Pastel Pointers | Visual Bridging

Pastel Techniques | Using Visual Bridging as One of Your Color Techniques


visual bridging
An example of blue next to orange and the bridge tones involved in the edge.

In last week’s blog post on pastel palette choices, I discussed how important it is that a palette represents a full spectrum of color in a value range from light to dark with a degree of weaker grayed tone. This allows the pastelist the means of painting in any situation. Another benefit of a well organized palette is its ability to aid us in selecting the right hues, color values and tones to facilitate visual bridging, which is one of many color techniques.

When we look at any scene, there are three major components working in unison: the light source, the surface of the objects within the scene and our eyes. The better we understand the interaction of these components, the better able we, as painters, will be to portray them when attempting to create the magic show that any painting ultimately is. The human mind likes to recognize and associate memories to the objects within a scene. When we concentrate on any given area, we see it in focus and our tendency is to sharpen its edge relationship to surrounding objects. If the relating objects and surfaces are made up of contrasting color values and color relationships, they will appear even sharper. This often leads to overly delineated edges and a painting that appears flat. To avert this tendency, painters are encouraged to soften edges and retain the sharpest edges for those focal-point areas within their composition.

Once a pastel painting is initially blocked in, it is easy to believe that the softening of edges will only require the gentle smudging of the adjoining pigment. If the color values and color temperature relationships are relative close, this will suffice. When they are not, pastel techniques like blending can produce a muddy effect that is unpleasing. To advert this, find the pastel sticks that will create a Visual Bridge between the two extremes. Begin by identifying the starting point’s hue and value. Then identify the adjacent area’s hue and value. Find these in your pastel palette. Once they are selected, evaluate the degree of value difference between them. Now find the connecting hues at the degree of value between the two areas.

Note: whenever possible, it is advisable to travel through the warmer section of your palette. This represents the refraction of light better than a cooler temperature tone.

Example: to “visually bridge” between an area of blue sky that is value 8, utilizing a value scale where 0 represents black and 10 white, and an orange autumn tree that is value 4, I would select a rose and violet tone pastel somewhere around value 6. These pastels would be subtly placed at the point of visual connection between the two areas, thus creating a visual bridge between the two.

Visual bridging provides another reason that a pastel palette must represent a full spectrum of color values. No matter what you may find yourself painting, the phenomenon of light reflecting off a surface is what you are attempting to represent. To best facilitate this, your pastel palette must be complete.

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One thought on “Pastel Pointers | Visual Bridging

  1. robertsloan2 says:

    Thank you! Those muddy passages between adjacent colors when they’re softened are something that’s bothered me in several paintings. This completely makes sense – and it’s a good reason to have the full range of hues and values available!

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