There is excitement and energy in the pastel landscape paintings of British artist John Tookey. Paradoxically, the secret to that dynamism is understatement. It begins with the artist’s approach to color, which—though full of vibrancy—is achieved through the use of neutrals. “Much of a picture will be understated in neutral colors,” Tookey says. “It will be monochrome, more or less. I have a lot of grays, ochres and earth colors in my pastel collection, and don’t believe you can have too many.”
Patches of Vibrant Color: The artist saves the more flashy color for areas that merit special attention. “I like to draw attention to the real subject of the picture by going in with zingy colors—greens, reds or pinks,” he says. “It’s something I really like about pastels—this ability to add those patches of vibrant color to bring a picture to life.”
His color choices aren’t restricted to reality. Instead, Tookey aims to make his own personal statement about a scene with his own interpretation of color. This is true whether he’s working en plein air, as he often does, or from sketches in the studio. Sketches and color notes, he says, will take him to a certain point, and then “the painting takes over.”
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