2018 Workshop Schedule. New workshops added! click here for details.
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

How to Paint a Bird with 25 Pastels

'My Snowy Friend'              12 x 12           pastel            ©Karen Margulis
available for $175 in my Etsy Shop
 It might surprise you.  You don't need a box of hundreds of pastels in order to paint. You certainly want them and if you do have hundreds it still is never enough. I admit I am addicted to collecting pastels. But when it comes down to it we really only need a good balance of colors and values.....I could make due with under 100 pastels as long as I have good range.

Even 100 pastels are too many for a single painting.

I choose to work with a limited palette and always take a few minutes to choose my pastels before I start a painting. I typically use no more than 25 pastels for a painting.  How do I decide what colors to pick?  I think VALUE before COLOR.

reference photo and test paper

  •  I will be blocking in my Egret by value....darks first, then lights, then middle values so I choose 3-4 pastels in each of four values: dark, middle dark, middle light and light.
  • I choose the darks first. I line the pastels in my butcher tray.
  • Next I choose 3-4 light values.
  •  I choose a few middle values.
  • I don't think solely in terms of the local color. I want to layer interesting color. Sometimes I will push it towards the local color and sometimes I don't worry about getting the color accurate. I do want to get the values accurate.
Remember that VALUE does the work but COLOR gets the glory!

Choosing my palette and testing values
 I like to use a test strip of paper (the same as the paper I will use for the painting) to test the pastels I pick. I make little marks side by side to see if the pastels are the same value. If I see a hard edge between the marks than I know they aren't the same value and I choose another one.  If the edge between the marks is soft or disappears then you know the colors are the same value.
The marks have to touch.

25 pastels for the painting
In the picture above you can see my final selection for my egret painting. I used these colors for both the egret and the background. Keeping it simple and limited made for an enjoyable painting session.
12x12 on Uart


robertsloan2art said...

Love this! Thanks for sharing the photo of your test swatches too. It's simple and elegant the way you test values. Easy to see in that photo!

Gorgeous painting too. Thanks for the tip about naturalistic color or not. It really depends on the painting!

Tim Moore said...

i too like the way you find value..i always learn something in your posts..thank you..