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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Observations on Experimenting with Pastels...

The "hope," was that it might be possible to jumpstart the right brain from its lethargic rut by switching mediums, in our case, watercolors to pastels. We set expectations low in order to protect what little artistic self worth remained after successive failures, and took a giant eyes-closed leap into the scary "unknown." 
Below is my Underpainting Sketch of the subject, in this case a moody Canyonlands photo taken by our instructor, Barb. She wasted no time; we were painting in less than an hour at the first class! 

So far so good... a basic monochromatic resemblance. Egads, time to add some color.

By the time class ended both Bobbie and I had a mess on our hands. Painting with pastels is like drawing with chalk, so we had to unlearn our normal watercolor approach... you know, save the "whites," start light and gradually darken (because you can't go back with watercolors, you can't correct mistakes by just painting over them like with oils).

Below is Barb's finished painting... done in an hour. We were floored, and drooling. It's beautiful... 

Next I put in some foreground (below), grasses, and landscapes... messed with the tree a little more.

The idea is to lead the viewers eye around the painting to a focal point. In the photo, I liked the shadowed area in the distant mountains and the moody sky above it. I tried to leave a "pathway" for the eye to follow... from the tree on the right to the distant red rock gap, then the shadowed area, then the sky. I hoped the tree would then pull the eye back down once the viewer got bored with the sky, and start the process all over again. 

But the sky wasn't interesting enough... so I put a little more "energy" into it... Mood. Then a few fine touches and reworking of the shadowed area. Shadows are tough. I wanted some of the mountain to faintly show through the darkened area, but not much. At this point I just kept messing with it... never really got what I wanted but close enough. The sky, however, I loved. 

I added a few final touches and then decided I better quit before I ruined it. Trying to perfect a painting will do that... you have to know when to quit while you are ahead :).

I told you I'd show you, so: Below is the final product, for better or worse. I am pleased, but... you know :)

Peace Out,


  1. Very nice. I agree you should be pleased. I always thought pastels were...well..."pastel" so I am surprised to see the darker, more vivid colors. I can imagine it is a more forgiving medium than watercolor. Interesting that it's called "painting" and not "drawing."

  2. Nicely done Mark. Soft pastels and I are bitter enemies.

  3. Looks great! I too dabble in water colors and oils, but have never tried pastels. Do you think the exercise helped?

    1. I do think it helped. Approaching one's "Art" via a new medium "refreshes" rusted neural circuits. As you probably know, watercolors can be a struggle and frustrating. I found Pastel painting more "fun," which is the whole idea, right? :) Thanks, Mark


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