12 Dec 2005

W.I.P. Pastel painting demonstration "Coastal rocks"

hallo ... thank you for looking!

Thought that you might be interested in seeing the steps to painting in soft pastel. Sometimes these vary here and there. but this is a basic method of working.

This painting will be on Art Spectrum Colorfix paper. This has a nice tooth (much like sandpaper) so can hold quite a few layers of soft pastel. Colorfix paper is available in various colours - the colour of this particular sheet is a mushroom grey .... This is not my favourite colour to work on! I usually choose brick red, burgundy or black, .... but I need to use it up!

I am working from one of my own photographs as a reference, and begin by drawing the subject with a blue pastel pencil. I then indicate the darkest areas by shading with black pastel.

Darks - it is quite hard to get really dark darks in pastel so I tend to start with black in those areas and work over them. The drawback of this method is that you can very quickly turn your picture into mud if you are not very careful. It is safer to PAINT your darks in at the beginning using watercolour or acrylic.

Next I scribble in some of the darker colours that I want to show through in the underpainting. This is also a chance to try out colours to be included in subsequent layers. The lightest areas in the rocks are indicated.

I am working with scribbly strokes and marks using the blunt end of the pastel and also with broad 'swipes' using the pastel on its side.

Starting at the top of the painting and working down I start to lightly put in side strokes of blues, greens and purples for the ocean colouring. The same process is applied to the rocks using warm and cool tones.

I use harder pastels for these underneath layers so as not to fill the tooth of the paper too soon. I am trying to cover the paper with colour although I do not mind if it shows through here and there if appropriate (like on the rocks).

Starting at the top once again I work my way down trying to get the colours and effects as close to 'finished' as I possible can. Frequent stops to look at the painting in a mirror help me to judge tone and colour values.

At this stage I start blending the colours in a variety of ways to get the effects that I want, - blending with my fingers, stroking soft pastel over hard pastel, dragging hard pastel over soft.

I concentrate on the ocean and the distant rocks until I get down to the bases of those in the foreground.

Colourwise - I am actually using a fairly limited palette of around 16 colours .... several blues, greens, ochres plus two reds and two purples.

I rarely ever use pure white in my paintings because I do not like the unnatural chalky look it gives. For highlights I try to use the very lightest tone of a cool or warm yellow or blue.

I work on the foreground rocks blending the colours in the same ways. It is fun to play around a little and try different colours, but I always make sure that my colours are 'echoed' elsewhere in the painting for colour harmony.

Once I am reasonable happy with the rocks I start working on the reflections and small rocks in the foreground.

The final stage is always a mixture of relief that the end is in sight and anxiety wondering when is the right moment to stop! This is where the final touches are decided upon - colours are modified where necessary, highlights added, shadows warmed or cooled. Lots of decisions need to be made!

Well! - I think that it is finished but I will put it somewhere where I can look at it every now and then before I finally decide ....... !!

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Jeanette said...

Thanks for the great WIP on the pastel rocks. I am doing the first pastel drawing/painting in a long long time and was looking for some reinforcement that I'm on the right track. :)

leslyf said...

Hope that you find it helps, Jeanette. I had a look at your current project ... its coming along just fine.

Don't be too heavy with your first layers, will you? ... Mi-Tientes will not hold as many layers of pastel as Colorfix because it is smoother. So you must 'save some tooth' for your final highlights ....

I keep wanting to go back to pastel for a while but don't relish the mess!!

We have those sort of rocky formations around the New Zealand coast ... in fact there are quite a few along the edge of the peninsula where I live.

I love your pencil drawings and your pastelwork is very good too. Keep it all going!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Leslyf! I just had my first 'look' at a pastel painting in progress! I've never seen anyone work on one, (besides the VERY chalky mess of myself, that is!)--so, thanks for sharing this! Looked at your website, too-very professional and appealing pieces.