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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Simplifying a Marsh...Painting Tip

'Into the Marsh'                11x14    pastel          ©Karen Margulis
Painting available here $165
My goal is to keep it simple. I love painting the marsh because it is such a challenge to simplify and I love the challenge.  Marshes are essentially a sea of grass. Miles and miles of grass. It is easy to get lost in rendering every blade of grass. I speak often about leaving a little mystery in a painting.  If I paint every blade of grass where is the mystery?

Here is a tip for painting marsh grasses:  Think of the marsh grasses as big shapes of grass color. Not individual blades.  Keep these shapes big, simple and intact until the very end of the painting. Then a few well chosen blades can be pulled out of the shapes.

my black and white thumbnail

I begin the painting with avery simple value study. I only use four values to define the big simple shapes I see. As I layer the pastel I keep these shapes intact. I may change colors but I keep the values the same as my study for as long as I can.

It is only at the end of the painting process do I add a few blades of grass. I think about the best placement of these pieces of grass. They act like lines. Lines pull our eyes in a certain direction. I want to be sure the lines I create with my grass lead the viewer's eye where I want them to go.

 I paint individual blade of grass in a few ways. One way it to carve them out of a block or big shape of grass. In the photo above I used the color of the water to negatively paint some grass. Paint the color behind the grass to do the carving.

Another way to paint grass is to add them on top of the big shape. I try to make my lines painterly or lyrical. I want them to look natural and not stiff. I allow the thin edge of a pastel to dance and create a lyrical line.

TRY THIS: The challenge at this point is to have restraint. It is all too easy to get carried away. Allow yourself to put in only three pieces of grass at a time. Step back and evaluate. If more is needed, paint only three more before stopping and so on. Stopping to evaluate will hopefully prevent you from overdoing the grass!


Brenda LaRue said...

The three-blades-at-a-time hint is exactly what I needed to help me figure out when to call it done. Thank you so much, Karen!

robertsloan2art said...

Great idea. I can see how that'd help keep from overdoing it.

shahar solander said...

Hello Karen. I have intended to write you for some time now - I wish to thank you ever so much for your blog. Your willingness to share what you have learned as well as your thought processes has been invaluable to me as a 'returning artist'. I will be forever grateful to you for your supporting role in my artistic journey.

Pastels are a fabulous medium, and although I have owned a set for many years, even introduced many middle school students to pastel painting (at which they were very excited and quite successful), I hadn't taken the time nor had the dedication to develop my own talent until recently. You have been one of my leading inspirations, and I hope I have the opportunity to meet you one day. Thank you!