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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tips for Avoiding Spotty Paintings

'The Maine Event'            8x10         pastel       ©Karen Margulis
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 It is so easy to get a spotty painting!  I call a spotty painting one that has too many value changes.  There is no solid foundation so everything is disjointed. It isn't as pleasing to the eye as a painting with a strong foundation of just a few big shapes of similar values.

Doing black and white thumbnails or value sketches help us avoid this problem....if we get the thumbnails correct!  I am going to share a 5 step plan for good thumbnails in my next post but first some thoughts on massing values.

My reference with the Black and White Thumbnail
 One of the problems we run into when doing these value sketches is deciding what value each shape should be.  Take the distant tree line in my reference photo above.  If I look at it closely I can see spots of dark green and areas of lighter green. If I do my value sketch the way I see it I will end up with spots of disconnected lights and darks......and ultimately a spotty painting.

Try to SQUINT at the tree line....notice the spots of light and dark merge together. Now this shape is close to being one big dark shape. I have to ask myself if the shape is MOSTLY dark, middle or light and assign it just ONE value.  Notice how I assigned each shape in my thumbnail a value and I ignored all the little spots of light and dark.

The block in using 4 values
But I SEE all of the little areas of light and dark. Don't I need to put them in?  I don't at this point.  I know that if I block in my painting using just a few big shapes and assign each shape a value....I will be able to refine each shape as I work on the painting. I will be able to add more detail by gradually adding small value, color and temperature changes to the mass.

Look at the block in above. I used one dark value for the whole tree line.  Now look below and see how I add some warm and cool greens to suggest the detail in the mass. The initial big dark shape holds it all together.

Close up of the tree line with details added
I did the same thing with the patch of Lupines.  In the photo there are a lot of lupines!  I had to restrain myself from blocking in all the shifts in value. Instead I squinted and decided the entire mass of flowers was mostly dark and middle dark. I massed them in with these two values.  As the painting developed I was able to refine the mass and add as many flowers as I wanted.

I decided that I would rather suggest most of the flowers with big patches of warm and cool purples and only put a few in with more detail.

close up of lupines
If you can train your eyes to squint at your subject and see the pig picture rather than every spot of light and will be on your way to stronger paintings!

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see how I do the black and white thumbnails!


Sharon said...

Great information !!

HappyPainter212 said...

WOW! This is exactly the problem I have been having with my Tucumcari meadow scene. I will try this today. Many thanks for your sharing.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how it all comes together.

Susan McManamen said...

Excellent post! Thanks so much for the wonderful demo. Looking forward to tomorrow's post.

Karen said...

Thank you all very much! I appreciate your comments!

Jo P. said...

Very helpful. I have always had trouble editing and isolating. I always seem to try to put everything in. I think this will be a very helpful hint.

Jean said...

You are so generous with your info. Thank you so much. I am trying to learn pastel painting and have learned a lot from you.

Karen said...

Thank you Jo and Jean!