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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Aspen Series Part 3 ...A Softer Approach To Painting Trees

'Golden Trails'                 9x12                pastel                 ©Karen Margulis
I love working in a series. I don't have to decide what my subject is when I enter the studio. I just have to decide on my approach. I never know what approach I will take until I stand in front of my pile of papers. Today I decided to go soft and dreamy.

My reference photo showed a trail into the aspens and evergreens just off the Aspen View lookout in the Santa Fe ski basin. I wanted to highlight a few of the aspens and make them have more clarity than the other trees. The rest of the trees would be less important....softer.  I knew I could achieve this soft dreamy look by doing two things.

1. Paper choice. I decided to use Canson Mi-Teintes paper. It is a soft unsanded paper that I really enjoy. I find the pastel application can have a softer look on Canson which suits my concept for this painting. Sanded paper grabs the pastel and allows for many layers. I find that often my paintings look crisper and more vibrant on sanded paper and while I love that, it is not what I wanted for today's painting.

2. Underpainting technique. I chose to do a dry wash underpainting. I blocked in the extremes: darkest dark, lightest light, most intense color and the remaining middle values. I then rubbed in this first layer. The result was a soft out of focus underpainting. Having everything fuzzy and soft allowed me to add detail and clarity slowly and only where I wanted it.

Out of focus underpainting
 After the underpainting was finished I worked over the entire painting gradually pulling the trees into focus. As always I began with the darks. The photo below shows the painting in the 'almost finished' stage. Everything is still soft. I chose to add more clarity to the trees on the right. Much of the rest of the painting was left alone.

Almost finished. Just need to add detail to my most important trees
 As with the previous two aspen paintings in the series I used the same color palette. I find it fascinating that the same pastel sticks create a totally different look. Paper does matter!

same palette for painting #3 although getting messy!


Layne Roach said...

Karen, it's just beautiful! Your talent for composition is just amazing, I just love seeing how you take a photograph that is just a reference for your ability to see and create a new beautiful world view. You are such a breath of fresh air. Though I'm still mind boggled, hee, hee.


robertsloan2art said...

This is fascinating how you'll set up a palette and do a series without changing it. i don't often set up a chosen palette before painting, because of logistics and how I organize my pastels. But this is wonderful. You've got very striking, different results each time!

May have to actually dare try that sometime, set up a palette and do several paintings without changing it. i somewhat do if using a small set, but that's not the same as choosing the colors.