeg. The result is not too bad - I can't post it here for copyright reasons; just be aware that Unison point out that the online colour is approximate, and of course it will depend on your PC's colour card and monitor.

Coffee #2

I took down an as yet unpainted brass jug from the shelf, teamed it up with an antique French coffee mill and a few Nespresso pods, and arranged this still life.
The first picture is the sketch to determine values and base colours, using only hard pastels (mostly pencils) and Clairefontaine Pastelmat.
The second picture is one of further development of the brass jug and some of the pods, moving to softer pastels - a mix of Rembrandt, Sennelier for the greens, and Schminke for the warm greys.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Artisan pastellier, Albi

Coffret paysage
Name: Artisan Pastellier
Narrative: Normally the posts on this blog are confined to artists' websites; but occasionally a related matter is included, and I want to draw your attention to a small pastel manufacturer in the town of Albi in the south of France. Didier Boinnard's shop is in the historic centre of the city, at 5 Rue Puech Berenguier.  His products are based on vegetable dyes, including Isatis tinctoria - woad, that give its name in French to the region "le pays de Cocagne" on which I have blogg
ed in an earlier post. This little shop also sells clothing, accessories and so on dyed with woad.
The web page is an eye-watering layout of desirable pastels, in little packets of four for €13.90 to €15.00 depending on the colour range; one can of course buy larger sets of 10, 20, 40, or indeed the complete range of 50 colours. The sets are also available as portrait or landscape selections - I especially like the latter, as it is produced in France with the local landscape firmly in mind. The catalogue is available as a pdf download and the pastels are available via mail order on line.

Les pastels tendres sont façonnés à la main, à base de pigments stables à la lumière, les couleurs végétales naturelles. . Ils ont une dimension idéale (diamètre de 14 mm, longueur 60 mm ) pour une bonne prise en main, une fragilité réduite et une grande longévité. Ils sont particulièrement tendres et veloutés.
Disponibles en coffrets de 4, 10 ou 20 pastels ou en coffret de 40 couleurs assorties.

Blog: The blog is of course in French: go to

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mortar and pestle cont.

I have the mortar and pestle nearing completion. There is still some detail to be refined, darks and contrasts to be enhanced. I put it into its probable frame to check it and I find the edge of the book on the left is too close to the frame. So I will probably bring it back a touch. The area under the shelf is clearly not dark enough - it should be at least as dark as the overall background. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mortar and pestle

Tony Curanaj paints still life in oil with extraordinary ability and a fine eye (and brush) for detail. His rendering of a Balkan pepper mill caught my eye; the ornate brass was rendered faithfully on a small canvas with the sort of hyper-realism that can only be achieved by oils or acrylics.
I have a brass apothecary's mortar and pestle that I picked up for eight euros at a brocante - and I have been waiting to paint it in a still life setting.
The picture on the left is the set-up that I chose to use. The book title will change to something in keeping with the subject matter. The bone was a piece of vertebra that I found, and decided to put into the picture as material that might possibly have been ground down for medicinal use. The picture on the right is the photograph reduced to sixteen colours in Paint Shop.

The next picture is my sixteen-colour underpainting with hard pastels on Pastelmat.

After that comes the start of the detailing with soft pastels, mostly Rembrandts, but with Sennelier for their extraordinary range of yellow-greens. The pestle is close to being finished and I have started on the interior and the rim.

The final picture here shows most of the mortar done, and and background put in to ascertain the contrast between the brightest brights (note - there is no white in this picture) and the dark background.