Being married to a talented artist, Catherine Inglis, has given me a wonderful appreciation for soft pastels. I am also a great admirer of the Impressionist Movement and in particular Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Some 25 years ago I asked my wife to paint a copy of a Renoir so that I could enjoy it every day at home. Pressures of a busy work schedule have meant that it has taken a Pandemic before my request has been fulfilled.
I chose one of Renoir’s best known paintings “Luncheon of the Boating Party” as the picture I would like. This is definitely not the easiest of paintings to copy. I am absolutely delighted with the finished result. The fresh vibrant colours of Unison Colour Pastels have produced a fabulous “3D” effect to the finished copy and it feels like you can walk into the scene.
It has been well worth the long wait and the picture now has pride of place in our dining room.
Luncheon of the Boating Party – Stages
I have made my initial drawing working with a grid to scale the image from reference photo to paper using a pastel pencil. The surface I use is 800p grade sandpaper.
I follow by loosely blocking in and underpainting the composition with Conte Carre hard pastels. This is something I do with all my portrait work.
You can clearly see the colour temperatures used here as well as the tonal values.
I continue to build up with Conti as well as introducing softer pastels too, mostly I use Unison Colour pastels which are my favourite.
I have underpainted with black for the darkest areas and then worked over with coloured darks. Black (like white) on its own can be rather flat.
I do also confess to having been carried away by the lady in the middle ground, I couldn’t resist doing a little extra on her face! NOT something I would advise my students. Develop overall if you can.
Stage 3 & 4
I continue to work developing overall in the composition. Starting to work up the flesh areas a little more and also blend the pastel with the fingers. I feel it is easier to work these lighter areas at this stage rather than constantly switching from dark to light. This avoids contamination of pastel residue. A good idea is to use an old cotton cloth to keep both pastels and fingers clean as you are working.
I rarely use blenders but find the Conti pastels great for moving softer pastel around. On the sanded paper they will adhere for detailed work too.
This is really about the finer details, especially the table and its contents.
The fun thing was making the sparkles on the wine glasses shine out, and bright pastels are best for this. Remembering darks make the lights lighter and of course the opposite works too. I love the colours and tones in Renoir’s painting. I think he is the most talented of artists.
I have so enjoyed completing this copy of his most famous work and I certainly feel that I have learned a great deal.
I think Ron is thinking of commissioning another…….!
Note from the Artist
Lockdown finally gave me time to work on this request from Ron. He was adamant it was to be reproduced in pastel and not oils as Renoir’s original had been painted. I must say after thoughts of “where do I start” I really enjoyed the challenge that stood before me on my easel.
Working on this image for so many hours made me realise what an amazing master Renoir was. The way he has grouped his friends, how the eye travels through the painting and the perfect ratios of dark and light create such a wonderfully composed piece.
The painting has a very interesting history which can be found by looking on this link.
I felt to have learnt from this – an artist never stops learning.