Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Mushy Stage

Stop Along the Way, pastel, 11x14

In previous posts I’ve talked about starting a painting with connected shapes. (Click here to read one such post.) Even if you’re able to master that step, it can still be a confusing journey to go from blocking in shapes to the finished painting. We often feel compelled to rush too quickly from those big shapes to the finishing touches—those small, crisp, “eye-catcher” marks.

If you can restrain yourself from rushing into those finer details, you can better focus on pushing each of your original shapes to their correct value (light/dark), temperature (warm/cool) and chroma (bright/dull). You’ll want to be aware that, at this point in the painting process, you won’t yet have the variety of edges to give the landscape form and depth, and it will likely have an overall “mushy” appearance, which can be disconcerting. But be patient!

Shown below is an early stage of the painting shown at the top of this post. At this point, I’ve addressed each shift of value, temperature and chroma over my block-in. The only area that I allowed just a bit of tightening at this stage is in the area that I know will be my focal point … just below and to the right of the darkest trees. All other marks are kept loose and vague (mushy).

The early "mushy" stage of Stop Along the Way.

It’s important to back up at this point and check value/temperature/chroma. Make all necessary corrections before you move forward to finer marks.

After a few more tweaks to this phase, it was time to add the finer details that you see in the finished painting.

Keep in mind, it’s important to let some of the original undefined, vague areas (those mushy parts) stay that way, especially in the tree foliage and grass. This will enhance those special areas that you choose to make more defined.


Dahlonega, GA - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Jan. 25-27, 2018
"Landscape & Light"
The Art Loft
Contact: Anita Elder,, 706-429-6008

Fresno, CA - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Feb. 15-17, 2018
"Composition Boot Camp"
A Sense of Place Fine Art Gallery
Contact: Ginny Burdick,, 559-392-6775

Providence, RI - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
March 23-25, 2018
"Painting the Poetic Landscape"
Providence Art Club
Contact: Angel Dean,, 401-331-1114 ext. 16
$425/members; $525/nonmembers (nonmember fee includes lunch each day)

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