Jacob Aguiar follows the light to achieve masterful atmospheric effects in pastel landscapes.
Aguiar, of Scarborough, Maine, has learned how essential it is to spend time in the landscape and become more familiar with a subject before beginning a painting. In the past, he’d stop his car, take a few photos of a scene, head back to the studio and try to paint from them. “Now I’m changing that,” he says. “The first step is to get a good feel for the place. Then I try to compose with the camera, but it’s not always exactly what I want. Composition—the interaction of abstract shapes and patterns—is the thing that jumps out immediately, and then light and color seal the deal.”
Aguiar makes small-format notans in his sketchbook, trying out a variety of compositions—vertical, horizontal, square and panoramic—using dark, mid-tone and light Tombow markers. He says, “I learned from Richard McKinley that if you don’t like it in the notan stage, you’re likely not going to be able to rescue it in a large painting. This has proven to be true. Now I stick to doing notans to improve the composition in my paintings.” The artist also makes small plein air pastels, referring to them along with photos when painting in the studio.
The use of underpaintings and toned grounds also has added interest to Aguiar’s work. Using watercolor or pastel with alcohol or mineral spirits, he applies colors that correspond to or contrast with the forms in the painting. Other times, he tones the paper with a warm mid-gray or just rubs in dry pastel pigment with a piece of foam pipe insulation to achieve an overall tone, particularly when painting a scene that’s primarily sky. “I like having those loose, blurry and blended edges where the sky meets a tree or the earth, and then being able to create sharper edges selectively with a pastel,” he says.
Learn more about Aguiar’s techniques, and see more of his works, in the August 2016 issue of Pastel Journal. Available in print and download format at northlightshop.com June 20. Available on newsstands July 12.
Learn more about painting with pastels with this FREE download: Pastel Painting: 5 Articles on Pastel Basics for Artists.