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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Putting Out the Fire: A Painting gets a New Life

'A Beautiful Ending'          9x12         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $165
 As soon as I picked up the orange pastel and made the first mark I knew it wasn't going to work. Not in the way you might think. I knew the orange was needed to depict the fiery sunset that was in the reference. But even though it worked in the painting it stuck a chord in the artists in my group.  The painting had to change.

A little background for this story is needed. I was painting the 'Artist Choice' demo for my workshop in New Mexico. I always do a demo where I let the group vote on the subject. I give them 4 choices with a variety of subject matter. The group unanimously voted on the photo of a sunset in the forest. See the photo below. It is important to know that several of the artists are from California and the West Coast so the recent fires were very much in everyone's thoughts.

The unanimous choice 
The photo was selected because they wanted to see how I would simplify all of the busy trees and brush as well as how to paint a sunset. I remembered very clearly the day I took the photo and the photo just didn't do justice to the intensity of the sunset. It truly looked like fire in the forest. So......I painted what I remembered and pulled out the intense oranges.

I didn't get very far when I heard the groans of the group.....It looked like a forest fire and that was too close for comfort. We joked about their choice but I knew I wouldn't be able to leave the painting as it was.  I had some studio time today and  I knew just how to change the painting. It would become a soft and subtle sunset inspired by a photo taken by a friend. Thank you Donna.

photo copyright Donna Spears Lauzon
I first needed to brush off some of the pastel restoring some tooth to the Uart paper . Fortunately it was one of Uart's new premium mounted surfaces. It could take the abuse. I wanted to retain the rich darks of the original painting so I decided to spray it with some rubbing alcohol.

Unfinished demo from my New Mexico workshop

TIP:  When you want to have the fixing power of alcohol without doing an alcohol wash with a brush try to put some alcohol in a spray bottle and spritz your painting. Depending on how much you spray the alcohol will 'fix' the pastel in place restoring tooth to the paper. If you spray until the pastel liquifies and drips, interesting effects can occur. 

After spraying with alcohol. I like it better but I went with my new plan

The new and ethereal looking underpainting was the perfect base for my new concept of the Queen Anne's Lace at sunset. I don't know if the photo is sunrise or sunset but I took out my Artistic License and made it sunset. I softened the oranges to the pink family which effectively put out the fire.


BJR said...

What a true, visual analogy. Harsh...to soft..fire-looking to beautiful eve sunset..."heart-pain to visual joy and healing. That is what art's all about, right? I love this painting. (just a minute...I'm wiping tears. Health-wise I'm not at a good place. I'm 59 and "looking towards the "west". But this reminds me that there's still beauty...even here.)

Gary Alsum said...

What a great "save!" The original version is striking, but I'm not surprised with the reaction you got. Some fantastically executed paintings are not ones I would want to dwell on on a daily basis. I think your students got a bonus lesson that day.