Christine Derrick has lived in North Somerset all her life and paints a variety of different themes.


When and why did you first develop an interest in flowers as a subject matter?

The interest developed as the result of back pains over twenty years ago, which curtailed my ability to drive a car with any degree of comfort. During these months I had to change my focus from landscape to subjects nearer home. While out in the garden one day I began to realise that I actually had a wide variety of new subjects right at hand. Drawing and painting flowers was something I had not really spent much time on, but it seemed as if an opportunity was presenting itself. I sold my first floral painting, a small acrylic work of garden thistles, a few months after setting off in this new direction. My mother had apparently been a keen botanical-style sketcher in her school-days; something I wasn’t aware of until fairly recently.

Marmalade Rudbeckias

Can you tell us more about your pastel work ‘Marmalade Rudbeckias’?

This is a rather large work by my standards. I grow these at home in most years. I gathered several blooms and set them up in a pot of water, aiming to make an informal arrangement. I always take photos because flowers can suddenly keel over and ruin your set-up; they also move and drop petals. The work was begun by drawing the general shapes in pastel-pencil, trying to capture the way the flower-heads inclined left or right, up or down; and the splayed-out petals. I almost always choose an odd number of flower-heads (in this case five). The blooms were very orange-yellow, almost fluorescent, a quality which is hard to duplicate. Even the shadows beneath the petals were a deep orange, making pastel selection challenging throughout. Creating their centres was achieved with clustered dots of deep brown, ochre, cream and mauve, with brighter yellow-green. Finally, the background was laid in as a more fanciful stream of light green and blue-violet threads, following the direction of upward growth.

Blue Boat, Clevedon

Your landscapes such as ‘Blue Boat, Clevedon’ and ‘Coast Path Flowers, Kilve’, show a variety of interesting techniques.  Can you tell us more about the advantages of pastel as a medium and these techniques?

Pastel is a dry medium, requiring no fluids for colour-mixing. I see it as a cross between drawing and painting, which suits my way of working, being rather more inclined to drawing methods. It is very direct; just pick up a colour and start applying. In “Blue Boat”, I began by working out the sky, using blue pastels on their sides and laying down large patches of colour. The cloud uses a similar method; beginning with the dark colours, creating a mass of selected greys and browns, before gently overlaying with lighter colours; working from dark to light. This gave the cloud a sense of depth and volume. The pastels were used on their edges for putting in grasses; horizontal strokes in the sea area; and blended dots for tiny flowers lining the pathway.

Coast Path Flowers

Coast Path Flowers” was a more restrained colour-scheme; the most challenging part was the thick grass with clumps of wild flowers. I had to think this one through in a “start at the back and work forwards” routine; by using the sides of the pastels to lay in a dark greeny-brown undertone, upon which the grasses would be built up. There are many shades of green and, once selected, the colours were applied using the pastel tips and edges; drawing with a curving, upward-sweeping movement to try and emulate the wind-blown appearance of the vegetation. As with the cloud formation, the grassy bank acquired depth and volume. Looking back, I think this one is perhaps the most intense piece of pastel work I have done for quite some time.

From the artist’s point of view, the purity of colour possible with pastel is outstanding. It is pigment formed into sticks, with a binding agent; but when applied to toothed paper it deposits beautiful colour, unsullied by mixing agents and has its own unique dusty “bloom”.

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