Tuesday, 24 May 2011

painting with ripe cherries

I’ve done a few scary jobs in my time at high level, repairing the gable end of a house and chain sawing Ash branches 40’ above the ground. These things concentrate the mind about safety, ensuring ladders are tied off and properly footed. However, when asked to pick a few cherries standing on the lower part of a set of steps, these concerns tend to leave the mind. Louise had kindly tied a bucket around my neck to leave my hands free. Unfortunately, the step ladder decided to go on walkabout and I ended up falling and breaking my wrist. (I think the bucket of cherries acted like an airbag). Subsequent X-rays displayed a broken ulna and radius and after being encased in a fibreglass plaster, I was told I was out of action for the next four weeks. I was scheduled to appear at Art in Action and another show in London demonstrating oil pastel. This caused some considerable problems as there are very few oil pastel demonstrators in the UK. I understand a young lad was roped in from out of the office for the London show ~ poor chap! ~ Apologies to all those who travelled to see me.
This did at least give me the opportunity to sort out my pastels. I work mostly with Sennelier who supply over 500 tints. Unfortunately, my collection has grown over the years and although I probably only use 35% of the range, it’s a number large enough to cause problems finding the right tints when working. I use a palette of ground rice to keep them clean which helps, but unfortunately over time the well used ones become little nibs hidden behind the less used ones. Also, with the advent of projectors at art groups, working in low light conditions make all my pastels look grey!!
So taking advantage of my impairment, I decided to reduce my colours. Firstly, I pinned up a full sheet of hot pressed watercolour paper and marked the colours according to the Munsell system around the edge. The middle of the paper was the lightest tint (white) the edge of the paper for the darkest tints as Sennelier do a wonderful range of colourful darks. I worked with twelve pastels at a time assessing them for softness and how well mixed the pigment was. Some Sennelier pastels can be quite hard whereas others are quite soft…it’s useful to have a selection of both. The twelve were distributed around the paper to give a basic balance of tone and colour. I then selected twelve more tints and did the same, discarding any tints that were too similar, it’s surprising how many similar oranges and browns they do. I continued until I’ve been through all the pastels which takes me about two days. Looking at the sheet I can immediately see if I have any gaps which are tints that Sennelier don’t produce. I can then supplement with another make. In the end it takes only eight Unison colours to fill the gap. I manage to reduce my collection significantly and make future painting (hopefully!) easier.
Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to do all the jobs I’d been putting off. One was to write a book proposal. After sending this off, the publisher Search Press liked my work and commissioned me to write a book ‘How To Paint Flowers in Acrylics’. Rashly, I’ve committed to finishing the bulk of the text by the end of May 2011. My wife’s taken the grandchild to the coast, leaving me home alone for a week to crack on. The freezer is packed with frozen Tesco ready meals, so I’ve only the cat, dog, garden, field, art orders ertc to think about. I’m starting to feel like Jeremy Clarkson…..

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