Tag Archives: process

Overworked Pastel? No Problem! Just Rework It

I have this pastel. It was painted on location and then worked on in the studio. I wrote a blog about it (click here to read it). It received some wonderful comments. But I’ve never been completely happy with the pastel. I feel it’s an overworked pastel and just not the way I want it to look.

Since it’s been worked on so much, I decided to rework it into something else and capture the process for this blog. Although doing this was a risk, especially knowing a few people really liked the piece, I was ready to plunge in. I figured no matter what happened, since I was unhappy with the pastel as it was, whatever happened next was just fine. I may end up with a wonderful new piece or I may end up with a mess. If a mess, I can always wash the whole thing clean! And if a new piece, then yay!

Here’s the original overworked pastel:

Gail Sibley, “Afternoon Walk, Dukes Road,” pastel,  12 x 9 in - overworked?

Gail Sibley, “Afternoon Walk, Dukes Road,” pastel, 12 x 9 in

 

First off, I gently wipe the pastel with a paper towel to soften all the edges and blur the image.

Gail Sibley, “Afternoon Walk, Dukes Road,” pastel,  12 x 9 in. The wiping leaves the ghost of the original image.

Gail Sibley, “Afternoon Walk, Dukes Road,” pastel, 12 x 9 in. The wiping leaves the ghost of the original image.

 

Now where do I take it? Do I make it abstract? One thing’s for sure, I’m done working on the landscape that’s there. I’ve reworked it so much that I feel like it’s dead. But there’s still an interesting pattern of light and dark that I can work with. I’ll also look to see if there’s any other visible form, for example, figurative, or I’ll turn it on its side and see if there’s another landscape possibility.

I can no longer call the piece by it's original title as now it's a work in progress. I've decided to use the light and dark pattern and use vine charcoal to outline the main pattern I see.

I can no longer call the piece by its original title as now it’s a work in progress. I’ve decided to use the original light and dark pattern and I use vine charcoal to outline the main pattern I see.

 

Now what? I decide to choose a limited palette from the colours used in the original. I pick the yellow and a blue as the primary colours. I add magenta and a cool red. Then I began to add the chosen colours to the outlined shapes.

A new piece begins it's evolution. The pattern of light and dark is hinted at from the original but we no longer have a realistic looking landscape.

A new piece begins its evolution. The pattern of light and dark is still hinted at from the original painting but we no longer have a realistic looking landscape. (You can see I also tried a mauve colour which I immediately rejected and covered up.)

 

Hmmm, interesting I think. I continue.

More lines added, a couple more colours added.

More lines added, a couple more colours added.

 

I wonder about drips and add water along one edge. But I discover that drips don’t happen that easily in pastels. (You can see there’s a bit of darkness along the right hand side. That’s wet pastels.) I feel that how I’ve been working, hatching the pastel, has begun to look too much the same. Pretty, I think, and I don’t want pretty. I also feel the big swooping shape takes you right out of the picture. So I decide to introduce long lines across the whole picture plane to stop that movement as well as to add some discomfort to the prettiness. Will it work?

Lines added. These add complexity to the whole thing. Adding the lines, I was considering how the viewer moves around the painting. I want to keep the viewer there!

Lines added. These add complexity to the whole thing. When adding the lines, I was considering how the viewer’s eye moves around the painting. I want to keep the viewer there!

 

Stepping back, I think I’ve added more interest to the piece. But there’s still work to be done.

Worked a bit further

Worked a bit further. More lines added, more shapes delineated.

 

The same progression as above but in black and white. This really shows up the pattern of darks and lights.

The same progression as above but in black and white. This really shows up the pattern of darks and lights.

 

I begin to see light filtering through slats of wood or metal. Like the elevated train platform in Chicago or the Eiffel Tower. With this idea in mind, I continue on. I decide to break up some of the large dark shapes further.

The piece as far as it's gotten. I don't know whether it's finished or still has a way to go or if it's overworked.

The piece as far as it’s gotten. I don’t know whether it’s finished or still has a way to go. Or is it an overworked pastel once again? Time will tell.

 

And here it is in black and white:

The pastel as it is shown in black and white.

The pastel as it is shown in black and white.

 

The images above follow the vertical format of the original piece. Let’s see what happens when we look at it horizontally:

The same image rotated horizontally

The same image rotated horizontally.

 

And here are the eight Sennelier pastels used.

And here are the eight Sennelier pastels used.

I don’t know if it was a good idea to follow the light pattern that was there originally but that’s what I did and this is what I ended up doing and how the piece progressed.

I’ll need to sit with the painting and see what happens, to decide whether I’ll need to go further, stop, or let go of the whole thing again. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts about what I did!!

Wishing you a splendid 2015. Let’s see what wonderful things we can create and discover in pastel together!!

~ Gail

 

PS. On my mind while working on this pastel was the 7th January shooting of 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo. Although this painting doesn’t reference it directly, the awful event was in my subconscious for sure.

To see an amazing outpouring in cartoons by cartoonists from around the world, click here.

[tweet “”Death shadows us. Live fully!!” ~ Gail Sibley”]

 

PPS. It feels good to be back in the studio. I’ve been working at completing the Pastel Painting En Plein Air online videos (done) and I’m now beginning to choose a place to store the videos online, decide on and set up a portal for access, and determine a method for purchasing. All computer stuff i.e. NOT in the studio!

 

Blurred Boundaries #5 – a pastel progression step-by-step

 

Hellooo!!

I’m back again after all the craziness of getting two shows up within two weeks of each other – Emergence in the middle of May, Caught Red Handed at the end. Wow! And coming up, an open studio (Fernwood Art Stroll) this weekend. After that, it will be life as normal, well, sort of!

A couple of people were curious about the process I followed in the Blurred Boundaries pastel used on the Emergence exhibition invitation so I thought that would be a great idea for a blog.

First, the invitation:

Emergence show invitation showing the pastel 'Inscribed'

Emergence show invitation showing the pastel ‘Inscribed’

 

The pastel is titled “Inscribed” and it’s #5 in the Blurred Boundaries series. (To read my blogs on the first three in the series, click here for #1, here for #2, and here for #3.) Another time I’ll write a post of #4. For now, let’s get started.

 

1. Pencil thumbnail trying many different variations of value and figure position. You can see my notes on the left side talking about the dominant colour combos in previous pastels in the Blurred Boundaries series and that I wrote at the bottom, "thinking oranges." The design I chose to use was the one in the top right corner. I wrote, "walking into the light."

1. Pencil thumbnails trying many different variations of value and figure position. You can see my notes on the left side talking about the dominant colour combos in previous pastels in the Blurred Boundaries series and that I noted at the bottom, “thinking oranges.” The design I chose to use was the one in the top right corner. I wrote, “walking into the light.”

 

2. Drawing up the figure in charcoal on Wallis paper. This is the second time I have used this figure in a painting. The first time was in Blurred Boundaries #4 which is a vertical pastel. Now I have flipped the paper into a horizontal orientation. I was curious to see if I could get away with cramming the figure in with head partly chopped off and cloth hanging off the edge of the paper.

2. Drawing up the figure in charcoal on Wallis paper. This is the second time I have used this figure in a painting. The first time was in Blurred Boundaries #4 which is a vertical pastel. Now I have flipped the paper into a horizontal orientation. I was curious to see if I could get away with cramming the figure in with head partly chopped off and cloth hanging off the edge of the paper.

 

3. I decided on oranges and it's compliment of blues as the dominant colour combination. Here I start applying an initial layer of pastels. You can see I am not interested in a realistic interpretation of the figure.

3. I decided on oranges and blues as the dominant colour combination. Here I started applying an initial layer of pastels. You can see I am not interested in a realistic interpretation of the figure. I am using Mount Vision pastels.

 

4. A black and white photo of the first pastel layer. I am checking the piece against the original thumbnail. Isn't it interesting how the cloth totally disappears into the background? This is a prime example of where our perception of the brightness of the warm orange tells us that it is lighter than the more subdued, cooler blue. But not so!

4. A black and white photo of the first pastel layer. I’m checking the piece against the original thumbnail. Isn’t it interesting how the cloth totally disappears into the background? This is a prime example of where our perception of the brightness of the warm orange tells us that it is lighter than the more subdued, cooler blue. But not so!

 

5. Adding more pastel all over. Different blues on the left and lights on the right to cover the Belgian Mist paper. I also began adding the colours of blue and orange of background and cloth into the figure to connect them. You can also see the warm colour initially used on the body in the space below the outstretched arm. I've also added that same colour to the cloth along with some red to darken it.

5. Adding more pastel all over. Different blues on the left and lights on the right to cover the Belgian Mist paper. I also began adding the colours of blue and orange of background and cloth into the figure to connect them all. You can also see the warm colour initially used on the body applied to the space below the outstretched arm. I’ve also added that same colour to the cloth along with some red to darken it.

 

6. A black and white photo of the pastel as it stands. You can see that the red I added to the cloth barely darkened it.

6. A black and white photo of the pastel as it stands. You can see that the red I added to the cloth barely darkened it.

 

7. Tentatively, I bring the dark blue up to the orange cloth. I also add some red in areas of the figure.

7. Tentatively, I bring the dark blue up to the orange cloth. I also add some red in areas of the figure.

 

8. Okay, enough of being wishy washy! But you have to understand, I have no plan except for my thumbnail. I am feeling my way along but I realize I am holding back. So out came the charcoal to delineate the figure. It was too fuzzy, too unsure. I also added more colour, boldly, to the figure. Also, you can see some serious mark-making in the blue area of the piece. Yeah! Now we're talking! Can you feel/see the difference??

8. Okay, enough of being wishy washy! But you have to understand, I have no plan except for my thumbnail. I am feeling my way along but I realize I am holding back. So out came the charcoal to delineate the figure. It was too fuzzy, too unsure. I also added more colour, boldly, to the figure. Also, you can see some serious mark-making in the blue area of the piece. Yeah! Now we’re talking! Can you feel/see the difference??

 

9. Checking in with a black and white shot. You can see how much stronger the pastel looks now. Finally, the cloth is standing out from the background!

9. Checking in with a black and white shot. You can see how much stronger the pastel looks now. And finally, the cloth is standing out from the background!

 

10. Now I am cooking with gas! Clearly I am more confident about what I am doing. I am thinking at this point, "Just make the marks - you can always change by going over it if something isn't working. Don't be afraid!" I feel that the orange of the body and cloth are too disconnected from the background even with the blue introduced into the body. It's time to add orange to the background. Gulp! And yet, Wow! It works! I also brought the dark blue into the cloth.

10. Now I’m cooking with gas! Clearly I’m more confident about what I’m doing. I am thinking at this point, “Just make the marks – if something isn’t working, you can always change it. Don’t be afraid!” I feel that the orange of the body and cloth are too disconnected from the background even with the blue introduced into the body. It’s time to add orange to the background. Gulp! And yet, Wow! It works! You can see I also brought the dark blue colour into the cloth.

 

11. Black and white check-in. You can see the visual excitement the pastel marks make on the paper. It's not quite as I envisioned in my thumbnail but it works and that's all that counts.

11. Black and white check-in. You can see the visual excitement the pastel marks make on the paper. It’s not quite as I envisioned in my thumbnail but it works and that’s all that counts.

 

12. I decide I need to meld the figure with the background, as it looks too cut out. I breakup the edges and add more warm colours all over the background. I am really happy with it now! You can see where the series title, Blurred Boundaries, comes into play.

12. I decide I need to meld the figure with the background as it looks too cut out. I break up the edges and add more warm colours all over the background. I am really happy with it now! You can see where the series title, Blurred Boundaries, comes into play.

 

13. One last look at the pastel in black and white.

13. One last look at the pastel in black and white.

 

14. Gail Sibley, "Inscribed - Blurred Boundaries #5," pastel on Wallis paper, 18 x 24 in

14. A few more changes – can you see the tweaks I made? I add my signature and it’s done!
Gail Sibley, “Inscribed – Blurred Boundaries #5,” pastel on Wallis paper, 18 x 24 in

 

Now you have the whole journey; well almost – you didn’t hear the gnashing of teeth or the cussing, or the wild music, or see me sitting staring at the pastel, waiting to figure out what to do next, or my energetic mark making, but I’m hoping you can feel the whole experience in the piece.

 

You know I’d love to hear from you!! Tell me what was most surprising about this whole process.

 

Until next time 🙂

~ Gail