Growing orchids happens to be one of my favorite past-times so when I picked up painting again; slipper orchids where one of my first subjects. Back then I mostly used colored pencil but when bad shoulder problems started to manifest I knew it was time to find another medium. Now I work primarily with soft pastel since it’s the most direct of mediums that requires less preparation and cleanup than oil paint which is my other preferred medium especially for larger landscapes.
Phragmipedium Geralda was my first orchid and has been with me the longest and has to be one of the easiest to grow so naturally it had to be one of the first orchids that I had to complete in pastel. Actually this is the second orchid portrait since I did complete a small portrait of the Star of Bethlehem orchid last year on Ampersand Pastelbord; however, I do seem to prefer the Wallis Professional White paper over the Pastelbord since it holds more pastel and is less likely to smudge while I’m working with it thereby making details easier to render. I’m also finding that the Wallis paper works wonderfully to create a soft and airy quality that I just couldn’t achieve in colored pencil. I used my usual Terry Ludwig, Unison and Faber Castell pastel pencils.
A Portrait of Phragmipedium Geralda, 18×12″ Pastel on Wallis Paper
I’ve been away from my blog most of the winter but I’ve been busy painting in both oil and pastel and finally had a somewhat decent and sunny day when I could photograph a couple of my painting. It’s been a frustrating winter for me artistically and physically since I’ve been unwell on and off for much of it and found myself in a creative rut where everything that I did was less than satisfactory; however, I did manage to complete one landscape painting that I’m mostly happy with, called Autumn Woodland Stream.
This painting is composed from a couple reference pictures that I found of the Bruce Trail near Hamilton, Ontario. I used to have the odd opportunity to hike along the beautiful woodland along the Niagara Escarpment and have happy memories of those years during my 20s. I did a few value studies and compositional sketches before starting the first block in. All in all there are probably 3-5 layers of oil paint since I used thinner transparent colours to create what I hope is an interesting surface for the painting, than I added details in key areas where I want the viewer’s eye to travel. I also created several visual pathways using value changes and hopefully well placed tree branches to create a semi dramatic atmosphere in an otherwise quiet woodlot. I hope that I’ve managed to capture a sense of the sacredness of the forest, the water and all its creatures.
For all those pigment fanatics, I used W&N artist’s Titanium white, yellow ocher, cadmium orange, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, burnt sienna and Old Holland, Zinc White, Persian red and French Ultramarine Blue Light Extra (which is great for those darker violets). I’ve starting painting a few studies using pigments by Blockx, Michael Harding and Old Holland and will probably leave W&N behind since the higher quality paint have a much better pigment load resulting in better luminosity and intensity then the cheaper pigments. The Michael Harding Cobalt blue and Blockx Yellow Ocher are both especially nice, I will be trying more pigments by these two companies in the future. And Old Holland can’t be beat, I adore their FUB and Red Iron Oxide (Persian/Indian Red), together they create a lovely natural mauve, you just need to be careful that you don’t blow the blue out of the water with the super dense Persian red.
For some reason the photo seems to be flattening the composition; in reality, the actual painting seems to have more depth but at least the colors are more or less correct. Camera + painting = frustration.
Autumn Woodland Stream, 16×25″, Oil on Canvas