My aim last summer was to choose painting subjects based on what would challenge me and also to experiment with painting sunlight.  Luckily we had a sunny summer here in Northern Ireland which is rare so I spent the whole time drawing, painting and photographing sunlight and how it plays on objects.
This piece was done as an exercise in painting light, an experiment in getting small detail in pastel, and also as a fun challenge painting several things that are tricky like brickwork for example.  For too long my work revolved around one main subject and my background painting skills were limited.  It’s something I hear all the time from other artists too and there’s only one way to change that…try painting everything until it gets better!

So here is my progress for a painting I called ‘Summertime’

‘Summertime’ Pastel on velour 14″x18″


As always I like to draw out my image pretty
accurately so I’m not wasting the tooth on the
paper and filling it up with pastel on mistakes!
I drew this out on a sheet of cartridge sketching
paper, covered the back with dark pastel, taped
this to my velour and transferred it on.  I’ve then
neatened up some of the lines with pastel pencil.


Working from the background forwards
and the top down.  This is perhaps a strange way to
work a painting but I find it helps me be able to lean on
my paper as I work and not smudge what I’ve done.
It means I have to see the values in isolation, ie I’m
not comparing them to their surrounding colours
as I go.  Sometimes I do go back and adjust colours
at the end if they don’t sit right within the painting.


This picture is all about that ray of light against
the cool shadow areas.  To do the bricks I rougly
painted in the cement colours and laid the bricks
on top.  I’ve used pastel pencils and a paper stump
with a good point to neaten the edges.  Whilst pastels
are quite blunt objects, you can shape it on the paper
with both your fingers and little tools with points.


The pastel pencils have come in very useful for
all the railings and small lines but there is no
comparison to the strength of colour you get from
a big soft pastel.  So when I’m using my Unisons
I’m constantly looking for sharp edges or breaking
them in half for this purpose.  I use them down to
crumb size as the smaller the pastel the more uses
I have for it!


You can see with the dress here, I even work the
background of fabrics before adding a pattern.
I’m using bluey purple shades for the cool tones
of the skin and creating contrast with light
yellows in the highlighted areas.  I find adding
a little line of a vibrant orange or red around certain
areas really makes it glow like in sunlight.


Here’s a close up detail


‘Summertime’ framed beautifully by my framer
who knows just how to handle pastels.  Always
look for a framer who really knows their trade
when getting pastels framed as they are tricky
but a good framer will be worth the cost!