Friday, June 22, 2012

The Fickle Pickle 2, pastel 9 x 12
Since I often do the same demo for both my Wed. and Thurs. pastel classes, I do a lot of paintings twice. It keeps both my classes consistent and on track to learn the same thing week to week (a good thing, since I allow students to attend either day each week) and it's great practice for me!

This is my second demo of the same subject matter, but this time I captured the work in progress...

Although I usually put down my initial sketch with a Nupastel stick, with structures needing a little more control with placement and angles, I often use a sharp pencil. I sketch very lightly, including only the largest shapes and a few smaller shapes that I want to be sure to place carefully where I want them.

Using the broad side of a dark Nupastel, I place in dark and medium values, connecting wherever possible similar values to create larger shapes. Since I'm working on a light value surface (Uart), I leave the paper showing where I need light values. Keeping edges soft at this stage allows me to more easily move them slightly one direction or another if I need to later on. I try to get my line directions (angles, verticals, horizontals) placed correctly but am not concerned about neat, tidy lines, which often sets up the painting to have a "stiff" look. I also bump up the darkest darks with a very dark soft pastel.

Using alcohol and a bristle brush, I spread things around, creating some more subtle values and softening some edges. This liquid wash also sets this layer so that the additional layers will lay overtop more cleanly, rather than over a "dusty" layer of pastel.

The values of my initial underpainting are pretty dark, so I try not to cover them up too much in the areas that need to keep those deep dark values. Up to this point, I try to keep all of my values as accurate as possible, so in selecting colors, I need only match them to the values that are already established. Once I get the initial color palette selected, I try hard not to introduce too many other colors, but to harmonize the color by using many of the same colors in other areas of the painting where the values will match.

As I add details to each section, I try to keep edges as soft and "unfussed with" for as long as possible. Toward the end I can always sharpen an edge or straighten a line a bit more if needed. I focus more on matching values, color harmony and color temperature.

The finished result. Yes, it's a difficult decision to decide when it's done. A good rule of thumb is to stop before you think you're done. Often, that's when it IS done.


  1. Ah, words of wisdom. Stop before you think you're done! I may have to blog about that Barbara and will credit you of course.

    1. It's advice I heard somewhere (not sure where or from whom) and it's stuck with me. I can't always say that I've obeyed those words of wisdom, but try to! Thanks, Barbara, for the comment!