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Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Idyllic Combination (pastels on canvas)

"Hideaway" 8 x 10 Pastel (Oil and Chalk) on Canvas
Click here to purchase

It started out as a sketch on brown paper, using charcoal and ink, inspired by the gazebo outside Glen Ivy Hot Springs in California. Thinking (as usual) that it would look so much better in color, it became a pastel painting on canvas.

I bought a bunch of little flat canvasses at a cheap price a while back, thinking they would be good for practice or plein aire. Using my previous charcoal and ink sketch as a guide, I blocked in the trees and gazebo with ultramarine blue chalk pastel on the canvas. I then used a wet brush to blend the blue chalk, identifying lights and darks and middle values.

It sat in this stage for a while, as I wasn't sure whether to add more chalk, use the underpainting as a base for some acrylic, or to try out the oil and chalk combination.

I knew I wanted the end result to have a warm, tropical mood, complete with a turquoise sky, lots of green, and a splash of red. I have some wonderfully bright oil pastels, which turned out to be just right for this piece.

After blocking in more darks and defining the big shapes, I went back over the canvas with chalk pastels (the softer the better, when trying to work around or over the oil pastel). I'm not sure this combination would have worked as well on a stretched canvas, but the flat canvas was stable enough to hold both mediums well.

I wish I had taken photos of the earlier stages of this work, as the piece really came alive with each stage. Now that I've done the process once, I'll try documenting it as I go for the next one.

Here's another tropical piece:
"Tropicale" 12 x 18 chalk pastel on paper (framed!)

To see more of my original pieces for sale, click here:
http://www.nikihilsabeck.com/

Monday, August 15, 2011

Here's to Surfers! (Most of them, anyway...)

"Happy Hour" 5.5 x 7in. chalk pastel on paper
Click here to buy original or view large


Cards starting at $2.40 (click here):http://www.redbubble.com/people/nikihilsabeck/art/7619119-happy-hour-pastel

Used the back side of some Canson Mi-Teintes to get that bright effect this time (I would only recommend this for quick pieces that don't have a lot of layering...)

Oceanside Harbor has become quite popular with surfers lately. Years ago, I didn't quite understand why the beach was separated into designated surf and swim areas, as there were only a few surfers out there on most occasions. Between the summer season and the increase in popularity of surfing, there is now a definite need for all those flags and signs, as it's much more crowded out there in the water.

I usually take photos of the whole beach, and focus in on interesting figures later when looking for inspiration. I remember this particular surfer, who showed up during the afternoon rush (kind of like happy hour out on the waves), stretched with a friend for a while, and took his time heading out to the water.

It's quite relaxing to sit and watch the people surfing and swimming on a summer afternoon. That is, until one of those surfers ignores the "No Dogs Allowed" sign and brings his large retriever without a leash, and it proceeds to pee on your stuff. If you're going to ignore the rules, at least make sure you aren't ruining someone else's afternoon!

(Yes, this happened to me recently, and I had to buy new shoes and clothes so I could drive home.)

Check out my Nautical and Beach Gallery!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dangerous Waters: The Temptation To Overwork A Painting

"Breaking the Day" 17 x 23 in. Mixed Media on Paper
Another workshop, this time working from digital art-- in this case it was Randy Sprout's "Fortuna on the Spot"







(Click here to view Randy Sprout's original piece:http://www.redbubble.com/people/randysprout/art/4863131-fortuna-on-the-spot)



To participate in Sojie 13, I chose to approach Randy about his piece for two reasons: I loved the bold composition of the digital work, and I have a strange need to paint boats on a regular basis. I thought I would approach the piece as an acrylic painting with chalk pastel as a top layer. It turned out to be more of a pastel painting on an acrylic surface, because I ended up covering the entire acrylic painting with the chalk.




It started off simple enough, and I liked my original sketch so much I had to convince myself to get started with the paint. It's not that I have such a high opinion of my sketching abilities, but rather that I always enjoy the beginning stage, when I'm first getting an idea down on paper:



(Rough sketch done with blue chalk pastel on gessoed watercolor paper)



Once I worked up the courage to add some acrylic, I mapped out values and a little color and texture:



(Acrylic underpainting, done on top of pastel sketch)


This sat for a couple of days as well, as it's always hard for me to go back to a painting once I take a break from it. This is because the anxiety starts to set in, and I always fear I'm going to screw the whole thing up when I take it to the next stage. Pastel is my "old steady" medium, however, and knowing that I would enjoy myself once I got going with the chalk helped motivate me to finish the final stage.



(Final piece: chalk pastel on top of acrylic underpainting)



The last stage was definitely the biggest struggle for me, as I had to walk away from the painting a few times because I caught myself overworking the piece. How do I know when I"ve hit that point? There are several clues: adding "details'" that aren"t making much difference in the piece, feeling frustrated because there are tiny flaws (which produce new flaws once addressed) and an overall impatience because I know the piece is done, but I can't stop picking my materials up and going back to it.




I finally just signed it and walked away from the work, forcing myself to take a break, and declared it officially done. I still ended up changing a little of the water, but this was because I saw a need to lighten it after seeing a work in progress and noting I had lost some of the contrast (another bad side effect of overworking!)




After it's all finished, a little breather from the work gives me new appreciation for it, letting me know that it really has reached the final stage and I can move on to other projects.







To view the Sojie 13 workshop in its entirety, click here:































































Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Familiar Roads

"The Road to Fallbrook"
4.5 x 6 in chalk pastel on paper
Click here to view large or purchase

Another plein aire view from home, this time the familiar view of Mission Road into Fallbrook...

This painting was initially done a couple weeks ago, but the hills didn't look quite right, so I went back to it later to reshape them a bit. Sometimes the most familiar scenes are the most difficult to paint, as we know them so well it's hard to let go of the differences between the actual view and the painting.

This road is a pretty quiet one, unless you're on it in the commuting hours on a weekday. Morning traffic piles up as cars form a line to cut through Fallbrook to get to the military base in Oceanside. The same crowd returns in the early evening to head back home. Rather than include the cars, I left the road empty to show how it looks on a weekend morning, when the "Friendly Village" gets a break from all of the base traffic. I've always liked that there isn't much off the exit itself, except for a nursery and avocado groves.

It probably won't be this way forever, so I thought I should paint it while the view remains.

Painting is done with chalk pastel on blue-toned Canson Mi-Teintes paper.

Familiar Roads

"The Road to Fallbrook" 4.5 x 6 in chalk pastel on paper $30
Click here to view large or purchase

Another plein aire view from home, this time the familiar view of Mission Road into Fallbrook...

This painting was initially done a couple weeks ago, but the hills didn't look quite right, so I went back to it later to reshape them a bit. Sometimes the most familiar scenes are the most difficult to paint, as we know them so well it's hard to let go of the differences between the actual view and the painting.

This road is a pretty quiet one, unless you're on it in the commuting hours on a weekday. Morning traffic piles up as cars form a line to cut through Fallbrook to get to the military base in Oceanside. The same crowd returns in the early evening to head back home. Rather than include the cars, I left the road empty to show how it looks on a weekend morning, when the "Friendly Village" gets a break from all of the base traffic. I've always liked that there isn't much off the exit itself, except for a nursery and avocado groves.

It probably won't be this way forever, so I thought I should paint it while the view remains.

Painting is done with chalk pastel on blue-toned Canson Mi-Teintes paper.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Le Chat Bleu: Bad Kitty Dreaming

"Le Chat Bleu" 12 x 16 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to view Etsy listing

On many occasions, the painting itself requires so much work, photographing it is the easy part. This painting was one of those rare cases where the process itself went smoothly (too smoothly, I should have suspected) and photographing the piece proved to be the real challenge.

I'm working on a series of color themed mixed media cats. Trouble is, I'm using different paper than usual and working in monochrome, both of which may be contributing to my difficulty with photographing the end results. I like to work on bigger paper with mixed media, so going to a smaller size and scanning the works aren't really an option. I finally got some decent pictures in the bright sunlight, something that tends to wash out my other works but ultimately was needed for this one.


Blue is a serene color, even in its brightest form. I knew my "chat bleu" would need to fit the tranquil mood of the color scheme, so I chose to include a cat at its most calm (asleep!) The pinkish moon is there to give the piece a whimsical feel, something all of the color cat pieces will share once done.



Having way too many cats around, I don't have to look far for inspiration to find a sleeping one. This cat in particular was based loosely on my cat who likes to sleep in the big metal water bowl if he finds it empty. I used acrylic to block in the design, and added a little purple tissue to the bowl and polka-dot tissue across the bottom for texture and contrast. A little chalk pastel completed the dreamy feel of the piece, and I hand-painted the letters in acrylic, adding a touch of pastel to those as well to keep them consistent with the rest of the work.




My daughter enjoyed watching the progression of this one, and when it was finished, she said "Look Mama! Bad kitty dreaming!" If I hadn't already known it would be called "Le Chat Bleu," I would have used her phrase instead.


Click here to view additional original works for sale:
Http://www.nikihilsabeck.com