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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Inspired by Light (Pastels on Canvas)


"Morning Glow" 12 x 16 Chalk Pastel on Flat Canvas
Email nicolehilsabeck@yahoo.com if interested in purchasing
Been trying to get back into the daily painting routine, which for me either means a small painting a day, or a larger painting spread over two days.  It's a bit of a challenge with the growing belly and a very inquisitive firstborn, but I was lucky enough to get a little extra inspiration from an odd source: Sunday's eclipse.

We have beautiful views of the canyon and hills behind us, and I watched the light change on this hill as the sunlight waned throughout the course of the eclipse.  I noted how the normally stunning lights and shadows on this hill were blunted by the general darkening (as opposed to the usual sunrise or sunset glow).  I thought I would be a little more appreciative of those lights and darks and try a painting of the trees and hills the next morning.

I completed this painting in several steps, having struggled a little recently with getting the right balance of color with the chalk pastels on canvas, as the canvas tends to swallow the pastel.

I managed to take some quick photos of each step, so I could share the basic process:


Step one: tone flat canvas with acrylic
paint, laying in basic foreground
background tones.  Use a paper towel
(or tissue paper) to blot and create
varied textures in the paint.
Step two: block in composition
with chalk pastel, emphasizing lights,
darks, and color scheme
Step three: Finish with highlights and details, and spray with
fixative for to add staying power before adding last details.
Follow all directions on fixative, it's nasty stuff!
Finished piece is shown at the top of the page.  I don't normally like using fixative because it darkens colors, however I am finding it is something of a must if you're painting with dry pastel on canvas, unless you've blended your pastels with water (works as a natural adherent, but dulls the colors a bit too).  The acrylic worked great for undertones, and the first layers of pastel stick nicely to that too. 

Here's a little daily painting, following the same steps as in "Morning Glow": 
"Colors and Light" 5 x 7 Chalk Pastel on Flat Canvas
Email nicolehilsabeck@yahoo.com if interested in purchasing
I've been framing my pastels on canvas under glass, as there's no way they would survive without a cover.  I still like to use good old-fashioned paper now and then.  There's something so enjoyable about building up the layers of color and texture on a nice sturdy canvas, I'll probably continue to play around with this method for a while.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Simplifying...It's Complicated.

                                    

"Ridgeline" 9 x 12 Chalk and Oil Pastel on Flat Canvas
Click here to purchase original


I may have mentioned before that I had a teacher who would ask if we were "simplifiers" or complicators" as painters.  I wanted to say I was a complicator, because I get caught up in noodling and making sure things look exactly the way I want before I consider a piece finished.  In my heart, though, I think I am a simplifier-- a quick look at most of my artwork would show that I like to focus on the big shapes, values, and colors.

I started"Ridgeline" plein air with chalk pastel on canvas.  It came out a bit dull though, so I added water to blend it.  The water didn't do much, so I began working in some oil pastel to bring out those brighter colors.  That did the trick (normally I don't put oil pastel on top of chalk, but on flat canvas it seems to work just fine).  I struggled with the overall texture of the piece, as I liked the scratchy look of pastel on canvas, but not in a distracting way.  The combination of oil and chalk pastel  added consistency to the piece, and I finally felt that it was complete.  It didn't look anything like the ridgeline I had sat outside and painted, but I was much happier with it.

"Cool Water" 9 x 12 Chalk and Oil Pastel on Flat Canvas
Click here to purchase original

This was another piece that started off simple, then grew difficult as I struggled to add the right highlights and darks to balance it.  I used a photo from a trip to the East Coast as a reference, and it was merely sky, water, and a bit of shadowy ground on the horizon.  I used the chalk pastel and water combination, only to find that I needed a little oil pastel here too, so I could capture those darker areas.  I kept adding and blending, finally getting the right balance and colors and feeling that the painting had that simplified feeling at the end.

To see more art inspired by the places I visit, click here.

Click here to see original paintings in my Etsy store.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Caught Up In Collage

So, it's been a couple of months since I've posted artwork. I've been avoiding the paints for a while because of morning sickness, and I've never been able to find definitive information on what's safe to use for painting while pregnant and what's not...so I just did little projects here and there using wax pastels (didn't like 'em) and did finish one piece for the Art of the Avocado contest (using gloves, and keeping the chalk to a minimum). Now that the first trimester has passed, I'm feeling a little braver and have managed to get got caught up with some collage:
"Balloons Over Wine Country"
9 x 12 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to view prints


It's no secret that everyone in my family is pretty excited about Disneyland, and one of my daughter's favorite rides is the Small World ride (I'm sorry, really sorry if you now have that song stuck in your head!)  Disneyland has an art gallery, and for the last year or so they've been featuring the art of Mary Blair, whose designs were used for the front of that ride.  I've always loved the look of Mary Blair's art, and while cutting up some paper and letting my daughter go crazy with the glue and crayons, I started cutting out hot air balloons.  One thing led to another, and soon I was gluing hearts (cut from tissue paper) on the balloons and covering them with oil pastel.
"Balloons Over Town"
9 x 12 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to view prints

I spent the rest of the day cutting out shapes (from my surplus of Trader Joe's paper bags) and covering them with the tissue hearts and oil pastel, prepping Strathmore watercolor paper with gesso and watercolor background, and using matte medium to stick the balloons, hills, and buildings onto the dried paper.  Sand paper was especially helpful in blending some of those spots where the matte medium had dried, and a little chalk pastel brought the backgrounds and foregrounds together.

Having lived in Temecula for many years, it was easy to remember the pleasant scene of a bunch of hot air balloons bobbing through the sky over the vineyards in wine country.  My grandparents lived in town, so I did the second piece from the point of view at their house, since it was not that unusual to look out the back window and see balloons hovering over the backyards and rooftops of their neighbors. 

I had such an enjoyable day making these, I'm going to give this method another try.  I intended to give them as gifts, so these two won't be for sale except as prints.  My daughter did help with the pinkish balloon in the top piece, but her attention drifted to more important things like clay and I lost her.

In other news, I did have a great (if woozy) day at the Avocado Festival this year, and really enjoyed meeting some new people.  I won't be doing festivals again until after the new baby arrives, so I'll be adding more to my Etsy store and posting here on my blog when I finish projects. 

To see some of my works for sale, click here: Originals for Sale