58. Bench Lake Sunset

•2019/02/12 • Leave a Comment

Bench Lake Sunset, oil pastels on aquarelle rag, 20cm x 25cm, ©2019 Delfino Cornali

Bench Lake sits in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho, a steady five mile climb from the trailhead at Redfish Lake. My stepson and I ran this trail on a chilly day in June of 2018. We’d expected warmer weather that day, but spring arrives late in Idaho’s mountains. From the lake’s edge, we enjoyed fantastic views of the Sawtooths. The following day, he ran the route again at sunset and snapped the photo I used for this rendition.

In this piece, I pair two contrasting images. The lakeshore foreground is a study in gentle pastels – reeds, a gentle breeze on the surface of the lake, the reflected colors of a spring sunset. Looking just into the foreground, it’s easy to be seduced into thinking spring has arrived. Yet the sky holds more ominous textures. As you scan into the background, there are dark, foreboding grays, the threat of storms, strong vertical lines in the clouds, banks of fog between the mountain ridges, the threat of a surprise spring snow.

Hikers would be wise to reconcile these two opposing perspectives of this mountain scene (and pack accordingly.) This is the mountain’s duality – serenity, balanced against an ever present possibility of sudden change.


Although I love the bold colors and textures of oil pastels, I’d found it difficult to render thin lines – oil pastels don’t have any hard edges. So for this piece, I experimented with a new technique. On a piece of plexiglass, I mixed smudges of oil pastel with mineral spirts to the consistency of ink. Then using a stiff paintbrush, I painted the lines – distant tree trunks, ripples on the lake, foreground reeds.


This piece is part of my #ArtForGood project, where all proceeds from the sale of this piece are donated to a nonprofit organization – in this case, the Sierra Club Foundation.


  • Medium Sennelier oil pastels on Canson Aquarelle Rag, 240gm
  • Dimensions 8″ x 10″, mounted, double-matte (in colors, as shown), 11″ x 14″, unframed, cello-bagged
  • Donation US$75, excludes shipping, preference to Seattle-local sales
  • Availability Date March 8, 2019
  • Status UNSOLD

57. Water Lilies and Turtles

•2019/01/18 • Leave a Comment

Water Lilies and Turtles, oil pastels on aquarelle rag, 25cm x 20 cm, © 2019 Delfino Cornali

Seward Park, Seattle, boasts a colony of box turtles on Andrews Bay. On most sunny afternoons, they clamber aboard a fallen Douglas Fir tree to sunbathe. The water lilies that line the shores of Andrews Bay begin to bloom at the start of summer. On summer afternoons, this vignette casts a magical spell on the park visitors – including myself.

In this piece, I wanted to capture the delicate light reflecting off the lily pads. The concentric ripples on the water’s surface. The images of turtle heads reflected onto the water. The single water lily flower just on the verge of opening, a torch of dazzling white light.

During the summer, I swim in Lake Washington (well away from the turtles and their protective ring of water lilies.) I’d been training daily, in preparation for the Seattle Childrens Hospital fundraiser swim – a 1.3-mile event across Lake Washington at the end of August. On one memorable swim, my head down surveying the lake bottom, one of these box turtles zooms past, ten feet below me along the bottom of the lake. Turtles are not the slow, languorous beings our culture believes them to be.

This piece represents the first of the #ArtForGood series, where all proceeds from sales are donated to a non-profit appropriate to the piece. Water Lilies and Turtles proceeds will benefit Friends of Seward Park, a group of citizens working to preserve 
the unique habitat and cultural legacy of this historic park


  • Medium Sennelier oil pastels on Canson Aquarelle Rag, 240gm
  • Dimensions 8″ x 10″, mounted, double-matte (in colors, as shown), 11″ x 14″, unframed, cello-bagged
  • Donation US$75, excludes shipping (prefer Seattle-local sales)
  • Availability Date March 8, 2019
  • Status SOLD
  • Note Use of PSExpress to crop and straighten photo of the finished piece

#ArtForGood – Community Building through Art

•2018/12/26 • Leave a Comment

I’ve always believed that art has the power to inspire people. It has the ability to move us into new and sometimes unexpected directions. But I think art can do more. We can convert simple inspiration into the necessary resources to support the common good. Because I believe when people possess art which we dedicate to a cause, we – the community, the artist and the art’s new-found owner – imbue that art with the power of social change.

I’d tried donating artwork (e.g. for fund raisers) unsuccessfully. So here’s my idea how to convert art into community resources. As I complete the next series of my art pieces (inspired by images from places and causes in which I believe), I’ll place these for sale on the One Hundred Paintings site. All proceeds are donated to the cause paired with that piece. Buyers may elect to dedicate the donation in honor of a family member or friend they wish to recognize.

fernFrostFragment_from_IMG_0041Here’s an example of how I see this working. I volunteer at local park as a forest steward, where I coordinate volunteers on reforestation projects. Over the last several years, the park’s magnificent Sword Fern population is under threat from an unknown pathogen. Here’s a recent photo of mine on the right – a Sword Fern coated in frost. I plan to create an oil pastel piece based on this photo.  When I’ve completed it, I’ll post the completed piece onto this site with the hashtag #ArtForGood. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to Friends of Seward Park, a non-profit organization which is working with the city to find solutions to Sword Fern die off.

I have selected a series of a dozen or so photos which I plan to work into art pieces over the next several months.  Each piece will benefit a non-profit organization.  #ArtForGood

56. Mist over Vela Luka

•2018/11/26 • Leave a Comment

Mist over Vela Luka – oil pastels on paper, 39cm x 29cm, by Delfino Cornali ©2018

On a misty October morning in 2009, I snapped the photo on which this piece is based. I’d hopped an early morning bus from Korçula’s main town across the island to the port town of Vela Luka. The crew aboard a blue fishing boat made its preparations before heading out to sea.

What prompted me to snap this photo was the unusual reflection on the water’s surface. The entire port was bathed in silver light, probably due to the refracted sunlight as it penetrated the low band of fog that hung over the hills above the town. The water reflected back that glow, diffusing it in all directions. It was truly magical – within moments, the fog bank dissolved completely.

In this piece, I attempt to capture the effects that the fog bank had created on that day.  I deepened the colors in the hills just above the town – I think this was caused by the fog’s shadow. Notice that the tops of the hills above the fog bank were in full sun. A light breeze ruffled the surface of the water just slightly, which distorted the reflections of the houses and boats.

I made use of the Sennelier oil pastels “Transparent Blue” and “Aluminum” to accentuate the reflected light on the water’s surface.  To create the illusion of still water, I blended Mars Grey with Indigo Light and French Ultramarine.

55. View from Iceberg Point

•2018/08/22 • Comments Off on 55. View from Iceberg Point

View from Iceberg Point – oil pastels on paper, 8″ x 10″, ″ by Delfino Cornali ©2018

In July of 2018 Michele and I took a midweek trip to Lopez Island, a quiet island in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound. On our first morning jaunt, we visited Iceberg Point on the southern tip of the island. A morning fog had just lifted, a light breeze suffused the hillside in sea-cooled air that smelled of salt spray, spruce and kelp.

I took a dozen or so photos that morning. The one which became the basis for this piece is my favorite. I love the depths in this image. It’s as if the image leads your eye progressively deeper into the image, from one depth plane to the next. When I’d taken the photo I hadn’t noticed the reflections on the water.  Yet the photo showed them unmistakably, despite the waves’ distortions.

While I was working on this piece, I had been reading a book about Gustav Klimt’s landscape paintings.  Klimt was an Austrian artist better known for his portrait work.  A color plate of Schönbrunner Schlosspark 1916 struck me.  It amazed me how he’d abstracted the shapes & textures of trees into thousands of parallel lines of color.

So I focused on reproducing a similar abstraction, especially on the foreground grasses.

Special thanks to Carol, our Airbnb host, who’d suggested we visit Iceberg Point that morning.



54. Seascape, Cafe Levanat

•2018/07/09 • Comments Off on 54. Seascape, Cafe Levanat

Seascape, Cafe Levanat – oil pastels on paper, 11″x14″ by Delfino Cornali ©2018

On the last day of a vacation along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia in 2009, we discovered a small cafe overlooking the Adriatic.  It was a breezy October afternoon in the outskirts of Dubrovnik. The sun filtered onto the table through the leaves of the bottle brush trees that lay between the table and the cliff on which the cafe rested. Despite being in a big city, we’d found a quiet spot away from the city noise.  The wind blew the sea into a frothy texture. I snapped the photo of that textured sea, framed by a stone wall mottled in sun & shade.  Nine years later, I rediscovered that photo and resolved to attempt to capture the image in pastels.

The first issue with which I struggled was to duplicate the color of the sea. I didn’t have the “perfect” shade of blue in my pastel collection that matched the photo. I describe how I solved this issue in my previous blog.

I studied the photo’s details, especially the mottled texture of the tree trunk.  Although the trunk hides mostly in shadow (so therefore the texture should be more muted), I knew firsthand that people can see textures that cameras cannot.

What fascinates me about this piece is how those two textures – sea & tree – meld into their respective images as we step away from the painting. Up close, our eyes see blobs and lines of color.  But at a distance, our brains “mix” the colors – a process over which we have zero control.



Flat Seascapes in oil pastels

•2018/06/23 • 1 Comment

Working with oil pastels has its limitations.  While working on my latest piece – an Adriatic seascape – I discovered I didn’t have the “exact” color match from my blue oil pastels to the shade of blue I needed for the seascape.  The photo from which I was working suggested little variation in the sea.  I tried mixing several colors directly onto the paper, but I didn’t like the end result.


color mix on plexiglass palette

What I came up with was to use a small piece of plexiglass as a palette. I selected the five colors which I wanted to blend (white, grey, violet, medium blue, ultramarine), and forced a bolus of oil pastel onto the plexiglass.

Then I pulled the colors I wanted to blend onto a fine-pointed paper stub. In most cases I blended just two or three colors at a time.

For the seascape, I wanted to make the surface of water appear more lively, to suggest a seascape where the afternoon breeze is stirring the water’s surface, but not so much as to suggest a storm.

I created a cross-hatched texture by making small ‘x’ and ‘y’ marks with the stub.  I made the effect more pronounced in the foreground, less so in the distance.  I deliberately chose a distinct texture for the leaves/branches in the foreground.


sea texture using grey, white, violet & blues

Here is a sample of using the above technique.  The next posting will show the completed piece.


11.Tassajara Lantern

•2009/02/11 • Comments Off on 11.Tassajara Lantern
Tassajara Lantern, chalk pastels on paper, 2004

Tassajara Lantern, chalk pastels on paper, 2004

I came to know Tassajara from my interest in cooking.  Years ago, I was introduced to bread making through Edward Aspe Brown’s (1960s-classic) Tassajara Bread Book.  I wouldn’t physically visit Tassajara until twenty years later.  Tassajara – a Zen Buddhist monastery-retreat in the mountains of central California – is miles from the nearest patch of pavement, cell phone tower or telephone pole.  When evening comes, a designated resident dutifully lights a handful of these blue kerosene lanterns.  This one hangs at the entrance of one of the communal bathrooms.

I love that, in the background, blurred and out-of-focus, is a walking staff, at the ready for someone to pick up and use.  I love the grey smudge of kerosene soot on the inside of the glass.  I love the flecks of Coleman paint chipped off the finish.  And I love the strong, harsh California sunlight that blazes hot white and pitch black.

I realize it would have been a much more challenging piece to capture the lantern at night, at “work”, to try to capture the yellow glow the lantern casts onto the dusty path. Instead, I chose to show the lantern “at rest.”  To me, this is like the night worker asleep at mid-afternoon, resting for what will be a long, illuminating and useful night.  But without the rest, there can be no work.  Aren’t we all just two sleep-deprived nights away from madness?  I know from my years of competitive running that the “work” of becoming fitter happens at night, while we’re asleep.

So this is how this faded blue Coleman lantern with the smudged glass speaks to me – it’s reminding me that it’s quite impossible to be “on” all the time.  We all need the balance, the darkness and the light, to be useful. Nor do we need to be fancy, burnished copper, highly polished without a trace of soot – that therein lies the beauty of Utility.

I donated this piece to the Kline Galland Home, Seattle in June 2018.

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