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Monday, May 09, 2016

Mini Demo: Pastel Painting From a Watercolor Sketch

'The Evening Show'         8x10        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $145
 It was a fleeting moment. Made even more precious since I only saw it from the car window as we drove on to our destination. I did manage to take a quick  (but terrible) photo on my phone. But the image haunted me. The drama of the sky and the intense orange at the horizon continued to dance in my head. When I had a chance I set the image to paper in my sketchbook.  I made a quick watercolor sketch and wrote down some notes. I ended the notes with this thought "I want to paint this!"

This scene was the obvious choice for one of my first paintings since returning home from 4 weeks of wandering. I decided I would do a watercolor underpainting on Uart paper. I used my sketch as a guide to the colors. Watercolor works differently on sanded pastel paper than on white watercolor paper. I didn't quite achieve the same effect as my sketch but I did get the shapes in place. I have to remember that watercolor dries lighter. I could have made the dark areas a darker value. Lesson for the next time!

The watercolor underpainting while still wet!

Dry watercolor on Uart paper

I began the pastel application by reinforcing the dark areas. I layered several colors of the same dark value to create interesting and rich dark trees and foreground. I used blue, purple red and orange...all dark values. I also used the Terry Ludwig eggplant for my darkest accents.  I also added the orange 'flash' at the horizon since this was the most important area of the painting. (it was what excited me about this scene)

Adding pastel to the trees and foreground
Next it was time to work on the sky. Once I began painting the sky I got so involved that I forgot to take photos! That happens sometimes.  I began painting the sky by tackling the cloud shadows first. I layered violet, green and orange to create the grays. I then worked up from the orange horizon using a yellow orange and then yellow. I added the blue sky areas in between the clouds and finally pulled the lightest pale yellow over the blue. I continued using these colors to gradually model the clouds. I occasionally used a finger to lightly soften some of the clouds.

The last thing that I did was to add the telephone poles and wires and the spice colors.  I didn't want to draw the pole and wires because I wanted them to be mere suggestions so I used the edge of a square pastel to press and drag forming a broken line.

close up detail of trees

What I learned from this painting: I had enough information to paint using my notes and watercolor sketch. I believe that working from a simple sketch allowed me to recall what was most important to me. I didn't get caught up in the details that might have been in a photo. This was my memory of a scene that spoke to me!


Sue Marrazzo said...


Mark Chantell said...

Hi Karen. How do you keep the paper from buckling when you do your watercolor sketches? I am using 130lb watercolor paper and it still warps all over the place on me.


Karen said...

Hi Mark, I am using a Hand Book watercolor sketchbook and while the paper does get a bit wavy I find it flattens out once dry. I haven't really had any problems with it!