Own research – eARTh pigments

I follow Pete Ward on IG and recently ordered some of his own hand foraged/processed and packaged earth pigments from the Cornwall area where he lives. I chose Peppercombe Red, Fremington Grey and Fremington Yellow Ochre. Pete very kindly added Fremington Burnt Umber at no extra cost .. so I could play☺️

I decided to do some very basic quick tests. I don’t have Gum Arabic, so just used water to make the watercolour paint and then did a strip where I dropped some isopropyl alcohol onto it. I also used Pebeo Binder and finally Galleria structure gel, which is not dry in the photos, so I’m keen to see what it looks like dry. Here are some pics of the experiments

I ground the yellow ochre pigment a little onto my glass mixing plate with the back of a spoon, which did make it quite fine but to be honest I prefer it in the state I received it. The grittiness makes it a more primordial experience!

I did a very small study on Atlantis 400gsm paper adding some white and black acrylic.

‘Winter thaw’. Earth pigments and acrylics on Atlantis 400gsm watercolour paper.

I love the natural texture and colours. I will be doing more work with these pigments on canvas.

New things

I am working on quite a few different things all at once. This is an experimental abstract piece, using inks and soft pastels.

‘You’ll remember me’ Soft pastels and inks on Pastelmat A3

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 am an artist … repeat after me …

The term ‘imposter syndrome’ is a relatively new one, I wish I’d known about it when I was twenty-five. I’ve been painting, drawing and messing about with creative media since I was 16. Some of the stuff I put out is kindly bought by my small group of patrons and I am really thankful for that. I don’t sell regularly enough though, so because of that I have difficulty referring to myself as a ‘professional artist’. But I am one I guess! It’s so weird. I am not a professional artist in the sense that I have a full-time working job as an artist, with my own studio. But I do produce art on a regular basis – well every day – and it amasses all over the house. It gets framed sometimes. It gets stored away in boxes. I destroy some (actually most) of it. I re-do some of it. If I had a studio, it would be full of work.

My bedroom is a workshop – the bed occupies a large enough part of the room because it’s a three-quarter sized bed and the room is tiny. The bed becomes an extension of my working table and for most of the day it is covered in art equipment or materials. I try to fill the bed with pillows and cushions, so it looks more ‘bed’ like but the art stuff always wins and eventually the pillows are on the floor as they get replaced by canvasses, brushes, glues, gels, paints, plastic bags … you name it. When I’m working on something large, the whole room becomes engulfed and it’s a battle to find my way around in there, if I turn too quickly I’ll send something flying onto the carpet. My carpet is covered in smaller rugs – which are strategically placed to cover the odd mark from a pastel that fell there last week, or I dripped some paint there last year. My room smells perpetually like the inside of a warehouse – turps, oils, isopropyl alcohol, gels and most recently Golden Pastel Ground, which whilst being a bloody marvellous product, smells something horrid!

One of these days, when I hit the big time and win the Euro Millions, I’ll be able to have my own place again, with its own studio room (oh, how I miss my house in Benoni … sigh) Until then, I’ll just keep telling myself (quietly in a whisper) that I am an artist. No-one else could live amongst all the junk in my room and be happy!

Stages of a Commission

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:

‘Look up’ Mixed media, soft pastels on stretched canvas 80x60cm

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!

Frozen

Been trying out some ideas on various papers recently, mainly using watercolour brush pens out in our local woodland (towards coursework)

T wood – en plein air

It was really cold and windy on the day I chose to go into our woods. So yesterday I decided to stay inside and use oils, which I haven’t played with for ages but the ice seemed to come into this painting, despite all those hot colours.

Untitled. Cobra was oils on Arches paper +-A4

Today I tried something else:

Untitled- Cobra ws oils on Arches paper.

And again, the ice was there again … I think this is a subconscious response I’m working through, to what I saw in this:

Version 3 -‘Evening storm …’

I had another go at one of my favourite scenes .. evening storm over fields (from one of my photos). I’ve done this in soft pastels, oils and now trying out the @Chromatek watercolour brush pens that I got yesterday

These brush pens are great value for money, the set is well packaged and contains a wide spectrum of colours. The set also includes 3 blending water brushes, which was great for me because my old one has had it. The set comes with a good quality water colour paper pad and links to instructional videos, for those who are rusty with watercolours (like me) .

‘Evening Storm over the fields’ Watercolour and ink

It is teensy weensy ..
13.5×19.5cm

Evening storm … Revisited

I was rummaging through my stuff today and rediscovered this oil version of a soft pastel painting I did a while back. This is A2 on paper .. I’m looking at doing a print of this, anyone interested?

Email me please ☺️

‘Evening Storm over the fields’ Oil on paper A2 (original)

Where to now?

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:

Looking out across the winter fields

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:

‘Sunlit autumn stream – acrylics’

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?   

Sunlit Autumn Stream

I ordered some Sennelier Pastel Card and it arrived today.

It is very different to Clairefontaine Pastelmat, which has the texture of velvet. This Sennelier card is like a fine grit sandpaper, which has both disadvantages and advantages. It holds A LOT of pastel but because it is so rough, tends to make the pastels crumble, something I’ve never experienced with Pastelmat.

Anycase, for my test piece I did this:

Sunlit Autumn Stream
Sennelier soft pastels on Pastel Card , Caran D’Ache pastel pencils

I used the dark green toned Pastel Card and it is 24x32cm or 9.5 x 12.5 inches

2021 snapshot

Here is a selection of my favourite pieces done during the last plague year (hopefully it’s the last one hey?!) – some of this work was done for course exercises. Thank you for everyone’s support, inspiration and kind comments.

Something in the woods

Found a scrap of Pastelmat, so of course had to do something ‘woodsy’ to it …

The set up
Getting there
‘Shelter’ soft pastels on Pastelmat 24x9cm

I really like trying chiaroscuro effects with pastels. This is not as loose as my other woodsy pieces – maybe ‘cos I was working on such a small piece of Pastelmat and that tends to make me fiddle about. Anyway it was fun to do.

Source image is a still from this video :

Mixed bag of goodies

Been dabbling with new art supplies (Santa was very kind🎅😁)

Acrylic pours

‘Sea of Dreams’ 25x25cm on MDF canvas panel
‘Insomnia’ 20x20cm on MDF canvas panel

pastel

I received some Unison soft pastels over Christmas, so tried them out with the Sennelier and Rembrandt ones, as well as handmade pastels from Cumbria

‘Edge of Tyrells Wood looking towards fields -December 2021’
30x20cm Soft pastels on Pastelmat

Cheers!

Forest

‘Forest’ Soft pastels and ink on Pastelmat
23x23cm

Hope everyone who pops by here during this Silly Season has a phenomenal Christmas and all the very best for 2022!🎄☃️🎁💖🥂🎅

Mixed media on canvas

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.

Dark and light in the forest – mixed media on stretched canvas

I’m also using this post to test out whether it connects and posts to my FB/ Instagram feed. Who knows hey?!

Autumn

Nothing Gold Can Stay

BY ROBERT FROST

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

A response in soft pastel:

I’m possibly going to start changing aspects of my art in coming months as I embark on Level 2 of my degree study. I anticipate a lot of experimentation and deviating from my usual style .. so apologies in advance if some of the things I post on here seem to be at odds with who I am.

Enjoy the wonderful colours of autumn (in your area) 😘

Shelter in the woods

For some time now I’ve been following a guy on YouTube who makes bushcraft videos. He’s based in Turkey. There is no annoying commentary, special effects or music … Just him and his Belgian Malinois trekking out into the forest (or other wilderness areas). It’s so therapeutic watching his videos and has been inspiration for many of my woodland soft pastel paintings. This is a new one:

‘Shelter in the Woods’ soft pastel on Pastelmat 27x20cm

I took a screenshot from his video to use as my reference photo. You can find the video here:

Enjoy!

Defining my artists’ voice.

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.

For now, I think that sums it up.