Monday, March 9, 2020

43 Strokes

Limiting the number of stokes applied, especially in oil painting, creates a fresher less studied image. The same principles hold true with pastel. Sometimes, if you're not careful, you can overwork your drawing while trying to match a specific color and you'll lose the freshness of the drawing.
I used a pear photo that I took outside because I wanted high contrast of light and shadow.

Pear reference photograph.
If you want to try this method, start out with a loose sketch of the shapes. I'm using 400 grit Uart paper with a gray wash using very watered down acrylic paper.
Loose sketch on Uart paper.
Since I studied my pear shape and colors in the lesson on "Different Papers" I had a good idea what colors to use which helps when you're limiting the number of strokes.
In this study I only briefly layered the colors and I kept the application of colors to just 43 strokes for the entire piece. The strokes are exacting and deliberate without fussing about. I see many students taking hesitant small strokes. The "43 Stroke" challenge will eliminate that tendency.
I like the freshness of the drawing.
"43 Strokes" is all it took to create this drawing.

Different Papers, Different Strokes

Pastel companies have created many new papers in the last few years especially in the area of sanded papers and primers. It's fun to explore other papers. You may find that your old standby is not your favorite.

In this first example I created 2 pears using watercolor washes on printmaking paper which is very absorbing and then coated the images with Golden pastel primer to add an interesting texture. Two different examples of washes show how color choices can influence the outcome when you rub pastel over the watercolor. Generally speaking the darker washes produce more contrast and creates a more visible texture.
Watercolor underpainting on BFK printmaking paper

Adding Golden Clear pastel primer then pastel on top.
In this second example I used PastelMat by Clairfontaine. It's a soft textured paper - not gritty like sanded paper but it holds a surprising numbers of layers of color before filling up the tooth of the paper.
Softer PastelMat. The paper color can have a big influence on how the image appears if you don't cover the background.
This next paper is the older type pastel paper which is just paper with a texture imprinted into the weave. Canson Mi Tientes comes in a variety of colors but it will only hold a couple of layers of color before the texture fills. I don't like the pronounced texture which is woven into the paper so I use the back which is smoother. This blue paper makes a nice contrast to the oranges and yellows of the pear.
Canson Mi Tientes paper
In my next blog "43 Strokes" I'll show you how limiting the number of strokes adds interest to your drawings.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Using Black Paper

Don't worry. It's not going to be a gaudy "Velvet Elvis", but working on black paper has the benefit of making your pastel colors very vibrant. I like Uart Dark 400 grit and it's very dark but not actually black.
Here's the reference photograph. 
When creating the painting I emphasized the shadows so that the painting would be about 66% shadow and 34% sunshine. It's always better to not have the painting evenly divided between light and shadow. By making more of the image in shadow the sunny areas will become the focal point.
Reference photograph for "Artist and Teacher" Notice I've drawn 1/3 grid onto the photograph
This paper is very dark, so the first layers will be dark, but don't despair. The next layers of color will brighten up the scene. I drew the basic shapes with an orange Conte pastel pencil.
Sketch in the basic shapes. Watch the composition so that the point of interest (artist and teacher) are not in the center.
In step 2 I blocked in the shadow areas and the sunny areas. And in step 3 I blocked in the light sky, the tree shapes and emphasized the sunny area.

Here's an ink sketch of the main subjects - Artists and Teacher. The photograph was taken at a Plein Air workshop with Kim Casebeer who is discussing the scene with one of the participating artists. I liked the way they were sitting in the shadow area with the sunlit area behind them. 

In step 4 I start lightening up the darker areas and using colors closer to the reality of the scene.
The final step shows more layers to get the value correct between light and shadow areas.
 I lightened the background and the large tree to the left of the figures so that area will drop back and add to the feeling of depth and atmosphere. I also lightened the shadow part of the grass so that the darks of the tree shadow would be darker than the grass. You'll see the color swatches along the left side of the pastel. I'm using this image for my Tuesday night pastel class and they will be able to see which pastels I used in the piece.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Color Bias - "Tay's Road"

Artists can chose to copy the color they seen in the landscape OR you can interpret and adjust the color to create a mood or emphasize a time of day.
In this lesson I take the same photograph and create one image with warm, light, early-morning colors and in the second image I change the colors to be more blues and greens emphasizing the late afternoon light. I call this color bias.
Here's the reference photograph.
"Tay's Road" late afternoon. This is a good example of selective images. I'm eliminating the dog and the artist and the car hidden behind the orange branches on the left and the overhanging branches on the right.
Starting the image with a line drawing of the important shapes. I'm working on Uart 400 sanded paper with a thin acrylic wash to color the paper.
Line drawing of the important shapes
Starting the "Morning Light - Tay's Road" I blocked in the major shapes using a dark blue in the shadow areas and orange for the sunshine areas. When using pastel you want to start with darker colors and use lighter colors as you add layers.
Start blocking in the basic shapes. Keep in mind your purpose for the image - morning light.
Now start adjusting the layers by using colors that are in medium tones. In the "Morning Light" image I even want to use warm color in the shadow areas to emphasis that warm summer morning light.
Blocking in warm tans in the shadow of the road, greens in the shadow of the woods on the right that you can't see and yellows in the middle ground area with the 2 small barns on the left of the road.
The final layers are an adjustment from the reference photo to emphasize light. Most of the colors I used are either mid-value or light values. If you took a b/w photo of the final piece (which I suggest as a great way to evaluate your values) most of the grays should be on the lighter side of mid-tones with maybe 30% of the image in shadow.

Final image. The little colors on the left side are the pastel colors I used in the demo.
This is a long lesson but I want you to see the next pastel so you can compare how I adjusted the colors. "Afternoon Light - Tay's Road" is the final version which I want you to see at the same time as "Morning Light - Tay's Road" so you can compare my color choices.
This is the final version of "Afternoon Light" Notice the emphasis on cool shadows and I added more shadows in the foreground so the viewer will get the feeling of walking from a cool shadow area in the light in the background.
Here are the steps in creating "Afternoon Light".
Step 2 of "Afternoon Light"
Step 3 of "Afternoon Light"

Friday, January 24, 2020

Wildflower Rhythms

This is the second image students in my workshop will be creating. I always hand out a step-by-step printout but also demonstrate the steps in the workshop.
Reference photo of wildflowers at Shaker Village, Harrodsburg, KY

This photograph is only marginally helpful. I created the original drawing on location at Shaker Village and I could see into the shadow area under the tree. Unfortunately the camera blocked up that area.

I started by rubbing medium brown Nupastel into the 400 grit Uart sanded paper which creates a warm underpainting and I mark a 1/3 grid pattern on the paper to help with compositional location of the elements of the design. I blocked in the basic 3-5 shapes which is all that is needed to get the composition started.

Start blocking in the basic shapes. I usually use an indigo blue to block in the shadow areas and orange to block in the sunny areas.

Next step is to add more of the actual basic color of the vegetation but still keeping to warm colors in the sunshine areas. Locate the direction of the sun to add light areas to the dark trees. Along the side of the image you'll see color dots of the colors I've used so far in this scene.

Final steps is to add more detail in the grasses and the lightest lights of the Queen Anne's Lace, which notice has light blue marks to denote shadow on the white flowers. 
This painting is an impressionistic rendition of wildflowers in a field. I've tried to display the feeling of the beautiful chaos of wildflowers.

Simple Pear

Sometimes just a simple piece of fruit can give you a great lesson in drawing, form, and color.
First sketch the shape with a conte pastel pencil. Look at the form. How tall is it compare to the width. Look at the shape of the sides of the pear. I bet they aren't symmetrical. Is it leaning to one side?
I started on 400 grit Uart paper and covered the paper with nupastel - medium brown and then rubbed in with a paper towel to color the paper. 
Pastel is always more vibrant on a colored background. A white paper tends to weaken the pastel color.
A simple pear. A bit taller than it is wide and learning to the right.

Sketch in the basic shape. Pay attention to the edges of the planes - the shape.
Solid up the shape and add the basic colors of a pear.
Block in cool colors in the shadow areas and warm color in the highlighted area. The basic color of the pear is yellow-orange. The opposite of yellow-orange on the color wheel is in the purple family which is what I put in the shadow area. Olive green as the transition color from shadow to light.
Final stages of the piece.
I added a light red to the blush part of the pear to indicate the upward slop of the plane. Olive on the upper part of the pear as it was not in direct light. More yellow and golds on the side of the pear closest to the light and finally add a warm highlight - pale yellow. Dark shadow behind the bottom of the pear to give it weight on the paper and some lighter/brighter color on the plane in front of the pear which informs the viewer even more that the source of light is hitting the right side of the pear.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Combs Ferry Farm

My pastel class will be doing plein air demonstrations during the reception for our exhibit at the Harkness Edwards Vineyards which is out in Clark County. When we drove out to see the vineyards I spotted on the distant horizon this farm and I loved the rhythm of the big barns as their roofs shone in the setting sunlight. When I work on a new piece I try to form in my mind what is it that attracts me to this scene when there's lots of land and fields in the distance - why this spot?

Reference photo - Combs Ferry Farm

Sketch in basic shapes with pastel pencil 
Block in lights and darks with NuPastels

Wash in pastel with rubbing alcohol. This will set the underpainting.

After alcohol dries, start blocking in shadow colors

Block in the light colors but keep the first layer darker than the expected later layers

Continue adding color keeping in mind the values as they appear next to each other, which is the only way to truly see colors - how they appear next to each other.

Final layers of lights and shadows. Is it successful in expressing what I was excited about when I first spotted the barns? If not, do another one, learning from the first one.