Step 1... 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.

Step 2... 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.

Step 3... 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.

Step 4... 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.

"Au Parc"
14 x 28
Wallis paper
© 2001, Clark G. Mitchell

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