11x14 inches - pastel on w/c paper with Golden pumice ground
One thing that continues to surprise me is how some of the best reference photos I have for painting are those shot out of the window of a moving car. No careful planning of the composition, but somehow, many of them translate into what I feel are very good paintings and often with minimal adjustment.
I love the starkness of this land, and the fact there are no trees and essentially no green to speak of. It's open and bare and the antithesis of the pastoral tree-covered landscapes of the east that many people define as "beauty". Nothing cozy or comfortable about this, which is perhaps why I am so drawn to it. It has occurred to me on numerous occasions that I would be perfectly happy to never paint another green landscape again in my life!
Our local newsstand finally got in some copies of the Dec issue of The Pastel Journal, so I got mine yesterday. I was reading Richard McKinley's column, which is always wonderful, and I felt he was reading my thoughts when he spoke of the "...creative malaise and diminished desire to paint" from photos in the studio after spending all summer painting on location. Glad to know it wasn't just me! Anyway, he pointed out that this is the time to experiment with new techniques and materials that you'd normally not want to do when painting on location.
He included a demo with a grayscale value underpainting on some Rives BFK paper and overlaying this with a clear gesso ground and watercolor underpainting. It inspired me to pull out one of my pieces of prepared w/c paper, the same of which I mentioned in my previous post. I didn't feel like using the cheap-o watercolors I had, so instead, I just went with a pastel and rubbing alcohol underpainting, which is how I usually paint on this paper.
However, there wasn't a particularly good layer of the Golden ground on the paper, resulting in poor adhesion of the pastels. In his column article, Richard mentioned using fixatives, and I decided this would be the perfect time to experiment with using them. And besides, Degas frequently used fixatives in his pastel work, so why shouldn't I give them a try?
I ended up using 2 applications of Grumbacher workable fixative to get the coverage and depth of the sky how I wanted it. For this painting, which is essentially (and purposely) split between the land and the sky, I wanted there to be a contrast of textures between the two. So the sky is heavily blended, and with the exception of some of the darker areas of the immediate foreground shrubs and grasses, I tried to not blend anything else on the land elements (okay, I forgot that I did blend a bit in the mountains).
I should have taken a photo of the original underpainting so you could see just how totally funky it looks in that stage before being transformed into something I am actually pretty happy with, just because I always find that sort of thing to be fun(ny).
Even if you aren't a pastel artist, if you can find a copy of this months' Pastel Journal just to read Richard's excellent article, I'd recommend it. The suggestions he gives for experimenting could easily be applied to any medium.