Happy Accidents (experimenting with pastel techniques)

"Standing Alone" 12 x 18 Chalk Pastel on Watercolor Paper
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It was that time of night where I was tempted to just call it a day and get some sleep, but felt guilty because I hadn't painted yet. Lying on the floor with my feet by the heater, I grabbed my chalk pastels and a large piece of Canson watercolor paper. I find it helpful to tape paper down on some type of board earlier in the day, so I have one less excuse to get out of painting. I figured I would work large and simple, use complementary colors, and toss the piece out at the end if I didn't like it. I used one of my photos of a simple, beautiful Egyptian pitcher as a reference.

I didn't have much in the way of light, which also freed me from agonizing over details. I worked quickly, and had a complete (first stage, anyway) painting within a half hour. I finally felt justified in drifting off to sleep.

Upon waking, I discovered that the texture of the cardboard showed through on the background. I liked the roughness of the piece and the texture from the cardboard, so I was careful with my smearing. I also chose not to add water, letting the pastel sit in its raw form on the watercolor paper.

After a little noodling, I took a paintbrush ( a nice strong one) and tried a little blending. The heavy brush actually lifted off the layers of pastel, which I found intriguing. I began using the brush to lift out some of the "muddier" areas to reveal the original color. Then I added a little white pastel for highlights, and I was done.
And then there are those pieces where the accidents are not so happy...

"A Grand Tradition" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
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This was another piece where I struggled with reflections-- and it was worse because they had to "line up" with the original objects, and some of those objects were very straight walls. I would get one area to make sense, then discover I had ruined a different part of the piece in doing so. Still, I put it aside each time I got frustrated, and took a fresh look at it the next day. I finally kept a ruler handy so I could straighten up some of the lines (I'm one of those people who gets vertigo if walls aren't straight.) Persevering paid off, though, and I finally hit the point where I felt like the painting worked. This is an image of the Grand Tradition in Fallbrook, CA, minus the huge crowd that was there on 4th of July.


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