Thursday, August 23, 2012

Painting Without Edges

Rounding the Bend Again, pastel, 9x12
After reading an inspiring blog post recently by Richard McKinley, I thought the ideas he presented would make a great class exercise for my students. In his blog post, Richard describes an approach to painting that uses very gradual transitions between colors and values. You can read his post here:

This method works great for hazy or foggy atmospheric conditions. The reference photo I used for the painting shown here was shot on a misty day with hazy, diffused light conditions, which was perfect for this approach!

I notice that many of my students struggle with overdefining edges that could be much softer, or even eliminated. So for my demonstration I blocked in the entire painting without using lines or edges. (I did VERY lightly pencil in a just a few guidelines for me to block in the shapes and colors I wanted to start with.) Any definition of edges used in the painting were gradually added at later stages.

Blocking in with a variety of Nupastels.
I kept it very abstract at the start, addressing only
 large shapes and overall composition.
I used an alcohol wash to wet down the underpainting.
Since my focal point is toward the upper right, that's
the only place I allow a few edges to start to be defined.
In the refinements here, I make small value adjustments.
Completed painting, on Uart 320 grit mounted to
acid free foam board.


  1. Love this posting. Beautiful pastel. Thanks for sharing the demo. Very informative. I paint with oils, but did pastels in the 80's and want to pick pastels again.

    1. Thanks, Jill! I work in oil as well, and many of my oil paintings are started with the same sort of underpainting techniques that I use for pastel. I enjoy going back and forth between the two. I highly encourage you to give pastels another try...the supplies available these days are a whole lot better than what was around back in the 80s!

  2. Barbara, thank you for taking the time to write such an informative post with photos. Excellent ideas! You said you used Uart paper mounted to foamboard. I was wondering how you mounted it - with what materials?
    Again, thank you again for your efforts!

    1. Hi Carol. Thanks for your comment. I mount my paper with acid free photo mount onto acid free foam board and press it down real good using a brayer with a sheet of glassine between the board and the brayer. Of course, having it professionally dry mounted is best, but this keeps costs down, is more convenient, and seems to work fine.