|'Prairie Winter' 9x12 pastel ©Karen Margulis|
Sometimes it is a simple thing. One look and the seeds to a painting are planted. When this happens to me I try to act on it. An inspired painting is so much more meaningful than one that is done without excitement.
Inspiration arrived in the mail yesterday. My friend Annika in Finland sent me a little package with 5 pastels from Russia. "They are no Terry Ludvigs" she wrote. But I was intrigued. It was just the exoticness of pastels from Russia sent to me from Finland that got my wheels turning. I could tell they were quite hard but the colors immediately made me want to paint. They reminded me of the dried and colorful grasses of winter. I had just the subject to paint. The seeds were planted and there was no turning back.
I am completely in love with the public park near my son and daughter-in-law's apartment in Chicago. There is a naturalized prairie area that speaks to me in all seasons. I had the perfect winter picture of the prairie. The Russian pastels would be perfect for the prairies grasses. (They are Olki pastels)
I started with a quick drawing on a piece of blue canson paper. I chose blue because it was all that was left in the pad....the wrong reason but I knew it would work for a cold snowy landscape so I lucked out.
The next step was the underpainting. I used the Russian pastels and a few of my other pastels to block in the big shapes by value.
I chose to blend in this first layer to create some mystery and softness. Now I can decide where to put the most clarity and detail.
In this photo I have developed all of the areas from distant trees to the snow covered path through the prairie grasses. I left the grasses as solid shapes. They are made from big simple shapes with a few pieces of grass put in to give the illusion of a lot of grass. The viewer will fill in the rest. See a close-up photo below.
I used the Russian pastels to paint these grasses and they were perfect! The hard edge allowed me to paint lyrical grass. I was able to paint broken lines that look more believable than thick line. The colors were just right. Just as I had visualized.