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StudioSense: Toning the Dark Pastel Surface

I recently visited Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. The day was overcast with a misty atmosphere exacerbated by the violent Atlantic. Great photo opportunity! Below is the reference photo for a newly-started pastel painting:

I pulled out a 12x18 sheet of Wallis paper with a dark brown-grey tone. The challenge is to capture the blinding whites of the ocean surf and the light white-grey-green of the Atlantic, despite the dark tone of the paper. So I pulled out my acrylics and embarked on some "blocking and tackling" to help create the values as the foundation of the pastel painting.

Here is the rough sketch on the sanded paper:

First I took an acrylic wash comprised of about 10 parts white to 1 part blue and spread it in the bright sky. I found that the foam brush covered more quickly than a regular paint brush. The acrylic will dry lighter than the impasto look you see in the photo, so plan accordingly!

Next I mixed white with some more blue and green to block in the Atlantic Ocean, again lighter than the dark-toned pastel paper. Raising the values of these areas will simplify the process of applying light pastels over these areas.

Next step was to block in the distant peninsula with a blue/grey/white mixture of acrylic, blended with the blobs of paint below:

I highlighted parts of the composition with vine charcoal, outlining some of the noteworthy rocks and roughed in the tree line on the left. At this point you can see that the sky has lost some of that bright white look. But for my purposes it should be sufficient to block in the misty Atlantic atmosphere with pastel.

As I reviewed my pastel paper inventory I realized that this is my last piece of 12x18 Kitty Wallis dark-toned pastel paper, purchased perhaps 15 years ago! I have since adopted Uart as my prime pastel paper, sticking to the lighter beige-colored surface.

Check back for updates to this painting of Acadia National Park and the violent Atlantic!

My painting "Way Up North on Long Lake" has been framed! This is the first painting I have framed with anti-reflective museum glass. Here's the painting, as I line it up against the wall with other paintings I will hang at the Saline District Library later this month.

Don't forget to visit my ETSY shop! Blog readers always get this discount!

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