Is that Seagull Sick? (Playing with Color)

"Gull Talk" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
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Another late night painting, when I had no business being awake. Since I was (barely), I thought I would break out the chalk, hoping to ease that anxiety that builds up when I haven't made a complete painting in a day or two. I had no idea what to paint, but I knew I wanted to use those extra soft pastels with the hot colors. I went for a combination of blue-green and yellow-orange, with a little red-orange for emphasis in the middle ground.

I ran into the same problem I always do when I choose to focus on color: a flat painting without any real areas that were clearly defined. I know I'm not a painter who can go entirely without some value (lights and darks) to define my subjects, so I added just a touch of black pastel to give the birds, pipe, rocks, and fire pit a little more definition. The painting wasn't working at first, but once I started to add some of those bright highlights to the birds and the water, it came together.

When I save a photo of a painting for prints or the web, my goal is to make sure it is as close to the real life painting as possible, which usually means just cropping and sharpening. I do like to push the contrast up out of curiosity though, before I bring it back to normal and save the photo. I like the way the pictures look with the almost flourescent coloring when that contrast is really high, and creating this painting was kind of a natural way of achieving that exaggerated contrast while still being able to create with my hands.

I used a reference photo I took on a quiet afternoon at the beach in Oceanside, California. It wasn't a terribly exciting picture, but the position of the seagulls made it a moment worth capturing. To see more pieces inspired by California scenery, click here:


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