Plein air pastelling in Mexico with a mucho limited palette

 

In February, I had the pleasure of being in La Manzanilla, Mexico for a week of tango workshops (yay!) followed by a week of relaxing and painting (more yay!). The paintings were done mostly en plein air and over the next few weeks, I’ll share two or three of those pieces.

The one I’m going to show you this time was an experiment. As many of you know, I generally paint with a limited palette. I decided to try using my very small set of Schminke pastels – only 11 colours to choose from so, in this case, the choice of pastels was severely limited. Eek!

 

The set of 11 Schminke pastels

The set of 11 Schminke pastels

 

I can’t decide whether the pastel is finished and if it isn’t, should I just keep working on it with the Schminke limited selection or should I bring in some other colours. At the end of this post, I’d like you to help me out with your thoughts.

 

So let’s take a look. (These photos were taken on site with my iPhone so, sorry, they aren’t the greatest.)

1. The beginnings of my plein air piece - the charcoal indication on Wallis paper of the beach scene

1. The beginnings of my plein air pastel – the charcoal indication on 9 x 12 in Wallis paper of the beach scene

 

2. Getting some colour down. Remember, I have so few colours to choose from.

2. Getting some colour down. Remember, I have very few colours to choose from!

 

3. Okay, now I have the paper covered, now what??? At this point, I am seriously wondering whether I can do this! Shall I just give up the plein air experiment?

3. Okay, I have the paper covered, now what??? At this point, I am seriously wondering whether I can do this. Shall I continue or just throw in the towel on this plein air experiment right now? As you can see, I decided to continue.

 

4. Started layering. You can see me bringing white into the sky. What else can a girl do to lighten it up??

4. I’ve started layering. You can see me bringing white into the sky. What else can a girl do to lighten it up??

 

5. So I got white all over the sky then it was too light, tooooo white, so layering over blue. I did this a couple of times with a bit of gnashing of teeth. Argh.

5. I covered the blue in the sky with white then it was too light, tooooo white, so layered over some more blue pastel. I did this a couple of times with a bit of gnashing of teeth. Argh.

 

6. Getting close to the end. The sky a bit of a disappointment but with my limited choice i.e. white and yellow are the only light options, that's what I have.

6. Getting close to the end. The sky is a bit of a disappointment but with my limited choice (i.e. white and yellow are the only light options), that’s what I have.

 

7. Before leaving my painting spot, I decided that because there is such an expanse of sky that I could lesson it by stretching a couple of palm fronds into the picture. I also reinserted a hill in the background. By now I'm hungry and I go in search of some victuals :-)

7. Before leaving my plein air painting spot, I decide that because there is such an expanse of sky that I could lessen it by stretching a couple of palm fronds across the sky. I also reinsert a hill in the background. By now I’m hungry and ready to go off in search of some victuals.

 

Once home in Canada, I am wondering if a cropped version of the plein air piece will work better. What do you think?

 

8. The cropped version.

8. The cropped version.

 

So that’s it. It was a delightful day to be out painting. I sat under a coconut tree and listened to the waves and the chatter of birds and people as they passed by. Nothing beats being outside, en plein air, working on a piece of art. When you look at your work weeks later, you re-live the scene and everything that you experienced. Wonderful.

 

Okay, time to get your feedback. Is it finished and if not, what suggestions? I also need a title….

 

I do look forward hearing from you!!

Until next time,

~ Gail

PS. Here’s the scene I painted

Photo of beach at La Manzanilla at midday

Beach at La Manzanilla at midday

26 thoughts on “Plein air pastelling in Mexico with a mucho limited palette

    1. Gail Post author

      Hmmm….it’s a blanket hanging over the end of the boat. I think it looks clearer in the real thing but thanks for pointing that out Marvyn!

      Reply
  1. Annette Archambeau

    Go with the cropped version and you’re done. I miss the beautiful color in palms but it helps
    to lessen the intensity of all that sky.

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      Thanks Annette! Yes, that’s what I was thinking about the cropped version. I have to say I go back and forth with this decision but yours is vote #2 for the cropped look.

      Reply
  2. Anita Lee

    I am impressed with how much you accomplished with so few colors. It is very nicely done.

    That is such a lovely beach you cannot help but be inspired. We live about 4 hours drive from there and I always enjoy going to La Manzanilla.

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      Thanks Anita. It was tough! And yes, it IS a delightful beach. I never tire of walking it, being on it. I wonder where you are located?

      Reply
  3. Gwen McDonald

    You’re finished! I love it…especially your sky which looks like one of those days with a scattering of clouds stretching upwards from the horizon. very cool!

    gwen

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      Hey thanks Gwen! I’m glad you like and commented on the sky. I like it but then wonder if there’s too much of it without more change in colour. So I am buoyed by your positive response!

      Reply
  4. Mary Jo Oberg

    Hi Gail,
    My feedback: I like the un-cropped version cropped just a little at the top. Otherwise the big sky makes a good balance to all the activity below. Also, it may be better to add a bit more color from your bigger pallet. What size did you work?
    Mj

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      Thanks Mary Jo. Another thumbs up for the uncropped version. The size (before any cropping) is 9 x 12 in. I’ll go add that now.

      Reply
  5. Doriana Barros

    Hi Gail: love your pic. of La Manz., “mucho color” makes for a very “happy” picture. Just wondering if you may consider doing some workshops at the galleria in La Manz. I am down in Mex. (about 30 klms. south of La Manz.) and I would love to take a class. I also have a friend in Melaque who has a hotel and also has done some workshops in painting there. If you loved the west coast of Mexico you will want to come back and spend more time here, probably, we all do. Doriana Barros

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      Thanks Doriana 🙂
      I am back in Canada but would love to do a workshop next year. I have been going to La Manzanilla every year since 2008! Maybe we could set up a workshop at the hotel? Or would you prefer La Manzanilla? Let’s make a plan!

      Reply
  6. Karina

    Hi Gail,
    Imagen amases that you could paint with such a limited palette. The painting is beautiful, though I think you are trying to go for sofisticated. I love the dark blue shadows under the palm tree. I feel the sky is successful, because you make it interesting with your use of strokes. I looked at it several times and the two things I see that you could change are this: 1), reflect the sky on the water. The value of both of them are too different. Also, lighting the water will increase the sense of darkness in the lovely shadow under the palm tree. 2) the line of trees around the water looks too unfinished. I feel it would benefit from from a little more contrast between the lighter tops( perhaps some yellow ?) and the shadows under them. Again, the water would have to be lighter for that to work.
    I hope it helps!
    Karina

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      Thanks for your very detailed feedback Karina! I will definitely take a look and see what I may change. In my defence, I wanted the surf of the waves to show up on the water but maybe a scumble of white might help. Again, thanks for taking the time to respond. I do appreciate it!

      Reply
  7. Sandi

    Great fun painting , I like both versions . The painting is colorful giving that tropical feel of sitting there under a palm taking in your subject.
    I would love to see or hear about your plein air set up .Do you use an easel, pochade box or just your lap ?
    Thanks for the demo!

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      Yay thanks Sandi!! I am so glad you can feel being there. That’s just the best compliment. When I am far from home (i.e. have to travel by air) I take a small number of pastels and my paper mounted on foam core with sheets of glassine to cover. Then I find whatever I can to sit on and paint like that. For this, I was sitting on a plastic bag in the sand, NOT the most comfortable set up!!

      Reply
  8. Kerry

    I really like the uncropped version and I love the sky. For someone like me that is totally new to pastels it was really interesting seeing how you built the image up with layering. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Gail Post author

      I too like the uncropped version. I’m glad you could learn something about layering. Hope it helps you in doing your own work.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *