Continuing my exploration into natural pigments and the theme of liminality – in my case I am exploring the threshold between raw earth pigments and commercially produced art materials. For this piece, I used: Earth pigments: Trevellas Green, Peppercombe Red Natural pigment pastels by Florence Paintmakers Sennelier Soft Pastels Montana Gold Professional spray paint – Bronze W&N acrylic paint and inks Resin pigment inks Charcoal Fabriano Unica 50% cotton 250gsm white paper (torn to size)
I am working on quite a few different things all at once. This is an experimental abstract piece, using inks and soft pastels.
The coursework for Painting 2.1 (Ideas Lab) through OCA is really fun and I’m having a great time messing about with stuff that I wouldn’t normally do. Here are a few images of latest work that was done using various media on canvas panels and monotyped paper – Glitch.cam app, encaustics, shellac, soft pastels, acrylic enamels, polyfilla, inks, tracing paper, A3 Lightbox …
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!
I’m having a bit of a directional crisis at the moment and would appreciate some feedback. I recently approached a local gallery for representation and whilst they absolutely love my soft pastel work, they are reticent to take my work on – basically because they battle to actually sell soft pastel landscapes. Whilst the bulk of their comments were really inspirational, I was left wondering whether I’m going in completely the wrong direction.
I also know, from experience, that pastel works do not sell – no matter how much everyone raves about them, that applause doesn’t often translate into hard cash. So, should I stop working with this medium and concentrate on developing my style with acrylics or oils?
Anyone who knows me, understands that I do not enjoy working with oils but I decided to have a go with a scene from outside my window yesterday. This is the source image (quite heavily pixelated):
I toned the paper with an acrylic wash first – I used Arches for Oil paper, which is just about the best you can get and cracked on.
I use water-soluble oils – mainly Cobra. After waiting for it to dry up a bit overnight, I fiddled about with it some more today and this is where I am now:
I frigging hate it! It needs so much more ‘honey’ – it’s not glowing. I know that if I did this in soft pastels, it would definitely glow and have a bit of spark. The way it looks now (to me) seems dull and lifeless. I will probably fiddle about with it more, perhaps with a honey glaze, not sure yet.
I then decided to re-do a soft pastel work that I did last week – this one:
And for this attempt, I used acrylics. This is the result:
How I test myself with this is to try and take almost the same amount of time that I would have done when making the soft pastel painting. So I forced myself not to fiddle about too much (with the acrylic). I did not use the best quality acrylics, they are student grade. I toned the paper a burnt ochre but now when I remember, I actually used a green toned paper for the pastel one, so maybe that’s why the acrylic version isn’t sparking as much.
Here they are side by side:
Aargh! Come on, give it to me on the nose (I can take it) – should I pack it in with the soft pastels or what?
This is a piece I did recently on a recycled canvas, which had been previously treated to considerable abuse (i.e. covered in concrete and God knows what else). I used soft pastels, inks, pens and then decided to use black acrylic enamel for two of the tree trunks, as I wanted a really black, black for the trunks. I was told that this appears to be a bit on the sinister side, that wasn’t my intention when I did it but I can see that now. Anyway, it’s larger than most of the stuff I’ve done lately.
I’m also using this post to test out whether it connects and posts to my FB/ Instagram feed. Who knows hey?!
I have been doing a lot of introspection these past few months, trying to understand why I make art. It’s a simple enough question to ask, but in my case, I thought it was an especially difficult question to answer. I just make art, it’s what I’ve always done. Full stop.
In order to try and figure out what your artists’ voice is, you have to have some sort of definable vision. Work created has to be a reflection of that inner consciousness. You are trying to make stuff that is familiar to you, visible and understandable to people around you. Previously, I never stopped to think, when I started working on a piece of art, what I was trying to accomplish with it, what was I trying to say? This stems from my almost total lack of self-confidence or belief in my own self-worth (another story). I have never considered what I wanted to paint or try to say was important, or had any meaning at all, other than the finished piece made me feel good (or not, depending on the fight I had with it).
I have been on a lot of websites lately that try to pin-point how we define commercial or creative success as artists. It’s nice if we sell paintings or obtain recognition from our peers but that’s not what drives us as artists, it’s not the thing I set out to do when I begin a painting. I don’t stand there before I even start and say to myself, ‘Alright, how much money could I make from this thing?’ I don’t think about that at all, I never have and I doubt I ever will. I think it would be the death of me as an artist if the single most important aspect of my creative life was to determine how much money I was going to make from that day’s activities.
I have tried to think if there is one single type of art that I do that readily expresses my personal artistic vision and is relatable or engaging to a broader audience. I tend to flitter about a lot – and that is no help – however, lately I have come to realise that my strengths lie in a particular style of work that I do – landscapes using soft pastels. More and more, it is becoming a genre that I want to stay within.
Whilst thinking about all this, I hurriedly wrote down the following paragraph:
I capture essence, light and the emotion of a scene. I am not concerned with the minutiae of reproduction to create photo-realism. I want you to feel the place, smell it and touch it. I want you to be with me in that wild space and absorb its peace. In so doing, I hope that you will protect and nurture it, with a fierceness that is contagious.
I obtained some more soft pastels over Christmas, as well as a 36 colour set of Mont Marte H2O watermixable oils. I’ve been practising with both mediums this past week – doing two versions of the same scene, one using soft pastel and the other with oils, to see how well I can get a good result. One thing that’s becoming obvious is I have a far better grasp of it with soft pastels than I do with oils!
One of the comparison studies I did today, involved the use of a reworked pastel study. I took the earlier pastel practise piece and rubbed the surface pigment off as much as i could, leaving a kind of underpainted base to work on, to which I added some white …
I then completed a moody landscape from a photo I took a few years ago.
I’m really pleased with how this turned out. I have done an oil version of this same scene, which is drying at the moment. I’m not happy with that at all but I’ll do some more work on it tomorrow and maybe I can get it right, then will post on here to show the difference between the two techniques – soft pastel on Pastelmat and watersoluble oils on Arches oil paper.
Available from my shop. This work is sold unframed, it has been set with a proprietary pastel fixative and is posted to you flat, protected with glassene and packed to avoid disturbance of the surface. It is signed.
I splashed out a while ago and bought a wonderful set of 12 Caran D’Ache pastel pencils, which are really lovely to use, I definitely want to buy more colours eventually. However, one of the biggest problems was I just couldn’t sharpen them properly. I tried using your standard metal pencil sharpener with the big hole, as well as trying to use a sharp knife but I just ended up breaking the pencil tip or getting a lovely bulb shaped snub-nosed point! I then watched a YouTube video by Jason Morgan (him with the lovely Welsh accent) and in it, he recommended (amongst other products), the M+R crank-handled sharpener (made in Germany).
And whilst this set me back about 20 quid (including postage and packing from Uncle Amazing), it was money well-spent. It’s easy to operate, clean and also fix if anything gets jammed (like broken pencil tops). It comes with a clamp to secure on your desk or work table if you so prefer and easy to follow instructions (even for mechanica-phobes like me). It is adjustable for various sized pencils. Caran D’Ache are notably thicker than other pastel pencils and whilst their wood casings are very hard, the centre pastel is soft, which makes them very difficult to sharpen without the pastel crumbling away or breaking completely.
At long last I’ve completed my fourth assignment for POP1 (Practise of Painting), I am now heading into the final stretch and the bit I’ve been most looking forward to, so whoopee doo for me hey!?
I decided to do a large (the brief was for something about 90x60cm) soft pastels landscape (that was also in the brief) and chose as my subject a scene from a trip I did to Norway a couple of years ago. This is how it ended up:
I ordered special paper from Clairefontaine in a sienna tint for this work and it’s really quite large. I have had quite a fight getting quotes to frame it that are below £200 – most of the framers I’ve spoken to want up to £300 to frame it, which is a bit much. Anyway, I’ve found someone in Norwich and hopefully going to take it there soon, it will still cost me over £100 to frame but I think will b e worth it. I will take a photo when it’s on the wall with furniture so you can get the idea of scale.
I love Wales! I go there as often as I can to visit my aunts and uncle, cousins and assorted hangers on. I’m not Welsh (at least I don’t think there is any Welsh in my immediate past) but I adore the place. This little sketch was inspired by a memory I have of walking about ‘on the top’ of a steep sheep covered hill, coming across these two old trees huddled together against the wind.
Quite some time ago I started working on a series of paintings relating to the South African landscape, for some reason I didn’t finish that work. I decided to go back to one of them over the weekend and this is the result, might still do a bit more tweaking (as always!). This area holds a very special place in my heart (and psyche). It is one of the most beautiful parts of the world, glorious in any weather. This is a view of the ampitheatre from the river below. (My own reference photos)
For this one I used acrylic inks, soft pastels, then oil pastels on mixed media paper. Paper size is 16.5″ x 11.5″ (A3), painting takes up all surface of the paper.
I’ve titled this one, ‘On her way’ – it is inspired by the devastating mental health struggles my youngest daughter is currently experiencing after the birth of her baby almost three months ago. These last few months have been extremely traumatic for all of us but last night, when I went to visit her with her older sister, it was like she was back to her old self again. There is still a lot more work needs to be done but it was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel I saw last night, as she walked away from us down the corridor to her room. She seemed to be surrounded by a golden glow and that’s what I wanted to get across in this painting.
“On her way”
Acrylics, inks, soft pastels on Daler Rowney system 3 acid free acrylic paper.
Due to the nature of the extra soft Sennelier pastels, they were very finicky and tempermental, not robust like Rembrandt or the Art Spectrum brands that I use most of the time. HOWEVER, the colour is completely unrivalled – it is pure pigment and applied to underpaintings using other soft pastels, or on top of a wash, the colours are luminous in colour strength, the pigment also adheres to the grooves or tooth of the paper and doesn’t dust off as readily as other soft pastels.
I had to do a lot more work with colour contrasts and layers to get the Rembrandt up to the same sparkling colour of the Sennelier apple subject above. Sennelier only required a few dashes and swipes and there you had a perfect juicy apple.
I was rather underwhelmed by the Canson paper- I’d heard so much about it and was expecting a totally new experience. However, I found it difficult to get the effects I wanted, so reverted back to my Daler Rowney Ingres paper – this sketch was to see how much working up I could do with the Sennelier soft pastels … I used a lot of other pastels to get to the greens I needed and realised fairly early on that I should have done a complimentary underwash of red or orange to get the greens to lift up and ‘sing’.
Eventually I managed to salvage a half decent study of the ancient oak tree in the field next to our house :
“The Ancient Oak at harvest”
Sennelier extra soft pastels, Rembrandt and Art Spectrum soft pastels on Daler Rowney acid free caramel coloured Ingres paper.