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StudioSense: Planning the Next Painting

The joy of being an artist is not so much the completed product as it is the process of creating the art in the first place! For this next painting, I decided to have a little bit of fun in the planning stage!

My next challenge is to create a pastel painting version of the following reference photo, taken at Glass Beach on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington this past March:

What stands out to me about this scene is the potential composition I can establish with the rocks on Glass Beach. The deep blue water as well as the impending storm expressed by the sky add to the drama. Below is a list of characteristics I plan to bring out in this painting. I would encourage all artists to list a few key characteristics that they wish to emphasize in a piece of art.

As I studied the rocks in the photo, I began to see patterns. This convinced me to arrange the rocks in a fashion that would draw the viewer into the landscape in a hopefully entrancing way! Below is a rough sketch of how I plan to place the rocks. The arrows denote the pattern and the places in the painting where the viewer's eyes will move. If done correctly, the eyes will gaze along the pattern in the rocks and exit viewing the horizon and sky. We'll "see" about that!

My next step was to denote values and add a few notes. The darkest elements of the scene will be the sharp shadows cast from the strong, early morning sun against the rocks.

Here is the sketch of the composition on the Uart 400 grade sanded paper. I applied an acrylic wash in the water, trying out some complementary color to the blue water (and a little experiment with pink near the shoreline). I blotted rock shadows to begin to convey the patterns I sought.

Time to start the pastel. In the version below, I blocked in the sky and clouds, then worked the blues of the water. I plan to do a pastel and alcohol wash underpainting of the beach before moving forward with applying pastel to the variety of rocks on Glass Beach.

Next step is to work on an underpainting of pastel washed with isopropyl alcohol. First, I laid down varying strokes of dark blue and orange pastel, trying to stick with my compositional pattern of rocks:

Then I spread the pastel with a foam brush. I used two brushes, one for the lighter, mostly orange pastel, and the other for the darks. Otherwise I would find that the pastel wash would dominate the darker values.

So now I have a lot of rocks to paint! However, I will not go overboard with "drawing," but will focus on the masses, the main rocks to capture the viewer's focus, and the early morning light.

I will soon post the next chapter of this Glass Beach pastel painting!

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