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Saturday, September 26, 2015

How to Create a Mood with Pastels

'The Many Moods of the Marsh'                 9x12                pastel           ©Karen Margulis
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The marsh was very moody that year.  It was chilly even for late October. A cold front was hanging out causing dreary weather all week.  At least it would be considered dreary by many. I found it to be moody and I embraced it. As long as I had my warm clothes and a heated cottage to return to, I was fine exploring the many moods of the marsh.

I was drawn to the quietness of the marsh under it's blanket of mist. I was drawn to the softness of the colors. I especially loved seeing how the muted colors of the sky allowed many overlooked colors to come alive. But how to capture these colors in a painting? I wanted to paint this moody marsh!

a muted underpainitng 

You've probably heard it before. In painting, value provides the structure and form but it is color that provides the emotion in a painting.  I would need to find the colors to express the moodiness.  We might think that dreary gray days would call for gray pastels. That is true.....in a way.

I think of gray pastels as GRAYED down colors. That is colors that are neutralized or muted yet still retaining color. I avoid any gray pastel that is made with just white and black which is not a very interesting gray.

To paint a moody marsh I would need to choose muted colors! What colors would work?

Back to the idea of value doing the work. I could choose any colors as long as the values were right. So all I had to do was choose some muted colors in the value range of my scene and I should get moody! I selected 4 values of pink/mauve for the underpainitng. It was the perfect choice. The neutral. grayed down pinks gave me the mood I wanted and allowed the touches of green to really pop.

What other underpainting colors would work to create a moody landscape?


robertsloan2art said...

I like the blue-grays for mist and overcast days, also a lavender gray that turned up in my first box of pastels and proved dead useful. I sometimes go back and forth between brown grays and blue grays. Brown grays, muted browns, give this brittle dried grass chill feeling before the snow and also hint at old time sepia photos and paintings. So I bounce around between cool and warm grays.

The most useful one though is a grayed violet or lavender that turned up in that vintage box of Rembrandts. I wound up using it in almost any subject. I've got it in my new half sticks box, got something like it in several sets, it's a popular color. That stick looked as if I'd never use it in my life but became one of my most-used hues.

It's unimpressive by itself, but adds a lot of zing in low saturation palettes or calms down high saturation palettes. It's almost a liverwurst color. You probably have it and may have used it in your painting for today. It's not exclusive to Rembrandt either, came up in Sennelier and Unisons and several others. Just this strange useful mid value color that goes well with anything!

Catherine Selinger said...

I do agree with Robert that blues and violet/lavenders are really great for portraying misty and overcast scenes. But I suppose we should also keep in mind the "other" side of moods too. Namely, the cheerful, and sunny moods! So then various shades of yellows and golds would be useful.
And what about using reds and oranges for spirited, energetic and passionate moods?
And the greens for reflective, contemplative moods?
So I suppose we can use pretty much any colour in the box, depending on the mood we are after!

Sea Dean said...

Robert, it's funny you should remark on a greyed violet VINTAGE Pastel. I've recently started to use the vintage pastels gifted or purchased over the years and I particularly love a set of 30 Grumbacher half sticks which have several greyed violet/mauve/blue colours. These colours are a great cross section and the consistency is soft but crisp (not sure if that's because they are at least 40 years old). I recently discovered the same colour in Amsterdam Acrylics and it has found its way into all of my acrylic paintings since. For acrylic painters I have to say that Amsterdam brand has some amazing pale pastel acrylics and greyed mixes.