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Pastel Technique: Experimenting with Black

I had the pleasure to meet Michael McKee at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this weekend. Mike creates vibrant pastels drawn on a black background.

So I decided to experiment. I posted two sheets of Uart 400 grit sanded paper on a foam core backing. The sheet on the left I blocked with black and purple hard pastel, then diluted it with alcohol and a foam brush. The sheet on the right is a collection of broken pieces of pastel and dust, which I placed in a cup with alcohol and then spread that across the paper with a paint brush.

I decided to first work on the black-background pastel sheet. I thought that a "deep forest" woodland view would do well on a dark background. Here is my reference photo, taken on a recent stroll with my studio assistant, Cosmo. I particularly like the deep greens and browns in this early evening view, from the Pittsfield Preserve off Thomas Road near Saline, Michigan.

I began with blocks of light for the sky and initial colors of the woodland path. I also lightly noted where some of the trees would be placed. The dark background helps the pastel colors become vibrant.

I then added tree and leaf color blocks, and worked up some further patches of blue light. I'm pleased with the progress so far, as I like to see how vibrant pastels can become on a black background. Come back soon to check on status!

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