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StudioSense: Creating a Tiny Pastel

I've been experimenting lately with small format pastels. Creating a small painting can provide a good introduction to a larger version of the piece, or simply offer the pastelist the opportunity to experiment with a variety of techniques without using a large sheet of paper.

"Beachcombing," is a 4x6 pastel on Uart 400 grade sanded paper. The painting was inspired by searching for sea glass at Glass Beach on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Two techniques were used in creating this painting: an underpainting, and a decision to limit the work to a couple of color groups.

To warm up the canvas, I chose a yellow underpainting, applied with watercolor. Considering the shaded left portion of the scene, I applied a dark blue pastel, then diluted it with alcohol.

To enhance the warm glow of the beach, I tossed in a bit of orange:

The main colors of the painting are in the yellow-orange range of the color wheel, a rather limited analogous selection (see upper portion of wheel below). By introducing blue and purple, I provide the complement of the yellow-orange, which helps balance out the painting.

Choosing a limited selection of colors can create a pleasing painting that can enhance its realism and avoid startling contrasts of hue that can upset one's perception of the view. Often we ask ourselves "what is bothering me about this painting?" It could be a composition issue, improper value, or colors that agitate and conflict.

Last week I attended a pastel critique meeting organized by fellow Saline pastelist Linda Klenczar. Wes Rae attended and referenced Johannes Itten, author of The Elements of Color and The Art of Color. Sure enough, there is a wealth of opportunity to use color strategically to build a compelling piece of art!

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