Apples and Oranges 2 still life in soft pastel

After the first still life art in watercolor, I decided day two simply needed to be in soft pastel. Not only because I haven’t recently played with my “dusties,” as I call them, but I also bought a sample pad of Clairefontaine’s Pastelmat, an expensive but highly recommended paper for soft pastels and pastel pencils. I figure an art challenge is a good excuse to try something new, so the apples, oranges, and bowl still life composition needed to be worked up in dusty pastel.

Apples and Oranges 2 still life art in soft pastel
Apples and Oranges 2, still life in soft pastel shown framed and hanging above a kitchen table

Selecting my reference photo

Once again, I looked through the set of photos I took back in October of 2021 for the right one to use as a reference. I almost didn’t pick this one, as I wasn’t sure at first how well the composition would work with the fruit mostly in a line like this. In the end I figured, “Why not?” This is for an art challenge and that is permission to try things that seem uncertain. So here is the cropped version of my reference photo, featuring the apples, oranges, and bowl mostly in a line.

reference photo of fruit for still life on my kitchen table - focus is a bonus when it comes to and photos!
my reference photo of a line of fruit including the white bowl on my kitchen table

Once again, I consider focus to be a bonus feature, and not a requirement. I am most interested in the shapes and shadows for a reference photo of familiar objects. (We got very familiar with these subjects when we ate them!)

Working the still life in soft pastels

I did my basic sketch directly onto the sheet of Pastelmat, as I know I am able to cover up the light graphite lines with the dusties. Soft pastel in particular tends to be quite opaque, so I felt confident as I sketched in the main shapes after lightly gridding the sheet. I had decided before starting that I would “edit” out the background of the photo in favor of more stylized colors behind the apples and oranges. In fact, I also planned to omit the towel and pepper grinder as well, choosing to focus only on the fruit.

First the oranges

I worked on both oranges first, mostly because I knew I would need to turn the mat this way and that to keep from accidently smudging the soft pastel. Actually, I started with a reddish tone they call sienna, not wanting to deal with trying to completely cover a stark white sheet. I used my Mungyo Gallery soft pastels for the blocking in, and even for the shading. My intention had been to use my Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils to add in details at the end, which turned out to be barely needed as the Mungyo set worked wonderfully with the Pastelmat.

The three apples in the bowl

Since I had made the previous day’s apples straight red instead of the variegated red and green they actually were, I decided to keep that for this version of the still life series so they look like a cohesive set of pictures. As I worked the color into first shapes then forms, I found myself enjoying the process of laying down dry pigment onto the expensive heavy paper. By the time I had the apples in the bowl looking like red apples in a white bowl, I made the decision that I will only be buying Pastelmat for my soft pastel paintings and drawings going forward.

Coloring the table for the fruit and the background to complement the colors

I had no intention of leaving these apples and oranges to float in a colorful ether, so after I was satisfied with the fruit it was time to color in a table for it all the set on top. A couple broad strokes in brown accomplished the illusion of a table with shadows. I then turned my attention to the background. Getting the background color right was actually a critical component of how successful this composition would be! I needed just the right combination of blue and green, blended just enough to be harmonious but still dynamic enough to stay interesting. It is a fine line, but I think I am getting more familiar with where that line is on each piece.

Apples and Oranges 2, second in a series of still life paintings featuring fruit in a bowl, soft pastel on Pastelmat, 24 by 30 cm
Apples and Oranges 2, soft pastel on Pastelmat paper, 24 by 30 cm $100 USD

Links to purchase original artwork and prints

Now for the part y’all have been waiting for: links to buy. The original is on paper made in Europe, which means they measure in centimeters, so if you purchase the 24 by 30 cm pastel piece you will need to have it custom matted to fit standard US frames. The long side is 11 -7/8 inches, while the short side is 9-7/16 inches, so neither measurement will work for a 9×12 inch frame or mat. It’s worth it though! The Pastelmat holds the dry pigment surprisingly well. Seriously, I’ve been playing with pastels off and on since I was seven, and this stuff is the best I’ve ever worked on in over forty years of making dusty, colorful messes.

For art prints, I recommend my Pixels shop. There is a good variety of surface to choose from, and you can get it matted and framed as well if you like. Shipping might seem a bit steep, but the quality of product is high.

If you prefer to wear your art like my mother and sister love to do, then I recommend my shop at RedBubble for the wide variety of apparel styles. I’m also partial to the analog face clocks, even though I definitely do NOT have enough wall space to hang even half of the ones I like. The struggle is real.

Apples and Oranges 2 as an analog clock
Apples and Oranges 2 as a clock

And this concludes the second in my short series of fruit in a bowl for the three work art challenge. If anyone thinks my method of naming to be boringly bland, you have permission to rename it if you purchase the original. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to refer to this still life in soft pastel as simply Apples and Oranges 2.

And with that, I wish everyone a happy new year, and I’ll be back in 2023!

Watercolor still life painting Apples and Oranges 1

So, I signed up to participate in a short three day art challenge solstice week with the theme of fruit in a bowl. Not even a full second had passed when I already knew what the first artwork would be: a watercolor still life painting using the reference photos from last year that inspired my Apples sketches and acrylic paintings. This time, though, I would only use photos with apples and oranges together in the frame. The bowl requirement excluded a handful of photos, but there was still plenty to choose from.

image of large art print of my watercolor still life Apples and Oranges 1 hanging on a wall over a set dining table
the final watercolor still life painting printed and framed in a mockup – wouldn’t this look lovely over your table?

Choosing the reference photo

Armed with the parameters of the specific theme for this art challenge, I began browsing my collection of photos taken on my own kitchen table with fruit chosen for its appearance. Yes, I actually went grocery shopping for fruit (and some vegetables) for the purpose of getting myself some reference photos that had the layout and lighting to draw and paint. As most of y’all know, I am blogging buddies with a handful of fine art photographers, and my hundred-or-so photos would probably make each of them cringe. I do not claim to be a photog, but sometimes I can get a snapshot that will make a decent painting reference. Focus tends to be a bonus, not a hard requirement. Here is the photo I chose for the first painting.

reference photo for my watercolor painting, a still life with fruit
cropped to how I wanted the fruit to fill the page

The preliminary sketch done in the sketchbook

I have learned from experience to do my gridding and layout in my sketchbook, not on my watercolor paper. Once I am happy with the general line drawing, I transfer it to my watercolor paper with graphite transfer paper. Then I take a kneaded eraser to clean up the lines and lift up any smudges from resting my hand on it.

contour drawing for the basic layout of Apples and Oranges 1, a still life watercolor painting with fruit in a bowl for the art challenge
the preliminary sketch for Apples and Oranges still life with fruit

This is where the progress photos stop, because once I picked out which paints I wanted to use, I got into the art zone and was only thinking about how I would apply the paint to paper. It took more layers than I expected, because apparently QoR brand watercolor paints have a color shift when they dry. I did do almost the entire painting with my newer QoR set, though I needed to pull out the burnt umber from my Turner set because I had evidently forgotten to make sure I had a nice strong dark brown tube when I purchased the colors last time. I’ll need to fix that with my next art supply splurge, maybe in January.

The finished still life in watercolor

I painted this fruit still life (with a bowl) on my 9 by 12 inch watercolor block, which means I did not need to tape a sheet of loose paper to a board. That means the paint goes all the way out to the edges, which is now my preference. I have not sealed it yet, because I am still debating if I should add another layer of pigment to the front apples and orange or not. If you want to purchase the original watercolor still life painting, you can make that decision for me.

Apples and Oranges 1, still life painting in watercolor on paper, 9 x 12 inches
Apples and Oranges 1, 9 x 12 inch watercolor still life on paper, original for sale $100

If you want a larger version, you can order a fine art print all the way up to 60 by 45 inches (before matting and framing) from my Pixels shop. That’s almost as tall as I am on the long side! Or, if you prefer your art printed on apparel or useful accessories for you and your home, check into the swag at my RedBubble shop. Finally, if this one is “close but not quite” for you, you can always commission a slightly different piece. I have a 12 by 16 inch watercolor block now.

Stay tuned here for the second piece in this series, which will not be in watercolor, but will still be named “Apples and Oranges.” Or put in an email address so you can have the next post delivered to your inbox. I don’t seem to be able to keep a regular schedule for publishing new blog posts, so that’s probably the best way to keep up.

Ox-eye Daisy drawing in charcoal and pastel pencil

I actually drew this ox-eye daisy for an art challenge back in June of 2021, but it got lost in the shuffle along with the horse head drawing in black charcoal I call Bridled. In fact, I drew it prior to Bridled, first piece of artwork for that challenge, and initially was not so pleased with it because it looks a bit different than previous drawings, even of flowers. At the time, I thought this was more of an experiment in mixed dry drawing media that didn’t turn out as well as I hoped, as it was the first time I mixed black traditional charcoal with splashes of color from pastel pencils, all on toned paper.

Inspiration behind the drawing

The inspiration behind this drawing is actually quite simple: I hadn’t drawn a daisy in ages, and wanted to see what I could do with it. I had recently purchased the Canson Mi-Tientes assorted colors pad, marked as being for pastels in particular though I had used a sheet for my Blue Dragonfly I did in colored pencil. So with an idea in my mind, I next went to Pixabay to hunt for a reference photo that I wanted to use, in the process creating a folder of nothing but daisies photographs. (Trust me when I say, there will be many more daisies in my artwork!) I found this one, then cropped it to my satisfaction, and then it was a matter of making marks with the traditional black charcoal until it looked like a daisy.

charcoal and pastel pencil drawing Ox-Eye Daisy
Ox-Eye Daisy, 9 x 12 inch charcoal and pastel pencil drawing, original available $100 USD

Experimenting with color alongside the charcoal

Not satisfied with just black marks on the toned paper, I then decided to mix my dry media, just to see how I liked the result. I had a small set of eight pastel pencils that came with a twenty-some year old drawing set, the kind that tends to sell well around the end of the year, and the set has white, yellow, blue, and a medium purple. I purchased a sepia toned oil charcoal pencil to try out, and used that for the shading on the ox-eye center. Then I fiddled some more with the shadows on the petals, first with blue, then with purple, then added in the white highlights, but leaving the midtone areas blank to allow the paper’s tone to show. Lastly, I picked up the bright yellow and used that for the highlights on the top of the flower’s center.

Purchase links for Ox-Eye Daisy drawing

The 9 x 12 inch original drawing is available through Daily Paintworks here. If you’d like a smaller or larger art print for your wall, you can order what prints you need through my Pixels store. If you’d like this printed on apparel or accessories, check out the various swag at my RedBubble shop. Personally I think it looks best on the classic coffee mug:

two mugs on a shelf showing both sides of the print design Ox-eye Daisy
my mixed dry media drawing Ox-eye Daisy on a classic mug at RedBubble

Evolution of my feelings about this drawing

As I have hinted at throughout this post, my feelings about this experimental drawing have changed over the fifteen months since I made it. Now when I look at it, I get the subtle impression of movement – and given the floral subject, that movement feels like a very gentle swaying in the slightest of breezes, almost nodding a greeting to the sun’s rays that must be hitting the flower in spots where I put the white on the petals and the bright yellow of the center. Usually I have all the subtlety of a wrecking ball, and am notorious for not picking up on hints, so this change surprised me when I reviewed this in preparation for the daisy challenge this summer.

More daisy artwork since then

It has not been that long since I did the short three day art challenge with the challenge theme being daisies, but I thought this was a good spot to mention those for newer readers. Working backwards, and very much related to this piece, is my Daisies in tinted charcoal. The day prior I did a single daisy in watercolor using only four colors, though if I redo that one I will see how it looks with only three colors. To start the challenge, and cover down on a different art challenge from a different source, I did a blind contour drawing of a partially-painted daisy that is still (!) on the easel, waiting for me finish. It made a good model to stare at as I drew without looking at the sketch pad. If you are trying to parse that statement … just go read the post. Seriously, blind contour drawings are an “in-context” thing.

Finally, here’s a small selection of daisy photos from Bob Decker’s blog archive. He seems to have just about every angle covered for this one flower.

As a final thought, here is a very accurate article from Inside Art about the truth behind a quote attributed to Edgar Degas: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” It hit my inbox last evening, and boy howdy did it resonate with me! Something to think about as I settle in to work on more art today.

Candle still life in oil pastel

Finally returning to the third and last piece I did for the flame challenge, though I was not able to upload it on time. I already showed a preview of it in the early stages, but have had this candle still life in oil pastel done for a while now. May I present Book Reading By Candlelight, as I finally named it. (In all honesty, it took me almost as long to figure out the title as it took to blend the base layer!)

candle themed still life with open book and reading glasses on wooden table, with lighted candle as focal point
Book Reading By Candlelight, 11 by 14 inch oil pastel on primed paper, original and art prints available

Art supplies used

I used a sheet of Canson XL oil and acrylic primed paper, because I absolutely love the texture on it for oil pastels. I used my Mungyo Gallery standard set for the base layer, because that lovely texture will eat up softer oil pastels. For the record, that textured paper also tears up the cotton swabs I use to blend, so it is a good thing I can get a nice big package for only a few dollars at WalMart. On larger areas, I sometimes use napkins that I keep on my desk from takeout – those also do a great job of cleaning up spills (paint, coffee, etc).

base layer of Book Reading by Candlelight
base layer of oil pastel for Book Reading By Candlelight, on my 72 color set of Mungyo Gallery standard

I’m afraid I only have the one in-progress picture, because once I blended the base layer and took a break I put on my headphones and got into the zone, totally forgetting about the digicam as I happily lost myself in the sheer joy of playing with sticks of color. What can I say? I am an artist. This is an artist thing.

For the top layers, I used my Gallery Artist set – only 48 colors, so as I often do I used my Erengi Art Aspirer 50 stick set alongside it since the two manufacturers include different colors in their very comparable and compatible sets. I should note that since then, I purchased the 72 color set from Mungyo in a nice wooden box, and the 92 stick set from Erengi, also in a nice wood box. The Erengi set also includes two colorless blenders … if those work better than cheap cotton swabs I’ll be buying them by the dozen.

Links to purchase original and art prints

Now, for the part y’all have been waiting eagerly for: how to get this for your wall! At present, the original is available (though my friend Keashia says she is very tempted to get this because it will match the decor in her new house) and you can purchase it through Daily Paintworks. For larger (or even smaller) art prints to fit the empty spot over your favorite reading chair, browse the selection at my Pixels store. I uploaded it to my RedBubble shop so you can get it printed on apparel, accessories, and fun swag.

Update: This is now officially an award-winning artwork!

Daisies drawing in tinted charcoal

Now, to wrap up the three day daisies art challenge from last weekend. For the third day, I decided to do multiple daisies instead of another solo daisy study, and it was high time I did something significant with my Derwent tinted charcoal set (*) that I’ve mentioned before. Before I show the result, I want to mention that I did not use a black charcoal at all for this piece, despite how it may look. I used two shades of green, two shades of blue, a yellow ochre shade called sand, a medium brown they call driftwood, and white charcoal for the highlights. I drew the preliminary sketch in that trusty old sketchbook, which ought to be full by summer’s end, and then transferred the contour sketch to my good charcoal paper, Strathmore 500 series (*) with laid texture in what they call a natural white and what I call a warm white.

(Note: All links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. This means if you purchase art supplies through my links, I will earn a small commission on the sale at no extra cost to you – my commission is included in their advertising budget.)

first version of Daisies, tinted charcoal on paper
Daisies, tinted charcoal drawing on paper, before darkening the background

Looking at the scan, I could probably have worked the dark on the background in a little better, to push the value contrast (the fancy art term is chiaroscuro, which is Italian for “light-dark”) that gives charcoal drawings their visual impact. In fact, now that I have seen that, I cannot unsee it and therefore must fix it.

Two charcoal layers later

Okay, I am back now. I think this is an improvement, though I am staring to feel tempted to just grab a soft black traditional charcoal pencil or stick to seriously darken that background up, despite starting this wanting to use only the tinted charcoal.

Final version of charcoal drawing Daisies
Daisies, tinted charcoal drawing on paper (darker final version), 12 by 9 inches, original available $100 USD

The reference photo

I almost forgot to include the reference photo I used from Pixabay. As y’all can see, I cropped it to simplify the composition and took my usual amount of artistic license after that.

photo of multiple daisies
original photograph

Links to purchase

Now that I have fiddled with it a bit more, time for the links y’all will need. If you want the original in all its dusty glory (and that is with a couple layers of fixative spray) and have the right spot and frame, you can purchase the unframed drawing through Daily Paintworks. You can order larger or smaller prints through my Pixels subdomain, with some fun swag as well. For an even-larger variety of apparel and accessories, browse my RedBubble shop.

Final rambling thoughts

If anyone is wondering what took so long for me to post the last piece of the daisy art challenge, I decided to move the blog to a new host and it did not go smoothly. I spent an entire weekend banging my head against vague error codes, and once it was finally done I did not want to even look at the blog for a couple days. Now I will be going back and revising all my previous posts, since I now have more tools to use.

Meanwhile, I feel like I have fallen even further behind. I have another new artwork to show off – the painting for my June 2022 frame giveaway, which I mailed off today – and forgot to get a snapshot of before I packed it up. I still have the last candlelight piece to post here as well as finding some more small watercolors from before I was blogging anywhere, so plenty more art-blogging to come.