Friday, January 27, 2012

Creating a Pastel Painting with Minimal Strokes

Marsh Reflections, pastel, 8x10
Marsh Reflections is based on the minimal stroke exercises I did in my pastel classes this week. I had students count their strokes on a couple of different painting exercises.  

In 20 Strokes or Less...
We first warmed up with a painting of a single apple.  I didn't set up any apples in the studio, though, since the idea wasn't to copy what the apple looks like, but to create the form of an apple using as few strokes as possible.  We just did it out of our head.  After an initial sketch using a dark NuPastel, we chose about 4 pastels of different values and created the image using no more than 20 strokes.  

After a very loose value sketch with dark NuPastel,
this was created with about 20 strokes.

In 100 Strokes or Less...
For the remainder of the class we did several 5 x 7ish studies of a marsh landscape scene (from a photo) using the same idea.  For this, we aimed for 100 strokes or less.  The idea here is to get the most mileage out of every pastel stroke, without going back over each area with additional, unnecessary strokes.  Basically, we want to say more with less.  We found that we needed to think a bit more about how to hold the pastel, how hard we wanted to apply the stroke, and in what direction we made the stroke.

Both of these studies were created with
under 100 strokes each.

When I painted Marsh Reflections (at the top of this post), I didn't count each stroke as I did with the studies I demonstrated in class.  And since it's a larger, finished painting, it certainly went beyond 100 strokes.  But I was careful to lay each stroke down and leave it alone, just as I did with the studies, avoiding the temptation to constantly correct, perfect, and rework.  Not only does it force you to avoid putting down too much pigment, often resulting in a muddy look, but it also encourages you to edit out details that don't add any value to the painting.  Although some paintings do need careful corrections and reworking, I've found that ultimately, the less said (or in this case, "painted") the better!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sunrise Walk, pastel, 11x14
This morning I taught a private class with a student who had lots of Canson Mi-Teintes paper on hand, so we thought we'd work on that today.  I've also been impressed by other artists who manage to work well on this surface when many of us have given up on it once we had other, more versatile options at our disposal.  So I dug deep into the depths of my studio storage cabinet and found one lone sheet of grey Canson paper.  This is a scene I've painted before, but it worked well for a great exercise in blocking in shapes and values for today's demo.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rum River Glow, pastel, 12 x 16
Last week in my pastel class, I had students do color studies of this scene, varying the degree of warms and cools in each study.  This week we chose the version we liked and painted it larger.  This is my demo from this morning's class.  If you saw my last post, I also squeezed in an oil version of this same scene.  A couple of posts ago, I showed two of my color studies from last week, one of which I referenced for this finished painting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rum River Glow, oil, 11x14
Last week in my weekly pastel classes, we did color studies of this scene in preparation for painting a larger version this week.  I enjoyed working on the small pastel studies and decided to try it in oil.  The photo here caught some glare on the left, so I'll need to shoot it again later.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Big Old Barn, oil, 8x10
I was looking through some photos of my recent paintings to see which ones I wanted to post on my website, and I came across this one that I did this past fall in Adairsville, GA.  It doesn't exist anymore because I wasn't happy with it at the time and wiped it down.  Looking at it again now, I wish I kept it.  I still have a photo reference, though, and could take another stab at it from that.  Or I could possibly bug my friend, Jan, to let me come up there for another visit and paint it again on location. :-)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Apples and a Pitcher, pastel, 11x14
Today I enjoyed holding a private class with a woman who's been taking my weekly group class for a few months.  As a Christmas gift, her sweet husband arranged to prepay for several private classes with me.  Since she's new to pastel, this was a nice opportunity to work with her one-on-one as we did a paint-a-long type class working from a still life, focusing on how to better apply each stroke to the paper. This is my demo that I finished up after the class.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rum River Glow Study 1, pastel, 8x10

Rum River Glow Study 2, pastel, 8x10
This was my first week of classes of 2012 at my studio.  To ease everyone back into painting after the holiday craziness, I thought we'd start off with small, quick color studies.  We worked from a very grey, winter scene that didn't have much distinct color to it, which allowed us to go in a few different directions with color treatment.  I did two demos each in my Wed. and Thurs. classes.  In the two shown here, I used primarily a blue & orange color scheme on one and a purple & gold/orange on the other.  I also varied the surfaces on all four the the studies I did.  On the two shown here, one is on a prepared panel and the other is on Uart paper.  Next week, we'll work from one of the studies to do a larger, finished painting.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Into the Pasture, oil, 11 x 14
This is another painting that's been sitting around my studio for awhile waiting to be completed. I started it on location this past Fall and finished it today in the studio.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Little Old Shed, pastel, 16x20
I had this piece set aside for a few months while I pondered what I needed to fix.  I had some interesting shadows that were cast across the foreground, which I liked, but finally decided they weren't needed.  I simplified the foreground, tweaked a few other areas, and said it's done.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rum River, pastel, 16x20
Many of my pastel pieces begin as demos for my classes.  Since I've had a little break from teaching over the holidays, I was able to work on this one without needing to have a specific plan for it and simply let the painting go wherever it pleased. My only goal was to stop before I got too fussy with details.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Gull Lake, Snow Covered, oil, 8 x 10
I started this painting on location, standing on Gull Lake in Minnesota (it was mostly frozen), but finished it today back home in the studio.  So I guess you could call it my first completed painting of 2012!