Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 31: Red Barn

January 31, 2012

Red Barn, a soft pastel on 9.5x9.5 slate gray PastelMat.

1. I scumbled in all of the primary shapes with NuPastels.

2. After switching out to the Great American pastel set, I built out the outbuildings, barn, house, and trees. I really like the sky at this point, and wish I had left it more like this. But NOOOO, sometimes I do not leave well-enough alone!

3. For the windows and doors on the barn and the house and the shading of the silos, I used subtle pastel pencil marks. I wanted to keep the corn field between the viewer and the horizon filled with a hint of the winds swirling around. I don't like the amount of turquoise that I used in the sky, so I'll be fixing that in the next step.

4. Here, I've brightened the sky, covering over most of the turquoise that was overwhelming the mood. I can't wait to go back and shoot photos of all of these pieces under optimum lighting conditions!

Day 30: Sailboat

from January 30, 2012

Sailboat, a soft pastel on 9.5x7.5 inch yellow/cream PastelMat.

1. All of the composition thus far was built with NuPastels and finger-blending. My main goals in today's piece are to get the architecture of the boat (mostly) correct based on abstracting the single boat from a sea of docked vessels and to make sure that I don't get bogged down in all the minute details, but rather the afternoon lighting.

2. Adding in the greenery surrounding the dock area helped define the negative space around the boat and turns the cream into a color perceived by the viewer as a bright white.

3. After making the draping on the sail feel believable, I wanted to add in the fenders and the railings on which they were hanged.

4. After building the fenders, their shadows needed to be cast onto the boat and in the reflections in the water.

5. After refining the details in the fenders and the engine, I added in the ladder. I used pastel pencils to refine the fine-line details, and did a little restructuring of the shape of the stern.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 29: Japanese Garden

from January 29, 2012

Japanese Garden, a soft pastel on 8x10 sage-colored Sabretooth sanded and textured surface.

1. I decided to challenge myself again with the Sabretooth surface. The focal point of my piece is the Pagoda statue, but the three groomed bushes in the foreground became my supporting players throughout the composition.

2. I added the pathway in the background to bring the viewers following the deep shadows back into the piece, and continued building the 3D structures of the statue and the triplet of bushes.

3. I used by silicone blender to push the pastel into the crevices of the paper. In many ways, this turns everything thus far in the painting back inot an underpainting.

4. Time to bring in the highlights, enrich the shadows, and fine-tune the needle details on the piney juniper tree. I added reddish shadows on the top of the triplet bushes, fully intending to adjust them in the next layer.

5. This is the final piece, with a new spattering of highlights on the bush trio and the foreground stones. Ultimately I had forgotten the shadow that would be cast by the juniper tree. While this piece looks fantabulous from across the room as the colors blend, the broken color formed by the pitted surface is still NOT my favorite surface on which to work. On the other hand, using the near-perfect groomed foliage in a Japanese garden allowed me to work on creating wonderful ovoids and their shadows.

Day 28: Volo Bog

from January 28, 2012

Volo Bog, a soft pastel on 8x10 tan Mi-Tientes Touch.

1. After a quick sketch with a Conte pencil, I blocked in the water, grassy masses, and the dead tree in the foreground.

2. The second layer involved adding a few bare tree branches, scumbling strokes to build the masses, and extension of the grass patches.

3. As the tooth of this Touch paper fills up quickly, follow-on strokes ultimately need to be quite intentional and heavy. My tendency is to build a piece up in all areas relatively equally, and for this step, I was working at filling in midtones.

4. Following the midtone application, I applied a few more of the darker and lighter values to build up depth. I also opted to use stippling to create the foreground leafy foliage that carries the full range of fall colors and the glancing rays of sunlight.

5. To finish out the composition, I added in more tassels on the tops of the grasses, a few more colors spattered around the composition to tie it together, and more heavy stipples in the foreground brush.

Day 27: Chicago Harbor

from January 27, 2012

Chicago Harbor, a soft pastel on 7x10 blue Colourfix sanded pastel paper.

1. Today, I just took the NuPastels to paper without a sketch, using the side of the pastel to sketch in the breakwater and the waves on the containing side of the wall.

2. To build up higher whitecaps, I switched out to strokes with the tip of much softer pastels with a little bit of finishing work with pastel pencils, primarily for the finer details of the lighthouse. I miss living in Chicago (but not driving there).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 26: The Opening

from January 26, 2012

The Opening, a soft pastel on 6x6 white Wallis professional sanded paper.

1. Despite an injured thumb (that is wrapped in tape and protected from moisture and dust by a little finger condom-or cot, if you prefer the real name), I must create and complete a pastel today! Here I've blocked in a close-up view of a pink tulip showing the translucence of the petals and how the overlap decreases that capacity.

2. I really was having difficulty after laying in the first layer, as I used the softer pastels to accomplish that, which quickly fill up the tooth of the paper. Having a stubborn streak a mile wide helps me get to places where I can ultimately overcome those issues. Saturating the composition with SpectraFix certainly helps settle the particles into the crevices and gives me a chance to add more pastel.

3. I pulled out some of my NuPastels to add some light dusting of a variety of colors and stick-based blending. As I built up the color patterns on the petals, I used my little finger to accomplish the soft blending I wanted to achieve in each of the petals. I also worked in the reproductive organs of the tulip with both soft and hard pastels, as well as a few pollen granules that have fallen into the cup of the flower.

4. After only a few touches of color here and there in the petals, I applied heavy dabbles of color as the pollen granules and repaired some of the value issues in the center of the flower. I needed the brightness this flower brings on (yet another) dark day.

Day 25: Barn Life

from January 25, 2012

Barn Life, a soft pastel on 5x10 olive Colourfix sanded paper.

1. I've been using photo references for everything I've done in this series, and RARELY compose anything entirely from imagination or memory, so I assumed that perspective for today's project. I grew up in a barn. Yes, really, from age 4 to 18, I lived in a barn that my paternal grandfather converted into a duplex, where my family lived in the bigger half that included a third floor (where I spent most of my teenage years), and tenants lived on the other half. While we lived in the village of New Tripoli, we were kind of isolated on our own acreage away from the town. If I were a bird, flying in for some food always provided by my mother, I imagine this as the kind of viewpoint that I'd see.

2. It's quite different drawing from memory than from photos and in a much looser, albeit perhaps a more primative style. It feels way, way more creative and less restrictive. Back to the story of the house (also see part 1 description). The shed out in the back left was on the property where our family lived before we moved to *the barn*, so my older siblings have great memories of life there. The blue foreground area represents the constantly replenished loads of crushed blue stones that dad brought home in his truck to groom our driveway. I never fully understood the integration of a metal spiral blue staircase on the enclosed porch side of the house, but realistically, this was ultimately was the main entrance (which was extremely dangerous in the winter). The top and left sides of the extra large yard butted up against corn or hay fields in the summer, and the little white birch tree (there were 2 evenly spaced ones) has since grown large. The dark green patch is where the garden was planted--there used to be a building there, so it never fully matched into the yard. Thanks for indulging my PA Dutch girl memories...

Day 24: Colombus

from January 24, 2012

Colombus, a soft pastel on 6x6 white Pastelbord.

1. The first step of my process is either a color block in, or, as I've done repeatedly, just a quick sketch in with anatomical reference points for this colombus monkey.

2. I blocked colors in first with Great American pastels, and then did a little "hair flipping" with a silicone-tipped blender. The main planes and contours of the face began to shape nicely into a primate. I used a Carbothello violet pencil to bring in the deep shadows on the left side of this critter's face. The vacant eyes here are actually interesting enough to think about using in the future.

3. I used the zoo *branches* to set a triangular frame around the monkey. Note that the colors in the face are more purple than my camera can capture under indoor light. I continued using a side stroke with the pastel pencils to create the smooth transitions in the contours of the face, and the tip to push and pull the hairs framing the face. Ultimately, I tackled the eyes, having them look directly back at the viewer. The zoo discourages visitors from direct eye contact with these monkeys, as they consider it a sign of aggression. While I was shooting reference photos, I figured it was okay to look with just one eye through the camera's eyepiece because my lens wouldn't look like a normal eye. To be honest, I didn't realize how closely this one was tracking me until I was processing the reference photos in Photoshop. Back to the pastel-of-the-day: I generally don't necessarily connect well with people, but truly appreciate the affinity that I have for animals (and usually they for me). This is just one small way I show my respect for these amazing creatures.

Day 23: Right Field

From January 23, 2012

Right Field, a soft pastel on 6x9 brick Colourfix sanded paper.

1. After working and reworking my white Conte pencil sketch of this composition, I blocked in colors. Initially, I really, really wanted to love this "as is" as an abstraction. I could do it for the left half with just the purple tree (it probably looks blue on your screen) or for just the right half. I think if I had more time on which to work and ponder, I might have been able to regroup overnight and figure out a way to leave this as an abstraction. I do think that I'll come back and do just that another day, after I've had time for iterative versions.

2. I began trying to extend the abstract plan to the trees by using just a few colors to create depth, and then trying to build something that would work as an overgrown shore line next to the meandering stream.

3. One of the main aspects of the composition for this piece was the foreshortened oval field and the concentric ovals contained within the stream edge in the foreground and the dense foliage in the background. I continued to build the shore structure and reflections in the water with colors to match.

4. At this point, I settled in to this piece not necessarily remaining as an abstraction. I did want to keep the very warm field colors, as this was summer in the South, where only a few patches of grass remained for the cow. The water is beginning to look like it flows, and little tick marks of bright green at the top of the composition give the impression of a canopy of leaves high above with part of a cast shadow affecting the colors in the midground.

5. I continued to refine and enhance my tic-style mark-making, with some rich green plants spilling over the shore line into the water and solidifying the background foliage. The composition and field structure ultimately took on the feeling of a baseball infield, and hence I named the piece Right Field.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 22: Footprints

from January 22, 2012

Footprints, a soft pastel on 9x12 buttercup PastelMat.

1. After a quick sketch of the composition in white Conte pencil, I began blocking in the piece with the same palette used in yesterday's composition--with the exception of the addition of two blues for the clear skies I saw in yesterday's snowshoe adventure. The vantage point is different, but the water tower at Badger Prairie Park in Verona still plays a prominent role in the horizon.

2. The snows are deep enough to cover the grassy areas and the bike trails, but not the longer prairie grasses and leftovers from the summer's foliage. I intentionally left a few bare spots in the leaves of the tree for the leaves that are catching the most sun of the day.

3. At this point, I began concentrating on the snow in the foreground, including the wavy and tiny wind sculptures.

4. Each time I sprayed the snowy areas with SpectraFix, I wanted the spatter pattern to be retained. To accomplish something similar, I pulled out a cotton swab and daubed it with some of the older, gunkier fixative that I retained for a future project. Little did I know, that "player-to-be-named-later" project was today's. No time like the present, I believe, to try something new!