I finished working on a cheetah today; I’ve even given it an inspired title – Running Cheetah – just in case you can’t guess from the painting. OK, you are welcome to argue with me on that point. I used chalk pastel on mount board.
I love pastel; it makes me feel very connected to my work because I’m hold the material directly, getting it on both my painting and me, using my fingers to move the colours about on the board.
When I finish working on one of my animals I’m always surprised that I am the one who painted it.
I tried a light background for him first but he lacked drama, and I’ve used some wonderfully sparkly whites and golds (they really do have sparkles in them) that lift his coat. I’ll have to find excuses for using these pastels again.
I decided to try experimenting today and have been working on MDF (I had it cut to size at B & Q).
In my studio, I coated it with purple acrylic (no reason, really, it was to hand) and then drew a landscape with a pastel pencil; I then blocked in colour with gouache, putting details in with chalk pastels and pushing the colours around in both media with water. I liked the effect but decided the textures created by the initial acrylic layer are too rough and took sandpaper to them.
I worked for a while longer into the sky, and now think I’ve ruined the painting altogether. The only answer is to use water to effectively rub out the clouds and start on that bit again.
I wrote that yesterday and when I came in this morning, having allowed time for drying, I was relieved to see the sky looking much better. A little bit of fiddling about, and I think I have a finished painting. Chalk pastel mixed with water is rather fun.
Sketching or painting outside can be a very relaxing experience, but it all depends on where you decide to plant yourself.
Until recently, I lived in South Korea and I used to love painting in Gyeongju, Korea’s ancient capital.
On this occasion spring was at it’s height and I had completely misjudged the crowds after a harsh winter which were out walking or taking photographs (both national pastimes). Even though it was early in the morning, the only westerner with an easel and chalk pastels was fair game. I was jostled, photographed (as was my work – a big no-no without permission) and I have Korean fingerprints on my painting as pastels had not been seen before. I have never been the centre of so much attention – it’s rather difficult working with a camera lens resting on your shoulder.
My advice? Be careful where and when you choose to set up for en plein air painting, but be very grateful to the temple’s monks who go out of their way to feed and befriend you with a life time’s supply of coffee and boiled sweets.