Thursday, March 4, 2010

A trio of landscapes in pastel

This is a bit of a catch-up post, since I haven't had regular internet access for the past several days. I'd intended to post these throughout the week, but I've got plenty of new material to be adding, so I'll just include all of these together in a single post.

All are based on photos taken at various locations and dates, so there's no real continuity of subject, other than mountains and sky. Details follow each painting.  They're posted in the order completed.

"Winter Storm Over Mule Mtns" - 5x7
pastel on sanded paper mounted to acid-free matboard
$45 ppd, ready to frame

This small painting was based on a photo similar to this one.  I loved the way this one portion of the mountains was sunlit in an otherwise overcast sky, and the small area of precipitation adds to the sense of drama.  I also was finally able to use the pastels in the much-anticipated Mt. Vision thunderstorm grey set I recently received.  In fact, other than the foreground greens and yellows of the mountain, the rest of the painting was done with this set, demonstrating its versatility as a southwestern palette as well.
"Towards Ramsey Canyon" - 9x12"
pastel on Colourfix sanded paper
$95 ppd, ready to frame

This painting could be described as a "reclamation operation" based on both the paper and the reference photo.  The original painting, done from a photo taken at Saguaro National Park, was my first time using this particular surface.  It's quite different than the sanded papers I've been using, where the pastels go on like butter.  This is much more textured and I found myself fighting the surface.  Despite the effort I put into the original painting, I was not pleased with the result, primarily as a result of the paper surface.  So, out came the paintbrush and off came the pastel!  I then applied black pastel to the remaining ghosted surface, used an alcohol wash to unify the surface color, and it was back to the beginning. 

I didn't want to try and re-do the same SNP image, so I decided on a photo taken during this same hike.  While the photo was nothing to get excited about due to the poor light, it is one I felt would translate well into a painting.  Simple shapes and strong values of the land elements contrast with the muted greys of the stratus cloud-filled sky, which is what I did .  The location is not far off the trailhead for the Brown trail, off of Ramsey Cyn. Rd in Sierra Vista, at the base of the Huachucas.  Residual snow is visible on the north face (although I'm not sure if that reads as such in the painting...) and the granite cliffs contrast with the evergreen slopes of the adjacent mountain.  Scrub oak and juniper dot the foothills and foreground along with the bright yellow grasses.  After looking at the photo, I think I will go back and adjust some of the areas of grass to the lower left side - they are a bit too dark and tend to pull the eye away from the center of the painting. 

My photography and PP editing skills aren't doing this painting justice - I think I may have reduced the contrast a bit too much, since the actual painting is more vibrant when viewed in person. 

"Cumulus, Rising" - 9x11"
pastel on sanded paper
$65 ppd, ready to frame

Here is another somewhat "experimental" piece.  It is based on a photo I took shortly after arriving in Bisbee, in early Dec.  Taken from the Mule tunnel overpass in late afternoon just before sunset, I was in awe of the very top of this brightly-lit cumulus cloud that was just peeking up over the hills of the Mules to the north. 

The surface is a 220-grit aluminum oxide sanded paper that I've used before, and while it has a good tooth for the pastel, there is a tendency for the pastel to come off if the paper is tapped vigorously.  Since I do this after finishing all my paintings to remove loose dust, this is a problem.  I'd decided not to use the paper anymore as a result, but then thought I'd try the alcohol wash with black pastel and use a bit of fixative and then do the painting on top, just to see how that worked.  It definitely was an improvement over the original surface as far as this technique went.  I never use fixative on my finished paintings, but decided to just try it here - a light sweep of Krylon Matte Finish spray.  It didn't appear to dull the painting down, which is usually the reason pastel painters don't use fixative. 

I modified the original photo slightly by shifting the hills over to the right so that the "v" didn't fall right in the center.  The cloud mass has been slightly enlarged and yeah, it's still mostly in the center, but I think it's okay here because of the lines and curves of the hills keep it from being too staid.  I kept the dark cloud tatters in the photo to add some depth and context of a cloudy sky to the painting.  They read better, as do the pinks and creams of the center cloud, when the painting is viewed in person.

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