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Friday, February 07, 2014

Two Options for Correcting a Pastel Painting

'Winter Walk'              16x20              pastel          ©Karen Margulis
There is a third option but it is the last resort.  I always try to rework a painting before I choose to wipe off or throw away a painting.  I don't like to give up or waste a perfectly good piece of paper.  I know many artists like to get rid of the paintings that didn't work but I don't mind them hanging around the studio waiting for another chance.

I decided to give this old painting another chance. It has been hanging out in my studio in a pile for a few years. It was actually a demo I did on a 16x20 Pastelbord. I found it in the pile the other day and decided to have a closer look. Could it be revived? 

The original demo painting
It had some issues that were now obvious to me after letting it sit for awhile (years). Look at the trees. They are all leaning towards the left. Every tree!  The distant trees are too dark. The snow path through the trees is an odd shape. These are the things I decide to correct.  There are many techniques to make corrections in a pastel painting but for this revival I use two options.

brushing out the bad parts

Option #1  BRUSH OUT the pastel in the areas to be corrected
I use a stiff bristle brush and simply brush off the pastel.  I make sure to have a tray under my board to catch the dust. If I am brushing off a large area of pastel I will do it outside or over a big garbage can.
You won't remove all of the pastel. There will still be a ghost image but enough pastel will be removed to allow for more layers of pastel to be applied. This is what I did for the trees. I brushed them out so that I could repaint them and vary their size and direction.

spraying workable fixative in areas to be restored
 Option #2 FIX IT with some workable fixative
I love using workable fixative to restore overworked areas of a painting. I will sometimes brush off some pastel before spraying by often just spray the areas I want to refresh. The fixative 'fixes' the pastel in place allowing for more pastel to be added without disturbing the colors underneath.  It also provides a bit of texture which I love!

In this painting I decided to use workable fixative in the brush and foreground snow. It allowed me to add chunkier marks to the brush. I was also able to brighten the snow with some new Diane Townsend light pastels (my favorite snow colors)



Oh my goodness, you dramatically improved this painting. It has color and life now. Look how much you have improved.

Even though I am an oil painter you have much to teach me as well.

robertsloan2art said...

The changes made it lovely, I'm so glad you didn't abandon this one. Sometimes it takes a while to think through what's wrong. Cool that you didn't even have the pastels you used in the final version!

I've never just scraped off or thrown out anything. I'm not sure why people do, but they do. No matter how good it is there will come some point later on when I could improve it because I keep learning.

Sea Dean said...

And I'm an acrylic painter and I love your lessons too. I wish there was a way for you to get credit for it. This painting is amazing. I just got some really bad news about someone having cancer and this sure brightened my mood. I love so many of your paintings but this is one I would love to own. Sadly I can't buy it, so don't get excited, but I'm sure it will sell in a flash.

Sea Dean said...

I was wondering if you ever use oil pastels? The soft pastels are too dusty for my present studio but I love the layers. Sometimes I try to follow your lessons using acrylics with mixed results.

Gary Alsum said...

Pretty amazing fix! I'm experimenting mostly with watercolors as I have a good friend who's class I'm taking advantage of... Your posts are always pretty insightful. (And it's pretty neat seeing a painting I now own on the right side of your blog page! I hope to get it framed this next week.)

Karen said...

Thank you all for commenting. I appreciate it!
Sea, I have never used oil pastels. I wish there was enough time in the day to do it all !!

Marcela Strasdas said...

Great improvement! It has so much more life now!

robertsloan2art said...

Sea Dean, it's not that hard for me to adapt soft pastel lessons for using them with oil pastels. Part of it for me was understanding that oil pastels also come in multiple textures from the quite firm to the very soft.

Cray-Pas whether it's their artist grade or several student and children grades all have exactly the same texture, they did that deliberately to let artists use increasingly more adult and serious versions of the product without having to relearn it.

Cray Pas is the firmest artist grade. From there Neopastels are a good middle grade and Holbein softer than them, Gallery Mungyo Extra Soft is between Neopsatels and Holbein, the very softest are Sennelier - same as with soft pastels. Sennelier handle like lipstick, literally a lot closer to paint than the rest.

Of course the softest wear down faster than the firmest and with oil pastels, temperature matters. On hot days using firmer pastels gives better results softening them, in winter the very softest still function rather than turning crumbly. It takes a bit of practice getting used to the feel of oil pastels, but if you remember the softness thing most of the techniques transpose pretty well.

All of Karen's color advice and much of the technique advice applies too. Breaking and peeling sticks for broad strokes works just as well.

I've got an entire website on oil pastels where I have more detailed reviews and my experiments, should update that again this year and add some new lessons. But been sick and busy for some time after the move. I did it because most of what I found on oil pastels was just stores that carry them and the Oil Pastel Society, which also has a good website and many examples of truly brilliant paintings with them.