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Monday, February 16, 2015

Paint Along Monday...Trees and Wildflowers

'Standing Tall'               9x12            pastel                ©Karen Margulis
purchase this painting on etsy $125
It's so green! How can I make it look interesting? It is a question I have to ask myself when painting the Southeastern landscape. Green is one of my favorite colors but when it is used exclusively in a landscape I find myself looking for some relief.  A great way to provide this relief is through the underpainting. 

One of my favorite techniques for very green landscapes is to start with a complementary color underpainting. Today's demo  illustrates this technique. It is on gray canon Mi-Teintes paper 9x12.

My reference photo is only 2x3 so I really couldn't see the details. As a result my painting is an interpretation of this stand of trees. I am most interested in the big shapes of the trees, grass and sky and the drama of the light and shadows.

I choose four values of warm color pastels....I am using reds and pinks which are the complements to the greens that will come. I use a mix of hard and soft pastels and picked them because they were handy.

I lightly layer the pastel. I have simplified the scene into 5 simple shapes. I am not worried about the details such as leaves and branches at this stage.

Once I have covered the entire piece of paper I use a piece of pipe insulation foam to run in the pastel. I do this because I like the soft dreamy quality I get. I know that if a painting works in this stage my chances for a successful painting is better. This is the time to make adjustments if needed.

The next step is to choose the pastels I will use for the painting. I choose a selection of soft pastels for each element of the landscape.  It is so much easier to have color harmony when I work with a limited palette.

Next I reinforce the dark areas of the painting. I like to use 2 or 3 light layers of color that are of similar value. In this painting I used dark purple, dark blue and finally dark blue-green.

I missed a photo so here are two steps. I add some warmer greens to the trees to start to give them shape. Then I work on the sky. I use 2 values of blue in the sky and transition into a warm light yellow to represent the low clouds. I also put down some blue greens in the distant trees. I want them to go back into the distance to I needed to have them lighter and cooler than my big trees.

Finally I add the bright warm yellow green to the grass. I love the drama of this shaft of light. My trees need more work but I have just about filled the tooth of the paper which is easy to do on Canson!  I spray the trees and grass with some workable fixative to restore some tooth.  It helps.

The next stage of the painting is when I have to concentrate and so I don't stop for photos. In this stage I make a mark and step back.....and repeat until I am satisfied. I change the shapes of the trees. I change the shape of the distant trees also. I add pastel to the grass and scrape some marks with a palette knife. I spray some more and add more to the trees. I add some hints of wildflowers.....pale yellow in the sun and pale blue in the shadows.

At the end of a painting, every mark needs a purpose. If I just keep adding pastel without thinking I will end up with muddy color. So I work slowly and deliberatley. After working awhile I am satisfied.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful! How long does it typically take you to finish a painting this size?

robertsloan2art said...

Beautiful landscape. One thing about a complementary underpainting, it will make the greens sizzle and become more vibrant! I love that.

Still don't really understand why so many painters hate green. I love it in all its variety, especially the bright strong greens of summer. Not sure why dry browns are somehow more appealing, since they generally aren't to me. This is so beautiful!

Karen said...

Thank you!! I appreciate the comments! I can usually finish a smaller painting like this 8x10 in about an hour or so.

Debbie Harding Pastels said...

Thank you, Karen, for sharing your process. The texture on the trees is so beautiful. You do that so well.