Pastel Technique: Monday Morning Blues


I recently re-arranged my pastel palette, which revealed an abundance of blues. So I thought I would take advantage of such a variety and do an landscape underpainting in blue.

Below is the reference photo. The scene is at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge along Route 2 in Northwest Ohio. This particular location is along the Crane Creek Estuary Trail. I highly recommend a visit to this wildlife refuge along Lake Erie. There were a number of bird watchers and photographers enjoying the venue.


I first decided to tone the grassy areas with orange acrylic. That's been a recent favorite technique of mine, that tends to bring out the warmth of the grassy landscape. My goal with the blues was to get the values correct in the painting. I also like blue undertones to shady areas and of course the distant view (aerial perspective) to capture the atmosphere effectively.

First I toned the green areas with an orange-yellow hue of acrylic paint.


Next I laid in the basic composition with vine charcoal, then gave it a spray of fixative. I like the randomness of the natural landscape, which allows me to avoid the measured perspective of those street scenes!


Since I like the effect of watercolor painted on water and distant surfaces, I applied a blue watercolor wash in the pond and distant treeline.


Now for the blues! I pulled about 5 values from my blue pastel collection ranging from the darkest blue Great American Artworks to the lightest blue Unison:


I avoided the sky at this point, planning to convey it separately with the hues of this early morning vista (a variety of pinks and purples). The lightest blue values are in the water, the tips of the grasses and the base of the distant treeline. The darkest values you will note are in the depths of the grasses, shade in the tree and tree limbs, island to the left and small outcrop into the pond on the right.

The role of this blue cast will serve to identify the value of the greens I will apply for the grasses and foliage. I will try my best not to "over-green" this landscape. Also, leaving some of the blue exposed will help add variety of color and also support the shady portions of the foliage.

I'm looking forward to the next version of this painting! Since this is the Crane Creek Estuary, there WILL be a crane in the painting. His (or her) place in the canvas will be on the right edge of the pond,, heading off in flight toward the left of the painting.

#underpainting #tonedpaper #marsh