Materials · Pastel painting · Step-by-step · Technique

Winter Time

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Ice started forming on the creek the other day. This is the view from our back deck. Today, while much warmer, it is raining. So, for me it looks like I will be spending a lot more time indoors for the next little while.

I do have a challenge out there for all my plein air buddies: At first snow, we are to (at least) step outside of our houses and attempt a small plein air painting. I may get as far as my front porch on that day of fresh snow, but I will give it a go. In the meantime, my plein air oil painting kit is now inside the house and out of my car.

In the meantime, I’ve started another couple of painting projects. The first is a secret for now. I want to make sure I can pull it off first. The second is another pastel painting of produce in glass. You’d think I’d get tired of this. I hope my viewers and patrons don’t.

In any case, I am going to try to do more progress shots and try to explain what in the world I’m thinking and doing at each step. So here is the first step: the photo from which I’m working:

dsc01675Pretty ugly apples, eh? These came out of the little orchard my parents planted about 20 years ago. The poor trees were never pruned and are in pretty bad shape. My hubby and I are working on cutting down the dead or badly diseased trees and heavily pruning the rest. This Spring and Summer we do plan to do a little spraying to reduce some of the fungus and perhaps to get more fruit to actually set. We will see. In the meantime, these are extremely organic apples. I’m guessing they are Gala Apples.

The second step was deciding on a paper and format. For this painting, I’m using a new to me platform: It’s True Grit 400 mounted by French Canvas folks. The 400 grit is a tad rougher than the 500 UArt grit I normally use. It was nice not to have to fuss with mounting and so far, the surface feels pretty good.

Third step, is sketching out where things go. I use a soft pastel pencil rather than charcoal or graphite as I prefer it to really vanish in with the rest of the pastel. I have a giant piece of foam core on my easel and use Push Pins to secure the reference photo and my painting surface to the foam core. The painting surface actually sits on top of two pins and there are two others, near the top edges holding it up. I don’t normally punch holes in the actually painting surface.

Fourth step is putting on pastel for the underpainting. Depending on what I’m aiming for I will use something similar to the final “native” color, or a complementary color or something just as the mood hits me. In this case, since this is a series, I’m using my darkest purple family from my Terry Ludwig collection in the top background and a medium blue that I’ve used in other paintings in this series for the counter top. The rest of the colors, in this case, are close to the “native” color to start.

dsc02784As you can see, my sketch is already almost gone. But I am focusing mainly on getting my values in roughly the correct places. The very lights are not even considered at this point as they are the last things I put into a painting. My focal point (at this point) I’m planning to make the middle of the jar (because you know I love glass), but it may end up being the apple in the foreground as I rather like it’s stem.

Then the alcohol wash goes on. I use clear isopropyl alcohol and an old synthetic bristle brush. I actually just take the lid off the alcohol bottle and dip into it with the brush. Pastel that picks up on the brush ends up washing off and settling in the bottom of the bottle. Someday I’ll buy a new bottle when this one is too full of silt, but so far, so good.  To keep the values fairly clean, I brush in the lightest parts first and work my way up to the darkest.  The first picture has the lightest colors brushed in. The second picture is the completed underpainting.

The next step is completing that background and giving some gradation to the counter top.

dsc02787And here are some close ups of those areas:

dsc02788dsc02789And that is as far as I’ve gotten today. Tomorrow I’m off to the city for the day, but I’ll post more as I work my way through this painting.

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