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StudioSense: Starting a Pastel Painting

As the weather turns for the worst in Michigan, it is time to revisit my collection of photographs that I use as inspiration and reference points for pastel paintings.

I chose an old shed photographed about 15 years ago off Judd Road in York Township, MI.

There is a lot of green lawn in this photo. So I will shift the focal point, the shed in the center, off to the left, which will reduce the lawn mass, and I will also strive to leave out a fair amount of detail of this grassy area.

First step is to sketch the composition including the major values of this scene. I added my grid to the paper to arrange the composition, and will replicate the grid to the sanded pastel paper.

Below is a sheet of toned Wallis sanded pastel paper secured on a foam core backing. You can barely see the grid sketched on the paper. I used a charcoal pencil to complete the sketch, then sprayed the surface with fixative.

I then applied an underpainting of pastel washed with isopropyl alcohol. I chose opposite colors for the greenery, placing red/orange in the grassy areas. For the evergreen on the right, I chose a deep blue and used the same pastel for the darkest values of the painting. As this paper was toned, I lightened the sky with a very light green pastel and diluted it with the alcohol. I find that bright skies painted on darker toned paper are less luminous than one would desire (and it take a heavy application of pastel to overcome)!

I did not photograph the pastel-washed underpainting, however, in the current version of the painting below, you can see the red-orange beneath the greens. I will add further green foliage in the right background around the tree, as well as a distant tree line.

The greens are more intense with the re-orange base. I will allow some of the underpainting to show through to retain this intensity. Also, if you carefully observe grassy areas outdoors, you will see that there is that "earth base" hiding behind the greenery.

Check back for the final version of this painting!

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