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Friday, November 08, 2013

My Favorite Foreground Technique ....Marshes

'A Perfect Day'             11x14         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
Where does the water go?  How much grass to put in? What to do with the foreground?  These are all questions I ask myself when painting a marsh.  There are many ways to deal with these issues but I find myself returning to my favorite technique for many of my marsh paintings.  

First I need to say....I only use my reference photos for a general idea or inspiration. That is the most important thing to remember. I don't try to copy what I see....if I want to change the course of the water I will. If I want to change the problem! Here is my favorite technique for the foreground ....

I try to keep the foreground unfinished and loose.

My reference photo
There is always a fine line when it comes to foreground treatment. How much detail to put in?  I say I like my foregrounds unfinished but for me this means keeping it a bit mysterious.  I may suggest some details...a bit of grass, a touch of water scumbled over those grasses. But my fear is if I put in too much detail the viewer may get hung up in this detail and not move into the painting.

The goal is to invite the viewer into the come in and enjoy the whole thing.  So how do I accomplish this?

close up of water in the grasses....high tide

  • Try wet underpaintings.  In this painting I did an alcohol wash. This gave me a darkish mysterious foreground with some interesting drips. Leaving a lot of this underpainting showing is a great way to keep the mystery.
  • Keep the foreground darkish. I avoid putting a lot of light or bright intense colors in the immediate foreground (especially near the edges of the paper.)
  • Use workable fixative or alcohol spray.  If you find you got too busy with your foreground...happens to me all the time!  Give it a spray of fixative. The fixative will darken and fix the pastel. The next layer of pastel will now have some great texture. 
  • Watch your water!  I try to avoid having a  dense stream of water going off the page at the foreground...especially in the corners.  Sometimes I like to let the water spill over at the foreground to appear as high tide or a wet spot in the marsh. (see close up photo)


Jo Castillo said...

Beautiful painting and as always, thanks for the useful tips.

robertsloan2art said...

That is so cool. At first glance it didn't look unfinished, it looked detailed and interesting, drew me in. Then your description floored me. That's awesome. I have to try it sometime.

That and making up where the water goes instead of sticking to what's in front of me. It's fun doing visual fiction.