Listen to the Work

If you've ever heard it said that "... the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and go where it tells him to go" - Madeleine L'Englethen you'll know how I've approached this next painting. As you can see, the reference photo is rather boring as far as the color pallet goes. In my mind, however, I envision this picture with brilliant colors. 


So, using my reference photo to guide me with my proper values, I translated the existing image into one with a totally different color scheme. You can see the paintbrush I used for this step, a 1 1/2" Yasutomo brush.

I wanted this cactus painting to have crazy, intense color that was not what you would normally expect to see on a plant like this but would look believable none the less. I decided to "listen to the work" and used the brilliant colors of the background to guide me with my choices of color for the cactus. With pastel began bringing the image forward. 
I tried very hard NOT to make the cactus pads the predictable "green" but instead incorporated the deep blues and crimson shades of the watercolor  under painting into the shadowed areas of the plant and allowed it to bloom into vibrant shades of orange and red for the blossoms. 

This was a challenging exercise but one that had beautiful results and definitely hurled me outside of my box. 

I'll post the final image next week, it should be finished by then.

Building Pastel on Top of Watercolor

Now comes the fun part!
Once you have established your under painting with the colors you've chosen and taken the time to get your values and especially your darks as they should be, you will be able to start applying your pastel. I like this part best because now is when the actual image starts to evolve and the beautiful layering of color starts to glow. You can already see subtleties of color in the background layers beginning to interact with the pastel.
This translates as energy and I often refer to it as the "soul" of the painting. It glows through and gives life to the images.

Here is
a close up of the finished piece titled "Sweet Solitude". When I look at this picture I can almost hear what's going on in this guy's mind.... Finally,... Sweet Solitude! This is my husband and I know for a fact he would love to be saying that right now!

"Exploring", A Good Thing!

As I said in a previous post, I have decided to go on an exploring expedition, artistically that is. One of the issues I have been experiencing is that I am wanting more vibrancy in my paintings. I still like the subtlety of the layering of color but it seems to fall flat when I get it out of my studio into different lighting. I attribute this to not having enough pastel on the paper. I decided to take a cue from a previous painting I did on pumice primed gator board and see if I could use the pumice medium on my watercolor paper. This turned out to be a great idea. I began by applying a thin layer of Golden's Pumice Gel diluted with water to the consistency of melted ice cream to my watercolor paper. Once it was thoroughly dry I proceeded the same way I usually do. I established my under painting with various shades of watercolor, let it dry and proceeded from there with my pastels.

I was so much happier with the finished
results. It was definitely more vibrant without having to sacrifice subtlety of color. And the best part is that it continued to stand strong under softer lighting, I love that.

Here are the beginning stages of my first exploratory painting on pumice primed watercolor paper. The under painting is made of Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, and Quinacridone Gold.

When painting the initial foundation of watercolor on my paper I may have to let it dry and reapply several times to get the preferred intensity and/or desired value. If you've worked in pastel you know that it helps to have the right darkness on your paper before you ever put that first stroke of pastel down. The right underlying value allows your pastel to really come alive off your page. I strive to take the time (and effort) to get the under painting right before I ever allow myself to continue with pastel. Trust me, it will make the painting go so much more smoothly if you take the time to get this step right. Along with getting the values correct I make sure I get my dark areas as dark as I can get them with the colors I choose to use there.

Working on this step is just like working on a watercolor painting in that you need to be thinking several steps ahead. What colors you choose to use in the under painting directly depends on what pastels are going to be dragged over the top of that color. The watercolor hue on the bottom will most likely be peaking through the pastel strokes on top and you want to make sure those colors are what you want to achieve your desired effect. When working this way you may even want to intentionally allow the bottom layer of watercolor to reveal itself more with less pastel on top of it from time to time to allow an element of movement and translucency within your painting.

One last thing, I chose to keep my under painting colors on the subdued side on this piece because I wanted my final image to have the feeling of peacefulness. Each painting is different, though, and depending on the feel you are trying to create, the under painting may be quite different in vibrancy. In my next post I will show you a lot more of the pastel development.

Exciting News!

I just learned and am excited to share the news that my painting "Remembrances of South Texas" has won the Grand Prize Award for the Still Life & Floral Challenge sponsored by the International Artist Magazine. This magazine is distributed globally and artists from all over the world submit entries to their competitions.

This painting along with a very nice article can be seen in the current Oct./Nov. issue of International Artist Magazine.

Thank you to all of you who continue to support my work and are a tremendous encouragement to me.

Unexpected Beauty

"Plum Prickly" ,  Pastel Unexpected Beauty It’s a mystery to me why I am so drawn to painting cactus. I’ve always thought ...