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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dark to Light (How to make your pastels stand out)

In my first pastel class, I remember learning a basic method of blocking in darks and lights when we started a painting.  Later, the teacher mentioned that pastels are meant to be painted with lights on top of darks. I always seemed to run through my light-colored pastels about twice as quickly as I used my darks, mostly because I felt like I lost my lights as I worked.

What I eventually learned was how important those darks were in establishing contrast.

"Jardin" 9 x 12 Chalk pastel on flat canvas
Click here to view large or purchase

In the painting above, using pastels dipped in water gave them a darker finish, which helped highlight those lighter areas of the piece.  In the following painting, you can see how I got a little too excited about the color and had to work on the darks and lights to rein it back in:
Stage 1: Woo hoo!  Color!  Umm, where are the darks?

Stage 2: More darks added

Stage 3: Adding lights on top of darks makes the pastels more effective
"Baywood Boats" 9 x 12  Chalk pastel on flat canvas
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Initially, it's easy to get carried away with color when using pastels.  The chalk looks so vibrant sitting there in the box, and has a dazzling effect when applied to paper.  If you're a painter who likes to focus mostly on color, then you're set!  If you're like me, and you need a little more value and definition to achieve your style, it's better to start out with those lights and darks before you jump into color.  Of course, I need to be reminded of this fairly often, as color scheme is the first thing I think of when I start a painting.

I made the "Baywood Boats" painting from a photo I took in Baywood Park, CA.  It's a tiny little place we like to stop on the trip between Los Osos and Morro Bay.  There's just a hint of the water in the corner of this piece, but there's actually a nice place to sit and gaze out at the bay if you're in the mood to relax and listen to the water gently lapping at the shore.

Here's another example of using light on top of dark with pastel; this time I thought ahead and put more darks in the underpainting:
Underpainting: lots of dark


"Swamp Tree" 8 x 10 Chalk pastel on canvas
 Click here to view large or purchase
All of these pieces were completed with pastels dipped into water, or pressed directly into a wet surface.  It's important to let the pastel dry completely before adding that top layer of dry chalk, otherwise you'll end up with mud colors.  Fixative in between layers (on dry pastel) helps preserve the darks too.

If you like these pieces, check out more on my fine art website!
I'm now on Pinterest!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Birdwalking....with Collage

What is "birdwalking?"  My understanding of the word is that it means to stray off topic.  As you can imagine, creative people are often drawn to all types of activities and forms of expression.  This is not great for marketing, I suppose, but as one of my favorite former art teachers would say, "So What?"

I did a couple of collage pieces back when I was recovering from a few months of morning sickness, and knew I had found a fun way to create art that appealed to my sometimes child-inspired view of life.  After having another baby, there's been precious little time to do much of anything artistic, and for a while I was struggling with the frustration of never being able to really focus on my paintings for more than a few minutes at a time.

With these pieces, I could pick them up and put them down as time allowed, and even do a little work with a baby in the wrap and a preschooler yapping in my ear.  The following three were inspired by the children's song "May There Always be Sunshine," which I found myself humming a lot as I worked and rocked the baby:
"Expecting" 9 x 12 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to view Etsy listing 

"Here Comes Mama" 9 x 12 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to view Etsy Listing
"Flight Lesson" 9 x 12 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to view Etsy listing
These three pieces were created with watercolor paper (toned with watercolor for the background), and cutouts of shapes (also from watercolor paper), which  colored with oil pastel and glued to the paper with matte medium.  After letting the pieces dry pressed flat between books, I worked in chalk pastel to blend and finish each picture.

Another piece completed with this set was a leftover from my hot air balloon experiment last spring:
"Sunset Ride" 9 x 12 Mixed Media on Paper
Click here to view Etsy listing
Since these collage pieces don't really fit with my fine art portfolio, I'm going to list them through my Etsy Store, which has become my online outlet for fun, experimental works.  This is the kind of art I enjoy making when I just feel the need to work with color and assemble something with my hands-- it also satisfies the desire I have to make art for children; I used to dream of illustrating children's books, but got more caught up in writing instead.

Speaking of writing, I've got some free art lessons (geared toward high school, but they would work for middle school and adults as well) published on  Bright Hub.  If you're interested in viewing those, just click any of the links below:

Create a Land or Seascape Lesson
Choose a Style (Realist, Impressionist, Abstract)
Quick Draw: Identifying Shapes
Art Analysis: What's on your Mind?

Visit my fine art website to see what I'm painting when I'm not playing around with collage.