Mario Robinson: Weaving a Likeness

I?m inspired by ordinary people set in everyday situations. I want to use my pastels to capture these precious moments as realistically as possible. So I?ve developed my approach around the crosshatching technique. This technique in itself isn?t unusual, many pastel, pen and graphite artists use it, building up color or tone by applying successive layers of strokes, with each layer at an angle to the preceding one. Two things, however, set my approach apart: First, I use lots of layers?sometimes as many as 40?to get the look I?m after. Second, my strokes always run either vertically or horizontally. Using this simple approach, I literally weave realism into my work, as each successive layer of pastel mixes optically with the one before it instead of covering it, in the process creating a wonderful feeling of depth.


Transcendent (pastel, 20-1/2×28).

Uniformity is key in my crosshatching approach. It?s important that the lines be crosshatched as straight and close together as possible so that I can produce smooth looking areas, where necessary, or to leave more visible texture. By working in small sections, I ensure that my lines will be straight.

I think a painting?s background should support the subject without being overpowering. And, since I work from reference photos, I pay close attention to the surrounding elements during the planning stage.


Reverence (pastel, 8×11-1/2)

My goal is to draw the viewer?s eye into the piece, not to distract them with dazzling effects behind the subject. I work this last phase until I?m satisfied with the way the painting looks. Then I double-check the colors and the overall mood of the piece. If I?m still happy, the painting is finished.

Artist Tim Phelps is an associate professor in the graduate program of Art as Applied to Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

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