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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

More Thoughts on Making Marks with Pastels

'Roadside Poppies'           18x24         pastel       ©Karen Margulis
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 I am chipping away at my pile of unfinished paintings. Today I decided to work on this unfinished demo of a poppy field. I don't remember what the objective of the demo was but the painting was just in the block in stage. Even though it seemed quite unfinished all of the hard work had already been done. I had the thumbnail and a small color study. I had worked out composition, values and color scheme in the preliminary plan. All I had to do now was pull out the right pastel palette and play with my mark making.

The marks we make with pastels have two important functions. They help describe things and they express emotion. Being sensitive to the marks we create will lead to more expressive paintings.

How do marks have anything to do with these two functions? I'll explain how I made use of different marks  to describe and express in today's painting.

The painting before the final shouting marks.
How many different types of marks do you see in today's painting? There are several and each type was done on purpose. Even though we all have out own unique way of making marks (our calligraphy) we still can use a variety of marks in a painting when done with a good reason. Remembering that marks describe and express emotion will help you choose the type of mark to make.

My thoughts about the marks I made and why I made them:

  • I began the painting with broad marks applied with a light touch. My marks begin with big sweeping passes with the side of the pastel. I block in the big shapes with a light touch. I don't make any small detailed marks at this stage. Big, Light, Broad strokes.
  • I blended the sky lightly with a finger to make a smooth and simple sky. I knew I would have a lot of texture and activity on the ground so I wanted a calm sky.
  • I used horizontal marks applied in small bands of color in the distant grasses. This is in contrast to the vertical marks of the foreground grasses. Changing my marks helps to create the illusion of depth.
  • I used linear marks applied with the sharp edge of soft pastels or hard pastels to paint the foreground grasses.
  • I painted the flowers with a heavy and blocky application of softer pastel. At this stage in the painting I use a heavier more decisive mark. I call it my shouting marks. Each flower is made up of two bold marks of red....dark cool red and intense warm red.
  • The finishing marks were applied with a very heavy shouting mark....in fact I often break my pastels when I make my final marks because I press so hard! The finishing mark in this painting was the line of bright green at the edge of the tree line.
  • I whispered and I shouted and each mark had a purpose!

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