Sketch: Asakusa teacup

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If you are at all interested in the medium of oil pastel, or in the discipline of sketching from direct observation, then I warmly recommend a visit to the blog of Yusuke Katsurada. His daily oil pastels of single objects, sketched from life, continue to delight and inspire me for their quiet meditative quality and for the amount of lovingly precise detail achieved in what are largely one-hour sketches.

This teacup, a souvenir of Japan brought home by my husband some years ago, is my small homage to Yusuke, who has kindly clarified for me that the characters read “Asakusa”, the district of Tokyo where the Sensō-ji Buddhist temple is located.

Oil pastels (mostly Sennelier with some Caran d’Ache) on Daler Ingres paper, 24.10.09.

Them apples


Ely Apple Day has been and gone, but it left me with a couple of Braeburns to sketch, so I plopped them on top of my trusty Canson sketchbook and went to it with my Sennelier oil pastels.

I realised, doing this, just how much I have missed the daily discipline of these small one-hour studies from life. They are so easy to fit into the evening of an otherwise busy day, and they’re great for keeping my observational skills sharp and my fingers familiar with the pastels. So why have I have neglected them?

Hippocampus interruptus


I hate it when a picture’s so tricky to photograph and I cannot access the scanner, but this, in any case, is what I’ve been playing around with in the rare arty moments of the past few weeks.

7 x 13″ Oil pastel & gold leaf on Colourfix paper.

Two portraits


pastelworks, my online portfolio, has a new home.

The move to reflects the fact that my art is now as much about oil pastels as it is the soft pastels which were once my only true passion. Why not pay the new site a visit and leave a note in my guestbook to let me know you stopped by?

Vi’s Eyes
10″ x 12″ Caran d’Ache oil pastels & wax pastels over gouache
on Art Spectrum Colourfix paper

I’m noticing that my approach to using OPs is evolving in a pretty similar way to the process I developed when painting with the softies, with an underdrawing and block-in using wax pastels (artist’s crayons) the equivalent of using harder pastel sticks in the early stages of a soft pastel painting. I also find myself turning to the wax pastels for a certain amount of blending. In the portrait below, I also used a Sennelier blending stick, as well as fingers and kitchen towel, and scraped away colour with whatever tools were to hand: these happened to be a screw of unknown origin and a plastic knife from my daughter’s tea set.

Portrait of M
9″ x 12″ Sennelier oil pastels & Caran d’Ache wax pastels
on Canson paper

Melody in shades of green


My gorgeous wooden box set of 120 Sennelier oil pastels arrived a couple of weeks ago, shortly before my departure for a week on the Isle of Wight, giving me sadly little chance for messy play before I left.

Back now from what was a wonderful family trip involving beaches and zoos and dinosaurs (and my first visit movie outing in 18 months, to see the stunning Coraline 3D), I’ve put the finishing tweaks to the portrait I’d started back in the real world.

This is Melody in shades of green, 6×9″ on Daler Murano paper. [Please click for embiggened view.]

The possibility has arisen this week of a painting commission; my first in over 3 years. Bring it on, I say, even if the demands of freelance work and home and motherhood will make it tricky. It is, ultimately, the thing I most want to do with my life.


Just like my daughter, at heart I’m just a little kid playing with her crayons. Only mine are more expensive.

Poppies I & II – oil pastel on Daler Murano paper.

The Beguiling – wax pastel on Daler Murano paper.

For this last piece, I took an idea that June Walker has used so many times to beautiful effect: that of starting out with a few uplanned, doodled lines curving around the page, then seeing where they took me.

Chop chop

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Sniffing around for a sketch subject last night, I remembered this oil pastel sketch from last summer …

… and decided to take 50 minutes to record its contents. This little box, purchased in Hong Kong, holds my personalized soapstone chop & red Chinese ink. The sketch is in oil pastel on Daler Murano paper.

In and out of progress

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My daughter’s hands: a sketch in very slow progress. Oil pastel on Daler Murano paper.

Since reaching the ripe old age of 2, little M has decided that afternoon naps are for wimps, and that what she really wants to be doing during that time is running, shouting, climbing, opening and closing cupboards, dancing and singing to The Jungle Book – or a crazy multitasking feat involving all of the above, plus snacks. As I mourn that lost hour of 2-3pm, I’m wondering how I will adapt to life without it, especially now that work is beginning to spill over into my evening time. But hey. I’ll figure it out.

Yesterday I was in London for the second annual “I Knit Day”, the highlight of which was a talk by the fabulous Yarn Harlot. I owe the day a blog entry, but it will have to wait a while.

Mindful messing

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I’ve been doing some “mindful messing” with my oil pastels: making linear marks and then obliterating them in places; scrubbing with the side of the stick and blending areas with a tissue, leaving other patches looking more textural; combining and juxtaposing colours in a fun, intuitive way. I needed to cast off a few expectations about where I allow my inspiration to come from when I’m using certain media … how my initial idea might be allowed to go for a walk in its own direction, rather than taking the path I think a piece of “real art” would go … and how making that picture might actually be made to feel like an enjoyable process, rather than a chore – something that’s kept my poor oil pastels shut away in their tin for so much of the time, when all they really wanted was to come out and play.
12×9″ Oil pastel on Daler Murano paper. I like it so much more on the paper than on the screen.

Colour me inspired

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“Sit in reverie, and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind”. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My mind has been no idle seashore lately, but waves of changing colour I can relate to.

I’ve been prompted to experiment with my oil pastels by a sudden and voracious exploration of magazines, books and websites not primarily about drawing or painting, but showcasing textile arts such as batik, felting and embroidery (Pascal Jaouen’s stunning broderie glazig being my most inspiring find), as well as beading and rubber-stamping. Colour, colour and more colour – and texture, and yet more colour – have been this weekend’s obsessions. This small doodle is just me playing around with a possible approach to a painting. 6×4″ Oil pastel on Daler Ingres paper.

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