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Saturday, January 07, 2012

An Interesting Technique for Painting Marsh Grasses with Pastel

'Lowcountry Dreaming' 11x14 pastel ©Karen Margulis

closeup views of the marsh grasses (oil stain with pastel)
I love painting wetlands and marshes. I love the feeling of wide open spaces and the textures and colors in the grasses. But it can often be a challenge to paint the grasses. It is so tempting to put in too much detail and to paint every blade of grass. This is especially true when painting from photos because the grasses are frozen in time. I prefer to create some mystery and work at keeping my grasses simple.
One technique I like to use is to apply a loose painterly underpainting with thinned oil paint. You need to work on a surface that accepts a wet underpainting. My favorite choice is Uart paper. You thin the oil paint to the consistency of tea using turpenoid. Paint using a stiff cheap bristle brush. I like to start out with the paint not too drippy but not thick. You don't want to clog the tooth of the paper. Toward the end of my underpainting I let the paint drip. As it dries, the paint forms interesting drips and spiderweb patterns. It reminds me of plant root systems! Once dry, I add my pastel, trying not to cover all of the drips and roots. It is perfect for suggesting grasses without overdoing them.

I am planning a more in depth demo of the oil stain technique soon so I'd love for you to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss it!


Paula Campbell said...

Karen, what gives this painting the lower-left-to-upper-right slant? Is it the paper? I love this painting and look forward to the workshop on marshes!

Karen said...

Thanks Paula, I should have mentioned the paper. It is Uart paper but it is actually a flaw in the paper which caused the slant....not how I applied my strokes! I contacted Uart about it and they were aware of the issue and had corrected it but I still had some of the flawed paper. I kind of like it! :)

Dawn Boyer said...

This is a great idea--thanks for your generosity in sharing the tip. I can't wait to try it!

Karen said...

Thank you Dawn. Have fun with it!

Paula Campbell said...

Very interesting! I hope they gave you some free paper! The flaw could be something to work into a painting, if you know it's there.

Karen said...

They did offer to replace the paper if I shipped the unused sheets back but I had already cut it up and used some of it so now I just make sure I check it first to make sure the lines aren't there and sometimes I will incorporate them into the painting. I don't have much of it left.

Carolinaaramburo said...

This one is good, you can also add a farmer also who is plowing or a scare crow.