In my last post, I shared the first half of the interviews I made at the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) in early June. Here is the second set – the landscape interviews I call them since they’re all related to painting the landscape. Let’s go!
I managed to persuade 10 artists at the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention to say a few words on video in answer to one question. This post will include half the IAPS interviews, the next, the rest. (One interview went way over the one-to-three minute mark and the story was so fascinating that I thought, hey, this would make a great guest blog so look for that next month!)
I have done a few pastel demo videos now, all of them on toned Wallis paper. A question I’ve been asked is, Why don’t you use white paper? and What would the pastel painting look like on white paper?
I have taken these questions to heart and decided to do a demo on white paper even though it’s not my usual surface colour. In the demo, I use, for the first time, Terry Ludwig’s set of 14 Best Loved Basics – the company’s uber starter kit. When I first looked at these, I was surprised and a little bit anxious, if I’m truthful, because there wasn’t the usual saturated colour selection I’m used to, for instance, no bright yellow, orange, or green. But I was up for a challenge! Here’s the result.
So let’s have a closer look. First the set-up:
Next the thumbnail.
So let’s look at a few progression pieces:
The combination of the softness of the Terry Ludwig pastels and the sanded texture of the Wallis paper allowed layers to be built up thus eliminating most of the white specks of paper showing through. Where you can see them, I rather like the sparkle that the white paper brings, for instance in the shadow side of the bowl.
Here are the photos of the Terry Ludwig set:
I love the name of this set of pastels – Best Loved. It doesn’t have the name “starter box/kit” or anything like that. Instead, it appeals to our emotions. And this is typical of the way Terry works. For instance, while at IAPS conferences, I have received free samples. (You can see a whole piece I did from this selection of IAPS samples by clicking here.) Terry (and team) also posts artwork by others created with his pastels on the company’s Facebook Page. It’s through this generosity that we not only come to love his pastels but also the man himself.
I was curious as to how this selection of pastels came about – how were the colours chosen? I put the question to Marie Ludwig, President of the Terry Ludwig Pastels. Here’s what she had to say: “The Maggie Price Best Loved Basics, a set of 60 pastels, is the set we most often suggest to new pastel artists just getting started with the medium. We became aware this set would be a price stretch for those new artists and decided to create a small set geared toward them. Terry selected the 14 pastel colors and values he believed would be most useful for the new pastelist.” So there you have it! A fabulous beginner set for sure.
Limitations, counter-intuitively perhaps, enable you to grow as an artist. A limited colour selection, working with colours not usually in your palette, these things will lead to creativity and progress. I leave you with this quote (substitute the word ‘artist’ for ‘writer’):
That’s it folks! Tell me, do you use white paper? If so, why? I’d love to know how you use the white paper. Let’s get a discussion going!
Until next time,
PS. I recently did a pastel self-portrait using the same set of 14 Best Loved Basics. Watch for that coming soon!!
One of the most common questions I receive about plein air painting is, “How do you decide what to paint when there is so much to choose from?” My answer? Using a viewfinder can help enormously! The landscape can be so overwhelming and using a viewfinder will help you isolate the part that appeals to you the most.
I recently made a video about using a viewfinder. Have a look at it below.
When using a viewfinder, you will need to close one eye otherwise you’ll see crazy double vision! If you can’t close one eye, then squinting will help but it’s definitely not as useful or satisfying as the one-eyed look.
Using a viewfinder to help you design your thumbnails
The viewfinder I show in the video is one called ViewCatcher. It’s the one I use myself. You can try out all sorts of formats with this viewfinder – just remember to use the same proportions on your paper. For example if you decide on a square opening, make sure your paper is square. If the format of your paper is pretty much decided, for example you have a piece of 9 x 12 in Wallis paper mounted on foamcore, then create a 9 x 12 in window in your viewfinder. The ability to change from one format to another is one of the main reasons I like ViewCatcher!
Create your own viewfinder
You can of course create your own viewfinder by cutting out a rectangular hole in cardboard. If you regularly work on a 9 x 12 in paper which is a 3:4 ratio, then go ahead and cut out a hole measuring 3 x 4 in or if smaller, then 1.5 x 2 in – anything that retains that 3:4 ratio. If you always work square, then cut out a square opening.
Make sure you leave enough cardboard around the hole (like that shown below) to block out the rest of the view. That way you can concentrate on what’s happening in the opening as you move it slowly over your subject. A large surround also helps the viewfinder retain its shape while traveling in your art bag.
Having said all that, I think that the ability to switch easily between formats in the Viewcatcher makes it worth the money. Also, it won’t get bent in your art bag like a piece of cardboard might.
Using a viewfinder to crop a landscape
Let’s have a look at what I mean by using a viewfinder to help you compose your painting. I’ll take an uncropped photo and then crop it in various ways to show you what can happen.
First let’s try out two square crops:
Next let’s look at the same areas but in a vertical rectangular crop:
Now let’s try horizontal crops:
Although I’m cropping a photo, I’m sure you can imagine how this would work on location. Which crop of those above is your favourite? What other ways would you crop the original?
Remember that using a viewfinder will help you not only with choosing what to paint in a landscape. It can help with any subject be it figure, still life, portrait, urban view. Anything!!
Using a viewfinder to help with your drawing
Not only does a viewfinder help you compose your painting, it also helps with the creation of your drawing. Find where lines intersect the edges of the viewfinder and note their position related to the whole ie. a third from the bottom, a quarter from the top. You can also relate the angle a line makes as it moves across the space to the vertical and horizontal lines of the viewfinder itself, for example the line and angle of the rose’s stem.
Here’s the image of the rose with the marks I mention in the video.
Using a viewfinder to help with values
The other thing the ViewCatcher has going for it that I didn’t mention in the video are the two small holes. The colour of the ViewCatcher is 50% grey on the value scale of 1-10. This makes it ever so easy to check the value of a colour against the grey. Look at a spot through one of the holes – is what you are looking at darker or lighter than the grey of the ViewCatcher?
You can then move the ViewCatcher hole over your painting and check how the value there relates to the value of the viewfinder itself. You can also check how accurately you have captured the value of the colour you saw ‘out there’.
Check the image below – look at the top hole and see how light the background is especially when you compare it with the other hole that shows the colour of my hair.
Using a viewfinder to help with colour
These small holes in ViewCatcher can also help you determine the saturation of a colour – how much colour do you see compared to the grey of the viewfinder – is it greyer or more saturated with colour than you think? And what about temperature? Is it warmer or cooler than you think? Run the viewfinder over different areas to compare them one to the other. This is hugely helpful when you are unsure of colour saturation or temperature.
Viewfinder as gift
The other thing is, a viewfinder is a wonderful gift to give to non-artists as it will help them ‘see’ the world in a way they don’t now. I love hearing the ahhs and oohs as they move a viewfinder over whatever is in front of them.
This blog has turned out to be a review of the ViewCatcher as I like it so much!! You can pick one up in many art stores or order it from Amazon here:
Viewcatcher from Amazon.com
I’d love to hear if you use a viewfinder. How helpful is one to your work? Do you use a handmade viewfinder or something like the ViewCatcher? Do you use one all the time or rarely? Let me know by posting a comment on the blog.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Talking about a low key painting seems appropriate at this, the darkest time of the year (in the northern hemisphere anyway!). So what is a low key painting? It’s one in which most of the colours are predominantly dark in value and often subdued (i.e. not bright colours).
I’ve just uploaded a video of me demoing a low key painting. Have a look:
You can see my set up below. I must have changed my angle when I began to paint though; I didn’t see any secondary highlights in the shadow side of the bowl like the ones you can see here.
A couple of months ago, I did a video on high key painting. Check it out on my blog here. You can see how completely different the painting looks from this one!!
Wow, it’s almost Christmas Day! Wishing you a very special holiday surrounded by love and laughter. I’m so looking forward to spending the next few days with my Mum and Dad, my brother and his family, and my honey.
With warmth and huge thanks,
PS. Because of the time of the year, you may want to watch me painting a branch of holly 🙂
I’ve just uploaded a video about high key painting and what it means. Have a look and let me know what you think.
Here’s the set up I was painting. You can see the beige paper behind the daisies that I reference in the video.
If you squint, you can see that the shadow at the centre of the right hand daisy is pretty dark. I decided to take license and make it lighter than it shows in the photo. In this way, I kept the painting high key.
Here is my thumbnail of the set-up. It’s not the clearest job dividing the work into three values (parts of the background look too dark) but doing a thumbnail allows me a chance to become familiar with the subject so when I come to paint it, I have a better understanding both of it and how I want to portray it.
And here is the set of Schminke pastels I chose from:
(I have sorted this box of Schminke pastels into values. For help sorting a box of pastels into values, click here to see my video.)
And the final painting:
High key paintings are ones that feel airy and light. Often the light source washes out the scene and there are very few deep shadows. The subjects can be white or light-coloured themselves – eggs, a snow-covered landscape (with no dark trees), puffy white clouds, a white-sand beach for example.
The main thing is that the values are in the lighter part of the scale.
How are you feeling about your understanding of a high key painting? Have you made a high key painting? If so, why not send it in and I will post it on a future blog showing various high key paintings!
All for now 🙂
I don’t know about you but my pastels get miiiiighty dirty when I use them. Whether you wear gloves or not, every time you pick up a pastel, you transfer particles from the pastel you previously held to the new one. And so the pastels get dirtier and dirtier. Ugh I say. So, cleaning soft pastels – what’s the best way?
When I was starting out in pastels, the recommended way of cleaning soft pastels was to put all the dirty pastels into a container that held some kind of gritty substance such as cornmeal (the most commonly suggested), rice flour (softer than cornmeal), rice (cleaner than either cornmeal or flour), semolina (I never tried that one) or fine sand (didn’t try that either).
Doug Dawson’s nifty idea of creating a wire sieve that fits inside the container certainly made it easier to remove the pastels from the container. I made one that was similar and carried it on location with a plastic gold panning dish (bought in Sacramento years ago when I took a workshop with Doug) into which I would pour the cleaned pastels. (See photos below.) Well, I just found all of that too tedious, time-consuming, messy and generally a pain in the derriere!
I needed an alternative!!!
Click the photo below to find out what it is 🙂
The pastels you see in the video were the ones I used in my pastelling glass bottles demo. Click here to see it.
So??? Did you figure it out before the video?? Do you use this method? It works so well for me for all the reasons I express in the video.
How are you cleaning soft pastels? I’d love to know what method you use. So drop me a reply and I’ll add the comment to the blog post. And feel free to comment below the video on YouTube. I LOVE getting feedback!!
Until next time,
I’m happy to tell you that I’ve posted another pastel demo video on YouTube. Yay! This time, it’s about how to paint glass. Have a look and let me know what you think!
To begin, I did a small thumbnail sketch to sort out my three main values and to decide if the composition worked. I think it does.
I totally forgot to take a photo of the set-up in colour but I did take one in black and white. As I look at this photo, it seems much more extreme in the value range than what I saw when I painted it. Notably, the dark paper seems a lot darker than it was in life.
When you are painting glass (or anything!!), look look look!! And take the time to see. See the shapes created, try and divide the whole into three values, and take time.
Here are the pastels I used.
And here is the final pastel:
I’d love to hear from you. Don’t be shy, tell me what you think – good, bad, ugly! Do you have questions? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time,
I am finally getting back to a normal-ish life and schedule after the madness of two shows (‘Emergence’ and ‘Caught Red Handed’) back to back. They went well and it was wonderful to work towards them and produce so much new and exciting work but things like regular blogging kinda took a back seat! But I am getting back into the swing of things.
Today I made a new pastel painting tip video about how I break pastels when I acquire a new box. I have been asked by students how and why I do it. This video will answer that question! My main message? Be not afraid!!
Of course if you have a box of half sticks, there’s no need to do any breaking (although you might like to do so anyway). I should also say that usually, I’ll sort the box into values first, then do the breaking, but for this video, I wanted to start with the brand new box.
I usually don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to technical things so I do what produces the fastest result. You can, for instance, score the pastel with your finger prior to making the break.
Doing it this way, you may get a cleaner break. But not always and not with every brand of pastel. It also takes longer and since I’m usually in a hurry and I’m never sure of the result, I generally just get in there and make the break the way I show you on the video.
So, experiment. The main thing is to gulp, and break those pastels!
I’d love to know what you thought of the video and my pastel painting tip. Please reply to this email or alternatively, you can always leave a comment under the video on YouTube.
My next video will be a new demo so look out for that in the next month or so. I haven’t quite decided what to do yet so if you have any brilliant thoughts about that, be sure to let me know!!
I always love hearing from you so drop me a line sometime 🙂
Until next time,
Yay, I just released a new pastel demo on YouTube. A lot of people have asked me about how I see colour? Well this video tells you a little bit about just that.
Here’s the thumbnail I did before the pastel. You can see it’s divided up into three values. As long as you understand values, you really can go crazy with colour. Just make sure your colour corresponds to the value that you want to reproduce.
Here’s the set up of pears in life (well in a photograph of the pears in life – gets complicated!).
And here’s the same set up in black and white so you can see the values:
Here’s the initial drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper:
I didn’t show the full range of pastels in the video, just the outside of the box and later, the 11 pastels used. So here’s the whole collection of pastels:
I don’t usually use Holbein pastels for a whole piece but I’m rather pleased with the way this one turned out! And here it is:
It’s amazing, as children we use colour intuitively and we are completely happy with the results. As we get older and ‘wiser’ we may be influenced by those who surround us (parents, teachers, friends) who with good intentions, direct us to a different choice of colours, one that more ‘realistically’ matches the outside world. They are safe colours, predictable and bearing a recognizable resemblance to the subject being painted. But there comes a time when we want more, we want to give expression to some inner calling of colour. We are bored and we want to break out of the rut we are in. And this is where learning to see colour comes in.
With practice, you can see colour. I find that some days I can ‘see’ colour better than others so beware of days like that and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Keep an eye out for that unexpected colour that just punches out at you when you least expect it. You know, when you turn to look at something and before your brain kicks in to recognize what you’ve just seen, you see that pure violet patch on the street. (When your mind figures it out, you’ll find the colour simmers down into a grey sort of asphalt colour.)
Rather than think of the rules and colour theory as you paint, just look. Sit and look until some colour emerges and put it down on the paper. It’s exciting stuff!!!
Let me know how you make out seeing colour in your next piece okay? I do want to hear from you! Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post – I attached them all to the blog. You can see them, and my responses, by clicking here to go to the post.
Until next time,
PS. Speaking of seeing colour, do you know Harry Chapin’s song “Flowers Are Red”? It’s such a sad one….and it’s all about seeing colour!!! Click on the image to hear it.