Figures in pastel workshop

Yesterday I attended a very good workshop at the Lady Lever Gallery at Port Sunlight, run by Steve Hersey.

The subject was figures in pastel, and it was designed to accompany their current Rossetti’s Obsession exhibition, where you can see drawings and chalk sketches that Rossetti made of his muse Jane Morris. It's really interesting to see these pieces, they helped me to understand Rossetti's pre-painting process of pencil drawings, chalk tonal sketches, chalk colour sketches, all before he began his oil paintings.

In the workshop we began by looking at stick figures, dividing the body into 8 head lengths

which we then turned into block figures. I have studied these before but did have one ah-ha! moment when we used arcs (which I turned into circles as I find them easier to draw) to find joint positions.

Next we developed our block figures into robot figures and added shading, taking around 10 minutes on this. Something went wrong with the arm on the right here - I should have noticed and corrected it at the stick figure stage, but never mind, I'm pleased with the rest of it.

After a much needed coffee break, we completed 5 minute A3 sketches of each other, concentrating on proportions that we had learnt in the previous session and starting out with a stick-to-robot under-drawing.

Next Steve demonstrated a figure in pastel using an improvised sheet of paper (a piece of paper table cloth) and very basic reeves pastels, proving that you do not need specialist materials to get a good result.

And finally Steve posed for us and gave us half an hour to complete our own A3 pastel portrait. I really hate the feeling of chalk on my fingers so was not looking forward to working with pastels, but I can honestly say that we were working so fast that I didn't have time to think about it!

I really enjoyed this workshop and whilst I'm not converted to pastels, I did enjoy using them for half an hour. They create far too much dust for me to consider using them at home, I'm not overly fond of cleaning (!) and need relatively a dust free environment for my oils.

Brusho, Watercolour and Wax comparison

I recently discovered Brusho, a wonderfully vibrant form of watercolour. It really is an absolute joy to use - watching paint dry has never been so interesting!

For this comparison I chose to paint dance related ACEOs in preparation for a stall I was holding at my local dance school summer fete.

I found some lovely reference photos on Paint my Photo and sketched them out onto a spare scrap of A4 paper. When I was happy with the sketches I outlined them in black pen and using a window as a light box, I transferred the drawings to watercolour paper. I don't normally paint more than one of any design, but for the purposes of this comparison I thought it would be best to be able to view the colours and textures using the same subject matter.

Now for the fun!

The first lot are Brusho

 The second are watercolour (W&N professional grade)

And finally the watersoluble wax (Derwent Artbar)

Which are your favourites?

Do NOT varnish acrylic ink paintings!

I recently painted a really pretty little box canvas using my FW acrylic inks

Based on a sketch of a still life, set up by a friend of mine.

Today, 10 days later, I tried to varnish it using a gloss acrylic varnish and a large flat brush.

And now I am sad.

The varnish has dissolved the inks and caused all the colours to mix together and turn muddy.

It might be possible to get away with using a spray varnish (I haven't tried it) but please please please don't use a brush!

Meanwhile, I'll give this one a few days, remove the varnish (using varnish remover), re-gesso the canvas and start again with a more durable medium.

How to make a mini easel for your dolls house miniature paintings

I paint lots of tiny works of art, and find it almost impossible to buy very small easels to display my collection.

A couple of my arty friends over at the Folksy Forum suggested that I try matchsticks to make my own. I'm not a particularly crafty person so was a little wary of having a go myself...but gave myself a good talking to and went out to buy some supplies.

This is how I made my easels. You are welcome to have a go yourself, but please take great care if you decide to make your own easel using this method - I cannot be held responsible for your use of matches and sharp knives! 


To begin with I gathered some supplies.

PVA glue decanted into a milk bottle top:

A box of long matches:

A stanley knife with new blades, and of course my steel core craft cutting mat:

To begin, I laid a match on my cutting mat and measured 8cm

Using the stanley knife I carefully cut the match...

Then I cut another one at 8cm, one at 7.5cm, and one at 6cm.

Using a fine sandpaper I sanded down the matches to remove any splinters.

Taking one of the 8cm lengths, I lined it up with the bottom right hand corner on the cross point of a square and the top left hand corner on a cross point two squares to the right. I then carefully cut a vertical line down the top.

I repeated this with the other 8cm length, and then laid them out with the cut pieces facing each other, leaving a matchstick width gap. The bottom of the lengths were 4 cm apart.

I then placed the 6cm piece horizontally across the longer lengths, 2cm above the bottom. Happy with the position I glued them in place.

Once this was dry I took the remaining 7.5cm piece and glued it in the gap left at the top of the previous step. While the glue was still wet I positioned the back leg of the easel where I wanted it so that the whole easel would stand up.

Job done!

This little painting measures 7cm x 2.5cm, and I think it looks fabulous on this easel.

And I think you'll agree it looks even better in pride of place on my mantle piece!

For comparison, here it one of my mini dolls house paintings next to an ACEO painting which measures 2.5 x 3.5 inches. Quite a difference!


And finally, if you'd like to browse my my collection of dolls house paintings, pop over to the dolls house section of my shop Stephanie Guy Fine Art: Dolls House Collection

Winsor and Newton Desert Collection Review

As soon as I heard that I had won the new Winsor and Newton Limited Edition Desert Collection I excitedly told all my facebook followers that I had won the new Dessert Collection. I was way too excited to check my spelling (not my best subject, anyone who is a naturally good speller has my admiration). A dear friend pointed out my boo-boo and I cheerfully rechristened them my pudding paints, with which I shall paint puddings.

Space is a premium in my house so I needed to find a simple way to store my new tube paints alongside my existing half pan ones. Simple! I found some empty half pans in my local art shop, and my new paints now sit down the middle of my lightweight sketching box. It took a few days for them to set and become portable (and pack-away-able), and it was a bit of a squeeze, but they're in now and ready to go

So far, so good - but these paints are unfamiliar to me. How do I tell which is which?

This bit was easy. I stuck a little label onto each half pan before I filled them up so that if they fall out, I can easily identify them. This is important because the yellows in particular are very similar to yellow ochre and raw sienna that I already have in my paint box.

And then I made a little label for each paint along with a sample, and stuck them together with selotape. I had already made an ID chart for the existing paints in my box using the paint wrappers, so I cut it down the middle and stuck my new home made labels in place.

Now to try them out :)

The very first thing I painted with my new pudding paints was naturally, a pudding...

For my first pudding, a jammy biscuity slice, I used the two opaque yellows Gold Brown and Yellow Titanate, with a touch of the opaque Dark Brown. I'm not a big fan of mixing in the palette so these were applied wet in wet. The jam (Indian Red Deep and a touch of Pthalo Sapphire in places) was added when the cake was dry. I found the top quite tricky - the plan was to underpaint with Indian Red Deep and when that was dry add in Dark Brown to the whole top. Dark Brown is a VERY opaque paint and I was quite distressed to begin with as it all seemed to be going wrong - too thick, too much! However, it is extremely liftable, and whilst is it a staining colour, the underpainted red still came through. I'm quite pleased with this one.

Next, a red berry crumble. The first mistake I made with this pudding was in the initial (very sketchy) drawing. I really should have given it some perspective - a side on view is not the easiest to portray. Anyway, "I've started so I'll finish".  The berries were painted with Indian Red Deep and Transparent Orange - an absolutely lush combination. Both are transparent and very juicy. With the addition of some Pthalo Sapphire (also transparent) I achieved a delicious red berry bottom to my crumble. The topping used all three opaques - Gold Brown, Dark Brown
and Yellow Titanate.

Whilst I was painting the first crumble I was not happy with the yellows. I think W&N made a mistake by making all of the yellows opaque - I would much prefer to have had one opaque and one transparent. So I wondered what would happen if I repainted the crumble using raw sienna and burnt umber instead, as these are both transparent. Surprisingly, I prefer the one above that used the Yellow Titanate and Gold Brown.

For my third pudding, I thought I'd do a steamed red berry pud. Colour combinations were the same as the other puddings. This one makes me laugh - the Transparent Orange glows so much that it looks like the inside of a volcano!

Finally, I couldn't think of a blue pudding, so instead I painted a gorgeous little Goldfinch. The only addition to the pudding paints here was a little Winsor Yellow along the Goldfinch's back. This painting really shows off the beautiful Pthalo Sapphire.

In Conclusion

If you're thinking of buying these paints but are on a limited budget I'd say go for Transparent Orange, Indian Red Deep and Pthalo Sapphire first, in that order.

Next I would buy the Dark Brown, it's a warmer shade than you can achieve by mixing Burnt Umber and French Ultra Marine.

Finally, the yellows are very similar to Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre, but there are subtle differences that will come in useful. If money is no object, buy them all before they sell out!

Have you used these paints? What do you think of them?

When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils

I've had a slight obsession lately. And no, I don't mean painting, that's nothing short of an addiction...

I can't seem to stop painting daffodils, here are just a few of them:

Do you have a subject you keep coming back to?

How to get your paintings printed onto greetings cards

What a pa-lava!

I've had a series of my original artwork professionally printed onto greetings cards and I'm so pleased with how they have turned out I thought I would share the process with you.

The Kicking Donkey, Ormskirk
The Buck I'th Vine, Ormskirk

Why a pa-lava? Well, it took three months of to-ing and fro-ing to the printer's to get there!

Here is the process I went through. If you follow these steps you should be able to avoid some of the pitfalls and have a successful outcome!

The Bandstand, Ormskirk
Clieves Hills, Aughton, Ormskirk

  • Start well in advance of when you want your cards to be ready. For me, the process took 3 months - I consider this to be time well invested because when I need a rerun it can be done at the push of a button.
  • Take good quality photos in good light. I take mine outdoors on a bright day, out of direct sunlight and not behind glass. I have a 20MP digital compact bridge camera. Make sure that the lense is clean and use a tripod to eliminate camera shake. Don't touch up the photo - let the printers do that. They have the skills required to know what changes need to be made to suit their printing equipment.
  • Choose your printers carefully. Unless you have a LOT of money to spare, you will be looking at digital printing rather than lithographical printing. This isn't a bad thing, just make sure your printer has a top quality printer to work with. Previously I made the mistake of going to a small scale printers who used a standard office printer - needless to say the quality was not good, and that print run ended up in the recycling bin. You will be viewing a lot of proofs, so locality may be important to you - it certainly was to me.
  • View proof printed samples of every image to make sure that they looked like the originals. This is VERY important - my previous card run (at afore mentioned small scale printers) was done without proofs and was a complete disaster - as I said, the cards ended up in the recycling bin.
  • Choose the card stock (finish, thickness, texture etc) and view more proofs. My cards are printed on white 350gsm card with a satin finish.
  • Source good quality envelopes. The ones that my printer had on offer were very basic - I chose to search for some myself and found some good ones in The Range (UK).
  • Source cellophane bags of the exact size to fit the card with the envelope tucked inside. Mine came from The Works (UK).
  • View proofs of the cards made up to the size I wanted, and to check the wording and the positioning of my logo on the back was correct.
  • Once printed, check every card for quality (quality of cut, finger prints, any bends, ink marks, accurate fold etc), match with an envelope and put them into cellophane bags.
  • Seal the cellophane bags - this bit took a surprising amount of time - persuading the extremely static peel-off strips that they wanted to go in the bin and not stay stuck to me was a challenge!

Ormskirk Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul
St Michael's Church, Aughton

Now that they are all packaged up I am looking for local shops to stock them. I have 2 Ormskirk Cafe's signed up: "The Edge" near the bus station and "Brew and Bake" near the library. I am also in discussions with a couple of independent card shops.

And finally I sell them through the greetings card section of my online shop

I hope this article was of use to you! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments box below.