Saturday, March 10, 2012

Southwestern monsoon and rain - pastel painting

Sometimes you need to go big or go home...

Plateau Showers - #7
18x24 inches - pastel on UArt #400 paper
© 2012, S.Johnson
One of those images that I have been excited to paint, and it needed to be big.  I bought a sheet of this UArt, and decided this would be the piece to use it on.  Since I'm not used to using an aggressive sanded surface like this, it was a bit of a challenge, especially for the clouds.  I lost track of how many layers of pastel I piled on there, blended, removed, re-blended.

The location, as we continue west along Hwy 160, is now west of Kayenta, AZ, and approaching what is hands-down my favorite section of the drive:  the Organ Rock monocline.  Those who were following my blog when I did the first Four Corners roadtrip series in late '10 will remember it.

To my mind, there are few things more visually stunning and emblematic of the southwest than a huge cumulonimbus cloud spanning a section of plateau country and an isolated sweep of rain in the distance. Discreet shadows cast by the cloud help define the elements of the land.

Regarding this paper, I can't say I like it.  I know it's really popular with pastelists, and maybe I'll try a finer grit in the future, but I found that it took so much longer to paint this than it should have - I had to use a ton of pastel and the light touch I'm used to using on my smooth black Strathmore just doesn't work so well here.  I found it necessary to finger blend almost everything to eliminate the harsh edges produced by the grit and texture.  However, it's still far better than Colourfix paper, which I cannot stand.

It actually started out as a failed painting from the winter series I was doing in Dec and Jan:

Nope, it's not a really bad abstract painting....
My true wish is that the company that makes GatorGrit wet-dry black sandpaper would produce it for the pastel market - as far as sandpaper goes, I've not found anything that matches it.

Anyway, I am going to switch back to oils for this series now.


  1. I don't do well with this paper, either.

    Great job - big is great!

  2. I'm glad to know it's not just me...but, I also recognize that my taste in paper is peculiar to begin with.

    I'm glad you like it, Casey - I'd probably paint bigger more often if I had more space to store things (and there were buyers for them...) - it is sort of fun to "go big".

  3. It's a beauty... and it makes me long for days just like that. We started out so beautifully here today and now? Rain or snow or something coming... Argh.

  4. Your rain clouds are incredible. This is beautiful

  5. Hi Sherrie...thanks, and I agree with you: I cannot wait for the summer and the marvelous monsoon season that goes with it. We had the same deal here yesterday, but I think it only snowed in the mountains. I'm really ready to move on to springtime now.

    Thank you so much, Sheri - clouds will always be one of my favorite subjects to paint!

  6. I always hate the frustration I feel when I switch papers. But your painting looks beautiful!! I really, really like it.Your clouds always have such power. I was going to ask you if you've ever tried wallis sanded paper? I want to try some with colored pencils but haven't yet. I wondered how it worked for pastel.

  7. And thank the heavens you don't have word ver here!! I almost cry every time I have to enter hfioa hbawHngfvo.

  8. Hi Crystal - I know whatcha mean re switching papers...but then, there's the time(s) you discover you loooove it, so that's why I'm always trying new things. I've painted on Wallis before, and have done some paintings I really like. But, it's just as rough as this UArt, so I'm not buying any more once I use my last pieces. I bet it would work great w/ CP, but it will no doubt chew through the leads.

    WV...what a pain, right? After they made it even more difficult to read the letters, I decided it was time to scrap it. I wish more bloggers would as well :).


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