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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hooray for Arches Cold Press!

I thought I might try some mixed media, and wanted to make a good underpainting first so I wouldn't lose my way. It helps to have a road map when I'm tired or distracted.
So, I taped down some of my "good" paper-- Arches Cold Press, which I had bought a long time ago for a watercolor class. I've finally come to the conclusion that I'm not much of a watercolor painter, unless it's combined with other media.
After I blocked in my pastel "underpainting," I had the urge to tinker with it, adding a little water with a soft brush. The effect was very soft and ethereal, and as soon as it dried, I added another layer of pastel. The paper absorbed the pastel layers and water so well, I topped it off with a little fixative and stopped before I could overdo it.
This is a painting inspired by a fountain in downtown Fallbrook, CA.
"Ladies of the Water"
9 x 12 Chalk pastel
on Arches Cold Press paper

Click here to buy print:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blue 'Tude: How to mix oil and chalk pastels

"Blue 'Tude"
8 x 11 Pastel (oil and chalk) and China Pencil on paper
Click here to buy print:

What started as a sketch while I was in the waiting room at the hospital turned into a full-blown learning experience with china marker, oil, and chalk pastel.

I like to sketch with the china marker, because it's nice and loose (and you can't erase!) Unfortunately, my toddler discovered that she enjoys sketching with the china marker too. She especially enjoys sketching ON my work, and had a great time scribbling all over the reference photo as well. Of course, I smiled and let her do it-- what else is an artist mom supposed to do? I can always make a new sketch.

I rather liked the sketch I had, though, scribbles and all. So, I figured some oil pastel would blend nicely with the china marker, and maybe cover up some of those scribbles. I got a pretty good picture down with the oil pastel and china marker; however, it needed some softer tones. So, atop the oil pastel, I began to rub some chalk pastel. You almost have to do it like a leaf rubbing-- vary how hard you push down on the chalk, and let the texture underneath show through in some areas.

Once you've started adding the chalk, stay away from the oil pastels-- china marker will go on top of chalk just fine, though. To bring the different mediums together, I used a soft, dry brush to blend. For added texture (like the whiskers), I alternately used a painting knife, my fingernail, and the end of my paintbrush to scratch off some of the top layer. I recommend the end of your brush.

This activity is not for the faint of heart-- you really have to rub in that chalk layer. After you feel the picture is where you want it, you'll need to take some of your darkest darks and highlight a few spots with the chalk, because the oil tends to absorb the chalk and give the whole thing a fuzzy look. The chalk pastel won't move like it would in a strictly chalk painting, and the oil won't show the strokes as well as it would in a strictly oil pastel work. I enjoyed the push and pull of the texture, though. I also think I'll use some sharper pastels or pastel pencils next time for those detailed areas.

I also learned that china marker rubs off of photographs with a paper towel-- now I can draw moustaches on photos and erase them so no one sees afterward.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

There She Is!

She's much bigger now-- but I remember that first glimpse on the screen. Sifting through some photos today, I found a batch of the little one's ultrasound photos, and decided to try my own version with pastel. I used the dark paper, because I know it was probably pretty dark in there-- as it was in the ultrasound room, save for the lights that kept squirming around on the monitor.
I had to work quickly, while the star of the painting took her nap. Of course, in the few minutes I left my pastels, she snuck out of bed and helped herself to the chalk and paper. I came back into the room to find her working VERY quietly, her fingers covered in pastel. Later, when I went back to work, I noted that not only had she made her own little marks on the paper, she made them using the red shade I had used. I had to ruefully smear away some of her marks, but I tried to save a few to show her one day when she is older, so she can appreciate her early artistic attempts.
"There She Is"
9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Prints available on RedBubble:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Don't bring a knife to a brush fight!

"Cerveza Time" 16 x 20 in Acrylic on Canvas
Click here to purchase or view lare
"Looking In" 22 x 28 in Acrylic on Canvas
Click here to view prints

Both of these paintings were supposed to be done with a painting knife. However, fate had other plans. As I worked in the lights and darks on Looking In, I realized I wouldn't get the texture I wanted on the sari unless I used sweeping brush strokes. The "first draft" of this piece had way too much in the background, so I knocked it back to a flat sky, grass, the woman, and the couple. The woman's clothing and pose were what inspired the photo I took (at the Temecula Wine and Balloon Festival), so I wanted the focus to be on that. This painting went through many "drafts," since I painted it without much of a plan in a quick afternoon session while the baby was asleep.

In contrast, Cerveza Time was done for the most part in one long session. I didn't do as much "revision" on this one, because I wanted to keep it loose. Cerveza also started with a full pastel sketch to show the values, which became an underpainting. I also took the time to make a thumbnail before embarking on the sketch. Cerveza didn't get much of a background, so it's like a floating bar-- isn't that the point of a beer garden?

Anyway, by the time I got to the real painting portion of Cerveza, I knew the knife wouldn't do me much good with all of those shapes, so I stuck with loose brushwork. It's best to keep a variety of painting weapons at hand, since at some point your painting will take charge of itself for a while.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mystical Scene

If these three look familiar, it's because they are-- it's the same family from "Three for the Sunset," this time taking a little dip in the moonlit waves. I actually did this picture in class a few months ago, without the moon and clouds. This paper makes it extremely hard to have any hard edges, because it eats the chalk pastel and digests it. So, I used a little oil pastel to give the chalk some sticking power. I've never combined these two before (it felt a little unorthodox), but I think they can work together if used on the right surface. Chalk can only go on top of oil, though-- I wouldn't recommend oil on top of chalk.

"Mystic" 9 x 12 Pastel on Paper

I added the moon and clouds to give it more of a mystical feel-- I'll have to admit that I can never remember seeing moonlight at the beach; every night I've been at the beach, the marine layer was so thick you could barely see where the water ended and the sky began.

The title comes from one of my favorite Van Morrison songs, "Into the Mystic." Reference photo was taken at Oceanside Harbor Beach in California.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Sweet Caress

"Sweet Caress" 9 x 12 Pastel on Paper

This piece has been a long time coming...
In 2007, we evacuated because of the Rice Canyon Fire. As we were leaving, I debated whether to take this statue with me. I decided to leave the angels at the house. Miraculously, the only thing on the property that didn't burn down in that fire was the house itself-- even though it had minor damage from the flames and heat being directly on it.
A couple of years later, I noticed how nice the statue looked in the light from the setting sun, and took a picture to bring to my art class. I brought the picture, and my art students immediately began protesting-- at first, they freaked out because they thought the statues were kissing. Then, they said it was too hard. A few students weren't allowed to draw angels for religious reasons, so I gave them a different subject to draw-- I knew these students well and had anticipated they might need something different. Suddenly, I had many religious objections from students I had never known to protest religious objects in the past. Irritated, I handed out more copies of the alternative subject to those newly objecting students. Ultimately, only a few students tried the piece, even though I tried to explain and demonstrate how easy it would be if they followed the negative spaces and paid attention to value. What I thought would be a fun, challenging drawing lesson turned into a battle of wills with a bunch of middle-schoolers.
The whole experience was so disappointing, I put the photo aside for a while. When I did finally take up the piece on my own with pastels, it was just as easy as I predicted-- I followed the negative spaces and broke the picture down into dark and light.
So, I ended up with a painting that was a joy to create and has a little history to go with it. This statue looks great from so many angles throughout the day, I may have to try it again from a different point of view next time.
And, next time I try a lesson with negative space, I suppose I'll use candlesticks or something similar to minimize the objections.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shifting Sunsets

Although I loved thecolors and the mood of my original sunset painting (left), I knew it had a major problem with composition-- it looked split in half. So, I got up early and made a whole new painting. The second round went much easier, which shows there is something to be said for having a plan in mind. The figures changed a little, but I was much happier with the second painting.

"Three for the Sunset" (image on right)
9 x 12 Pastel on Paper

I have two more features on RedBubble: "Portrait" can be seen on the "All Things Egyptian" page, and "Mission Creek, San Luis Obispo, CA" was just featured on the "California Sound" page.
"Mission Creek, San Luis Obispo, CA"
16 x 20 Acrylic on Canvas