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Friday, February 12, 2021

Turning on the Light! Fixing a Dark Painting

      'A Light in the Forest'                  11x14           pastel               ©Karen Margulis        available $325

I love how easy it is to fix a pastel painting. I struggled with a demo painting last month. My goal was to create an unequal spacing of values.....using more darks than light. I thought a forest scene with some mysterious light trickling in would be the perfect subject. But I just wasn't happy with the outcome.  Have a look at the original painting below. It ended up being a bit too dark and mysterious! Instead of throwing it away or putting it in my pile of discards I decided to make a fairly drastic change. 

I liked the bones of the painting. I liked the idea of the light and shadows but I imagined a warmer forest bathed in the warm sunlight of the setting sun.  It was easy to make such a drastic change!

  • I began by brushing off some of the green layers with a stiff brush. This left a ghost image of the tree shapes. 
  • I gave the entire painting a light spray of workable fixative. This allowed the darks to be anchored and gave me a base to build the warmer colors. This dark base was just what I needed.
  • I started adding warm colors beginning with dark reds and gradually getting warmer and more intense. I ended with the intense orange marks.
  • I also worked from broad marks to smaller details. The last marks were the grasses and smaller light flowers. I used hard pastels for the grass marks and a pale yellow soft pastel for the flowers. 
  • I did use the workable fixative occasionally in between layers. This gives the look you see in the rough texture. I like this technique for suggesting foliage and grasses. 
That was so much fun and so satisfying! I know the frustration of a painting that just doesn't please you. I know many have told me that it is satisfying to just throw these 'duds' out in the trash. Some artists even have burning parties! I find it to be more satisfying to tackle a failed painting and do what I can to make me happier. I learn more than I would have if I threw it away! Don't be mad at those duds....tackle them and don't be defeated! 

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