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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Momentary Inspiration

"Shadow of the Queen" 12 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
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I used to do "History Days" with my students, and offer them extra credit to dress up according to whatever period of history we were studying. This piece came from a photo I took of a student, who was admiring her shadow in the parking lot. She was dressed as an Egyptian Queen, and had a great time with her costume all day.

I drew the outside lines of the figure for this piece, and left the core of the figure black, which was also the tone of the paper (Canson Mi-Teintes). I blocked in the outside space with oranges, reds, and yellows (I was thinking of desert sand at sunset), and added a little color to the inside of the figure's costume, where it showed somewhat transparent in the photo.

The costumes were always a success on those history days. The food, however, was not-- the kids were terrified of figs and dates, a fairly common food in those days. At least a few of them were well-acquainted with hummus, so I didn't have to bring home tons of leftover hummus on top of all that leftover dried fruit. At least I got some good pictures out of the deal.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Where There's Smoke in California...

All complaining about the rainy year we're having aside, I do have to be grateful that it's not the alternative: 10% humidity and miles of dry brush just waiting for a spark...

"Fire at Pala" 12 x 18 Chalk and oil pastel on Canson watercolor paper
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We have a pretty good vantage point at our house and can see the approximate location of just about any fire in our area. They usually stem from our local military base to the west, or from the Indian Reservation to the east. I took a photo of this one, a typical fire out at the Pala Indian Reservation. Thankfully it was quickly extinguished-- unlike the big fire in 2007. I didn't get a photo of that one, since I was too busy packing and getting the heck out once I saw it coming our way.

For this painting I began with bright oil pastels and sketched in the layout of the hills and trees. I left the paper free of oil pastel for the smoke-filled sky, because I wanted the smoke to reallly stand out behind the textured foreground. I also wanted there to be a lack of consistency between the sky and the land, to show that the smoke doesn't normally belong in what is an otherwise picturesque view. I was tempted to add a little dark gray or black to the smoke, but ruled that out in favor of the darker purples. This was my first attempt at painting smoke, and I wanted to show an accurate view but still have a painting that was pleasing to the eye. A layer of white chalk pastel really helped build the smoky effect, and I was glad I left the sky untouched by oil pastel. Otherwise, I would have lost the ability to blend in all that white smoke, as oil pastel makes it hard to retain that light, smeary effect.

Thankfully, there's been little reason to snap any of these types of pictures this year!

To see more of my paintings that combine oil and chalk pastel, click here:

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