2018 Workshop Schedule. New workshops added! click here for details.
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pastel Tip of the Week: A Simple Save

'Mid Winter Memories'         11x14          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $165
Do you ever get frustrated with a painting? Do you ever get to a point where you just donn't know what else to do to make it work? I know it happens to me all of the time. And I often fall into the same trap which only makes things worse. The trap of overworking and adding more and more in the hope that something will work.

Take the painting in the photo just below. It was a winter scene I painted last year. It ended up in my pile of rejects because no matter what I did it just wouldn't work. The problem started with my reference photo. It was too busy....melted snow, fall foliage poking through the first snow of the season, half bare trees...people walking. It was just too much for one painting. But instead of simplifying I tried to put it ALL in.

A very busy landscape!
 The painting was just chaotic. There was nowhere for the eye to rest. Painting the sparse snow was tricky and in the end the painting was spotty and disjointed.  I didn't like it so I added the figure with a dog. That didn't works so I added snow on the branches. I still wasn't happy so I added some falling snow. The more I added the worse it got!

That was the problem! Most of the time when finishing a painting or trying to fix a painting gone bad,  it isn't what you ADD but instead it is what you TAKE AWAY. Less is more and Simplify! You've heard it before and it is great advice. The next time you are finishing a painting and it just isn't working....instead of trying to add things try to simplify and take things away. It usually does the trick! Here are a few ideas for simplification:

Brush off some of the pastel

  •  Brush off sections of the painting to create softer edges. This helps give areas for the eye to rest. This works great for distant features in a landscape....soften and simplify.
  • Use a hard pastel to scumble over some of the busy areas. This will also soften and simplify.
  • Start over! My painting was too far gone so I decided to use a stiff brush and brush off the painting. I was left with a softer ghost image and more tooth to redo the painting. I also decided to spray the painting with rubbing alcohol and use the brush to move the pastel around. ( I keep some rubbing alcohol in a small spray bottle) It dried as a soft gray ghostly block-in. I then revived the painting keeping things SIMPLE. Scroll to the top of this post to see the newly simplified painting.

Spray with some rubbing alcohol and brush in...simplifying the scene


Ruthie Mann said...

I do this often (except I have no rubbing alcohol so use water) and I am strangely glad that you do it too! I have made some quite successful paintings from original disasters!

jcwnorfolk said...

Great ideas! Less is more!

robertsloan2art said...

I like the palette of the reworked version better, the leaves on the ground in patches looked off and were jarring. That's a great process for redoing something. I might revisit a few of my old ones sometime.