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Friday, May 15, 2015

Paint with 38 Pastels or Less

'Its the Simple Things That Matter'          8x10              pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $125
 I have enough pastels. Really I do. It doesn't stop me from having pastel envy though. Whenever a new set comes out or someone shows me a box of new pastels it begins all over again. The desire for more pastels. I don't need any more and I will have to be strong at the candy store at the IAPS Convention in a few weeks.

More pastels mean more choices. That is good but it can also lead to color chaos in a painting. It is sometimes hard to hold back. We want to use them all.....but the truth is Less is More.

The 38 pastels I used for this painting 
Think about it.....if we were mixing paint we wouldn't have hundreds of tubes. We would have a few and we would mix the colors we need. It leads to more harmonious color. Pastels are a bit different. We can physically mix colors the same as liquid paint so we need to have more sticks of color.

But we can take a cue from mixing paint....the idea that a limited palette leads to better color harmony and more unified color. It works for pastels as well. Try limiting the number of pastels you use in a painting. Choose a possible palette in advance. Make sure you have colors that match the values in your painting. (some darks, lights and middle values) When painting, try to reuse colors rather than reach for a new color. It may feel limiting at first but it is truly liberating.

Too many pastels to choose from

  • The underpainting colors are important. Choose them first. They will peek through and help unify a painting.
  • Select the darks. Look for colors to represent that darkest areas of your painting.
  • Choose colors for each element of the painting....sky colors, distant trees, mountain colors and so on. Visualize the colors and values you will need for each element.
  • Keep track. Try not to exceed 40 or so pastels in your initial selection.
  • If you add colors as you paint keep them out and add them to your tray or pile of pastels.
Read more about using a limited palette in this blog article by James Gurney. click here to read.


robertsloan2art said...

38 pastels! Oh that's a generous limited palette, that's easily enough to do a good rich painting like today's gorgeous example. It doesn't have the substitutions of say, using just the 14 Best Loved Basics from Terry Ludwig and lacking a strong green.

But having a big collection means more nuanced choices for creating that palette to suit the latitude, weather, exact subject, time of day and mood of the painting. You have a gorgeous collection, love that big studio box spread out like that.

Don't worry about loss of willpower at IAPS. If you do indulge, you'll probably wind up using them and enjoy them - just not all in the same painting!

Vanessa said...

I've definitely found that linking your pallet has a wonderful effect on harmonizing a painting. It also helps stop you from 'overworking' a piece which I often fight with myself.

Your landscape pieces are always so gorgeous Karen. Have a little fun with new sticks at IAPS after all you're indulging in your passion and that to me has no limits lol!