Sunday, November 8, 2015

String of Pearls

This still life was suggested by the silver jewellery box with the sumptuous red lining. I knew I had a red cloisonné vase among my bric-a-brac, and an ornate perfume bottle with a pearly stopper. I borrowed the string of pearls to complete the line-up.
The initial sketch was fairly detailed - even to the extent of noting the values within the pearls.

I start to fill in the underpainting with hard pastels - Rembrandt and Caran d'Ache, and Carbothello Pencils. The underpainting will inform the finished work and serves as a roadmap for it, but they certainly not the hues that will be apparent.

A close-up on the pearls shows the sketchy ones to the right, and on the left the refining of the image; there are at least five colours painted into the pearls! I used Schminke neutral greys, which are quite warm, and a light ochre pencil. Blending was achieved with a fine colour shaper.

On the left the pearls are still unfinished, and the silver box not fully defined. On the right, the pearls are pretty well complete, and the design on the box clarified. I have indicated my horizon line too. The dark reds for the jar and box lining were dark carmine from Caran d'Ache, and madder lake by Schminke; the darkest red in the fold of the velvet was "lies de vin" from Henri Roché.

String of Pearls © Niall O'Neill
Final image shows the background filled in, and the reflections in the foreground were completed. The reflected pearls are much cooler in tone than the main image. 
Note there are three distinct values in the shadow area under the jewellery box :-
1. the cast shadow of the box gets most ambient light.
2. the cast shadow of the lid is effectively a shadow ON a shadow!
3. The reflection of the underside of the lid gets the least light and so is the darkest dark.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tang Horse

These are the progress shots of the ceramic Tang horse I painted last spring. The sketch outlines the positioning of the figure, the vase and the spray of clematis.

Happy with the layout, I start to lay in the underpainting with hard pastels.

The basic elements are starting to take shape - and, just as important, to realise their values.

These values are thrown into relief by the laying in of the background, which  allows me better to judge the contrasts.

More work on the cloisonné vase, and the texture of the horse. At this point I have moved on to soft pastels. In the clematis, the range of neutrals and declension of values in the Blue Earth quinacridone pink proved invaluable.

Further detail on all aspects, still working left to right and top down.

Tang Horse ©  Niall O'Neill

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Onion Soup published in IA

I posted on New Year's Day, 2014, on a just completed pastel that I called Onion Soup. I am happy to announce that the painting was a Finalist in the International Artist Still Life competition, and is published in the October/November 2015 issue.

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.