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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Exploring Pastels without Color

'River Study'        8x10      pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $125
It really is all about the touch. Yesterday I shared three suggestions for a successful start with pastels. My first suggestion was to start with the best pastels you can afford. Artist quality pastels do make a big difference. I also suggested using pastel paper and learning to use a light touch. I will expand on these suggestions in the next posts but a reader had such a good suggestion that I'd like to share so today's post and painting was born. Thank you Sue!

Sue reminded me that it is important for an artist to learn what pastels feel like to help decide whether the medium is right for them. Since it about the feel of pastel to paper why not just get a few greyscale pastels....black, white and a couple of grays. This way you can see what it feels like to make marks and paint with pastels without worrying about having enough or the right colors.
I like this idea. It still is important to get good quality pastels though to really get the feel for how nice pastels can be.

Black, white and gray study
I decided to try painting with a few grayscale pastels. I used black, white and 3 grays.  It was quite liberating to paint without thinking about color. I just had to think about the value....what should be dark or light or something in between. I can see how it would be a great way to get a feel for pastels by keeping things simple and less expensive.

 And the  grayscale experiment lead to more exploration.  I decided to use the black and white painting as a value roadmap. I sprayed it with workable fixative and let it dry. Then I added color. The fun part was deciding what kind of mood I wanted to create. I had my roadmap and could use any colors as long as the values matched. I decided to go for an overcast moody feeling. In the end I only used around 30 pastels for the color version.

Thanks to my blog readers for their very helpful suggestions for pastel sets and tips for getting started with pastels. Be sure to read the comments and keep them coming!
Part one of this post here. 


Chrisd said...

My first pastels were few in number. I actually preferred working with restrained colour and still do; in fact I'm currently exploring just black, white and greys myself...must be a global consciousness thing amongst artists!

robertsloan2art said...

Oh that's fun! You built this painting up from a grisaille, something I'm more used to seeing in oil painting. Gorgeous painting and interesting lesson!

Other good monochrome colors for a small simple palette - ultramarine blue creates some wonderful nocturnes and is often available in many values. A deep brown or sepia gives a completely different feel.

Francesca Droll said...

What a great idea! I'm going to have to experiment and try this out. A value sketch always leads to stronger paintings. Thank you!

Alexis Raphael said...

I love this reminder to start with a value study and then add in color. It's how I started out painting with pastels, and I think it really works.

Karen Sambrookes said...

This painting now hangs in my foyer... a gift from my husband this past Christmas. I love it, and reading in your blog about its creation adds an element most people don't get when they purchase a work of art. You continue to be an inspiration to me. Thanks so much!