Project 5 Exercise 3 – working from a photograph

We are to choose a photo with a landscape that depicts plenty of ‘space’ – i.e. hills/mountains/trees etc. I chose to do a small study of an area where I went to in 2018 – the Glenfinnan monument on the banks of Loch Shiel. I found this place, and the setting for the monument itself, visually memorable and quite stunning. Yesterday, I received a new batch of landscape soft pastels (Sennelier brand) that I’d been waiting for and decided to use those on the Pastelmat paper.

I adore this brand of soft pastels, although I am still itching to get some Unison, maybe I’ll treat myself for Christmas! This set was on special at Jackson’s for about £29, which isn’t bad at all, considering the range of delicious colours.

I printed out my reference photo but my printer is a bit on the blink at the moment, so it’s not a very good reproduction, anyway it served the purpose, as I have a lot of photo references taken from this particular spot in Scotland.

I didn’t ‘square up’ this composition when I was sketching it out, I just eye-balled it. I’ve taken a great many photos in this location from different angles, and have a lot ot cropped images/ different viewpoints to draw from for inspiration – I decided on this one for purposes of this exercise.

I am loving the Pastelmat paper because it holds the pastels so well, there’s hardly any dusting at all*, in fact it only seems to build up surface dust when you use cheaper brand pastels – I mixed in a few of the Art Discount as well as Faber Castell ones while I was building up the misty sky and they both created a lot of surface dust. I am going to get some of the specialist Sennelier pastel paper next, to see how that performs. I have used Canson / Bockingford/ Strathmore pastel papers before but I don’t think they work half as well as the Pastelmat and because it doesn’t have any faux surface lumps and bumps, it is easy to work on with pencils. I want to see how inks / pens work on the surface with soft pastels – that’s on my to do list). Anyhow, this is how it ended up:

‘Glenfinnan monument and Loch Shiel’ Soft pastels on Pastelmat about A4

As with all my work, I don’t ever want it to look photo-realistic, in any case I am not technically skilled enough with pastels to achieve that with a landscape painting. I don’t see the point of photo-realism most of the time, even though I appreciate the work that goes into creating a photo-realistic painting, it might as well be a photo hey? I try to capture the essence/atmosphere of a place, keeping colours as true as I can. I am pleased with how this turned out, even though there was a lot of surface manipulation to blend the tones (only used fingers), it still looks loose and fresh.

  • I bought a new set of 20x mountboards, frames and sleeves from Kadinsky Art in the UK (via Uncle Amazon) – I got the 11×14″ with an aperture size of 10×8″ (slightly smaller than the Pastelmat card). The ones I chose are iced white, which is an off-white with a bit of texture. They are really nice quality (£35.99 delivered by ParcelForce), the backing board is particularly robust, which is useful for posting art to your patrons. I have used Kadinsky before and I have no quibbles with them at all.
  • These mounting kits are particularly useful for protecting and displaying soft pastel work, I put one of my business cards in the back of the plastic bag, usually with a certificate of authenticity (because some people still insist on one of those). I used Frisk pastel fixative spray for all of these below (some are off-course work – i.e. the Red Kite, which is about as realist as I will ever get! and the Poppies)
soft pastel paintings in mount board kits

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