Theatrical spectacle for Seaton Art Society

Artist Christine Russell with her painting at Seaton Gateway. Picture SUBMITTED

Artist Christine Russell with her painting at Seaton Gateway. Picture SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

Demonstrator raises the curtain on her early influences while working at the Royal Opera House

Artist Christine Russell's completed painting. Picture SUBMITTED

Artist Christine Russell's completed painting. Picture SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

World renowned for her vibrant still life paintings, artist Christine Russell revealed to Seaton and District Art Society how she was initially inspired by the work of a set designer at the Royal Opera House.

She was deeply stirred by the designer’s pastel sketches which she said absolutely shone with warm colours and dramatic contrasts of light and shade.

This influence was immediately obvious to members in the manner Christine set up the still life study for her demonstration at the Gateway.

Her subject, a copper pot with apples on a bed of straw, was contained within a miniature version of a stage set illuminated by strong artificial light to emphasise colour, highlights and contrasts.


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Using soft pastels on tinted, waterproof pastel paper stapled to an almost vertical surface, Christine started with a simple line drawing to establish the basic composition and “bones” of the subject.

She next began filling in the darker background tones and the darkest shadows around the copper pot and the fruit, generally working from dark to light and from top to bottom to avoid smudging. Keeping the paper vertical also helped the dust to drop away from the painting.

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Working surprisingly quickly she began adding more colours to the copper pot and the apples, bringing these to an almost complete stage and ever moving further downwards.

Christine reminded her audience, “Nothing is one colour”, a point worth noting by those used to working effectively in other media with a limited pallet.

The foreground bed of straw looked a challenge to most of the audience, but she very quickly produced a very realistic representation of this with some expertly deft strokes, adding then some final highlights and details to the apples and the pot.

The picture had now become a strikingly successful three dimensional, luminous image, though Christine declared it needed an hour’s more work to be complete.

She then sprayed the painting with fixative (firm hold hairspray!) but made a point of saying she would later add more colour on top of the fixed surface, then leave the final work “unfixed” to retain its surface bloom.

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