I was on Salt Spring last weekend for art group meetings and friendship connections. I had also planned to go out painting en plein air with my Mum and Dad. But the weather was against us – the skies opened and we were stuck inside. So then what to do? We dithered about and in the end, decided to do other things. But there was a niggling inside. You know that feeling? The one that says, If you put pastel to paper you’ll feel a whole lot better at the end of the day than if you don’t.
I also didn’t have a whole heap of time. Still, I knew I could do something in an hour and a half. So argh, stop delaying and get a move on.
And so I acknowledged the niggle and surrendered to the voice (although I can tell you, I sure didn’t feel like painting!). And you know what? That voice that said put pastel to paper was absolutely correct. In this case, the painting turned out fine but even if it hadn’t, even if it was a mess (and I was prepared for this), I would have felt great because…..putting pastel to paper always wins over not!
First, I needed to decide what to paint. There were so many possibilities – and that alone can stop you in your tracks so beware. I had been admiring the small bouquet of flowers Mum had arranged on the dining table. I was familiar with it; I saw it at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I liked the way the small daisies scattered away from the main bouquet. So I decided that was my subject. I grabbed the vase and headed to the basement where Mum and Dad work when not out sketching.
Now let me take you through the progression of the painting. First, here’s a photo of the setup. Remember though, I was working from life (always my preference).
The Thumbnail and Initial Drawing
I set the time for an hour and a half, and off I went!
First the thumbnail:
You can see that the dominant value is middle-value. Darks are found only in the vase, cast shadow, and nasturtium top right. The light value takes up a small part of the painting. Although the colours of the flowers are very bright and saturated, many of them actually lean more toward a middle value and so that’s the choice I made. Also, I decided to make the red nasturtium at the top a dark value to balance out the darks at the bottom of the piece.
I made a quick sketch in vine charcoal onto the UART paper.
Vine charcoal on UART 400
Pastel To Paper!
Then I chose three colours to cover the three value areas.
What looks like black is actually a dark green (you’ll see the pastels I used below). Often I leave the pastel as is but I felt I wanted a really solid underpainting so rubbed the whole thing with pipe insulation, starting with the lightest areas and moving to dark.
You can see how the values (and colours) now stand out clearly. I now have a solid underpainting of three colours in three values to work over.
Let’s look at it in black and white.
And then I started adding the second layer….
…and on I went.
Soon I was in the ugly stage! But…my mantra….put pastel to paper – don’t stop!
Checking in on how it looks so far value-wise…
Nearing the End
Next stage was to get into the details. I carved out the tiny daisies by filling in the negative space rather than painting the daisies themselves. Then I went in and added details on the flowers afterwards.
Some final adjustments. I decided that the nasturtium at the top was just too dark, pulling the eye not only up but off the page, so I lightened it. I worked on the cast shadow, adding a transition area between light and dark. I made adjustments to areas of the background – lightning, warming, darkening.
Here is the painting as it stands. I see a few things I want to tweak. For instance, I see where I forgot to cut the background in closer to the vase lip near the daisies. I also want to soften and further change the value of the background on either side of the vase. And of course, I still have to sign the pastel.
I’ll post the finished version in a few days. [see end of post]
In the meantime, here it is in black and white:
And the Unison Colour pastels used:
Pastels on paper. That’s the thing that will move you along your artistic journey. Practice, experiment, paint!! Even when you think you don’t have the time, you can find it. It’s definitely easier when your materials are at the ready – paper and pastels open so you can get working.
That little voice that calls you to the easel even when you don’t feel like painting, the voice that says, You’ll feel good putting pastel to paper, listen to it. At the same time, ignore the inner critic that might pop up just then and say, It’ll end up looking like ____ (fill in the blank with as negative an expression as you want – you know your own critic!). Instead, put pastel to paper. You won’t regret it!
Hope you enjoyed this week’s blog. As always, do leave a comment. Tell us about a time you felt great when you did put pastel to paper even when you didn’t feel like it or when you felt you had no time. I’d LOVE to hear from you! Also, was this post helpful?
Look forward to hearing from you 🙂
Until next time,
PS. Mum decided she too would work on a project and not let the day slip by without art-ing. Here she is, hard at work 🙂
PPS. Some inspiring words can be found here.
PPPS. [Edited 17 Sept 18] Here is the tweaked painting. It is taken under a brighter cooler light hence the colour difference with the ones above.
- I cut in with background colour to create leaves and the curve of the vase. I also highlighted the lip of the container.
- I increased saturation of the yellow to show light coming through from the back of the nasturtium.
- The edge of the vase is now clearer.
- I blended in the colours of the background to get away from the outlined feel that came about after I lightened the background by the edge of the vase.