Posted on Wed 08 May 2019
This is a time of year when I love to find new viewpoints of a familiar subject. In recent years I have enjoyed taking a closer look at the landscape – I concentrate on textures, patterns and colours. Sometimes I write notes on colour if time is short but I prefer to make a small colour sketch. One drawing could lead to several paintings if cropped in various ways.
Paper can contribute to the atmosphere of a landscape so my first decision is type of paper. I enjoy using a variety of surfaces – pastel papers or mountboard with different textures. For the demonstration below I decided on Clairefontaine Pastelmat in light grey. This tone is dark enough to take the lightest tints of pastel yet light enough to convey the fresh colours of springtime. The texture is very fine and allows for an optical merging of pastel layers. Physical blending tends to flatten and dull pastel so is best kept to a minimum.
I mainly use soft pastels from Unison and Sennelier. I like the painterly effect of layering colour and they are particularly useful for adding intense darks or lights. By breaking them, fine linear marks can easily be made but they also enable me to work broadly without concentrating on too much detail.
Before painting, I select a few colours and test them on the side of the pastel paper. When buying pastels it's useful to choose three tints of each colour – dark, medium and light tones. Colour, tone and texture of paper are considered and each subject is carefully thought through: what is my aim? How can I achieve it through colour and mark making?
This gives me a starting point although sometimes ideas change and the painting indicates a different direction. A bristle brush and eraser can be used to take the pastel back to the paper if necessary.
DEMONSTRATION Willows – Spring Flood
Although these tall willows would make a splendid composition, I chose to paint a smaller section that focuses on the tree trunks and their reflections.
I made a quick thumbnail sketch to indicate the new composition using Caran d'Ache Neocolor crayons on grey pastel paper, which gave me an indication of colour.
I drew the basic composition lightly in charcoal and, using the sides of the pastels, placed tints of green, blue and lilac over the foliage and water. This serves as a tonal underpainting; with a little water the pastel can be spread to create a range of tones.
I lightly placed greens and yellows over the blue underpainting to establish the meadow, then blocked in the dark, medium and lighter colours using the sides of the pastels, working in each area of the painting to check that the colour relationships were correct. I liked the contrast between trees and water so chose rich dark purples and greens for the trees against the surrounding light blue water. This also created distance between the background and foreground. Keeping the pressure light at this stage makes any adjustments easier. A very light spray of fixative could be used at this stage before a top layer of pastel is added.
I built up foliage shapes using a variety of large and small marks in cool and warm colours using a little more pressure. Some edges were defined and others softened.
The foreground required some blending here and there, but I kept most marks direct, layering blue, green, pink and yellow into a satisfactory impression of meadow grass amongst pools of water. I chose to keep detail to a minimum to contrast the more complex area of trees, constantly adjusting marks until I felt the balance was right.
I added more intense colour and linear marks.
Willows – Spring Flood, pastel, (40.5x48.5cm).
Some warm brown pastel over the purple tree trunks completed the painting.
Sheila Goodman has used pastel for over 30 years. She is an award-winning member of the Pastel Society and Society of Women Artists, and has also exhibited with the Royal Watercolour Society, the New English Art Club, the Royal Society of Marine Artists and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. For more information, or to view new work by appointment, see www.sgart.co.uk
This demonstration is taken from the July 2019 issue of The Artist
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