Alain Voinot, "At the Nature Park," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in. The same composition, this time on black paper. Can you see the difference the paper makes?

Alain Voinot – Illuminating The Landscape On Black Paper

I am delighted to have Alain Voinot from France as my guest blogger this month. I featured one of his pieces back in March and have always been astounded how he uses black (or dark) paper as his support for landscapes.

A particular skill is needed to work on black. Yes, it shows up bright colours wonderfully, but what about light, subtle, or landscape colours?  I’ve done a few experiments on black paper (you can see one here) but I found the experiences, so far, unsatisfying. Alain Voinot is a master at using black as his paper colour. The fact that he uses it for creating landscapes, often very green landscapes, is doubly impressive.

Do you know Alain Voinot’s work? Here’s a piece to get you started:

 

Alain Voinot, "Arrival," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in

Alain Voinot, “Arrival,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in

 

A Bit About Alain Voinot  

After school, Alain Voinot traveled, particularly in India, moved by a desire for philosophical and artistic discovery. For several years, in France, he took courses in documentary drawing, in black and white, in the studio of a renowned engraver, Catherine Escudié, and at the Toulouse Academy of Drawing. For his move to colour, pastel was a natural choice, since pastel is both a drawing and a dry painting tool. For 10 years, he taught in various associations and institutions. Then he embarked on his career as an artist. He has received awards in Pastel Salons exhibitions. In 2014, he obtained the “Prix de la ville de Saint Aulaye for tonalities and colours” in an important pastel fair in France: Pastel in Perigord, ” juried by Michel Bordas, Master Pastelist. You can read more and see more of his work on his website.

 

And now I hand you over to Alain Voinot!!

 

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Alain Voinot – Illuminating the landscape on black paper

 

I live in Toulouse, in the south of France. But it is not the city that inspires me; I prefer the countryside. I find my happiness 10 kilometers from Toulouse, in the Parc du Confluent. It is a natural place where the rivers Garonne and Ariège meet. In nature, it is the water that I like most to work on. It is expressed in a multitude of forms. It can be transparent, or opaque, or bathed in light.

Alain Voinot, "River with Dimming Light," pastel on brown Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in

Alain Voinot, “River with Dimming Light,” pastel on brown Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in. The main subject of this pastel is water, which is expressed in the foreground with the river. I tried to translate its movement and its appearance into light (reflections of light). In the background, I used blues to translate a depth of field.

 

In my artist’s career I found my style in pastel working on black paper. I like the strong contrasts, and the black allows me to bring out the light by the light/dark contrast. I use Canson Mi-Teintes paper most often, using the “smooth” side.

One of the characteristics of pastel is to integrate the colour of the support with the colours of the composition. For my part, I use black paper, which allows me to work colour and light directly, as opposed to using black.

 

Alain Voinot, "The River in Orlu," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 19 x 15 in?

Alain Voinot, “The River in Orlu,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 19 x 15 in. I worked here on the contrast of yellow and blue. For once I did not use many greens.

 

In my opinion, there are two distinct phases in the elaboration of a pastel: the first is that of intuition. In other words, the essence of what one wants to “say” must be understood and grasped as quickly as possible. The second is that of finishing. One can use the black of the paper to create shadows subtlety. The difficulty is to find the right balance so as not to drown the paper under the colour and to keep both strong contrasts and light.

Here is a work done en plein air, which I photographed step-by-step.

 

Alain Voinot: Setting up, very fast and very simple with a color that stands out a bit of the color of the paper. I used a hard pastel - Conté.

Setting up, very fast and very simple with a color that stands out a bit of the color of the paper. I used a hard pastel – Conté.

Alain Voinot - To obtain immediately a very strong contrast I started in the central part - trees in light.

To obtain immediately a very strong contrast I started in the central part – trees in light.

Alain Voinot: To further highlight the trees in light, I worked the trees on the right and left side which are darker.

To further highlight the trees in light, I worked the trees on the right and left side which are darker.

Alain Voinot: Working the water ...

Working the water …

Alain Voinot, "Along the River," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in

Alain Voinot, “Along the River,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in. Pastel finished. I accentuated all the perceptions, added colours on trees and water, and emphasized the shore (separation between trees and water) which is very bright.

 

Working on black paper has allowed me to understand the concept of contrast. I also work on light or dark paper. I use Pastelcard for this which allows very beautiful shading and a rendering comparable to oil painting. For the dark parts I begin by using – after the general placement of the colours – a black Rembrandt, very dense. Then I modulate with different dark colours. I have done many pastels on this paper.

 

Alain Voinot, "At the Park of the Confluence," pastel on black Pastelcard, 25 x 19 in

Alain Voinot, “At the Park of the Confluence,” pastel on black Pastelcard, 25 x 19 in

 

An important idea, and I always pay attention to it during my work, is to use the colour of the paper. The colour of the paper is the base colour of the composition and all other colours are based on this base color. It is nice that it appears behind the pastel, it gives a “breathing” to the piece.

From the point of view of the style I am an Impressionists, but to be more precise, my style is ”realistic fantastic.” Of course one can only interpret and it is always what one “sees” and that one proposes: an interpretation. I think that the spirit of the artist will always try to approach the mystery and the beauty of the world and to restore at best what he/she “sees”. My gaze is realistic and poetic at the same time because it seems to me that poetry must ally itself with realism to reveal its depth, and realism without poetry is only coldness, lacking consistency and truth. It is the search for the synthesis of these two aspects that motivates me.

 

Alain Voinot, "Return of the Night," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper 19 x 15 in

Alain Voinot, “Return of the Night,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper 19 x 15 in. Here the color of black paper is omnipresent. It is a twilight view, almost at night. So the paper fits perfectly. It gives the general tone. To avoid a too dramatic aspect, I nuanced the light with many different colors. In the reflections, only the luminous centers are perfectly white. Around the light, yellows, mauves, greys, oranges, etc.

 

I started by working on the drawing, in black and white. And it is therefore in the greys that one can express the nuances and the subtleties. I genuinely understood colour when I realized that each colour corresponds to a certain degree of grey – a certain degree of light.

The subjects that inspire me most are simple from the point of view of composition, and complex from the point of view of light and textures. I like the notion of colour temperature, and I often prefer in my paintings hot colours or cool colours, according to my choice.

 

Alain Voinot, "Swamp at the Bottom of the Waterfall," pastel on brown Canson Mi-teintes paper, 19 x 15 in

Alain Voinot, “Swamp at the Bottom of the Waterfall,” pastel on brown Canson Mi-teintes paper, 19 x 15 in. Here it is the blue colour (blue green, emerald blue) that dominates. Again, I gave a lot of importance to the water. In the background I used a dark green pastel and a black pastel, for marked contrasts.

 

I often walk in nature, for the pleasure of walking, but also to find new subjects. Many pastellists know that during walks we see beautiful landscapes, but also, and especially future pastels. However, I am convinced that a beautiful landscape does not always produce a beautiful picture. Also I prefer scenes that are more intimate, even anecdotal to the broad landscapes – ”the postcard landscapes.”

 

Here is another step-by-step. Also note the second version of the painting.

Alain Voinot: Setting up the black charcoal drawing on grey Canson Mi-teintes paper.

Setting up the black charcoal drawing on grey Canson Mi-teintes paper.

Alain Voinot: The first lights: sky and its reflection in the water. And I always work with the color of paper...

The first lights: sky and its reflection in the water. And I always work with the color of paper…

Alain Voinot: Working on the water

Working on the water

Alain Voinot: Moving along....

Moving along….

Alain Voinot, At the Nature Park, pastel on grey Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in

Alain Voinot, “At the Nature Park,” pastel on grey Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in.

Alain Voinot, "At the Nature Park," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in. The same composition, this time on black paper. Can you see the difference the paper makes?

Alain Voinot, “At the Nature Park,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in. The same composition, this time on black paper. Can you see the difference the paper makes?

 

My use of colour is very instinctive, linked to a direct emotion. As one of the dominant colours of a landscape is green, I wondered how to make the green colour interesting. Green is a colour reputedly difficult to work. It is a colour considered “ungrateful”. Yet I manage to give colours to the green, using variations of this colour: orange greens, grey greens, bluish greens … etc. Thus the greens preserve their identity, but with a more nuanced and warm aspect.

 

Alain Voinot, "Along the Stream," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 19 x 19 in (square format)

Alain Voinot, “Along the Stream,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 19 x 19 in (square format). We see here the different varieties of green, in the background the bluish greens and in the foreground the orange greens. I gave the water a red brown appearance to create a beautiful contrast with greens and yellows.

 

Alain Voinot, "Meditation," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in.

Alain Voinot, “Meditation,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in. The greens here have a yellow and blue appearance, which means that the composition rests almost solely on the contrast of the primaries: yellow / blue.

Alain Voinot, “Meditation,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in – detail of reflections. Here one sees that I used the black of the paper, which always showed a little under the colour, especially in the part in shadow.

Alain Voinot, "Meditation," pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in - detail of trees

Alain Voinot, “Meditation,” pastel on black Canson Mi-teintes paper, 25 x 19 in – detail of trees. Very naturally, the black of the paper serves me to highlight the trunks of trees. Just put the paper in reserve (as one does in watercolour to save the whites).

 

The artist never paints “reality”. Instead, the artist always proposes an interpretation that corresponds to his or her sensitivity and perceptions. If this ” something ” is grasped and then recognized by all, the painting is a winner!

Nature produces works of art in a natural way. So much so that the notion of “chance” is much more complex and subtle than a simple … chance. Nature is the source of inspiration bar none.

 

Alain Voinot, "Little Yellow Place," pastel on Canson Touch, 25 x 19 in

Alain Voinot, “Little Yellow Place,” pastel on Canson Touch, 25 x 19 in

 

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Thank you so much Alain, for sharing your process, ideas, and work with us!!

We would both love to hear from you!! Do you create landscapes on black paper? Or do you avoid ever using black paper? Are you surprised by what Alain Voinot is able to create using black paper? Please let us know by leaving a comment (‘reply’).

 

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Have You Completed The Survey?

Have you filled out the HowToPastel survey I sent out last week? The deadline is midnight 23rd December. You’ll be helping me figure out what direction we need to take this pastel journey. To thank you for your time and effort, three paintings from the 31-in-31 challenge will go to three lucky winners!! So go on, do the survey!

 

Join Me In Croatia Next September!!

Just a wee reminder that I’ll be teaching a workshop in Croatia in Fall 2017. I’m sooooo excited about this! The area where we’ll be staying and painting is beautiful and with so much opportunity to paint – townscapes, landscapes, seascapes, as well as still lifes, flowers, and gardens. It’s gonna be FUN!! Click here to read more and sign up!!

^^^^^

 

Have tons of fun over the Holiday Season. May it be merry and bright, with dancing, singing, good food, and most of all, those you love.

Peace and Love to the world.

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

22 thoughts on “Alain Voinot – Illuminating The Landscape On Black Paper

  1. Nancy Malard

    Thank you for this great post!
    I always use dark paper, and if I’m out of it, and have only light paper left, I tape it on a board so it will stay flat, dilute some black pigment and paint the paper –I use Pastelmat that takes wetting. ( Pastel Card for instance doesn’t). Dark paper acts like the lead separations in stain glass windows–it brings out the colors like no other.
    (BTW I live in France too and will look out for Voinot’s work)
    And, yes, all the best for the Holiday Season–celebrate it with Life and Love!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Nancy! Wow – you are serious about your black paper! I love the way you describe the effect it has. Love that you will be able to look out for Voinot’s work in person 🙂 Warm holiday wishes to you too!

      Reply
  2. David Wells

    Gail,
    Many thanks for introducing us to Alain’s work. It is quite beautiful, and a wonderful example of how to use strong contrasts to subtle effect.
    Happy Christmas.
    David W.

    Reply
  3. Sandi Graham

    Thanks Gail for bringing us your guest blogger Alain Voinot who was so generous with information on how to paint on black paper. I appreciated the step by step instructions that gave us a peek into the process. I have tried painting on black paper and I find it very difficult but I’m going to try again after seeing this blog article. The most interesting point that Alain made is that he compared the process of reserving the black paper as one may reserve the white in a watercolor. The paintings are just wonderful!
    Peace,Love and Joy to you and your family this Holiday Season.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      I too am glad that Alain included a couple of progressive steps. It’s always fascinating to see how a piece develops and it gives us clues as to how we might work ourselves. Glad this post has inspired you to try using black paper again. I will too. We’ll have to report back 😀
      Yes, I loved Alain’s comparison as well – I had never thought of it in that way.
      Wishing you much happiness this holiday Sandi!!

      Reply
  4. Gailen lovett

    What a surprise this morning to see the name Alain Voinot as guest blogger. I have been enjoying his pastels in the How To Pastel FB group page for a few weeks now. I even commented to him how impressed I was with the effects he can produce on Canson paper. Black paper, always black paper, beautiful effects and sharp contrast and the light – all achieved on black Canson paper. This rumbled around in my head for a week or two, how I must give black paper a serious try. Since Canson paper is a study in frustration for me, I ordered 10 sheets of black Colorfix sanded paper so I would have the security of working on a paper I’m comfortable with. 10 sheets will allow for experimentation and give me enough working surface to see if I like working on black.
    So, thank you Alain first for your beautiful work and second for inspiring me to try something new and completely different. I will keep in mind your analysis of grey and about the black as the base color behind the work that gives it “breath”. You are indeed a poetic painter!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Gailen, love your full-on response to this post by Alain. I hoped many of those in the FB group would be very happy to see Alain’s work here. He’s been so active and generous in the group and this post would give a bigger picture, bringing it all together. Wow – you are diving in with both feet! Good for you. I sure look forward to seeing the results!
      I know what you mean about Canson. Part of my amazement with Alain’s work is 1) it’s on black paper and 2) that he can create these beautiful landscapes on a spare that doesn’t take much pastel and which doesn’t do justice to the colours in pastels (they are more vibrant when used on sanded paper).
      Glad you got so much out of the post!!

      Reply
  5. Maria Romero

    I love Alain’s work. It’s beautiful! I also prefer to work with dark papers. It seems that way I already have the darkest of the darks and can work up towards the highlights. I tend to use the lighter papers for when I need mostly light background, such as the fog challenge on the Facebook page for last Friday. Otherwise, it’s darker paper for me!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      It’s so interesting to hear why artists make the choices they do, so thanks for sharing your reasons Maria. And yes, I can see that a foggy painting would use up a lot of pastel to lighten a dark paper!

      Reply
  6. Wendy Prest

    Thank you both–Gail, you made a great choice for this month’s artist! I’ve been very aware of Alain’s work and comments on your/our wonderful How To Pastel blog. Such a talent! I love working on black, usually sanded paper. During the challenges I’ve tried a few pictures on the Canson Mi-teintes papers and found it quite nice to work on. They hold many more layers that I’d expected…or maybe I’m getting to a point where I don’t need so many layers! I enjoyed the progress pictures, too. Beautiful work, Alain! My best wishes to you both for happy holidays.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Many thanks Wendy!!So great that you are experimenting both with black sanded paper and Canson Mi-teintes. There is definitely a skill necessary for both so sounds like you are moving forward nicely! Happy New Year!!

      Reply
  7. ChrisD

    I’m a bit late to the party on this one. When I first started to use pastel I always found the darker papers more effective, I liked the way that pale colours stood out; and how it was possible to build the image and bring it up and out of the darkness of the paper. Alain’s use of black is unusual but the results look great, certainly works beautifully for his landscapes. I especially like “Return of the Night”….I’ve often stood on a riverbank when the light has faded right down and then seen this intense sparkling light on deep shadowy water.

    Reply
  8. Paula Buran

    I am new to your blog Gail and I find it so full of useful information. Seeing Alain’s ethereal pastel paintings actually brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for hosting his work.
    My questions are more basic, such as Alain’s mark making techniques for rendering the tree leaves in the distance. I used to draw more with my pastels by using the tips. Now I am trying to capture values and textures by using the side of my pastels. I almost feel overwhelmed, like your blog is too advanced for me. I don’t know where to start. I am going to try painting a common object for 20 minutes, like your wonderful sink plug. Thank you for the inspiration!
    Paula

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Paula, how wonderful to moved to tears – I think that’s the kind of reaction many artists hope their work will evoke.
      I know how easy it is to feel overwhelm – there’s so many possibilities and so much to learn. The thing is to breathe and take on small, easily accomplished subjects. I think you are on the right track. And just keep painting!!

      Reply

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