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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

How to Paint Christmas Lights with Pastels

'Magical Winter Nights'              8x10            pastel             ©Karen Margulis
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 The evening was cold but it was magical at the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was mid November and the snow gently fell as we walked down the path. Ahead,  the workers were hanging the holiday lights.  We had the zoo to ourselves making the light show even more special. It was a sneak preview and we took it all in. I took a quick photo so I could remember the moment.

I wanted to paint my memory. My photo gave me some information but I would need to edit. I needed more snow. I didn't want to include the workers. That's the beauty of painting...the ability to edit!  But how would I paint the lights? How would I use sticks of color to create the glow of electric lights?  How would I suggest the illusion of a forest dressed in holiday lights without painting every single bulb? Here is what I did:

a collection of pastels used for the lights

  • I worked on a dark toned paper. In this painting I used a piece of Multimedia Artboard that I toned with dark purple tinted clear gesso. This allowed the bright colored lights to pop.
  • I massed in the larger areas of branches and lights using DULL colors of a middle to middle dark value. I used a light touch allowing the pastel to skip over the textured board. I used grayed, dull purples and oranges and reds. These bigger masses on the textured surface appear as lacy masses of branches and lights.
  • On the edges of these dull masses of color I began to put in pinpoints of brighter more intense colors. The lights in this scene were red and orange so I used the most intense bright orange and yellow-oranges that I had. I used soft pastels to paint the tiny dots of color.
  • It is the relationship between the dull and dark colors and the bright intense ones that make the lights appear to glow so I tried to balance both for the best effect.
  • For the white light of the streetlights I began with a dull red, layered yellow ochre and finally added a dot of pale yellow (almost white) The darker colors against the pale yellow caused it to appear lit.
It was a lot of fun to paint the lights and Now I want to try more! This same scene was also the inspiration into my first mixed media adventure which I will share tomorrow!

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Wow. This is a gorgeous effect! Thanks for explaining how you got it! I also love the exact hue and value of that early evening sky - you brought me right back to Lincoln Park again and it's fantastic. Love the lesson. That helps so much!