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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Simple Way to Start a Pastel Painting

'Mountain Memories' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis

Are you new to pastels or looking for a way to simplify your work? Why not try this simple method for starting a pastel painting. There are so many choices and options available to pastel artists these papers and pastels open up great possibilities. It can be overwhelming. What paper to use? Underpaint or not? Sometimes it just feels good to go back to basics. This is the method that I learned when I first started with pastels. My teacher, Marsha Savage, would start each class with a wonderful demo in which she used this method. I may not have it exactly the way she did it but this is what I remember. Check out Marsha Savage's website here.

A Simple Way to Start a Pastel Painting

First the basics. Most of the time in pastel you will work from Dark to Light, Hard Pastels to Softer Pastels, Big Simple Shapes to more Detail. There are always exceptions but this is what I do in this method. I am using Canson Mi-Teintes paper in Moonstone. My pastels consist of a selection of NuPastels and some softer pastels (Ludwigs, Great Americans and Diane Townsend)

My goal for this way of starting the painting is to establish the big simple shapes and set the boundaries of value and color.
  1. (from top left) I start by blocking in all of my dark shapes. I am using a dark spruce blue Nupastel no. 305 (th only number I know!) I make sure my dark shapes are not isolated and spotty. Connect the dark shapes whenever you can.
  2. Now I block in all of my Light shapes. In a landscape this is usually the sky. In this scene the dirt road is also very light. I use a light pink Nupastel for both.
  3. Next I block in my Most Intense Color. I chose the orange-red roof but I also liked the bright green area in the grass so I blocked both colors in. I don't mind if I use more intense colors and darker darks in this stage. I can always modify them but it is harder to put it in later.
  4. Next step is to see what is not blocked in, Most often this will be an area of medium value so I assign it a medium value color. I want to have a layer of pastel over the entire painting at this stage.
  5. The next step for me is to rub in this layer of pastel. I use my fingers or a piece of pipe foam. It isn't necessary to blend in this layer but I like the soft dreamy look. It helps me to decide where to develop the most clarity.
  6. Finished painting. To get to the finish all I do is decide where my focal area is and start by reinforcing the darks, then the sky, then I gradually add more detail. I work over the entire painting at once putting the most clarity in the focal area.
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VickiRossArt said...

Thanks so much, loved your presentation. Haven't had the pleasure of working under Marsha...

Marsha Hamby Savage said...

HI Karen, what a treat to open my FB and see your post... so I clicked on your link to the blog. Another treat! You are talking about how I started beginners to pastel... and you did get it just exactly as I said it... I read part of it to Haywood. It was fun to read. Thank you!

Karen said...

Thanks Vicki. If you get a chance to take a class or workshop with Marsha I highly recommend it!

Karen said...

Thank you Marsha! You know how grateful I am for your excellent guidance when I was new to pastels! I truly believe that our early experiences in learning to paint can have a huge impact on our motivation to continue learning. I almost gave up after a terrible watercolor class but then I discovered pastels and you and here I am!! Thank you!!

Marian Fortunati said...

A very in!
viting painting, Karen

robertsloan2art said...

Beautiful. Good system for painting a landscape or any subject. I do these things sometimes without thinking about it but I like how you laid it out that way - that makes so much sense. Another great post with a great demo painting!

Karen said...

Thanks Robert! I appreciate your feedback! It really is a great way to introduce people to pastels without it being too overwhelming.