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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Magic of Using Neutrals in a Winter Landscape Painting


'Glistening Splendor'            9x12       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $175
It was time to take out the Mouse Box. That's right I have a mouse box of pastels. It is really just a tray filled with my extra neutral or grayed down pastels. I call them the Mousey colors because they are the soft and dull colors that we tend to overlook....the mousey quiet colors. We love the pure, bright intense colors. They grab our attention but they need the balance of the quiet neutrals. The winter landscape is filled with these subtle and beautiful mousey neutrals or grays. They came in handy for today's painting.

My reference photo is from a trip to Crested Butte Colorado a few years ago

Here are some of the things I kept in mind as I painted with these neutrals:

  • Value is the key to success. You can really use any color if the values are correct. I tried to keep my shapes simple with cohesive value. (not spotty)
  • Since I don't have exciting color to spice up the painting I relied on punching up the contrast for interest.
  • I looked for neutrals that had color rather than pure grays. The mix of subtle colors was more interesting than grays made from black and white.
  • Gray day skies may seem white but I look for the subtle color in the white. I used a pale blue gray for this painting. Consider pinks,lavenders, yellows, blue-gray, even pale green for a 'white' sky.
  • I tried to create more interest through my mark-making. I also used an iridescent pastel in the tree trunks. When you don't have color....you need to find other ways to make the painting interesting.
  • I used a gray-blue toned board to keep the entire painting neutral but consider toning the surface with a more lively or intense color. It will provide some interest when it peeks through the neutrals.


My box of Neutrals or Mousey colors are perfect for the winter landscape
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1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

They really are beautiful with what you do to them. I used to hate all those neutrals, especially beige and brown. Then I got Ari, and suddenly the world's most beautiful cat had every shade from blue-black through all the browns and grays and beiges - I'd have needed your entire mousey box to do justice to him. Sissy is the same except that she has some cool blue-grays more than Ari, in different areas of her face and body. Ari was mostly warms except for cool highlights on his black ears and nose and center of his mask, and his pale faded blue eyes. Sissy has brighter blue eyes.

So yes, all the colors are beautiful in their right context, and neutrals can sing when the values are strong and design is good!