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 →
Amby Sings Janis
It's the teeny, tiny whisper strokes in finishing a face that take the most time. And yet they are the ones that really make the painting look like the person. They are the identity marks.
The painting Eloise at Dawn thought it would escape me. The profile of the nose and mouth, with the rim of light, were so specific to the model's face: they proved the hardest to find. I had to put the photo aside and relate the painting to how I remembered the model. When I did that, it was only a few minutes of carving the red background that Eloise at Dawn completed itself.
She inspired this 60 second video of my painted ladies. The quick lead-in snaps are fun Photoshop enhances of the actual painting.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 →
Frilly Lily, a small pastel in time for Easter
I've just started my 7th decade. Does that might sound better than "I'm now 70?"
I get engrossed, totally occupied, oblivious, when I am painting. That zone painting hurts: I paint to, through, and past the point of muscle tension. Solutions abound, and I like them all. Just sometimes forget (after all, you know, I am 70).
- The Pomodoro appeared in my November blog; that's a good idea.
- Photograph after major drawing or color changes; that forces a break and keeps a record of work in progress.
- Do the laundry! Takes about 40 minutes for clothes to dry, right? So use the dryer buzzer to get a sit-down.
- Paint only small works of 5x7. Done quickly and finished. Automatic break.
- The step-back method. Looking at a painting from across the room changes perspective (now I see what I did wrong!) and means relaxed shoulders with arms swinging free.
- I've really GOT TO check my email (or FaceBook).
- And the one I like best of all: schedule a golf game so you have to stop and change!
This is sort of tongue-in-cheek, but I actually do use all of these solutions when I recognize shoulder and neck tension. I'd love to see your comments. How do you handle "too long at the easel?"Comment on or Share this Article →
Backgrounds Can Be Simple: Part 2
Simplifying the background in Gold Ornament was a stretch of imagination. This pastel painting started out with just the intent to use gold leaf: would it adhere to sanded paper and would it stand out surrounded by strong color?
The composition for Gold Ornament was inspired by a beautiful oil painting by Taeil Kim. He has a mastery over texture, color, composition and emotive work. I fell in love with the qualities of his painting "Waiting II." I wondered if a similar look could be achieved in a pastel painting.
After drawing the face on Wallis Sanded Paper, I applied gold leaf adhesive to the general area of the hair ornament and the most dominant ruffle. After waiting the recommended 20 minutes, the gold leaf would not stick to the paper. Now trial and error came into play. I reapplied adhesive and almost immediately the gold leaf. It is so wispy it took a delicate touch to press it in place. I wanted the ornament to be of no particular shape, to imply simply a dangle, so I had applied the adhesive in a very general area. I found that gently pressing and rubbing the gold leaf allowed it to catch the high areas of the sanded paper, in itself creating dimension.
I covered the upper background in a muted light green and (this calls for a big gasp!) completely rubbed it in. I love seeing the strokes of color, so I seldom rub in. This painting, however, needed a smooth look with no white showing through. To add visual interest, I scrumbled 4 same value greens, blues and violets into the background. Up close they are visible, step back and they excite the eye.
After painting the face and ruffles, I anguished through several techniques on the bottom third. The drips from a Turpenoid wash usually creates a leave-it-alone finish. Nope. I shaved pastel speckles and sprayed fixative. Nope. Massive strokes of color. Ugh! A brush just slightly wet with Turpenoid and a firm push down over that color. OK and done!
This one truly was an experiment. The concept was firmly in my mind from the beginning. The results did not fulfill my expectation; I had to rethink, change and adapt. And that's the beauty of my pastel medium: it allows that.Comment on or Share this Article →
Hide & Seek
Painting the background in figurative or portrait art blurs the issue of importance. Something has to be back there, behind the person. The eye expects it, anything from simple color to elaborate scenery. I love vignettes, those little capsules that capture a person and leave the background plain, undone. That's how I painted my beginning work. With practice and time, the faces got better, but the background stayed, well, undone.
Trying to overcome that deficiency, I attended a landscape workshop by Bob Rohm. What a great instructor he is, both with his skill and his time. But in figurative work, I still wanted the person to be center stage, simply supported by color or vague shapes.
Seth Havercamp wrote an excellent article in last year's spring Artists On Art Magazine. For the first time, I saw in print what I felt: "as my painting years progressed, I noticed that I struggled to finish paintings. Although I liked the concept of the backgrounds I chose to paint, they were impossible for me to finish. ... Somehow, they got in the way of the portrait and did not support the subject. I would do anything to keep from painting when it was time to 'fill in the rest.' " Reading this was like I suddenly got permission to simplify or abstract the background.
So for a while, I'll be trying different ways to showcase the figure but still create interest behind or around the person.
Hide & Seek begins the background series, with a transparent effect, fulfilling its title. Flowers surround a girl: she may be playing the child's game of hide and seek in a garden of riotous color; or maybe it's the flower playing the game, meeting and wrapping onto the girl's shirt. I wanted the live edge of the flower to meet itself as a design on the shirt. Watch this pastel painting progress with photos showing drawing/block-in, Turpenoid wash, and progression of color application on my FaceBook album.
How I created the concept in Photoshop Elements by overlaying two images.
- Opened a new blank file, using 16x12 inch dimensions
- Place command to add photo of flowers, and Opacity option to see through it
- Place command to add photo of the girl, and added layer mask to paint out all but her image
- Free Transform command to stretch and place images
The background series, second painting is almost finished. Simple, different, beautiful. Watch for it.Comment on or Share this Article →
Talking About Ticonderoga
Finished? Put the last stroke of color on it? Added your artistic signature? Even framed it?
It's still not too late to make it better. Examine your painting. Put it front and center where you have to look at it several times during the day. Study it for flaws:
- One small area bothering you
- Colors wrong
- Background doesn't recede
- Perspective not quite right
- Focal point in the wrong place
- Cropping would make a stronger image
- Maybe you stopped just short of pushing the form or color
Enter it in a competition. If it is rejected, try to understand why. Sometimes it just didn't fit in with the parameters of the show or the preferences of the judge, or the photo image was not true to your painting, and sometimes there were simply more excellent entries than the show could accept . But if you were diligent about choosing the right competition (which includes medium and juror), it likely was rejected because of something that you can still correct.
Get a professional critique. Some excellent artists are now offering digital critiques for a very reasonable fee. Their advice can be invaluable in helping you to see your work through fresh eyes. And if you can incorporate their comments on that one particular painting into your future paintings — then everything gets better.
The image on the right was my "finished" painting, the best I could do. At least that's what I thought. Until a critique from Bill James, an impressionist pastel artist whose figurative work I've admired for years. Bill's critique made me look at the composition as a whole, and its elements individually. With trepidation, I brushed off those stairs I had so laboriously painted. An immediate improvement. Some of the red reflections got whisked away; I understood why they shouldn't and couldn't be there. Minor color adjustments. Every change made the painting better, stronger. The final Talking About Ticondergo is at the top of this blog.
I used to be afraid that changing something would "ruin" the painting. Now I study it and try to find what it takes to make it better.Comment on or Share this Article →
A magnificent willow tree lives on our golf course. Right on the edge of a water hazard, it thrives all year. Getting plenty of extra food from its neighbor, a well nourished green, it grows full and tall. It's a beauty when the wind blows: its branches reach sideways, making a delightful sound. And when the air is still and the branches gracefully lean over, well that's a beauty also.
However, painting that tree and the surrounding green was like the Karate Kid's wipe on, wipe off. I forgot one of the basics: keep it simple. I painted lots of color and value changes, trying to show the ground slopes and distance. It was intended as a donation to Rally for the Cure, but honestly was not good enough to leave my studio. After seeing it on my blog in October, I removed it from artwork.
"It doesn't have to be a golf painting, it can just be a pasture," offered my husband aka chief critic. Off came most of the pastel. A few color swipes and a lot less detail, and I could finally feel the majesty of the willow tree. One streak of sunshine yellow and three cows on the horizon, and I'm happy. The photo at the right with the flag was round one, Bluesy Greens. The painting above is Bluesy Moos. And isn't that a fun title!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 →
Grand Canyon, Pastel, 18x24
My favorite painting surface was out of stock — everywhere. I've relied on Wallis Sanded Paper for several years, but all online suppliers had it on backorder. To substitute, I purchased 5 of the large Canson Touch sanded boards, and boy did I hate it.
Trying to put the first layer of pastel on it was work. Subsequent layers no easier. Definitely not like Wallis, which allows first and many other layers to go on smoothly.
I put the Touch in the closet, deciding never to "touch" it again. But .... I don't like to be stymied and kept thinking: the only way I could use it would be for something that NEEDED a scratchy, textured surface. Not the figurative work that I love to do. Touch reminded me of the texture of rocks. Maybe it would paint that way.
"I will never try to paint the Grand Canyon. No way could I do it justice." That's what I had said, but what better rocks to try Touch than the Grand Canyon!
The pastel simply would not reach the surface; all strokes remained on the sanded peaks. Thinking about the smoothness of Wallis, I very lightly sanded Touch, and that softened the ridges. I blocked in the big shapes with pastel and applied a Turpenoid wash. The paper stained beautifully.
Now I had color, shapes and shadows, a good backbone to start the painting. The paper still did not take pastel smoothly, but I remembered another neat trick: foam packaging peanuts. Rubbing a foam peanut lightly into the pastel created a dense, beautiful layer, and using the grooved edges created textured patterns. As I continued to apply pastel, the surface became more receptive, a little smoother. In some areas, the canyon read ok with just the stained block-in; some areas in the distance just required a light stroke of pastel laid on its side. In the focal areas that needed detail, I kept working layers and different colors.
Grand Canyon is the result of working out a problem. It certainly became a learning experience: Stockpile Wallis!
Joking aside, Touch is surely a great product for some artists. For the techniques I use with pastel, it was work. I persevered until I found solutions: sanding it smoother, applying an underpainting, and blending with foam peanuts.Comment on or Share this Article →
Missing the Trail, Pastel, 16x12, Enchanted Rock State Park
How can one possibly reduce the huge vision of the sky into a tiny 5x7? Clouds on these crisp fall Texas days and early evenings have been beautiful beyond realness. If the clouds would just stay still long enough, I would paint right outside my studio. Spin 360 and it's all great. But, using the camera, I can capture the clouds, posing as beauty queens. That photo reference can then get zoomed down and encapsulated into a reduced vision.
But the real reason for painting so small? I'm on a learning journey.
I've been asked to do a workshop. How could I even think of saying yes? I don't have an academic art background; how can I possibly instruct and demo what I create in solitude at home? Workshops from pastel greats like Daniel Greene, Doug Dawson, Bob Rohm have left me in awe. Not only is their work superior, but their teaching is excellent. Why did I say yes?
Because of a hot July hike at Enchanted Rock State Park. Missing the Trail taught me that even when the original goal (up the mountain) is not achieved, many side trails of beauty and opportunity exist, if I just open my eyes and mind.
So I said yes to the workshop, and that started the learning journey: educate myself on ways to construct a good workshop. Following Richard McKinley's super blog, I landed on artistsnetwork. What a treasure of pastel videos, for a small price!
That's how the small started: it's much easier to tackle something new in small bites. With the short videos, I'm learning how artists gently but persuasively guide one to a destination: the creation of something beautiful. Through these generous artists, I have:
- traipsed over landscape greens
- taken a trail leading into the clouds
- looked over shoulders, en plein aire
- encountered different ways of applying pastel
These are small steps in new directions, unfamiliar trails to follow, but all leading closer to the top. I still may miss the main trail, but what an adventure.Comment on or Share this Article →
She's Got You
I am a pastelist. From the very first touch. Why try another medium when pastel creates such depth and beauty?
A technique I especially love is scrumble. Laying the side of the pastel on the paper, the pastel is lightly stroked over a different color. The textured or sanded surface shaves tiny particles and deposits them on the surface. These little bits of color sit on the top, acting like a prism to refract the light. The eye dances with excitement, seeing these layers of color. One might think the colors are mismatched or wildly chosen. And that might be true. But step back from the painting, and the colors blend or contrast, beautiful either way.
My newsletter, SCRUMBLE, uses the same technique: I lightly touch upon my newest painting, a golf tidbit, and a great travel spot.
- For October, I painted "She's Got You," a touching song by Patsy Cline that has such a great story line the painting composition was easy.
- GRRRRR has been my favorite expression for several months. On the Golf Channel it means Greens in Regulation. For the average lady golfer, it means trouble. But we can play smarter.
- Taking a trip through New England in the fall - who wouldn't want to!
- All scrumbled together in one neat newsletter. Read past issues.
Have a SCRUMBLE with your morning coffee on the 16th of every month.Comment on or Share this Article →
Brazos Bend transformed itself once, twice, and again.
My husband and chief critic passed by my pastel painting of a murky swamp scene, with the off-hand comment that it was scary looking. The strong shadows and dark tones created interest, but also a spooky feeling. Hanging moss added light areas, but proved distracting. Away they went. The real scene had a beautiful layer of green skimming the water in front of the trees. In the painting, it pulled my eyes away from the center of interest. Away it went. The painting still held too many elements: reflections and shadows; leaves, twigs, branches, vines, and floaters; skim and scum. Too much going on.
Not a successful painting, it saw some closet time.
Breakthrough came when I got some help, by subscribing to the pastel videos on ArtistsNetwork.tv. After watching Colleen Howe and Liz Haywood-Sullivan, I finally got it: Simplify, simplify. Seeing an artist create and explain is invaluable. As artists, we are isolated in our studio time. If we are not masters, we continue the same mistakes. If we are critical of our own work, maybe we recognize the problem areas, maybe we don't know how to fix them.
Although Brazos Bend was saturated with pastel, I tackled it again. Larger blocks of neutral colors covered squiggles and detail. Gray scrumbled over water and blurred distant light. One center of interest emerged. Light found its direction and lit up Brazos Bend.
The reference photo? A walking excursion at Brazos Bend State Park near Houston. Bill stopped at a rest bench. Facing him, I looked above his head and saw a ray of sunshine enticing the eye deep into the swamp. Still, quiet, alone, we were the only ones to witness that beauty, that day.Comment on or Share this Article →
Sometimes we pastelists need a sharp point or edge on a pastel. My little home-made tool works great, costs very little.
Buy a strip of drywall sanding screen sandpaper, available at Home Depot, Lowes, local hardware stores. It's about 5x11 inches, and comes in different grits. The finer grit is better. The cost is around $3.00.
Shape it over a small plastic container (without its lid), and secure on the sides of the container with duct tape or masking tape. The screen is rather stiff, and takes some effort to bend over the edges of the container, but what a great tool. I use it to quickly sharpen pastels to a point, even the harder NuPastels. Or, to eliminate too much waste of pastel, I run the flat end of pastel over the screen, creating an edge on the rounded bottom.
The grated pastel sifts down into the container, keeping dust and mess to a minimum.Comment on or Share this Article →
Cool Koi, Pastel, 18x24
I'll stop now, but this painting taught me a lot: Humility, perseverance, linear and personal perspective, color management, rethinking, and maybe a few bad words. I'm not sure how my Wallis sanded paper could have taken so much pastel and so many brush offs!
One special help I used frequently was a tip from a mentor, Frank Gerrietts. Frank looked at paintings with his hand and fingers curled together creating a tunnel, positioned on his right eye, left eye closed. A telescopic pinhole. He would move that tiny view all over a painting, and smile or shake his head.
The hand-scope blocks out all extraneous input, limiting the view to only one small area of a painting. It forces or allows you to more easily see what's good, what's bad, what relates, what works, and what's got to go!
Strongly influenced by Mexican culture, Frank thought of his work as "expressionism," rather than abstract. He passed away recently, but I think he's still listening to the music that infused every idea he captured in his work.Comment on or Share this Article →
Pepsi Man, Pastel 18x24
Pepsi Man was finished and photographed. But something in the face bothered me. I didn't know what, so didn't how to fix it.
As I was preparing the digital image of Pepsi Man for CD entry in a competition, my mind wandered: How are jurors looking at the images, now that they are digital. (Remember how all entries used to be slides?) Staring at the image on my monitor, I realized the juror could now enlarge certain areas to get a better peek at how the artist handled his medium and color. Do they really do that? I don't know, but it became an instant learning tool for me.
When I zoomed in on the eyes, I got a big shout out as to what was wrong! Fixing it was easy with a few simple swipes of pastel. The eyes now looked in the same direction. As I stepped back, away from the painting, Pepsi Man actually seemed to have changed personality, right on the paper.
I hope you can benefit from this "Voila" moment. And that you will be more careful than I, and make sure you photograph that last minute change. I forgot to do it!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 →
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 →
India's Child (work in progress), Pastel, 18x24
The trip to India completed in 1996; the painting completed, framed and exhibited in 1997. I thought it was done.
But since then, I've learned that I don't have to stop on a painting because I'm afraid I'll "mess it up." I've learned to push pastel and color further. My limits aren't as narrow as ten years ago, and I think those things might be the most important measure of success.
The girl in India's Child -- We had just returned to our tour bus after seeing the beauty of the Taj Mahal. At least 20 men were pushing at our group to buy their trinkets; this one young girl stood apart, quiet, just her eyes seeking out a buyer for her maracas. My husband left the bus, handed her some money, and the memory of that child is still just as strong to me as is that of the Taj.
So India's child is being reworked, without reference to the photo, just using the feeling of that moment. It's fun now to go from the original light layers of pastel to trying to build more form, to imagine how the light would play on her face. For now, India's Child is an old-to-new work in progress.Comment on or Share this Article →
In a word, Petra is awesome: enormous 2000 year old buildings carved into the beautiful colored layers of Jordan's sandstone mountains.
Painting the size and grandeur of just one building in this abandoned Silk-Road city proved to beyond my ability but not my determination.
I wanted to show how massive the Monastery is, looking across an expanse of sand. My pastel of the Monastery itself was pretty good, the sky was okay, and the mountain it was carved into was all right. But the painting did not even hint at size. I could not FEEL the memory of that day.
If the background was okay, then the problem had to be the foreground (I thought). So, gone was my original concept of an abstract foreground brushed with turpenoid drips. Instead, a tall multi-colored rock formation loomed on the right side. A Bedouin woman spreading her woven carpets on flat rocks appeared. Not right.
Then an Arab in flowing white robe surveyed the expanse. No. Change the white robe to black, for drama. No. Figures, diminishing to a dot at the Monastery door came and went. Still not a grand perspective of size, so the man disappeared, then the woman got scrubbed out.
The painting got tucked in a closet, then brought out into a gorgeous frame and exhibited. Still not happy with it, so it was once again relegated to storage.
This last rendition may not truly represent size, but it IS the last attempt. I've wrapped the mountain forward on the left side, obscuring a small portion of the Monastery front and kept the right side simple.
But at last I had fun with this painting. I sprayed the foreground with water and angled the painting to guide the drips, creating rock-like crevices. After it dried, I sprayed the left front with fixative and flicked little particles of pastel into it, repeating the fixative and different colors of pastel many times. Finally, great rock texture and, hopefully, an end to this Seven-Year-Revision.
For reference, view the great watercolors by David Roberts, around 1839.Comment on or Share this Article →