Flat Seascapes in oil pastels

•2018/06/23 • Leave a 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.

IMG_2010

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.

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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 • Leave a Comment
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.

53. Two Fish

•2018/05/20 • Leave a Comment
TwoFish_IMG_6240

Two Fish Drying in the Sun  oil pastels on paper, 11″ x 14″, by Delfino Cornali ©2018

In 2010 my partner Michele & I traveled to the south of Thailand and rubber-plantations on the island of Ko Libong, a fascinating place off the well-beaten path. On one of our walks through the rubber tree groves, we came to the village of Ko Libong on the south side of the island. The local fishermen dry the day’s catch along the railings of the long concrete fishing pier. On that morning, the first 100 yards of the pier railings were adorned with glistening blue fish, drying in pairs, jawbone to jawbone. The pairing gave the illusion of mirror images, the fish had been mated so precisely. The morning tropical sun was so intense that the light reflecting off the fish looked like polished metal. I snapped a photo.

I came across that photo last month, and immediately thought I could attempt to capture that metallic light using oil pastels. Sennelier makes a range of oil pastels, including some metallic shades – aluminum, gold, copper, bronze, pearl, etc.  My approach would be to layer the colors – several base layers for the bodies of the fish, that I would work flat with paper stubs and my fingers. Then, I would overlay the metallic colors in streaks.

By contrast, the concrete surfaces have a different texture – rough (apparently this was a “homemade concrete” containing various-sized stones.)  I wanted to capture that texture as well. I chose to make those surfaces more three-dimensional, piled-up like oil paint (the softer greys & violets will amass in beads directly off the pastel stick, especially when sun-warmed.)  To continue the illusion, I’d want to retain the same texture into the shaded concrete areas, even though those areas are nearly black by strong contrasting light & sun angle.

I’m pleased with the end result.

 

52. Wailing Wall

•2018/04/01 • Leave a Comment
WailingWall_Complete

Wailing Wall, oil pastels on paper, 13″x11″, by Delfino Cornali© 2018

An update to my previous work-in-progress post.  Here is the final piece, done with Sennelier oil pastels on Strathmore Bristol paper, vellum finish.

My immediate goal is to contrast the apparent ambient light between the women and the wall.  I want to symbolize the idea that prayer is a physical manifestation of reaching towards light.  Using greys and violets, I subdued the light around the women.  But on the higher wall surfaces, I worked an overlay of titanium white over an initial application of the stone’s tans & yellows.  It’s not quite a “whitewash” effect, but enough value change to suggest illumination.  In a landscape piece, you could use this contrast to suggest sunrise or sunset, where light strikes the wall above their heads.  But in this piece, my intent is to show the subjects striving to connect to the light.

Some artistic license. I applied metallic colors into women’s clothing, matching values where possible. I removed the woman who was dressed in more contemporary clothing from the image altogether.  On the small table immediately behind the women, there is a small pad of note paper – the written prayers which visitors to the Wailing Wall insert into the cracks of the stone.

The most compelling figure of the group is the woman dressed in black. In her, I see a more physical, energetic form of prayer.  She is the only woman without a head covering.  Her hair is red – not just to provide color relief to her black overcoat, but also to portray an inner fire. Strength. Courage. Defiance. We can’t know this from her face, which she buries beneath her uplifted arm, but her body language speaks more loudly than her face.

51. Dahlia

•2018/03/25 • Leave a Comment

  Dahlia, oil pastels on canvas, 2010

An experiment working with gesso canvas & oil pastels, based on a photograph I took in 2010.  Since this piece, I’ve found other canvas-based papers to produce better results.  This piece, for all of its great symmetry & pattern regularity, always struck me as being too “shiny”.  Slightly unnatural.

But an interesting experiment nonetheless.

50. Eye of Gypsy Girl

•2018/03/25 • Leave a Comment
Gypsy Girl marble mosaic

Gypsy Girl marble mosaic

Apologies in advance for having fallen behind on my art posts.  Several years ago (!) I took a class at Seattle’s Mosaic Arts Center on stone mosaics.  This mosaic was the result of the weekend class. Michael Kruzich (see https://www.mkmosaics.com/) led the class.

I’ve since completed a number of stone mosaics, but this was my first attempt using many of the techniques Michael taught based on the techniques found in ancient Roman mosaics.  The piece above is based on the ancient mosaic currently at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum

49. Lotuses

•2013/07/20 • Leave a Comment
Lotuses, glass on glass

Lotuses

tumbled glass on glass substrate, 2013

Last summer, my partner and I installed an iron fence into our backyard garden, and we’d envisioned a grid of rusted iron into which we would (eventually) incorporate glass-on-glass mosaics.  The fence faces to the west, and sunset light would filter through the pieces.  We’ve yet to install this piece into the fence – updated photo (once we do) coming soon…

This is the first of several pieces we plan to integrate into the fence.  I’ve recently completed a workshop in Seattle given by Michael Kruzich on using the Ravenna technique.  Even though the class worked primarily in stone, I used some of the andamento techniques into this piece.  In the Ravenna technique, there’s much more emphasis on values (gray scale) rather than color.  While I worked on this piece, I discovered that the polished and riven sides of the tesserae carry different values.

I also was much more deliberate in this piece on how I constructed the background andamento.  Above the surface of the water, I wanted to extend the lines of the flower outward, so that the light of the piece was centered on the flowers.  But beneath the surface of the water, where the colors mute, I used sets of horizontal lines, with the suggestion of currents that sway the stems of the lotus plants in unison.

watercolor study for Lotuses

watercolor study

To the right is the watercolor sketch I used to plan the piece.  One of the advantages of working glass-on-glass is that you can work directly on top of your study.  In this case, I sketched a small watercolor to the size & scale of the substrate glass.  I then fastened the study directly to the back of the glass, so that its outline was visible through the glass as I worked.

48. Currents

•2013/06/16 • Leave a Comment

This piece began as a project to place a mosaic cover over some exposed pipes in the garden.

An unused cobalt-blue flower vase, turned upside down would cover it nicely.

My idea was to have each of the five sides portray currents which carry from one side to another, flowing like rivulets or streams of air.

Currents (East) - glass on glass mosaic

Currents (East) – glass on glass mosaic

Currents (Top) - glass on glass mosaic

Currents (Top) – glass on glass mosaic

Currents (West) - glass on glass mosaic

Currents (West) – glass on glass mosaic

Currents (North) - glass on glass mosaic

Currents (North) – glass on glass mosaic

Currents (south) - glass on glass mosaic

Currents (South) – glass on glass mosaic

 
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