SCRUMBLE — A Blog About Pastel Art
Scrumble is a pastel painting technique of lightly touching the surface; the result is visually stimulating and very textural. My blog adapts that technique of scrumble, lightly touching on art and the art of pastel painting.
He's An Artist
BACKGROUNDS CAN BE SIMPLE: PART 5
Standing by his own art entry, he glanced over at me with a "we're both artists" kind of smile. So exquisite, you know you're going to paint it.
The reference photo had a dark, no-interest background. Whatever colors I used in the background would ultimately affect everything I did in his face. With a faint idea that it should be simple but colorful, I side-stroked vivid pastels around the head placement. Then I washed, brushed and pushed around the pastel to stain the paper in a child-like way. I wanted to imply a brilliant light falling on his face, and the yellow worked. After the paper was dry, a couple of vertical strokes to indicate a doorway on the left keeps the eyes from sliding off the edge.
Another aha came when painting the face. I normally have a very light touch using the pastel. I wasn't satisfied with the modeling of the face, especially around the nose, so perhaps in aggravation I pushed a Terry Ludwig pastel firmly into the paper. The transformation was immediate - and gratifying.
In painting him, the artist taught me something important: I learned that when close to the end of a painting, extra pressure on the sticks - if using the right value and temperature - models and defines.
Very different handling of pastel for me. The face is defined, detailed, with the shirt and background loose and impressionistic.Comment on or Share this Article →
He's just laying there. What a pleasure watching him enjoy WHERE he is: soft grass, full sun, smells and sounds in the wind.
I want to go inside to do my "stuff," but my greater connection is to my dog and the contentment I can see in his face.
Watching him, a question resolved itself for me. What drives me to paint? The word emotion has always comes first to mind. That works with people, but a flower, a tree? Is it reaction? I kept folding words in, until one stopped the thinking: Connection.
Just as I felt toward Red and his body language, I experience a connection, a response, to what I paint. With figurative and portrait work, the eyes without question make the connection. It's easy to build the person around them.
Flowers and landscapes, though, where's the connection? First for me are intense shadows; they attract the eyes and pull me in. The flowing gesture of a tree limb, a show-stopper color, a unique composition, intertwining or bending of petals. Sometimes it's just sheer beauty.
Whatever aspect creates it, the thing that binds painting to an artist: connection. And WHERE I'm at now: full enjoyment of being an artist.Comment on or Share this Article →
Something in Red
BACKGROUNDS CAN BE SIMPLE: PART 3
Toned paper equals the simplest of backgrounds. Something in Red started that way, but took a life of its own.
Paint a face with mystery, a little touch of abandon. That was the concept for this pastel painting. A bright vivid red pastel found its way onto Wallis Sanded Paper; a Turpenoid wash melted the color, dripped down and created a background almost too pretty to paint anything over it.
With the model's dimples, smile, slant of the gaze, and carefree hair,
I could hardly wait to get started. After a careful drawing of the face, I applied dark pastels to the shadow areas. Fun and easy, using colors I wouldn't normally use for the face.
Turning to the lighter areas, however, I hit a roadblock. My advice: skip the red background if you are painting a fair-skinned person. It's hard to cool it down and light it up!
For this particular painting, because I wanted a riot of color, the red background succeeded. It's interesting, wild and sassy.
The Lori Morgan song, Something in Red, inspired this pastel painting, and continues my series of Painting the Songs. Listen to Lorrie's song on YouTube.Comment on or Share this Article →
Soaring, Pastel, 12x16
I watched the hawks, eight of them, soaring, dipping, just barely moving their wings, and wondered what are they doing. It was like a lazy, dreamy waltz through the air. Thermals lifted them up high, out of sight, then they enjoyed the spiral ride back down. One flew so close to my kitchen window I could see the spread of his finger feathers. Really just a beautiful interlude before starting to paint.
And guess what was on the easel!
Soaring was my Christmas present to my husband. The clouds, the colors, all imagination. The hawk reference photo, borrowed from the reference image library of wet canvas, thanks to Pazza.Comment on or Share this Article →
Kabuki Eyes, Pastel, 18x24
The revered art of Kabuki in Japan has the esteemed designation of National Treasure. Male actors play all roles: from childhood they dedicate their lives to perfecting nuances of this art form. The female impersonators, onnagata, learn exacting skills necessary to make the audience believe they are female, not only in gesture but in outward appearance.
As expats living in Yokohama, we were treated to a transformation demo. Tokyo's youngest Kabuki actor slowly changed from his male persona to a geisha in kimono, adorned with the traditional white face. As he applied makeup and the eyes specific to his role, he convincingly became the classic Kabuki geisha.
My pastel painting, Kabuki Eyes, came from this demo. I wanted to see if I could really paint the impression of his white face using only the soft yellows, pinks and violets of pastel. One of the last things on my list before leaving Japan was to see at performance at the elaborate Kabukiza theatre in Tokyo. It was entertainment supreme!Comment on or Share this Article →
I've been lucky. I CAN paint. I CAN play golf. I CAN put these two wonderful elements together in support of breast cancer awareness.
It's as simple as painting a picture (excuse the pun!). My pastel painting Bluesy Greens is my auction donation to Rally for the Cure: our Women's Golf Association tournament benefitting Susan G. Komen Foundation.
We bring golfers and companies together for one beautiful day. It's amazing and gratifying to see such community support and friendship. Last year we raised over $35,000, ranking us 4th in Texas and 15th in the nation on event dollars donated.
With a live auction concluding our day, let's hope all of our efforts put us at the top of Texas. Those are big boots to fill!Comment on or Share this Article →
Cool Koi (detail of work in progress)
Usually, normally, generally, almost never. I just wouldn't. Create a painting to "match" something in a room.
But this pastel painting of koi broke the self-inflicted rule.
Several years ago I designed our living room to feature paintings and crafts of Africa. A recent water leak gave me an excuse for a redo, into a lighter, more casual, Asian look. Now the room NEEDED a new painting, and koi with just the right colors seemed perfect. I combined several photos of koi to create a colorful blend of fish just skimming the water.
The best painting in the world? Not hardly. Do I like it? Very much. And the neat thing? It just about created itself. Quick and easy. And fun. Maybe that's the lesson of trying something new.Comment on or Share this Article →
Delhi Gaze, Pastel, 10x8
I love painting with pastels, but pastel dust IS messy. It sifts down; it magically transfers from the hand to a clean stick. So I always try to clean my pastels and work area when a painting is finished. Like starting fresh.
Reflections on the Williams was finished, and I was tired. I dropped the pastels into my Cherry Pastel Cleaner. It would have taken at most five minutes to run the machine, sift the pastels out, and sort them back into the clean ones. But they sat there, dirty, on top of the grits.
Next day I revisited Evening Song, deciding to paint the focus petals larger. Delhi Gaze came out of hiding and needed a new layer of pastel. Then Pondicherry Beach Nuts chanted, "start me, finish me." All the while, the Reflections pastels sat in the cleaner, dirty, on top of the grits.
Being lazy turned out to be good. Finally giving the Cherry Cleaner a whirl, I realized that not having cleaned the first batch of pastels kept me from using them. And that insured that the next painting would not use the same set of colors. My favorites were captive in the cleaner; I was forced to choose only the colors that were on my clean palette.
What's with the grits? That good ole southern food is the perfect, mildly abrasive product for the Cherry Pastel Cleaner. The Cleaner tumbles and vibrates the pastels, removing all the dirty residue. Cherry is hosting their First Annual Pastel Classic online, terrific images, terrific product.Comment on or Share this Article →
I believe that, rather than coincidence, it is a melding of decisions and choices that influence each other. Those "accidental happenings" set us upon a path, maybe a new direction.
During our time in the Middle East, my husband and I traveled twice to India; first to Delhi and Agra, then Madras and the South Coastline. I love the inlaid marble, the beautiful silk rugs, pashmina shawls and ikat that came home with us. And I love the memory of color and activity. Lately my painting muse seems enchanted again with India: the pastel sticks have found their way to the faces of India, with the Pepsi man and the boy mechanic.
Now, a great movie: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. Just a glimpse of a commercial had led to, "I want to see the Marigold one," not knowing exactly what that was. Was it another coincidence that this movie was set in India? Nope, I think it was part of the twisting, winding road that leads a certain destination. At this point I do not know what that destination is, but don't I love an adventure! So I think I'll continue to concentrate on painting India, its many sights and people.
And who knows, maybe I'll finally be confident enought to paint the beautiful Taj.
P.S. the movie was delightful, heartwarming, with a feel good ending. It's not a special effects or exaggerated movie; all the people and scenes depict what we saw for real in our travels in India. Loved it all.Comment on or Share this Article →
Memorial Weekend Was: A little golf, a little John Wayne and a little painting. But along with the painting came an artistic eye-opener.
I had several unfinished paintings of the Neches River bayou. Painted on Wallis Sanded Paper, the layers of pastel can be easily brushed off, which was my intent. I plan to start a series of paintings from our India trips, and since that white Wallis paper was already covered with luscious colors of pastel, I wouldn't need to tone them.
But in looking at the unfinished bayous, all the same scene, I thought it would be interesting to just complete them, each in a different color palette. It was not only interesting and fun, it was a learning expose.
- I learned that changing the color scheme can make: different mood, different light and shadows, different reflections.
- I learned that the masses could rule: they did not need numerous patches of grass, flowers and twigs.
- I got a better understanding of creating depth, receding the ground with overlaps and thinner strips of color.
- I reinforced the importance of shadows and using darks.
I have always been a step-back artist, looking at the whole composition from a distance, but painting in this "new" way gave a bigger importance to the step-back. Standing close to the surface, as is necessary holding a short stick of pastel, limits the vision area, making it too easy to think detail is needed.
I also learned the freedom and quickness of painting a 9x12 massed-in landscape as compared to the many hours involved in portrait and figurative work.
It was a fun, liberating learning experience. I actually want to give a shout out to Catherine Anderson, who posts small impressionistic landscapes frequently on FaceBook; I have admired them for a long time. Perhaps she was muse to my subconscious.Comment on or Share this Article →
Hot Day Cool Drink, Pastel, 18x24
Does a portrait or figurative piece have to have a detailed background, or can it be abstract? I love painting people but I've never enjoyed "putting an environment behind or around them." To me, the person, character, gesture and emotion are the only important elements. So it was with joy that I read Seth Haverkamp's article in the beautiful ArtistsOnArt online magazine. It was almost like I now have permission, or excuse, or justification to forego all the hours trying unsuccessfully to perfect a background.
As an example, the foreground and person were complete in Hot Day Cool Drink, but I couldn't resolve what was behind the subject. The painting went through these transformations.
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The painting got better, but the struggle with the background surely took away from the enjoyment of creating the Pepsi man. Guess how my next figurative work with be finished!
Hot Day Cool Drink
In conversation, lots of people will say they are not creative. But painting does not flow just from the creative side of the brain. True, that's the enjoyable part of painting: stroking the splash of color, not believing you are actually going to use THAT color. Seeing a real emotion materialize on paper as a face comes alive is almost like being outside your body, watching another person create something. Sometimes you wonder how the painting came to that point.
But painting also REQUIRES the analytical side of the brain: the whole process from white, blank paper to masterpiece is problem solving and decision making. The nose looks too long; how can I use color or shape to change it? I need the background to sit down; how can I make the flat ground not look like a wall staring at me? The composition is one sided; do I crop the finished work or add content on that side?
Even, as in this painting, my husband took a 30 second look and said, "his face is too young, skin too smooth." So, how could I age him? Or , again this painting, I love this part of the background, but this side isn't working; what to do? And, the right side needs a better negative space, but gosh I really don't want to draw another bottle. Add, or leave it? The thinking, deciding, doing is a constant that, hopefully, brings the painting to a beautiful finish.Comment on or Share this Article →
Pepsi (Detail) Work in Progress
Aging his face. How will I do it? Subscribe to Scrumble, my monthly enewsletter, to see. This Indian vendor was set up (figuratively and literally) outside a beautiful temple in Delhi. Hot Day, Cold Drinks.Comment on or Share this Article →
Frilly Lily, Pastel, 8x10
Frilly Lily, what better name could there be? She's just in time for Easter and painted in her natural colors.
The pastel painting of this flower did not require any made-up colors; I just wanted to paint the fragile, delicate petals as nature made them. Planted and blooming in the D.C. Museum Mall area, this lily had many friends. Lavishly planted beds of color kept my camera clicking, as I walked from one museum tour to another. It's a wonderful, beautiful part of our nation, a trip I braved solo by train from Baltimore.
Of all the monuments, memorials and museums in D.C., the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands apart in my memory. I painted Remembrance several years after seeing the Wall, simply because its beauty and solemnity stayed with me.Comment on or Share this Article →
Talking About Ticonderoga
Which is better, the painting with the plain stone wall in the background or the one with more information in the background?
The Ticonderoga guide seemed to be pretty good,but there was nothing in the painting defining WHAT he was. Now the knapsack and coat suggest the historical element, and the 1775 plaque carved into the stone help to tell the story. I made the table longer and added the wooden stairway to push the wall back. Slight adjustments in color in his face, and I was finally satisfied. If something in a painting bothers you, as an artist, you know you will never be satisfied with the painting unless you fix it.
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If It Were Fall
"Take a look at this." My mentor friend showed me a fantastically colored painting of a flower — oversized, in imagined color, but absolutely as recognizable as if it had been painted in its local color. Seeing the creativeness of that artist in painting a flower was an "aha" moment. I had never wanted to paint flowers before; painting people is my thing.
But this way of looking at a flower, painting a single bloom rather than a floral arrangement, painting in colors that come solely from imagination, that would be fun. I knew I could use a black and white photo as a value study and translate those values to whatever color scheme I chose.
Kaleidoscope Magnolia was the first, and was a big hit. Many flower paintings have since found their way onto my easel. They become mesmerizing, and looser than my figurative art.
Reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's book, The Language of Flowers, I realized that all this time I had been telling the language of flowers with my paintings. Instead of using words to describe flowers, I had been using the beautiful range of pastel colors to describe their them.
I've admired Raphael's The Three Graces, and many artists' interpretation of them. It was an easy transition to my version, three magnolia blooms twining and curving into each other. My own Three Graces grace the opening scene in my YouTube Video, Painting the Language of Flowers. Enjoy the pastels, the color, the music, then visit Pick A Flower, to purchase an original for $150.
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Talking About Ticonderoga
I haven't painted many portraits or figurative pieces in the last couple of years; mainly flowers and landscapes. So going back to the face was scary—could I still get the proportions right, light up the eyes, paint emotion in the face? Self doubt causes fear and the dreaded put-it-off.
These photos of Talking About Ticonderoga show the progression of lines, color and correction. My work-in-progress never looks beautiful. Wish I had the knack that the wonderful Daniel Greene does in making every phase of a painting look perfect. I do, however, always have confidence that the finished piece WILL look perfect.
Thanks to great drawing basics learned at Mission: Renaissance in Los Angeles, my drawing is a running question of “where is this in relation to that?” All the visible lines and darker spots on the first photo are reference points. They let me align and relate one thing to another. Color changes as the painting progresses: the black hat and open doorway are layers of blue, green, purple, red and black; the red wool vest starts with purple and blue, ends with burgundy, orange and red, creating a realistic rich color. The light background and dominant rocks were the biggest problem, seeming to fight his white shirt. At the end, I changed shapes and grayed them down. I'm still considering the background unfinished; it looks plain and does not give the guide enough breathing room.
BUT, I tackled my favorite kind of painting - people, with a good result: I have regained my confidence in painting people; the fear is gone.Comment on or Share this Article →
Did I take liberties with the color? Yes! But not with the sky. It truly was that saturated with glowing oranges and yellows, flowing into the dark of a night sky. Reading your own color choices into a subject puts the fun into being an artist. Using pastel, strokes of different colors cross hatched into many layers perform the magic of color illusion and depth.
The subject here is a golf course, a long fairway looking toward the tee box, on to Pecan Grove Plantation Country Club, Richmond, TX.Comment on or Share this Article →