Albert Handell has been featured in both Pastel Journal and The Artist’s Magazine featuring complete articles on his painting techniques. For his tips on working en plein air, scroll to the bottom of this page. The following is a web extra from The Artist’s Magazine (click here to subscribe for inspiration delivered to you inbox or mailbox).
For Sante Fe Wild Flowers (pastel, 14×15), I lightly blocked in the whole painting, then established the general shape of the trees. They’re the only uprights in the composition and contain the darkest colors in the piece. Notice the tree line? Its positioning and shape is important. Because the bottom of the darker tree line is a flat horizontal line, the top of that shape needed variety and interest. I painted the whole shape of the trees and grass as a flat pattern, with everything above being a very luminous, bright sky.
Done in winter in the Jemez mountains, Above Gilmen’s Tunnel (pastel, 15×16) depicts the strong color contrast that initially attracted me to the scene. The worn tracks contrast with the untouched snow on the band and the tones in the snow contrast with the rich orange colors in the background. I pushed these gold colors a bit to heighten that contrast even more.
Ventura Sandstone (pastel, 12×12) has a real sense of gravity. Parts of the cliff appear to be pulled downward. You can tell where the water drains off and the little desert shrubs are hanging on for dear life. The proportions here are important: The flat blue area of sky is a small shape. Against the colors and complexity of the cliffs and shrubs, this small area of sky becomes the negative, contrasting area to the sandstone.
In Barcelona Corner (pastel, 16×17) the adobe colors and the green foliage are much richer and darker than the colors of the sky, with the exception of the few small bits of light adobe colors. It’s mid day so the sky is lit up and the top planes of everything in the picture catch the overhead sun. The upright vertical planes are darker, almost shadowed. There’s also a gentle marriage of the adobe wall colors and the surrounding greens of the trees.
Plein Air: Five Ways to Beat the Clock
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We all know that time is of the essence when working en plein air, but it often seems impossible to work faster without sacrificing quality. Here are some easy methods I’ve found for buying yourself some extra time without abandoning artistic vision.
1 Use a toned ground. This will eliminate the need for an underpainting and save you a lot of time in the process.
2 Take reference photos before you start to work. If you’re not completely done with a painting in two or three hours, just take it back to the studio and finish it there.
3 Work smaller than you normally would. In the studio the sky’s the limit, but outside I never work larger than 18×24.
4 Make an effort to go faster. You might be surprised to find that you can work a little quicker without sacrificing quality.
5 Paint on a gray day. The light doesn’t change nearly as fast when the sun isn’t shining bright, which means a larger window of time for you to work.