Monday, March 26, 2012

A Great Studio Tool for Better Color

'As Far as I Can See' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
purchase this painting HERE $95

Having a big pastel collection is a mixed blessing. It is wonderful to be able to have a big box of colors. There are so many choices and so many possibilities. But the more pastels you have the harder it gets to make good color choices. It can be overwhelming when faced with boxes of pastels. Even if you have taken the step to put them all in one box and organize them by value and color....it is still too easy to get into color trouble. That is, it is so tempting to use more colors than you need in a painting. Before you know it you have lost your color harmony and everything screams for attention.
Many pastel artists help prevent this by keeping the pastels they use for a painting ou while they paint...in a tray or on a paper towel or some other system. This does help by giving you some control and idea of how many colors you have going in a painting. It is easy to see when you have too many colors in use by the size of your pile. It is also easier to reuse a pastel which creates better color harmony. No need to hunt and peck for a certain color you just put away!

I take this idea a step further.... I preselect my pastel palette before I start the painting and lay the pastels out in a butcher tray!

Pastel Palette for my Marsh Painting

I have several of these butcher trays that I bought at Blicks. I line them with a washcloth to keep the pastels cushioned and in place. I keep several palettes going at once. It is great if I am working on more than one painting. I don't have to put my pastels away until I am done. I will often use the palette for more than one painting as well.
  • Taking the time to plan my painting and to think about the colors I will use makes the actual painting time more efficient. Since I have worked out my colors I am free to get 'in the zone' and respond more intuitively to my painting.
  • For a landscape I will select my pastels by choosing my dark values first, then light values which are usually sky colors or cloud colors, then I choose colors for any distant elements such as mountains,trees,land masses. If there are any greens in the scene I pick my greens and line them up from cool to warm. I also need some 'dirt' colors to go under the greens. For today's painting I had golden grasses so I chose my golds and yellows and some mauves for the 'dirt'.
  • I may use all of these colors or I may need to supplement but at least I am starting out with a plan in place and hopefully will achieve color harmony in my painting.
I know this doesn't seem like a very spontaneous approach to painting but I find I enjoy the actual painting process more when I have a plan. I will say that I never force myself to stick with the plan or my preselected colors.....I am always open to change when the painting starts to talk to me. (that's for another post!)

7 comments:

Cindy Michaud said...

Thanks for this...I need to choose before i start; this makes perfect sense and will prevent the kid in the candy store mentality of wanting it all! Lovely piece too!

Bethany said...

Love the butcher trays! I have to get a better handle on my impulse to pull out more and more pastels all of the time. Thanks for the wonderful tips! I look forward to your posts so much! :)

Michael Fraley said...

Great idea, especially if working in the studio. Or do the butcher trays come in handy during plein air sessions as well?

Bhavna said...

I was really fascinated by your blog.I consider my creative inclination a wonderful gift to produce artwork and my inspiration is my inner self and world around me. There is an attempt to create a powerful emotional bond that reaches the heart and soul of the viewer.As an artist, I have explored variety of themes and ideas. The exploration clearly reflects the diversity and escapades of my journey of evolving experience and confidence in my work. Paintings as jubilation, emancipation express different emotions like hope, joy, calmness or motivation while abstract waterscape is just vibrant and full of life.

Bhavna said...

I was really fascinated by your blog.I consider my creative inclination a wonderful gift to produce artwork and my inspiration is my inner self and world around me. There is an attempt to create a powerful emotional bond that reaches the heart and soul of the viewer.As an artist, I have explored variety of themes and ideas. The exploration clearly reflects the diversity and escapades of my journey of evolving experience and confidence in my work. Paintings as jubilation, emancipation express different emotions like hope, joy, calmness or motivation while abstract waterscape is just vibrant and full of life.

Karen said...

Thank you all for the comments! Really any kind of tray works well I have some smaller plastic trays that I bring on plein air outings!

Anita Stoll said...

Very interesting and informative post. Beautiful painting. I too have accumulated so many pastels that eact time I select a pastel, I put it aside until I have a fair amount accumulated. This is when I place them in a food take out tray layered with rice or corn meal. I like your idea using a wash cloth. I'm going to try that with my next painting. Thank you for sharing.