First step is choosing the key colors around which the painting will originate. This process might take as many as 2-3 days. I a testing colors for value, hue and temperature making sure that when layered on top of each other they create depth of field as well as textures I want. Because pastels are the only dry color medium this characteristic is one I maximize when using it. Each pastel stick has a distinct texture to it. How it is applied to the paper determines how many layers can be added and how much of under layers can be seen through top layers.
Underlying a landscape is a good solid abstract value structure that transcends the literal objects. That is this stage creating- the abstract shapes and composing the positive and negative spaces. Sometime I use melodies for placement of key objects as a melody is varied in notes and rhythm. Think of what a melody looks like written on tabulator verses the bass.
Here is a close up of building the shapes. At this stage as well I am choosing what types of strokes I will use for different objects. Pastel strokes, just like brush strokes, are a critical tool to build visual effect and consequently I make sure each one says something.
Continuing to work the whole canvas as I block in the composition, I continue to pay very close attention to strokes and shapes.
I am returning to watercolor and so must refocus on watercolor process.
Watercolor seems to drip spring. The colors, the water the immediacy the newness. Why do I turn to this medium every spring? I wonder.
Here is my palette. I have duplicate colors for mixing in order to keep my pigments pure. As soon as a touch of blue twinges the yellow it can not make a beautiful orange.
Along with extra splotches of colors for mixing I use multiple pots of water. Here I have made the big mistake of my green brush in the yellow water ending up with two bowls of cleansing liquide for green and none for yellow. This will really screw up yellow for the daffodils!
First is blocking in colors keeping it liquid and very pure hues.
The daffodils must be a warm yellow. The greens of hte leaves more olive while the bottle and orb are human made greens
My palette is kept very clean and I change the pots of water every few minutes. Purity of color is critical.
Next step is with some moisture begin adding more intense colors keeping the edges soft. I do not want any hard edges at this stage in the painting. I messed up with the daff stems as I drew them linerally which creates hard edges on both sides.
More building of colors and depth. Again the purer the color the more depth can be gained. As soon as lots of pigments are mixed together, a dullness will set in to a watercolor that cant be undone.
So often it is the development of the darks in relation to the color devlepment which deadens watercolor paintings.
Pigments in watercolor do not mix the same as any other medium and so they go dead very fast.
Day 4 hours 45-55– . In Pastel, this can be very tricky. Too much under painting or complementary colors creates shadows and can ruin the impact of the piece.
However, the area on the right was so muddy I had to take off some of the pastel to rebuild the composition. The leaf structure was hap hazard did not draw the eye nor set off the water. So I scraped off the leaves and re selected colors. Part of the problem was not just the pattern but even more so the color I chose. It was a yellow/green – the correct value but not warm enough to set it off.
The following series of pictures show the tweaking of color, composition and patterns. These types of pictures in which there is no focal point and the key object is being seen through something else is difficult to keep cohesive. But if successful, can engender a real rooted view. So it take choosing colors based on value, hue and temperature very specifically.
Checking the values.
Building the warm cool shifts in the water preparing it for the whites of the falls last. Have to envision this… because I can not put the lights in until the darks are done.. not because darks wont adhere to the lights but because the darks will contaminate the lights.
At this stage in the painting I often hold the top out so that dust does not drift down onto the rest of the picture. Keeping the integrity of the colors chosen is really important if the picture is to not get muddy and have a 3d depth feeling..
Tomorrow will be defining the yellow leaves making sure none are wishy washy and fixing the cloud reflections so that the shapes are more interesting and the negative space the lights form are dynamic. I also do not like how the falls cut the pic in 1/2 so will adjust the way the water runs. Know the dynamics of running water will help with this.
Last will be redefining the trunks and branches the vertical trunks help pull all the horizontals together.
Recreating a scene seen on the fly… I am trying to recreate something I saw last fall when I could not stop to sketch or even take color notes.
Day 2 is spent building layers of depth in the sky, choosing specific colors to help leaves pop, testing colors for the ocean and checking composition.
Building the layers of depth in the sky means seeing the volumes of the clouds making sure how they are lit to help create that depth. Also what helps is putting one volume in front of another. Therefore, I worked to put one cloud in front of another. This is not so obvious in the picture. Pastels are hard to photograph!
To help make the leaves pop – where I wanted them to pop- I used subtle shifts from blue around the orange yellow leaves and purple around the yellow ones.
So what is wrong this this compositionally????
Critical is checking the compositional decisions at this stage while it is still possible to make changes without getting ghost images under the pastel. While pastel is in some ways opaque it is really transluscent and under colors come
Beneath the sea is green — then there is a dark Cobalt blue. Next a purple gray to tie to the sky. The bottom grasses are not right — time to work on those.
Its time to fill the page with color to check values. Now that I have definitely determined the under laying structure and color/values I believe will articulate the feel of the scene as I remember it I can begin to bring the picture up to nuance — now it will be making sure the integrity of the initial strokes of the pastel sticks are used ( first swipe with a stick is like painting with an Asian brush it is used to delinate the desired movement in the object). 11 hours today.
How does an artist recreate a scene seen in passing? This is how I do it.
The scene I want to capture is one I saw this past fall as I was driving along route 1. I could not stop nor could I get back. When I got to where I was headed, I quickly sketched the scene trying to remember as much information that engendered the sense I responded to.
It was looking through birch at tidal falls but the sense was of turbulance everywhere.
First step is to start testing colors. Foremost will be the yellows of the birch leaves so i begin with these. I want at least 6 colors in the yellows so i find the quality yellow I want and build the palette around that one.
Testing the yellows.. need dark and lights
blocking in the scene and then choosing the colors in the sky. I want the sky to help bring out the leaves.
Here is testing the gray blues darks and lights .
Next is blocking in the clouds for the movement in these will swirl opposite of the falls. Getting the shapes of these is something I want to do very well.
To do all this without having the scene to look at means relying on knowledge of the physics and geometry of objects. Also I find samples around me readily observed near where I am painting. I choose some of the cloud colors on a day when the skies were similar to the day I want to paint. I observe the way birch trees grow in order to make sure those in the picture follow the nature of birch trees. I do not want something poorly drawn to detract from what I am trying to capture.
Day 6 was spent defining the feel of the branches. I want to make sure these Winter Trees’ branches are entangled and intricate. Unlike previous pictures of this type I have done, this one needs to be more of a web, a net. So first I choose which colors I want to use then slowly I build up the shapes keeping the colors’ integrity by not intermixing the dust. Again critical to this is tipping the painting forward so the dust falls off the painitng not down the front and DONT SMUDGE. I never smudge; if I want the colors to transition smootly i use the actual pastel stick to move the pigment back and forth until there is no edge.
Also, the rocks needed some building to keep pace with the rest of the piece to maker sure the warm cool balance is working. The feelof this piece is to be more intimate as well as looking up so will make sure there is the sense of looking through the trees and up at the top and down at the bottom.
Third Day: Building the blues first a layer of purple across the top then building dark blues up to the value desired. Trunks are roughly mapped in but next will be to build the negative space between the trunks
Starting to torque the trunks. I want the feeling that there is a pull towards each other and yet not completely.
Here the trunks are parallel which creates static so undynamic. This must change!
Fixed the spaces continuing to build the blues but leaving areas for off white for the snow on branches. Etched out key shapes for the snow on branches making sure they are off set and yet interlocking. Especially about a 1/3 of the way down where I want it to look as a tentative embrace.
Not the white lines I am checking the movement of the trunks. Still not completely happy with the movement. Some tweaking will be needed after building the branches.
I handle paste dust by angling picture forward as in the picture. I place wet felt under it on the easel to absorb the dust. These shade of blues is especially poisonous. Also the dust can contaminate the bottom part of the picture.