Saturday, April 3, 2010

Trio of Skies - pastel

Today, I finally got around to taking photos of the pastels I've completed in the past couple of weeks, including two done last night.  I'll spread them out in a few different posts.

For whatever reason, I've been using more non-sanded paper for doing pastels.  It's not that I like the texture or surface better than sandpaper, because I don't.  However, they do, in some ways, require more planning to use, and I have found this to be useful in a "discipline" sort of way:  the paper surfaces of Mi-Tientes and a new paper I've been using, Strathmore 400-series Artagain, don't allow for the layering that the sanded papers do (the quality that makes them so wonderful to work on).  Thus, a bit more care must be taken when laying down the pastel, and the usual "light over dark" layering techniques don't work so much.  I've been focusing on doing quick (~30-60) min. studies on these papers, and trying to avoid getting too fussy with the paintings or the details.  Sometimes, I'm even successful to that end!

Anyway, here are a trio of cloudscapes I've painted.  They are shown in chronological order painted.  The first was done a few weeks ago when I was still in Bisbee; the second done about 1 1/2 weeks ago, and the third was completed last night (under the influence of a glass of wine).  I've attempted to correct the photographs in PE to what they look like in life, but as usual, they fall a bit short.   Discussion follows each painting.

A note about the Strathmore Artagain paper:  It is a 400-series (acid-free), black paper that is "lightly textured".  In reality, its texture is like construction paper - smoother than regular drawing paper but not as smooth as something like Bristol.  I really like working on a black surface; it makes the colors pop, particularly when the pastel is not blended.

Afternoon Cumulus
pastel on Canson, 9x12"
Based on a composite of two photos - one for the clouds and the other (taken at the same time) showing the distal mountains (Mules, viewed from the west)  with the cloud shadows falling on them.   I am not thrilled with the way the lower/distal cloud layer on the right side looks; the perspective is a bit off.  

Dancing Clouds
pastel on Strathmore Artagain, 12x9"
This was my first use of this paper.  The reference photo was one of dozens I took from the backyard of the Jonquil, of the clouds and the hillside.  I'm not thrilled with it - while the colors are okay, the clouds themselves didn't turn out as I'd hoped - they look stiff and I didn't take quite as much time as I should have to get the shapes correct from the photo.  The hillside itself could use a bit more warmth in the palette; I was using two new Richeson handmade pastels I'd purchased that same day.  If I were doing this over (maybe I will in oils someday), I'd add more orange to the land.  

Stormclouds Over Mule Mtns.
pastel on Artagain paper, 9x12"
Based on a photo taken on the same day, but different location and time, as the first photo above.  I think I may have unsaturated the photo a bit while trying to correct it; the subtle pinks, yellows and lavender-grays used don't show that well.  I also notice now that I cropped out the foreground area, which was darker than the mountains, and lent a sense of depth and scale to the painting - oops!  A variety of brands - Unison, Sennelier and Mt. Visions - were used for the clouds.  The late afternoon light cast subtle shadows on the southern face of the Mules, and a light touch of pastel was all it took to capture that.  No finger blending used on this - just layering and scumbling.  I'm glad I resisted the urge to finger blend here.  It was completed in ~35-45 min. 


  1. Fabulous!! The last one is my favorite of the three, though they're all great. I was scrolling down the thumbnails on my blog and stopped when I saw "A cloud!". Then I looked to see whose it was. Why, of course it would be you! :D

  2. These are so beautiful and lush, you and Jala are going to make me delve into pastels!

  3. Thank you so much for your comments, ladies!

    Jala - you crack me up :). The last painting is my favorite as well; it was done after I'd gone to visit the Mark Sublette Gallery here in Tucson - latest works by Ed Mell, the Maynard Dixon museum, and also Jeff Aieling's(sp?) sky paintings. Tremendous!

    Kelley - Yes!! Dive into pastels; you will love them.


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