I was asked if I would produce a canvas painting – the inspiration was an Internet sourced photo:
I’m always a bit nervy and unsettled when I have to do something based on someone else’s photo and ‘specially when it’s quite a complex image, as is the case with this one. That said, I really love this image and the feelings it evokes. I’ve looked up at trees like these many times, so it is a special feeling to be able to try and recreate that scene on canvas. I chose to make this painting on a 80x60cm linen stretched canvas. First thing to do was prime it in a burnt gold colour, before painting the ‘sky’. (The gold colour serves two purposes – it stops ‘painter nerves’ 🙂 and also makes the blue ‘glow’, so it’s not so flat)
I added some texture while the blue paint was still wet (dabbing it with a kitchen towel, which I didn’t realise had ‘heart’ shaped motifs on it .. duh.) Once the blue was dry, I started painting the main shapes, using acrylics.
For me, this subject matter works better with soft pastels. However, you cannot apply pastels to a canvas surface without first giving it some form of coating, other wise the pastels will just drop off. I discovered that Golden make a ground specifically for this purpose, so I purchased a small tub. I have never used this Pastel Ground before and wasn’t sure if it would provide enough surface grip or ‘tooth’ for the pastels but I have to say that this stuff is amazing! It is best diluted and applied with a sponge or large brush (I used a brush). I applied about three coats in various directions. It dries almost clear, so I could see the underpainting quite clearly. Then I started applying pastels.
I was still a bit unsure about the pastel ground, not knowing how much pastel I could work into it but really I am so impressed! I could also work the pastels in with a brush, using water. I included watercolour brushpens, fine markers and pastel pencils to create more definition of the shapes. I’ve resisted the urge to draw or paint in millions of tiny branchlets, as that is not indicative of my style. Anyway, I am quite happy with it, this is the end result today:
My client is very pleased with it, so I will now give it a few more coats of fixative and possibly also apply some Winsor & Newton matt spray varnish, as a final protective layer. This was great fun to do!