Monday, May 24, 2010

Take-Off - pastel with underpainting

Because of all the reference photos I have taken over the past year+, I'm never at a loss for inspiration for something to paint.  However, it's often an unexpected photo that will grab my attention and say "paint ME!".

Ever since I took those in-air photos during my return trip, I've been itching to do a series of aerial paintings, mostly of clouds.  A few days ago, I was revisiting the in-flight photos I took during our trip to Durango last year, and a most unlikely photo caught my eye.  It was one taken maybe 30 sec. or so after take-off from DIA, in a small Brazilian prop for the final flight to Durango.  The view, of course is to the east, where the state joins with the Great Plains.  The land forms patchworks of color and shapes and the remnants of a summer monsoon storm make up the sky.

As a photo, it was nothing special, but I liked the abstract shapes and perspective of the land.  I also instantly had this idea that it could be the lead-in for the series of from-air cloudscapes.

Take-off - DIA  - final version
9x12" on reclaimed Wallis 

I also decided this would be a good time to try the Wallis paper that I've been holding on to for the past unknown number of years.   I bought it way back when I was living in Flagstaff, probably 10 years ago, with the idea that I'd be pastel painting regularly.  I didn't, so the spendy packet of really nice pastel paper sat quietly with my pastels, waiting to be used.

Last December, having not used pastels in 10 years, I decided to do a painting for Wayne for Christmas. A photo taken in a place we love - Zion NP - was the subject.  Well, let's just say that didn't work out so well...I had no idea how to use Wallis and abandoned the painting.  It sat until I decided to wash it off and save it for later use.  

Underpainting with isopropyl alcohol wash
Some of the ghosted original painting is still visible in the cloud area

I quickly did a sketch of the basic shapes and blocked in the colors.  Because of the previous painting, this seemed like a good time to revisit the underpainting technique, which worked wonderfully.  I decided this might be a good painting to document as an in-progress piece, so I waited until I could get a photo of the underpainting before proceeding.  

Original finished version prior to re-working

My SO, Wayne, is just an all around awesome guy.   He's been hugely supportive of my work and without him, I'd not be able to pursue art as anything except a fleeting hobby.  In addition, I found he's really good to solicit opinions on regarding things that might not be working with the occasional painting.   He always clarifies every request for his opinion that he is not an artist and may have no idea what he's talking about.  But, as I tell him, he has a set of eyes, is certainly representative of someone who buys art, and we also have similar tastes.  Plus, there are art and photography books all around the house, so he is exposed to it whether he wants to be or not.

When I showed him the more or less finished painting, shown immediately above, I asked him what he thought and what, if anything didn't "work".  After careful consideration, he pointed out some things that bothered him.   And he pointed out what he really liked about the painting.  Both are useful to me, actually.  I put the painting up on the easel (I paint with the paper taped to a board and flat on the table instead of on an easel), I immediately saw some compositional/perspective issues that for whatever reason I'd missed during the painting process, despite what I thought was a reasonable effort towards that accuracy.  Between his suggestions and my re-examination of the reference photo for accuracy, some changes were made that I think improved the painting.  

And the verdict on the Wallis paper, revisited, is that it's as great a surface as everyone says.  I definitely won't wait so long to use it again.


  1. Fabulous pastels! Love the colors!
    Sepetmber Mcgee

  2. Hi September,

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment; I appreciate it :). I looked at your website; your figurative work is lovely!


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