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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Aspen Series Part 6 ....Trying Relaxed Playfullness

'Reach for the Sky'             2.5 x 3.5             pastel             ©Karen Margulis
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Sometimes I start a painting with a small study. Sometimes I paint small studies for the sake of painting small. I find that painting minis is a relaxing change of pace.  I sit at a table and allow myself to be playful and experiment.  (2.5 x 3.5 is a standard size for my tiny paintings) Often in this state of relaxed playfulness I am able to truly let go. Some of my most favorite paintings have been the result of these small studies.

I had completed 7 aspen paintings in my series and was running out of ideas and excitement for the subject. I could have stopped and moved on to a new subject but instead I decided to paint a few minis. After I was finished I was inspired all over again and could not wait to get back to bigger paper armed with new ideas for my series.

In the middle of the madness!

The point of doing the small studies for me is to encourage simplification and playfulness . Here are some tips:


  • Start with a few supplies. Keep it simple with a limited selection of pastels. I decided to use the same tray of colors that I have been working with for my aspen series. I did add another small box of some unused Unison pastels because the colors looked similar to the palette I was using. Make a limited palette work!
  • Gather all of your supplies and get set up before beginning. You'll need pastels, precut papers,small piece of foamcore,tape or clips,reference photos, a towel or tablecloth to protect your table, baby wipes.
  • Paint minis with distractions. Sometimes I find I am more painterly when I am not totally involved in the painting. I make more intuitive choices (don't overthink) when I am half tuned into TV or a radio show. Painting minis with a group of friends while chatting works the same way.
  • Use your big and soft pastels. It is a great exercise in fine motor coordination. You can make very tiny and precise marks with a fat pastel with practice! If you want to keep things loose and simple then avoid using pastel pencils for your minis. Make the fat sticks work!


Six minis for my aspen series








2 comments:

robertsloan2art said...

wOW!! Karen, I own one of your minis and I am stunned at the amount of detail in it. Some of it wasn't visible online when I looked at the image and wowed at the overall composition and effect, it was my favorite naturally. At home it's a hundred times more beautiful.

I kept it in the packing that you used, the clear bag over the support. I didn't want to chance smudging it by putting it into a top loader, though I do that all the time with my own. If I did it I'm not worried about loss of a grain or two. Yours had marks as tiny as one grain. No. This needs framing, not my usual ACEO storage pressed against a soft sleeve within a top loader. That can work for pastels as it's like passepartout, but I couldn't take a chance on something so delicate.

Took me a while to come up with the mat design. I need to float it on a mat board and cut a window mat a bit larger over that, using archival tape. This can work well. The frame is finally on its way now, in transit from Dick Blick. I have plenty of Crescent Rag Mat pieces to cut the fancy mat with.

These Aspens ones are fantastic. This article just reminded me that you used big fat soft pastels to do my tiny masterpiece with all its exquisite minute sky holes and linear details that could have been done with a Rapidograph or a three hair brush and all those wonderful passages of broken color and soft edges and hard edges. You've been doing these for a while now. I'm going to have to have a go with the big pastels on tiny pieces of sanded paper sometime - that is something I haven't really done like that, but coated or sanded paper could make a difference.

I might start with Pastelmat and Pan Pastels for a dry wash, or a fine grain Uart and alcohol wash. Your articles are so inspiring! I get these ideas, mull them over for a while, then have a go when I feel ready! Tried drips in a watercolor abstract yesterday and didn't wreck it so I'll dare that in a pastel underpainting soon - if I don't like them I can cover them, that might work!

Karen said...

Hi Rob, Thanks for your comments! I really like your idea for floating the mini in the mat. That sounds perfect! I hope you give the minis a try. It is true that the more you do them the easier they are!