Christine Russell  – Saturday 21st April 2018

Christine Russell provided an entertaining demonstration using ink wash and pastels to capture a colourful and vibrant image of the Cornish coast.

Christine started her demonstration by showing us photographs of the Cornish coast near Newquay and Porthleven. She explained that she would take different elements from the two photographs to compose her picture. Her approached is based on using an acrylic wash and then working over this with pastel. She was using U-Art paper as it was waterproof and would take the wash. Her pastels were various types of soft pastel. She stored these in a box with ground rice or semolina to keep them clean. While this works well she has had occasions when the pastels stored in her garden shed have provided a meal for the local mice! She had a box of Inscribe pastels with 16 different shades which she found very useful for travelling. They are slightly harder. For the wash she used Bombay Indian ink. There are various different types on the market. She uses it neat with just a tiny bit of water.

The painting was started by roughly drawing out the composition with a brightly coloured pastel. Christine refered to the golden section and divided the paper into thirds. There was a tower on the headland which she placed at the intersection of one of the thirds, thus providing a focal point. The next stage of her painting was quite dramatic, if not to say scary! Christine applied the ink wash, using different coloured inks to cover the whole picture. She explained that the ink doesn’t fill the ‘tooth’ in the paper and keeps some abrasive surface to take the pastel. If you used acrylic it would fill the tooth and not work. The ink wash was dried with a hairdryer and then Christine moved on to the pastels.

Christine started from the top of the picture and worked down, applying dark tones first followed by lighter tones. Firstly she used dark red (Sennelier no.45) to highlight the main rocks. The ink wash tends to dry lighter and Christine deliberately left some areas of the ink colour to show through. She uses the top half inch of the pastel which can be used for both broad strokes and detailed marks. She explained that she was not attempting to replicate the colours in the photographs but rather to react to the warm and cool shades. Indeed the picture was much more colourful and vibrant than the rather grey Cornish weather in the photographs. With each colour she looked to see where it could be used in the picture, this helps to give cohesion to the overall picture. The greens became brighter and fresher as she moved into the foreground. As the picture developed she worked on the rocks and then moved on to the sea. She applied some white on the horizon line to delineate it and keep it in the distance. Blues and greens were applied lightly to build up the sea colour. The final element was to add the foam to the sea, especially around the rocks. This was done with a softer white pastel, applying to brighter by the rocks and then fainter out as you move away out to sea.

Christine never applies a fixative to her pictures as it deadens the colour. It can be used to fix intermediate levels and for this she uses Boots extra firm hold hairspray (which is basically shellac in alcohol). She explained that Degas applied up to 14 layers using this technique, but we don’t know if he shopped at Boots! Paper can be put over the final surface to protect the picture in transit. It is also possible to make a homemade portfolio from two sheets of foam core board held together with tape.

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