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Pastel Technique: Reliving Monet's Madness

As I was continuing work on "Marsh Madness," a close study of its reference photo revealed a horror I needed to address: very faint foliage flowing beneath the water's surface. It reminded me of Monet's challenges with painting his water lillies: not only do you have the reflection of trees, shrubs, sky and clouds on the surface of the water, but you have the foliage swaying with the current underneath. On top of that, introduce a twig protruding from the water (and its reflection) and you have a circus of aqueous artifacts complicating your landscape!

Notice the images below the water's surface:

The grasses below the surface appear fuzzy due to the distortion, as well as muted greens and ochres. So I applied pastel lightly in this area, using nearly the same value as the water.

To soften and add some distortion, I applied a deep blue pastel pencil (similar to the water's color) to the underwater grasses:

Moving away from the water for now, I began sharpening some blades of marsh grasses with pastel pencil highlights:

To enhance the brilliance of the stalks in sunlight, I took a deep blue pastel to darken the surrounding areas of the grass, thereby accentuating the contrast:

Here's the current version of Marsh Madness. I plan to be done before Monday nights NCAA Championship game!

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