April 29, 2010

High or Low - Pick a Key

For me, painting the same subject in both high-key and low key goes in to my SEAL (Self Engendered Art Lesson) bucket. I've seen them, I just don't usually do them. For those not familiar, a high-key painting is when you drop out most of the bottom half of your value range and what is left is what is on your palette. Those colors can be a lot of fun! A few darks can sneak in here and there but overall the painting will be quite light, as if all the shades on all the windows have been removed.  
These are two studies, the one on the left is done in high-key. Notice how saturated some of those colors are, especially on the duck's right (shadowed) side. Which do you prefer?

April 28, 2010

Bunny Pot and Friends, I am not a pastel

Bunny Pot and Friends is another of my not-pastel paintings. It is an oil (16 x 20) painted on linen. I have since taken to painting on panels and like it much better. I often prep my own but admit that my studio is really half studio, half mad-artist lab. I love to experiment. I must dash, something is bubbling....

April 26, 2010

Multi media ... pastels, oils, acryilcs, you-name-it

On the off chance you think I only work in pastels, I thought I would post one of my acrylic paintings (from some time back). As much as I love pastels I do enjoy mixing things up a bit in my studio and I think having more than one medium to work in is good for learning. I work a lot in oils, too, and confess to loving the smell of a freshly laid palette.

The easel calls. Happy Painting!

April 24, 2010

Easel Struggles, even Andrew Hemingway has them

While reading Andrew Hemingway's The Making of a Painting (The Diary of Andrew Hemingway), I smiled in heartfelt recognition at the anguish he shared and his ongoing arguments with the painting on his easel. It surprised me, and in some way comforted me, to hear someone as accomplished as he is say what he did in his book. Following is an excerpt from his diary:

Monday 17th April

The picture looks like nothing. Can it ever hope to work. I am confronted with a solid mass of dull slate grey, the surface colour. If only it was something else. How long will I have to stare at this nothing of a colour? Gainsbourough's pink ground (the colour of my last big painting, 1994) to Ruben's honey colour, but not this dead grey.

Almost for the entire day I battle inwardly with thoughts of the fruitlessness of the entire project. I have little or no hope that this picture is going to work. Can I go back? If I do I will never know what could have been. What a dilemma! For any reader of this diary this may seem a small thing, but to me it is a dreadful torment. The work on the background continues; however, I operate on a kind of auto-pilot.

Let me assure you that Andrew and his painting, "Still Life with a Green Glazed Bowl" (60 x 45), both came out of this experience in tip-top shape. My point in sharing this is as a note of encouragement for those times when the struggle at the easel seems overwhelming. I find comfort in knowing that other artists have the same struggles I do, stand and stare endlessly at their paintings and anguish over a multitude of issues. What gives me even more comfort is knowing that by sticking with it and working through the tough times we all come out of it more accomplished whether the painting makes it or not.

May you find peace at the easel,

April 23, 2010

Trusted Wings - pastel on Wallis (WIP)

"I Choose Flight" is the name of one of the paintings I am currently working on and that prompted me to review some of my earlier bird paintings. I thought I would share this one since I have a couple of photos of the piece in progress and I always enjoy seeing others' WIPs. This little bird was just outside my office window and I felt compelled to capture him on Wallis paper.

Using a turp wash for a smooth, gradiated surface in the background ended up as a nice touch though it takes a bit of nerve since there was no way for me to fix anything without completely redoing the entire background. I skated out of that one with a large brush and by holding my breath (whew).

I added more texture with the build-up of pastels as I added the foreground rocks (ala big bird).

I left the little baby bird whispy and soft so it felt, to me, like you could reach down and pick him up, ever-so-gently.

Well, back to the easel. Thanks for stopping by!

April 20, 2010

Making Pastels from Dust

Do you have a catch-tray full of pastel dust? If so, you might want to reclaim that expensive falling dust and turn it in to little bars of gold. Well, okay, they look more like slugs but they are easy to make and you can even get creative with the shapes. I actually formed mine to look like slugs. What can I say? I am inspired by my (Pacific Northwest) surroundings.

You will need
  • Pastel Dust
  • Gloves
  • A mixing container (preferably a disposable one)
  • A spoon or palette knife for stirring
  •  A smooth surface for forming your pastel stick/log/slug
I am assuming you are using professional pastels and it doesn't matter if you have used a variety of brands. If you want, you can even leave the tiny chunks of color in for  "surprise" streaks.

The pastel dust already has a binder in it so you won't need to add that. Just add enough (filtered) water to make the dust moldable. You don't want it too gooey so go light with the water. Once you have have the right consistency, form your logs, or slugs, and leave them out to dry for a couple days or until they no longer feel cold to the touch.
Have fun! I would love to know if your experiment was successful.


April 13, 2010

Cheers to Blooms

The tulips are blooming, the tulips are blooming! Everyone grab your paints and easels and head to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I just know you won’t be disappointed. There are so many reasons I love this part of the country; the Grand and Beautiful Pacific Northwest. It certainly has my heart and now my pastels and paper, too. In all honesty, I painted this piece last year and have not been to the fields yet this year but I am going and soon. So soon I can hardly stand it. My camera and pastels are shaking with anticipation.

Before this tulip painting, I completely avoided the pinks in my pastel box. In a way, that was nice because I had all brand new colors to work with and then there was this moment of “uh-oh” how does one actually see pink? Not having worked with them much my eyes were not well trained to see the value shifts between these hues. To help me sort through my value issues, I got out my handy-dandy-can’t-live-without-value tool-thingy and put it to work as I soaked up a new SEAL (Self Engendered Art Lesson). That was a fun little lesson and I now have a newfound respect for the pinks.

By the way, if you don’t have a Picture Perfect Value Finder, I highly recommend this tool for any artist. It has dug me out of more than one hole, I promise you. If I were to need another, I would buy mine from Dakotapastels (no, I don't get a kickback, I just love their store!) but you can find them from a variety of places through Google.

May you find peace at the easel.

Cheers, Sandy