My fascination with still life painting was first ignited about twenty years ago. One day I was doodling with a light coloured pastel stick on a piece of black, rough card from an old-style photo album. The main challenge in pastel painting is to get the pigment to stay on the board and not fall straight off. So I was actually looking to see whether the rough texture of the old album card would hold the pastel colour firmly. After a while I began to notice that the high contrast between the light coloured pastel and the black card was quite stunning. The high contrast of the light colour against the black seemed to make the light colour really stand out.
Light on a dark background
More experimentation followed with a view to develop the idea further. I began to think about how to use this effect in a painting. A Prussian Blue surface was used instead of the black of the photo album card. Black is not a colour I use in paintings, (it tends to deaden everything.) Prussian Blue is a very dark shade of navy blue. This then became the base coating of my pastel painting boards. A bright spotlight usually illuminates my still life objects and the background is one of deep shadow, giving a high tonal range. So the dark blue background fits in well with this. The bright still life objects are depicted against this dark blue background.
The complementary colour for blue is orange. It was therefore only natural to let the deep orange of mandarins smoulder against the deep blue of the background! This colour arrangement was developed for painting in pastels, but I have carried over the technique into my oil paintings. The blue background in oils is based on Ultramarine, which is itself a deep blue.
I don’t always use the deep blue background and the mandarins have the intensity of fire – bright enough to shine out even without the blue background.
I will hold my next exhibition of paintings at the Metcalfe Gallery, Brisbane Institute of Art, Windsor. Open from 27th August to the 8th September, 2021,10am – 4pm. Please send me a note and I’ll email you a reminder two weeks before the start.