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!

Day 21: Badger Prairie

from January 21, 2012

Badger Prairie, a soft pastel on 6x10 white Wallis professional sanded paper.

1. I used the side of two sticks to sketch in the undulating horizon and the ominous sky, then used the brush end of a pastel blending tool to push the color into the tooth of the paper.

2. I wanted this to have a painterly feel, so my "brush" strokes, as applied with stick pastels had to be inconsistent and applied in a variety of stick positions...side, end, spattering, on-paper blending, tick marks, and a broad swath or two. The sky is actually more violet (see part 3 and 4 photos for images closer to reality.

3. I continued working the strokes in the sky, trying to get the clouds to swirl and hold their masses, lights and darks, and ominous qualities.

4. Here I've applied just a few corrections to the composition, add detailed foreground marks, clean up around the road, and a little more play in the sky. All-in-all, this is representative of my mood for the evening...a little dark with some light on the horizon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 20: Retrieving (another oil pastel)

Retrieving, an oil pastel on 8x10 Art Spectrum Colourfix paper.

1. I blocked in the primary structure by using the flat end of the Holbein oil pastels in a range of tans and reds, then built up the shadows in the hair and began adding the waves to the water.

2. I loved the reflection of the ball in the water in the source image, so I've brought that broken reflection into the idealized waves. I continue to build and correct the anatomy of this happy little golden retriever.

3. I've fixed the lip of the dog so that it better overhangs the ball and work on the forehead. I continued adding variety to the colors in the water, being sure to leave the paper color show through and work with smooth strokes to match the fluidity of the waves.

4. In this part, I brought in the canine's canines (I HAD to write that) and a couple molars in the back of its mouth, as well as adding structure to its gums, lips, nose, end eye. If you're never seen (or heard) a retriever breathing as it swims back to shore with it's lovely tennis ball prize, it sounds a lot like an steam engine, so as it exhales, there is water spritz.

5. I added back some of the shadows for the tennis ball and the reflections from the dog's coat. I'll leave this sit for a little while before coming back to it and doing some final touches, but I had a lot of fun creating this little piece. Woof-woof!

6. In this final part, I focused on correcting anatomical and perspective sniglets. The lower canines were originally placed too close together, the nostrils needed some adjustments, the slope of the snout was slightly off, and the eye was a little wonky. In making those corrections, I also noticed that the wet hair needed to carry a little more weight and get a little bit curly around the ears. Subtle, yes, but necessary! Can you imagine this happy guy bringing the ball back, coming out of the lake, and totally shaking all that water off? I can!

Day 19: Ballerina Tulip (an oil pastel)

From January 19, 2012

Ballerina Tulip, an oil pastel on 8x10 navy Canson Mi-Tientes Touch.

1. After a quick sketch of the petals in white Conte pencil, I began blocking in hues.

2. Here, I've added this tulip's stem and one for its taller neighbor as well filling up the rest of the petals.

3. I was convinced I needed to do something more interesting with the background than the the original paper blue, so I went a little nuts with the tints of the colors used in the composition thus far. After I was finished with this part, I decided, no, no, no, this is too busy and too complex.

4. I pulled out my Turpenoid and a brush, to gently smoosh (yes, that is the technical term) the colors together. Needless to say, I still was not pleased with the background.

5. Here I opted to darken the shadows , refine some of the contours, and pull the Turpenoid out again to meld the background. My reference photo has a poorly lit white wall behind it, and ultimately this mixture well represents the value of the wall. Unfortunately, it feels way to flat for me. After all, it's a bit of pebbly, irregular surface.

6. For this final adjustment to the background, I used light, irregular scribbles, again with the tints of hues used in this composition plus white. It almost carries the glowing characteristics of a frosted glass window. It was fun to pull out the oil pastels as a slight change of pace for the day after several weeks of working solely with soft pastels. I am a little rusty with the oil pastels, but I like their feel and forgiveness.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 18: Daffodil

January 18, 2012

Daffodil, soft pastel on 8x10 pale yellow Sabretooth sanded paper

1. I used the Sofft tools to apply PanPastels to the paper after a brief sketch with a white Conte pencil.

2. I rarely use grays in a pastel, but in this instance, I used several tints of Payne's gray to build up the shadows on the petals and several greens to build the depth of the leaves and the interior of the flower's trumpet.

3. I continute building up the shadows and hues of the flower, still working solely with PanPastels.

4. Here I began stroking in some of the veining on the petals with a variety of PanPastel tints.

5. Now that the entire structure of the flower is built, I whipped out the white Conte pencil to firm up the points and highlights on the petals and a few sticks to manage some of the kinds of strokes that I just can't (yet) achieve with PanPastels.

6. I extended one of the large blade leaves up above the flower, and continued using pastel pencils to firm up the fringed edge of the trumpet closest to the viewer and add some veining to the interior of the trumpet.

7. Here I worked on some of the shadows and the structure of the trumpet.

8. My shadows were too harsh and too gray on the back petals, so I used a white PanPastel over the top, and did a little corrections on the interior of the trumpet. The flat background was just too flat for the piece, so I added some shades of the same color in a fanned structure to mimic the shadows that might be cast on a wall behing--and to add a little more energy to the piece.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pastel-a-Day Number 17: Chilly Sunset

January 17, 2012

Chilly Sunset, a soft pastel on peach-colored 7x10 sheet of Saint-Armand Sabretooth sanded pastel surface.

1. I did a quick scumbled sketch with the sides of pastel sticks before finger-blending to tone the paper. This surface has bigger spacing between the hills and valleys of the structure, which is typically the kind of surface I avoid...

2. I erased some of the blue in the sky to help reveal the native color of the paper, to try to give the richest oranges and peach colors in the sky. Because of the extreme texture of this paper, I continued to finger-blend colors to try to minimize the dappled effect. Isn't it ironic that I dislike the stippled effect when it gets generated by the paper, but am so proud of it when I create it with my strokes?

3. I began bringing in tree and brush between the individual fields with just simple vertical strokes in a variety of colors, and enriching the structure of the out buildings on this little farm, working to get the silo to lean less to the left.

4. After focusing on the ground for a little while, it was time to get back to brightening the sky and adding more variegated colors to the tree line in the distance.

5. With each additional layer and Spectrfix spray, the buildings in the foreground reveal more and more of the texture of the paper. In this case, it sure looks live I've spent hours stippling that roof.

6. I came back with some more pure hue in the sky, including the addition of darker blues higher up in the sky, making the oranges and yellows regain their glowing characteristics that have been cast in color onto the snow-covered fields. I'm going to let this sit for a little bit before I decide on adding another layer or calling this one done. For my eyes, this is a piece that definitely looks better from a distance than close up.

7. I used a few PanPastels in the sky and the snow, and completely worked the tree on the right side (cheating with pastel pencils to go back to bare limb basics. There isn't enough tooth left on the surface to put in more details, so I have to count this one as "done", and a lesson on using Sabretooth!

Monday, January 16, 2012

16: A sandhill crane study in soft pastel

January 16, 2012

Sandhills, a soft pastel on a 6x6 sage-colored Canson Mi-Tientes Touch, a new sanded surface.

1. Using a white Conte pastel pencil, I sketched in in outlines of the main characters in today's production.

2. To ensure that I didn't overfill the tooth of this new paper (especially for the birds), I did some initial terrain contouring with NuPastels, using the side of the sticks to lay down just touches of color.

3. Here I began adding in the main structural details for the birds, building up shadows and working to retain the late afternoon highlights. Almost as soon as the red went in on the head, these critters started to take over the composition, as intended.

4. Because I have no interruptions coming through today,I was able to step back from the piece at regular intervals to do value checks, which were essential to build these birds into the terrain while still retaining a bit of their natural camouflage characteristics.

5. With yet another composition based on harsh afternoon sun, I also wanted to make sure that some of the longer grasses were well-represented as being well lit by the sun, including the yummy piece that the lead Sandhill carries in its beak.

6. I used a silicone shaper to do a little blending on the birds to minimize the chunks that tend to disrupt their natural curvatures. I also wanted to pull in some very thin grasses in the foreground, using careful strokes of the Great American sticks.

7. Here, I've resurrected the vibrance of the highlights and darkened a few of the shadows to bring more dimension to the pieces (better exposure of the digital image also helps). I am apparently getting more efficient with each passing day, which means that I can now turn a little piece like this out in about 2.5 hours. I guess that sounds amazing to me, since I usually don't have that big a block of time on any one given day to devote to this pursuit. I most definitely envy those of you who can spend every day in their studio immersed in their art!

Day 15: Moonscape abstract

From January 15, 2012

Moonscape, a soft pastel on 9x12 black Colourfix Suede

1. I sketched the moon, the focal tree, and the terrain in with a white Conte pencil.

2. This photo represents two layers of PanPastels applied primarily with the palette-knife-type Sofft tools. Using a limited palette that included white, yellow, turquoise, violet, tints of magenta and ultramarine, and a shade of violet, coupled with the white Conte pencil, vine charcoal, and a little bit of black Sharpie, I worked out today's simplified abstract composition.

3. I dabbled more blue into the sky using scumbline on the left half and light sketching between the tree branches. I finished the piece with a few touches of ultra light blues and purples in the snow and dark purples at the contour interfaces.

14: Abandoned, a soft pastel

From January 14, 2012

Abandoned a soft pastel on 9x12 terra cotta Richeson Premium Pastel Hardboard.

1. Using the terra cotta of the surface, I left the rooftop as the "paper color" and brought back a rich red tree trunk on this late afternoon composition. I've mostly used just the side of the pastel stick to block in the initial structures, allowing the structural buildings to bleed through the overgrown trees.

2. One of the interesting tidbits about this house is the year-round faded wreath on the front door, which I've added in here. I've built up the shadowed textures, the weathered wood panels on the front of the house, the terra cotta roof tiles, and the overgrown lilies in the front. A few more details to add, and I can call it a day!

3. I've built up the foreground tree, using mish-mashed strokes of the sticks, pushing as much of the end of the stick onto the paper as it would take. I really like being able to get the light to dance off the foliage, and feel like the values are quite good. I could probably lighten the value just a touch more on the front of the house if I wanted it to match the color of the reference photo, but my memory of the house on that day is that the building in the back was getting direct sunlight and the front of the house getting some filtered light, so this may be closer to the details of the day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thirteen: Dual Ring Ceremony

Dual Ring Ceremony, a soft pastel on 5x7 charcoal grey Clairfontaine PastelMat.

1. Today, I'm sticking with a mostly neutral palette to capture a snowy day in Verona. I've quickly blocked in the angular snow-covered roof structure, the stone wall facing the viewer, and the bell tower structure in the foreground.

2. In the second step, I corrected some of the structural angles and used the side of a stick to scumble in a pale aqua sky, taking care to allow some of the background gray to peek through.

3. I chose a few more higher values to add more variety to the sky, using angular strokes and a few stipples to show the falling snow. I left some of the dark of the paper bleed through around the stiles of the bell tower and in the shadow areas of the building structure. Ultimately, I pulled out a white, black, gray, and dark brown pastel pencil to firm out the structure of the bells. I used my SpectraFix fixative again today after several days without it's use. I need to repair the extra wide swath of cream under the second bell.

4. To finalize this piece, I made a few minor corrections to some of the snow-covered areas and to the flakes falling under a mild, but constant wind. I ever so rarely work with pastels in mostly neutrals, but the way snow mutes everything, this seemed like the perfect approach.

Day 12: The Apple

January 12, 2012

The Apple, a soft pastel with Conte pencil sketch and watercolor and gouache underpainting on 6x6 Art Spectrum Colourfix sanded brick red paper.

1. In today's adventure, I wanted to do more of a value/hue underpainting with pigment that soaked into the surface of the paper before I began filling it up with pastels. I really like how this underpainting looks, especially for the apple and the two main leaves. The highlights are just about as light s they need to be, and there's an opportunity to lay in some rich darks to get the background to recede.

2. I got in "the zone" working on this without taking lots of photos along the way, but making tremendous progress. To build the structure of the apple, I did lots of blended layers, working to get both the matte and shiny portions of the apple to come to life and retain the itty bitty spot across the lit and shadowy portions. The tree branches in the background are heavily laden with lichens, which is an interesting texture to try to represent. There are parts of this that are absolutely finished and some that are less so. My left brain wants to take all of them to completion and my right brain is screaming no, no, NO, leave it alone just as it is! I believe today I will happily defer to the right brain.

More Catch-up: Day 11 > Attention Seeker

from January 11, 2012

Attention Seeker, a soft pastel on 5x7 royal blue (navy) Art Spectrum Colourfix sanded paper.

1. The intent here is to create and retain some majorly fluffy, massive, ethereal clouds in the background. The paper color is shown in the upper right, a mass of green was layed in for the foreground grasses, and a combination of blues and violets were used to rough in the clouds before blending with my finger. I'm starting to get really smooth fingertips.

2. Here I've lightened the rest of the sky so that more of the wispier clouds will ultimately retain this pale blue color. I've sketched in a singular coneflower, a little patch of Bee Balm, and additional texture for the foreground grasses.

3. Here I've darkened the main portion of the sky to a middle cyan blue, added the structural highlights and shadows to the coneflower, and added more mass to the foreground grasses. Thus far, this piece, too, has been created without the use of a fixative. I've used up a lot of tooth and might have some issues getting more details in the foreground. Might have to come up with an interesting solution... I want to enrich the sky color to a deeper blue, closer to the original blue of the paper. Here's an instance where I wish I had purchased the Art Spectrum pastels that match the paper colors. I'm off to a dinner party, so I won't get back to this until later tonight. Crazy for me to be attending 3 major social events in the same week. Cuts in to the creative time...

4. I've followed through on my plan to enrich the color of the sky and add some other enhancements to the clouds. Primarily I used a warm, pale peach to add in a few highlights. I came back quite exhausted after tonight's dinner party, which means that my tiredness plays a role in how far I can take this piece. I have committed to finishing each piece on the calendar day on which it was started. At the very least, this means that I'm not allowing myself to do any reworking or further enhancements until the Pastel-a-Day journey completes. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Catching up: Day 10 > Fuschia

from January 10, 2012

Fuschia, a soft pastel on 6x6 Art Spectrum Colourfix sanded paper.

1. I didn't have trouble choosing subject matter tonight, but did have some motivational issues after running around on a bunch of errands today. Sometimes it's hard to collect creative energy when it feels like much of it for the day has already been spent. Using a white Conte pencil, I sketched in the two flowers an a little dangling leftover after the bloom.

2. I blocked colors in from light to dark in the flowers, scumbled some colors into the background, and then worked to blend the background into the tooth of the paper with my fingers. By this point in the day, it appeared that working on my art began to invigorate me, so my energy level increased with the warmth of the image.

3. I continued to use finger-blending on the background areas and silicone blending tools on the more detailed petals to fully fill the tooth of the paper (with only minor exceptions where I used the dark brown of the paper as parts of the shadow and shape delimiters. After yesterday's fixative issues, I decided to work this piece to completion without spraying fixative.

4. As I darkened the background with successive layers of pastel pushed into the paper by finger and silicon blender, I was able to achieve a very painterly background. I bumped up the value for the highlights and enhanced the contours of the petals. Ultimately I completed the structure of the plant with the addition of the anthers, letting them shine in the glow of the afternoon sun. From start-to-finish, I was able to complete this piece in just under 2 hours. Not bad considering that I thought I wouldn't have enough energy to create something--and certainly didn't think I'd be able to create something this vibrant. I'm shamelessly pleased with myself today!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 9: The Sky IS Falling

from January 9, 2012

Ribbons, a soft pastel on Wallis paper

1. I whipped up this quick starter sketch with vine charcoal during our monthly pastel group meeting.

2. I began blocking in the main shapes with NuPastels.

3. In this step, the main contours are completely blocked in with NuPastels and have been pinky-finger-blended into the tooth of the paper to hide the cream color of the paper.

4. I've had my first major fixative incident with SpectraFix. I had a gooey, spotty area appear in the middle of the sky, and began seeing significant darkening of the image. I'm now wondering how long the shelf life is for the concentrate of the fixative. On the other hand, I kind of like and can live with the kind of spotting that occurred in the foreground (I did cover some of it up). Think, think, think about corrections for the sky...

5. The only real change between Part 4 and this image is that i applied Golden Pastel ground medium by brush to the sky portion of the image and dried it with a hair dryer. I hope that this turns a bad spray incident into a positive learning experience.

6. I was able to repair the sky goobers with the pastel ground medium (WHEW!), which gave me the opportunity to rebuild a gradient sky and then build up for foreground structure and make some adjustments to the near farm buildings. I added some more Everclear (grain alcohol) to my diluted SpectraFix and decided to respray, intentionally going for a spatter-spray effect. Why not learn how to use odd chemistry in a positive way?

7. I needed to use a higher value highlight as using fixative on this piece has progressively darkened more of the colors than I've ever seen, and have opted to NOT spray a final layer of fixative here. While this piece is finished as far as I will take it in this daily painting format, I will work to revisit this composition again later with a fresh batch of fixative. I am pleased that I was able to get some more tooth back on the surface with the acrylic ground for pastels from Golden (I'm counting it as a lifesaver) without losing all of the details underneath the coating (translucent/transparent overcoat).

Today's OOPS art-venture included a "learning experience" that I tried to turn back from an "oh *!" to an "okay, I can fix that" scenario. Essentially my ever-so-reliable SpectraFix fixative seemed to have an excessively gummy-gooey kind of day. This meant as I was trying to do some final blending on my sky, there was a Henny Penny moment where parts of the sky fell off. After initially freaking out, I pulled out my Golden Acrylic Ground for Pastels, painted it over the whole sky area, dried it with my hair dryer, and reapplied a graduated sky. I diluted the SpectraFix with a little more alcohol and decided to use its misbehavior characteristic for the day as part of the picture, opting to let some new spots/granulation to be left in the painting. Today's piece counts a bit more as a learning experience than an awesome finished piece.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 8: Faux Color, Real Value

from January 8, 2011

Feeling Sheepish, a soft pastel on 6x6 tan PastelMat

1. I used vine charcoal to sketch in mom and her two lambs and their deep shadow.

2. Using faux color but near value, I stippled in the bodies of the sheep.

3. Here I dashed in the grassy undergrowth in blue, green, and pink, and continued to refine the extreme highlights on the sheep. There are a couple of corrections that I still need to make before calling it the end of day 8.

4. I made some mark-making adjustments to the far grassy area and adjustments to both of the lamb's faces and several highlight areas. I feel like I've captured the bright morning light and the wooly textures of these docile creatures.

Day 7: An Exercise in Softness: the Iris

From January 7, 2012

Iris, a soft pastel on 6x6 pale blue Colourfix Suede

1. I blocked in the shape for the iris by using white PanPastel applied with Sofft tools applicator. Since Suede officially says that it's well suited for a softer touch, that's what I wanted to use throughout for this piece.

2. I needed to refine the shape of the petals, and after spraying with Spectrafix, I was able to apply more PanPastel to the surface. This Suede surface carries the "nappy" features of fabric, so as the foam applicator for the PanPastel is pulled across the surface, you can see a reorientation of the fibers in the surface. It makes creation with the PanPastels carry another dimension.

3. After a second splash of fixative, I opted to use standard soft pastel sticks to add the veined details of the petals and the curved nature of the petals using lost/found strokes. I ran up against a time constraint here (after going out for some uncharacteristic socializing), but am pleased with the final presentation of this piece.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 6: Looking into the Canyon

from January 6, 2012
Looking into the Canyon, a soft pastel on 6x6 royal blue Colourfix Suede.

1. Today's piece is a really late starter for the day, where I set up at the easel beginning at 9 PM. I'm using a new surface today: Art Spectrum's Colourfix Suede, a surface similar to PastelMat, but on a thicker stock. There is a bit of pebbling of the surface (especially visible in areas where you use blending techniques), but so far with my successively built layering style the paper is performing well.

2. I've worked on the rock structures on this vista of Bryce Canyon in Utah, and brought in an self portrait figurative element into the piece. I'm not sure how much further I can take this piece in the next 20 minutes, but will give it a shot to make some minor adjustments before I officially call it the end of day 6.

3. Due to official time constraints, I added just a few touches of light values here and there, including on the near rock viewpoint and the foliage in the foreground. I've filled the tooth of this paper, so I can't do much correction to the figure. I believe that I'll have to revisit this composition in the future as a full-fledged larger image.

This was ultimately a test of being able to "put your pastels down" at a specified time. : )

Day 5: Little Blue Table

From January 5, 2012

Little Blue Table, a soft pastel on 6x6 Pastelbord.

1. He's the quick rough starter sketch executed primarily in local colors with Prismacolor hard sticks.

2. I got deeper and deeper into the creative zone as I began to take the rough shape sketch into what was meant to be only a shape-filling exercise. I began simply enough, and haven't used the harder pastels to take an underpainting this far in a very long time. I attribute that to a love/hate relationship with the harder pastels--they really need to have the right surface to perform well in my hands. Anyway, I had fun creating contour shading in the well-weathered couch and creating the rippled surface on the ceramic vase in the background. I'm still deciding whether I want to build the brocade surface on the couch or the tiled pattern on the table. Must be time for a late lunch break!

3. I whipped out the softer pastels to enrich shadows, create the wood grain on the pottery shelves, and build the tiled pattern on the table. I need to deepen the shadows below the potter shelf and the table (on the side of the wooden shelf). I'm not completely used to painting from indoor photos shot with a heavy-duty flash...a number of things are lit far more intensely than they would be under natural (or unnatural) room lighting.

4. I updated shadows and grout lines on the table. There are some perspective issues on the pottery shelf, but I've overworked the Pastelbord in that area, so there limitations to corrections that I can make there. I'll try on more correction and then accept it "as is".

5. The corrections done here surrounded the shape of the pottery, corrections to the perspective of the shelf, and some adjustments to the tile tabletop. I know that I'll revisit this topic and focus on the brocade of the couch!

Neglecting my blog, but not my artventure...

My initial posts about my Pastel-a-Day adventures are posted on Facebook on my artist page ( This means that although I've not posted my art from day 5 or 6 on the days that they were created HERE yet on my blog, new information has been posted there. I'll catch up on posts this weekend, but if you're a reader and a Facebook member, feel free to *Like* my artist page and follow progress there.

A few things that I didn't really think of when I planned my Pastel-a-Day adventure:
  1. I might not be able to work on a big or complicated piece
  2. My normal style is to have things spill across several days, with a fresh perspective on each piece as the morning arrives
  3. I promised myself to NOT rework a piece at least until after February 1, which means if I notice something that I can definitely repair or alter, it's a sniggly thought in the back of my head
  4. I enjoy having to choose a subject matter and just build a piece. Like the work part of my life, getting a piece going (after I get past the motivational threshold) and moving isn't difficult. I struggle with that, likening that aspect of my ethic to that of a technician rather than the creative artist that I want to be.
  5. Looking for subject matter that's inspirational for a given day takes time and usually has me wandering through a boatload of old photos to determine "where will I go today?"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Number 4: Snow Fall

Day 4 of my Pastel-a-Day endeavor involved getting myself totally in an undistracted creative mode, pulling out my favorite surface, and finding a good snow photo to serve as the reference. It's been much of a snowflakeless winter thus far in Wisconsin, which is a big disappointment for me.

Snow Fall, a soft pastel on 6x6 Pastelbord.

1. After choosing my reference photo and using mat board corners to create a square composition, I used vine charcoal on one of my favorite surfaces to quickly sketch in the main details: a foreground tree and branches and a tree line.

2. I blocked in three higher value colors for the foreground snow-covered grasses (a blue-violet, a gray-green, and a red-violet), sketched the main tree structure in with a grayish teal and a pale pink, and drew in a tree line, initially in just a dark blue-green, and filled the sky holes in with a pale greenish blue. I added a few more details by tucking in some grasses, some color variety in the distant trees, and shadows around the tree trunk and limbs.

3. Continuing with a limited palette, I've added some more texture to the side of the tree that was hit by the horizontal snowfall and the snow-covered grasses in the foreground.

4. Adding a few more variety into the tree line in the distance, higher value near whites, and a smattering of leaves on the tree and a few on the ground brings this composition to near completion. I like that I've been able to give the impression of some bright whites while using only extremely high value color and neutral sticks. My eyes are a little tired today, so I'm glad that I was able to work relatively quickly in a well-focused creative zone.

5 (finished). After an hour break at the grocery store, I repaired the sunlight on the row of trees in the background and added variety and bigger leaves to the tree in the foreground.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day three of my pastelista journey

Today I worked on a still life, dealing with the floral masses of hydrangea and its floral heads. This one required a little bit of scrubbing and problem-solving to get to this final piece. Rough patches seem to respond well to innovative solutions. I'm betting this piece will look so much better to me after a perspective-inducing good night's sleep.

Hydrangea Still Life, soft pastel on 5.25 x 8.24 Wallis sanded paper.

1. The starting sketch looks a little bit like a very simplified duck (left) and a rabbit (right). : )

2. To tone the off-white paper, I quickly blocked in the base colors.

3. I used a brush and Turpenoid to suspend the soft pastel pigments into a liquid and brushed them into the crevices of the sanded surface.

4. I blocked in the flowers that I wanted to retain structurally throughout the composition.

5. This part involved more structural development of the focal point flowers and expanding the range of values.

6. The yellow background wasn't working for me, so I swapped it into a purple-black, which allowed me to enrich the shadow portions of the piece and do some negative shape adjustments. I became a bit frustrated at this point, cursing my choice of flower!

7. After a little rant and a subsequent break, I intentionally pulled out a blue stick that I thought was totally *wrong* for the color palette, and was thereby able to use it as a tool to better see the petals and opted to use a deep blue violet to do some more negative shape modeling of the petals. I rarely use an outlining technique like this, but it seems to work well in a complicated mass like this. Ultimately I will bring in some brighter highlights and turn some of these extremely dark outlines to thinner, broken lines.

8. With some lighter lights, the hydrangea ball in the foreground is looking pretty good. I added some more vibrant hues to the young mass at the left. I've deleted some of the mass from the ball in the background. Still not sure about that part, though. A part of me wants to make it completely disappear...

9. I wiped out the back hydrangea mass with a dark pastel, some Turpenoid, and additional cover strokes to turn it into a consistent backdrop. I then added in the curly wood of the bouquet at intentional diagonals and did some updates to the bud-ball.

10. (Finished). The bud-ball needed to go back to more of a bright green mass, so I reworked that area and did a touch or two around the painting to ensure that the colors tie together throughout the composition. I'll add a signature later and take a final photo in the sunlight. The biggest things I learned today: examine and learn a little more about the anatomy of a particular flower family before beginning the painting part and always remember to simplify things for each painting that I want to finish in a single day. Things that I've learned previously and applied today: mist flowers throughout their studio session whenever artificial lighting is used.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A second day of pastel...

Lacy Resting Places. Part 1, soft pastel on 7 x 9 storm green sanded paper (Richeson Premium). I often start by jumping right in from a photo reference and putting everything in to the piece. Here, I've selected some prominent oval shapes to include. I wiped out a few things that were misplaced with an eraser and a stiff-bristled brush. My primary goal for today is to keep things a bit more loose than I did in yesterday's project and use the paper color untouched as background color.

Part 2, soft pastel on 7 x 9 storm green sanded paper (Richeson Premium). Here I've taken advantage of my tendency to create patterns by using the inherently patterned Queen Anne's Lace flower as my focal point. It's smaller clusters occur in natural hexagon shapes, which means I can use randomized pointillism within an foreshortened hexagon to build it's structure. The companion flowers in this prairie are wild bergamot. These flowers are more like my hair--wild and curly, sticking up here and there at will--and are the controlled chaos portion of this piece.

Part 3, soft pastel on 7 x 9 storm green sanded paper (Richeson Premium). Here I've expanded on the structures of the background flowers and added some darker marks to represent some of the shadows inside the depth of the lace. The biggest plan for the next step is to increase the contras between the Bergamots and the background. I have a couple of choices here--to go toward darker values in the undergrowth or toward lighter values in the flowers. Because I really want the "lace" to be the primary focal point, I'm going to opt for adding shades. I might also use a few highlights on a couple of the purple flowers later.

Part 4, soft pastel on 7 x 9 storm green sanded paper (Richeson Premium). Darkening the undergrowth was a great way to increase the contrast between the wiry petals of the Bergamot flowers and the "storm green" of the sanded paper.

Part 5, soft pastel on 7 x 9 storm green sanded paper (Richeson Premium). In this step, I turned up the sun...bringing in brighter highlights onto the Queen Anne's lace and onto the frills of the purples flowers (plus this photo is slightly overexposed!). I'll need to cast a few shadows onto those two Bergamots tucked in under lace umbrella.

Part 6, soft pastel on 7 x 9 storm green sanded paper (Richeson Premium). I've enhanced the 3 Bergamots at the right with lighter value highlights and de-emphasized the other by using darker values, at least on the petals. I still need go a little darker for the ones under the "umbrella". Only a few more tweaks, and I can count this one as being finished.

Part 7, soft pastel on 7 x 9 storm green sanded paper (Richeson Premium). Ultimately this piece is finished (although it still needs a signature). Day 2 of my Pastel-a-Day completed! Yay-rah!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

31-day-pastel-a-thon begins...

The first piece is a soft pastel composed on a sanded surface with the Smoky Mountains as my subject. Below are a set of 7 images and text that describes my progress.

Smoky Mountains. Part 1, 5.5 x 9 soft pastel on Storm (see near foreground green), a sanded Premium Pastel Surface from Richeson. I did a quick line sketch with white charcoal pencil, filled in the main shapes, and used Turpenoid and a cheap paint brush to spread color into the tooth of the paper, and used some of the pigment left on the brush to pull down some color into the background evergreen tree line (near ground triangle). The disadvantage of using white charcoal to sketch in the lines is that they remain unless you do a bit of scrubbing with the wet brush. Off to build the next layer!

Part 2, 5.5 x 9 soft pastel on Storm (see near foreground green), a sanded Premium Pastel Surface from Richeson. I've added wispy clouds to the sky and dappled in the tree-covered mountains the recede into the distance. I also realized that the peaks on my far mountains should be much less varied in height. After all, these are very old mountains! So much more work to do, and sometimes things get a little ugly before they make a turn for the beautiful. This piece is in that nether space at the moment. I've used SpectraFix to set the pigments in place. Back to the drawing board...literally!

Part 3, 5.5 x 9 soft pastel on Storm (see near foreground green), a sanded Premium Pastel Surface from Richeson. I've repaired the distant mountain contour and added colors in to the contours in between. I still need to make some atmospheric perspective adjustments, as these are the Smoky Mountains, known for a hazy appearance as the hills recede in the distance. What will the next step in the process show?

Part 4, 5.5 x 9 soft pastel on Storm (a bluish green), a sanded Premium Pastel Surface from Richeson. The foreground trees are shaping up nicely now, and the atmospheric perspective is helping push the hills further into the distance. I think I need a dinner break before continuing. Back in a bit.

Part 5, 5.5 x 9 soft pastel on Storm (a bluish green), a sanded Premium Pastel Surface from Richeson. While I had the cooler colors in the far hills, I had them too saturated. Here I've desaturated the hills in the distance with blues and purples and increased the saturation of the near hills with pure greens and yellow-greens. Because of the pointillist technique used in the mountains, this is a piece that looks better across the room than up close. After a little more tree work, I can count the first of my Pastel-a-Day pieces as finished!

Part 6, 5.5 x 9 soft pastel on Storm (a bluish green), a sanded Premium Pastel Surface from Richeson. I've reworked the trees to get them to look less like groomed holiday trees (yes, I said it) and a little more scraggly and irregular. Of course, creating irregularities is something that the pattern-based logic part of my brain fights me on every time. I've also made some minor adjustments to the far hills by using a brush to lightly blend and push the pastels into the tooth of the paper. I'm almost pleased enough to sign this one.

Finished (Part 7), 5.5 x 9 soft pastel on Storm (a bluish green), a sanded Premium Pastel Surface from Richeson. I added a couple of tweaks to the clouds, then signed this piece and am calling it a successful first piece for my 31-day-pastel-a-thon!

I count this as a good first day!
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