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Richard McKinley’s Pastel Pointers Blog
This painting exploration into self-awareness has led me to understand the profound importance that the initial drawing has in my own pastel work. It focuses me on the subject matter and allows me to calmly investigate the personality of the shapes and surfaces that inhabit the composition in advance of the excitement of color.
One of the biggest allures of pastel, as a fine art medium, is its tactile nature. Painters who are using a wet medium have to rely on either a brush or painting knife to apply paint, but pastelists gets to hold molded dry pigment directly in their hands. Depending on the relative softness or hardness of the stick, the form in which it was shaped, the surface upon which it is to be applied, and manner of application, a multitude of technique possibilities can be achieved.
A self-described painter of luminosity, Loriann Signori divides her time between studying the landscape with small plein air paintings that provide color notes and interpreting them back in the studio for her larger paintings. Landscape may be her chosen genre, but she says it is not why she paints. It is about color and feeling. “Color is my tool, my love, and my nemesis as I attempt to paint the beauty of the ordinary,” she says.
Is creating art, work? If you ask someone a passionate painter, the answer will be a definitive yes. Conversely, much of the world around us sees what we do as play. Recently I overheard a fellow artist sharing how frustrating it was when someone asked, “When are you going to get a real job?”
Pastelists who utilize an underpainting to establish a foundation in advance of pastel typically do so with one of two mindsets: They either, one, wish to create a utilitarian foundation that establishes the basic value and color masses; or two, they want to create a foundation that provides the potential for creative possibilities. Of course the two can be combined, generating even more interactive opportunities.
In this hurly-burly world, it can be hard to stop and take the time to truly be present — that state of mind in which we shut off the busy chatter in our heads and become aware of our surroundings. This can be especially true for the plein air painter who is often consumed with finding something to paint and then frantic to capture the ever-changing light.
The need for surface abrasion has lead pastelists to experiment with a multitude of fibrous papers, many of which are still being milled in the manner they were hundreds of years ago throughout Europe. When more abrasion was desired, various grit/glue combinations were applied as sizing, creating papers that compare to modern day commercial-grade sandpaper …
Since pastel never dries to form a hard shell surface like an oil and acrylic painting, the ability to amend or entirely remove a signature can become problematic. This leads many pastelists to feel intimidated by an activity that should be filled with confident authorship. With practice and the possible use of alternative materials, any signature apprehension can be overcome.
One of the most rewarding moments of any painting is reaching the point where we feel satisfied enough to place our signature. This physical act signifies ownership. While the purpose of the signature is basically that of authorship, its placement and appearance can also play a significant role in the overall design of a painting’s composition.
In the past, I’ve discussed how color, value, depth of field and focus can be manipulated photographically. While these are important considerations, there’s another that’s often overlooked: the focal plane. This is the distance point where sharp focus is set. In photography, this is achieved by the lens and aperture settings. A similar physiology occurs with the human eye, but the sensation of being present within the scene is vastly different than the photograph.