Some years ago we took a short break in Dartmoor, and spent one glorious afternoon at a local beauty spot in Postbridge. Famous for its clapper bridge, this is truly one of the most idyllic English scenes you could wish for. Our son made a new friend, who had brought a fishing net, and they spent a happy hour looking for minnows in the shallow water. (If you do take a look at the link above, you’ll see a photo of the stones they were standing on to fish, in front of the bridge). We were lucky enough to capture this moment as a photo, which brings back fond memories.

Now back to recent days. My painting buddy Andy and I were seeking a new ‘challenge’ to paint, and had decided on water as the theme. In the pile of images for consideration was this one. Daunting, but interesting. We decided that we should raise our game and have a go at it – facing up not just to water, but figures too.

Andy made a stonking first study in pen and wash, which deterred me from doing the same. Therefore I plumped for having a bash at the same subject in pastels, which would still let me try out the colours and composition in preparation for making an acrylic painting next week. I used Rembrandt pastels (kindly lent to me by my mum), on mountboard, which I quite like for its smooth texture.


Overall, I’m reasonably happy with how this one worked out. I may alter the cropping slightly when I make the painting, but this study did let me get my eyes and hands around the figures and have a good look at the reflections in the water and how I might treat them. Hardest this time for me were the skin tones, dark water tones, and the boys’ faces, the latter mainly due to the chunky nature of the pastels I was using. Getting the features in needed to be a matter of suggestion rather than explicit detail. I suspect the same will be an issue with the painting. We shall soon see!


Feeling Blue

Long time no blog. But maybe I’m back in the game now that October’s over – I don’t know whether it was the transition of the seasons, or the half-term holiday, but I just haven’t been feeling like sketching recently.

Self portrait blue charoalHowever, I hope that’s all over now. When looking for some mount board recently I got my eye on this blue board, with a view to trying a charcoal/chalk portrait. I wasn’t fussed about who, which is just as well, as it ended up being me again. Funny how I keep being on hand to model when I want to sketch people…

I tried to keep the palette restricted, and ended up using charcoal (as planned), plus white and blue conte crayons. I dived straight in without any guidelines or prep, which goes a little way towards explaining why some of the elements didn’t end up quite as they should be. I was trying to concentrate mainly on higlights and shade, without too much faffing with the mid-tones. I’m not sure I’ve achieved this. The camera has, as usual, emphasised the whites more than is evident in the original, so what you see here isn’t quite how it looks in reality.

Interestingly, the sketch didn’t turn out to have the strong charcoal lined quality I’d imagined when I set out, probably due to the fact that I kept rubbing lines out with my fingers, leading to a smoother, slightly more contoured texture than I’d hoped for. On the plus side, I think that my previous self-portrait practices in pastels have really helped me today, particularly when it comes to speed of working, which feels like progress.

Snowy Day at the Beach

I woke up two days ago thinking about making this picture. Some time back I’d taken a photograph at Hunstanton beach when it snowed; the dusting had completely transformed the late winter afternoon atmosphere of the promenade, muting the colours and bringing a new dimension to the place. It seemed that it would be a good scene to try out in pastel as its composition was pretty good, and I thought I could play heavily on the blues and greys.

Hunstanton Snow pastelThis is my first landscape in pastel. It was quite a challenge, and I’ve been working sporadically on this picture over two days. There are lots of elements of perspective here, always a worry. Then there is the strange, semi-geodesic, 1980s-style building – nightmare. It was built of triangles set at different angles…shudder. Anyone with advice to offer on how to tackle this, please do let me know.

I enjoyed trying out approaches for the sky and sea, but the wet, shiny sand and dull, drier sand were tough. I’d like a cool dark brown/black pastel for my collection, but my local art shop is a bit short on stock at the moment.

As usual, I don’t think I made my picture large enough (9 x 24 ins), so putting the lamp-posts in was a delicate operation. The photograph has lost the subtlety of the colours, especially the blues, which is a shame, but the general idea’s there.

Certainly, this was an interesting project. And that’s what it’s all about…

Blooming Iris

The irises in my garden have been calling out to become a picture. I was itching to do them in pastels, so I snipped a flower stem, popped it in a bottle to hold it and began outlining. Things were going ok until I got to the bottle. I’d chosen quite an extreme angle and just could not get the long-necked, pot-bellied bottle to look right in the outline stage. I decided to abandon the bottle and concentrate on the main event – the flowers. Iris Pastels

After stepping away for a while, I got back to the blooms. The pastels went on in a pleasing way, velvety with rich, delicious colour. But as I moved down the stem I realised that the guidelines for the mis-shapen bottle were still going to be visible. I hadn’t originally planned to put the iris’s leaves in the picture (that’s why the iris stalk looks way too short), but they became a necessity. Even so, they still don’t cover up all my sins and the ghost outlines are still visible, more so in the photo than in real life, strangely. It’s all part of the process of gaining experience, I suppose. Live and learn.