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Richard McKinley’s Pastel Pointers Blog
Green can be a tough color to handle, but with color temperature finesse, sensitive observation, wise selection, and artistic permission to sometimes tweak reality for the sake of a harmonious outcome, a successful lush painting can be achieved.
Put two or more landscape painters together and inevitably, the topic of how to handle green arises. Skillfully finessing green requires an understanding of its relationship to and interaction with the other colors of the spectrum and ultimately a degree of theatrics. These skills are even more pertinent during the season of Spring when the bones of Winter begin to adorn themselves with the most intense green foliage.
In last week’s blog post, I described the thumbnail/value sketches involved in the first part of a plein air painting process I refer to as “Field Sketch Painting.” Once these sketches are evaluated to see if the composition is worthwhile, it is time to start the pastel painting.
Every serious artist understands the importance of working from life. Whether it’s the still life, portrait or landscape, there’s no reference material that can replace the experience of interpreting subject matter one-on-one. While it’s never easy to progress from painting from photo reference to painting from life, it takes special concentration to do so in the landscape with the ever-changing lighting and conditions. This, along with the overwhelming vastness of the landscape, can stymie even the most technically advanced pastelist.
On April 4, 2013, the pastel community lost one of its most beloved champions, Maggie Price, to a short but courageous battle with brain cancer. Maggie began working with the medium in 1990 and her love for it blossomed eight years later into The Pastel Journal magazine, which she co-founded with fellow artist and friend, Janie Hutchinson. Maggie served as editor and art director, while her husband Bill Canright, an artist as well, handled the advertising department.
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” A Da Vinci exhibition I saw at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Ore., reminded me of the struggles artists have deciding when a piece of artwork is finished. The exhibition was filled with models and examples of da Vinci’s creative and scientific ingenuity. Of particular interest to painters were the sections dedicated to Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
Photographing finished paintings can be one of the most frustrating aspects of painting, but still one of the most necessary. These photographic records are invaluable when reminiscing about past accomplishments, a necessity for entering most juried exhibitions, and a prerequisite for publication. Since most artists either sell or gift their works, it’s paramount to keep a high quality photographic record for future reference.
Framing can be one of the most costly aspects of our pastel painting careers. Frames are expensive, never mind the glass, mats, backing, and fitting charges when a professional framer is utilized. We invest in the hope that someone will open their wallet and purchase a painting, helping us to recoup some of our overhead. It’s a speculative business at best.
Workshops afford us the ability to get an insight into the painting concepts and habits of many of our pastel heroes. Admiring finished paintings is one thing, but having the ability to watch a hand in action is priceless. Having had experience with both workshop taking and workshop giving, I have a few observations that may help ready you for your next workshop adventure.
Pastel is unique among fine art media, because it doesn’t have an inherent binder to hold it onto a surface like all other forms of painting. This difference is one of the reasons it gets classified as a drawing medium in some circles. Pastelists, though, most often associate their intent with the act of painting. While the end result of painting with pastel may visually resemble binder-based paints, it does rely on one component that they do not. It requires enough tooth and surface density for adhesion.