Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Three Sheep" Animals, pastel, 12 x 18"

"Three Sheep" Animals, pastel, 12 x 18"

In this painting I wanted to show depth and so I emphasized the warm tones, cool tones and the effects of softening the strokes as the painting receded.  I put the closest sheep to the left in hopes that the other two animals would lead the viewers eye back into the piece. I will be totally honest with you.  This is not my favorite piece.  The sheep look sort of goofy,but I got some amazing responses to it at my last show, so I guess it appeals to folks.   I posted some progress shots below.

Using pastel is all about layering.  Some artists stop with one or two layers,but I tend to add around 5 passes.  First I create an underpainting using pastel and rubbing alcohol.  I prefer ochre and warm, reds and browns for this step so that the painting will seem to have an inner glow when done.  I created this on Uart sanded paper using mostly Rembrandt and Nupastel pastels.

After establishing the underpainting I start to place darkest values followed by the mid tones.  The hues tend to be much more vivid than the local colors from the photo.  I am also establishing the temperatures at this point.  Cool colors belong in the shadows and warm hues belong where the sun hits the animals directly.

During the next few passes I start to add local colors.  I usually fix the painting in between these passes.  This allows the under layers to shine through instead of mixing with the top layer and making mud.

Here is the second to last pass.  I am starting now to focus on small areas at a time.  I zoom in on the photo on my computer as I do this.  I always draw from my computer when at all possible.  The final pass is very detailed.  It is during this step that I am often able to work with out the reference photo and just play with the colors and value until it looks right.

I should mention that folks often ask me if I trace my images.  In this case I did trace, but only the very outline of the animals to make sure that it was centered on the paper.  I do all of my preliminary rough sketches on the computer, drawing right on top of the photo using photoshop. It is this altered image that I am using as my reference.  I guess you could say that I am tracing my own rough sketch.  If you do much more tracing than just a simple transfer of your reference photo your painting can be quite stiff.  Besides, you loose all of the base drawing after the first pass since pastel is opaque.  Most of my likeness that I capture from the photo is achieved by turning the photo and the drawing upside down and using the grid method.  Most of this first drawing should be gestural, expressive and loose.

For those of you who consider tracing to be cheating and a sign that the artist can not draw, I challenge you to hand me a pencil, a sketch pad and have you sit for me for 5 minutes.  I promise that I can draw you accurately!  HA!  Just had to put that out there for all of you misguided haters.

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