Having done location paintings in pastel and a graphite study in a sketch book
to determine relative values and proportions, I get to work on an untoned sheet of
Wallis sanded paper mounted on 100% rag museum board. I do an outline drawing in
pastel pencil honing the shapes until they work well together. I then fill each large
block with one color of pastel, preferably a Holbein or a NuPastel as they are hard
(don't leave behind too much pigment on the raw surface) and less expensive than
other brands. A light pale yellow for the sky and a similar warm tone for the grass
which will be cool and green overall. Pale pink for one tree, white for the other. Varying
shades of gray blue for the receding layers of trees. I brush each with Turpenoid and
rinse the brush before moving on to the next color. The result is a simple, flat and
abstract version of my scene, which, once dry, tells me if my values are correct and the
shapes interesting together.
First to be covered with dry pigment is the grass plane, as this is most "off"
from the finished color. Next I start enriching the various layers of trees, making sure to
maintain relative values. Pale blues go over the sky yellow to cool it down, and
shading goes into the blooming trees to begin to give them volume.
The scene overall is much too cool. Time to add brown, maroon, rose and
lavender to the tall trees, and a pale orange in the grass. Sunshine colors on the
edges of the backdrop trees, and denser pigment to cover the white of the paper,
especially behind the blooming trees to make them "pop". All near edges are made
crisper and more detailed to reinforce sense of space. Distant objects left intentionally soft.
Grass is roughened up nearest the viewer. Fine detail added to blooming
trees and to closest pines. Also deep greens to make the hot trees come forward. All
traces of distracting white from the paper are covered. This stage takes the least
amount of "doing" and the most time spent looking. A very typical afternoon in Golden
Gate Park, San Francisco.
14 x 28
© 2001, Clark G. Mitchell
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