The Pastel Journal’s contributing writer, Chuck Sambuchino, was able to visit Louise Frechette (featured in the August 2008 issue of The Pastel Journal) in her Kennebunkport, Maine, studio and observe a painting session. She invited him to choose the starting color in the sky (red), which would determine colors for the rest of the work. With soft jazz music playing, she sat down at her painting station and began.
I start from the top down. Since water is colorless, its color is dependent on several factors—most notably the colors of the sky. As I paint, I blend with my fingers constantly.
One of the first things I do in any painting is determine the source of the light. Since this is a red sky painting, and such skies are uncommon, rather than make the light a bright yellow, I’ll make it more subdued using red, cranberry, purple, rose and other colors.
Blue is introduced, as the sky meets the top of the ocean. I don’t want to overdo this part, or the painting will look muddy. It’s very easy to do too much here. Less is more.
Now you can see things are beginning to happen. The top of the ocean starts to come in and the back of the wave. This is when I have to be very gentle; I don’t want anything to look too sharp. This is also where I begin to use iridescent pastels—greens, blues and browns.
When painting the underside of the wave, I use a dark green. I think of cause and effect here—why the wave looks like it does. Whether painting in an abstract or realistic way, the process is always logical. You can see the wave crests are lighter values.
After the sea has taken shape, I begin to add the little touches and highlights. These are the finishing touches—the “ta da”s, I like to call them.
Although I do prefer working top to bottom, I don’t always paint from darkest values to lightest. At this point, I’ve put in some blue, some blue-green, some green, some more red and purple, and now I’m going in and highlighting with lighter values of these colors.
I use lots of white here—for the waves’ crests, the highlights; it adds dimension. I don’t want the painting to appear flat, and the highlights bring the area a bit forward. In terms of color, I want the drama. I think that’s important in any painting—the drama, the story.
I use some darker values at the bottom for the underside of another wave. A few finishing touches later, and the painting is complete. Let’s call it Mastering the Moment.
Photos by Chuck Sambuchino