Moonlit Stour

This week our artist of the week is Dorset based artist Sue Smith

Your landscape painting ‘Moonlit Stour’ was produced using pastel.  Can you explain more about what drew you to this scene and why did you choose pastel for this work?‘

Moonlit Stour is a pastel painting and won me a place in the TALP International Artist competition 2017 and  it was exhibited at Patchings in Nottingham with other professional artists.  The pastel itself is on sanded paper and is painted with soft pastel.  Pastels have such vibrancy as they are pure pigment and when used on a sanded surface adhere very well and you are able to put on multiple layers of pastel. It is a strange thing but sometimes a scene or a reference will just say ‘pastel’ to me!  I think it was the colours in the sky and the reflections in the water that attracted me to it. I usually start my pastel with a watercolour under painting, this particular sanded paper takes water very well.  Once dry I can begin by putting plenty of colour on using the side of the pastel and at first using some harder pastels – you need plenty of pastel on the paper before attempting to blend as the sandpaper will remove the skin on your finger if not!  I try not to blend too much as this flattens the work but there is a certain amount that is needed in a sky as it softens and blends the clouds.  It is useful to apply the harder pastels first as soft pastels are expensive and are used to layer and as highlights . The details of the twigs at the front of the painting were applied last of all and this was a very tricky procedure ; it needs a sharp edge and a harder pastel rolled on its edge in an upward movement, so I had to be both positive and precise.  I choose not to fix my pastels, I just give the board a sharp tap outside on the ground which usually gets most of the loose dust off, the sandpaper holds the chalk very well.  Pastels have to be framed professionally too; they leave a little gap at the bottom of the painting so that any specs of chalk can fall behind the mount.

Trio of Ducks

“‘Trio of Ducks’ is a work full of character.  Can you let us know a bit about the stages of producing this oil painting?”

Lastly my trio of ducks is an oil painting.  This was painted in “lockdown” on a canvas board.  These wonderful ducks were a photo reference from a friend and they live in Wool in Dorset.  I really enjoyed painting them as the beaks were all different colours and they all looked to have such fun personalities. My friend said they posed for the photo.  I started by drawing with a brush the outline of the ducks and putting in the darks by shading and scrubbing with the brush.  This initial under drawing is in a thinned paint in a greyish brown colour.  After this the colours are gradually added and built up.  The good thing with oils is that if your initial drawing is not quite right you can cut in or add colour where you want it adjusting as you go, you can scrape it off or rub it out with a rag.  I love the fact that with oil you can blend creamy colours together on the surface and add the highlights last of all.  I had fun making them look plump and feathery.  I love painting the odd animal and or portraits and always add the eyes last of all which brings the painting to life.  

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