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Friday, March 30, 2012

Capturing the Colors of the Southwest ...Pastel Demo

'John Wayne Country' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting with paypal or check HERE $125

The landscape of the Southwest is calling to me! I am so glad that I decided to attend the 1st Annual Plein Air Convention in Las Vegas. In two weeks I will have an opportunity to paint in Red Rock Canyon and I can't wait. Not to mention all of the wonderful artists who will be there...both the instructors and the attendees.

I am working this week on desert landscapes so I can test my pastel box of colors that I plan to bring. Yesterday I did a painting that depicts the red rocks with intense late afternoon light. I was going for the glow on the rocks. You can see the painting HERE. For today's painting I wanted to capture the more subtle colors of the desert. I did need to add a couple of new colors to my box so I am glad I am testing this week!

Mini Demo of 'John Wayne Country'
I chose a photo from a trip I took to Moab, Utah. We went on a horseback ride in an area that many old Westerns were filmed. I had my camera on the ride and just kept shooting the wonderful desert landscape. Read on to see my thoughts on developing this pastel.
  1. (from left) I worked from a reference photo on my new ipad.(love this way of working) I first did a small thumbnail/value study. I am working on Uart paper.
  2. I am also bringing a small box of Nupastels so from this box I chose some colors to block in my big shapes. I am planning on doing an alcohol wash underpainting. See more about alcohol washes in this post. I chose colors that are bolder and darker than I want my painting to be. I can always tone things down but it is harder to bring back boldness.
  3. The alcohol has been brushed into the pastel with a stiff bristle brush. Notice the cool drips!
  4. Once the alcohol wash has dried I am now ready to work with my softer pastels. I start by reinforcing the dark areas but applying 2-3 layers of dark values.
  5. Once the darks are established I work on the light this painting it was the sky. I applied a few layers of blues all of similar values so I could have an interesting sky.
  6. Now that the darks and lights are established I choose to work from top to bottom so I work on the distant cliffs and work my way down to the bushes in the foreground. I really wanted to make sure my pastel set had the right greens for the Southwestern plants and I was happy with my selection.
  7. The next step is to refine the painting and add details where needed. I decided that the colors of the sand and the distant cliffs were still more intense than I wanted so I scumbled some blues and cooler sand colors over the cliffs and sand to tone them down. The result is a different feeling to a similar landscape from yesterday's red rock painting. It was a good test of my pastel box.


robertsloan2art said...

Beautiful demo! I love the way you built up the sage brush greens. That strong red-violet under the sage greens is fantastic. I'm going to have to try that combination in foliage.

You brought back the feeling of the Southwest so perfectly in this demo. I've been out there and remember that light, those dusty greens, the sand and rocks. You've conveyed how dry everything is.

Karen said...

Thank you Robert! I love painting the Southwest. Living in Georgia with all of the fresh greens makes me appreciate the colors of the desert!