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Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Favorite Trick for Painting Grass

'Autumn Warm Up'           12 x 12    pastel      ©Karen Margulis
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Many a good landscape painting has been ruined by grass.  It's true!  There is something about painting a field of grass that causes many artists to get carried away.  I do it myself when I am not paying attention.  Three things happen frequently when trying to paint a grassy area.

  1. The artist isn't focused and puts in blades of grass randomly. A piece here , another over there and before you know it there are spotty blades of grass with no purpose or direction.
  2. The artists gets so caught up in the painting of the grass blades that they over-do it.  Rather than putting in a few pieces of well placed grass...there are too many and not anything left to the viewer's imagination.
  3. The artist paints grass that looks like a child's work. I don't mean to sound harsh because it is something that happens without our knowledge.  What happens is that our brain tries to help us paint grass using the symbol we we drew grass as a child. We end up with a fence of rigid rows of grass.
So what can we do to improve the way we paint grasses with pastels?   ROLL THEM!

Using the rolling technique
Rolling the pastel creates much more painterly grasses than when we just try to draw them.  You need to use a round pastel for this technique. Hard or soft will work with each giving a different result. (see chart below)  All you do is place the top edge of the round pastel on the paper and push and roll it across the paper until you get the grass length you need. Here are a few tips:

The results of rolling with some round pastels

  • Vary the pressure as you roll to get a broken line which looks more natural.
  • Change the direction of your marks so that you don't end up with a line of fence of grasses....this creates a visual barrier.
  • Use harder pastels such as Rembrandts and Art Spectrum to get a finer line with more control.
  • Use a softer pastel such as a Sennelier or Schminke for a chunkier grass. The softer pastel fives a more textured grass.
  • Pay attention where you place each grass.....every blade of grass should have a purpose. I like to use my grasses to help move the eye around the painting.
Have fun with painting grass and don't forget to Roll the pastel!  I will share other techniques in future posts.


Joee said...

Fantastic!!! I absolutely love this tip! I have so often avoided landscapes because of the grass situation. You do it beautifully!! Thanks for sharing!

Karen said...

Thank you Joee. I have a few other ways I like to do grasses so stay tuned!

Unknown said...

What a great lesson! Thanks

Karen said...

Thanks Cate, glad you enjoyed it!

HappyPainter212 said...

I loved this tip as I have been struggling with a sea of wildflowers and this tip will certainly help me. Do I see drips in the painting? If so, I love how they add to the grass textures. Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to go try this. Thanks!

Dorothy said...

Wow, I can't wait to give this a try. Thank you for sharing this little trick of the trade!!

Dorothy said...

Back again...tried this and it's amazing! From soft to hard pastels, round and even square, it gives incredible lines. I can see using this trick for fine tree branches as well. Thanks again!

Vanessa said...

I would have never thought of that Karen!! And indeed I have ruined many paintings because of grass and vegetation in general. In fact I absolutely love landscapes but I find them so difficult to execute. Thanks for sharing such great tips!