Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spanish Coffee Mill

Spanish Coffee Mill © Niall O'Neill

This is a pastel of an old coffee mill in cast iron, painted a blue-green colour with a rusted wheel and a worn wooden drawer beneath. I composed the picture with a green Chinese porcelain lidded jar filled with brown sugar cubes, to maintain colour harmony throughout.

The first pair of images show (on left)  the basic underpainting based on a Photoshop reduction to sixteen colours; on the right I have established the darkest darks (the cast shadow of the wheel) and the lightest lights (the sugar cubes).

In this next picture (on left) I have started to fill in the background to tone down the stark shadow of the wheel. Basic colours have been established over the underpainting, using in the main Schminke for the greens, and some Blue Earth yellows for the wheel and the wood.
On the right I have further refined the details, the reflections, the background and the wheel. I needed a sharp delineation on the rim of the wheel, so while I still had the underpainting I traced the wheel onto a piece of transparent masking paper, cut out a mask with a scalpel, replaced the tacky paper on the wheel, and stroked some soft pastel to the edge of the mask and rubbed it in to get the sharp edge. 

A final note on the design of this painting - the main area of interest is contained within a classic triangle. A line one third of the way from the bottom is just under the lightest light - the sugar cubes; a secondary focus is on the wheel handle. There is a circular motion throughout the piece via and wheel and its reflection. The whole image and its shadow occupies the left two-thirds of the picture plane; this is fairly subtle in reality. And in reality - more than the photo can show - the sugar is clearly the focal point.

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