Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pastel Step by Step Demo

Hi... I'm working on another large studio painting right now and will probably be posting the results in a couple of days or so. In the mean time I'm resurrecting a pastel demo that I did a few years ago for the online magazine 'Tastes Like Chicken'. I'm not even sure if it's still in existence anymore??? I haven't photographed one in some time on location so this one is back. Setting up and shooting one on location is fraught with hazards. If you do this, you need the camera on a tripod left in the same location and because it's probably not far behind your working station, it's easy to back into it and knock it over...done that! Oh, then there's remembering to take photos at the key places in the progression...have forgotten to do that too! Or the battery dies, the sun shifts (because the painting goes too long)...blah, blah, blah! Maybe I'll do one again soon???? :-)

This was a plein air piece, painted in west central Wisconsin at a park called 'Rieck's Lake Park' (spelling?). It's the mouth of the Buffalo River and on the border of MN/WI and right next to the "Mrs-sippi" River (that's my own short cut in spelling :-), into which it empties. When I lived in southern MN I used to paint at this location a lot summer, spring, fall and winter. In the spring and fall it's a holding spot for all types of waterfowl and birds of prey. Most importantly for Swans ( thousands ) and Bald Eagles.

I spent the normal hour and a half on the painting plus the time to step back and click the shutter on the camera behind me. The pastel is painted on Wallis 'Belgian Mist' sanded pastel paper. I loved this paper but then the surface grit changed and it just didn't cut the grade for me anymore. Now I use 'UArt' sanded paper in various grits.

The final piece is called "Glorious Fall" and is 10x12.

Step 1- Graphite pencil lay in of basic shape divisions. I use a lead holder and either 5H or 2H on the sanded paper.

Step 2- Initial block in of color. From this step forward it's just a refining of the elements of the composition and details.

Step 3- I first add the pastel in a fairly 'open' stroke, meaning that I don't smother the paper with pastel pigment just yet.

Step 4- Once I have the major areas blocked in, I use a paper towel, usually a Viva, to 'wash' the initial pastel layers into the paper surface. I can't make the pastel transparent, as with oil, so this is the way to do that to some visual degree. It also unifies the surface and covers a lot of the paper's texture. I like the texture showing through a little so I don't completely cover it up. Sometimes this step of washing with a towel creates surfaces that are just gorgeous and are left, or left with only a little addition of more pastel.

Step 5- From this step forward I am squinting "very hard" to eliminate all but the strongest lit parts of the trees and leaves. I want to paint the essence of the detail, not all of the detail. Really squinting down eliminates all but the strongest shapes in the very bright lights and very dark accents.

Step 6 - Finish.
I remember this day as one of those 'file this one' sort of fall days. People all over along the river road viewing fall color and hitting the little cheese and apple shops that line the roads in this part of Wisconsin. The swans had not shown up in force yet, but there were plenty of coots.


Carol Schiff Daily Painting said...

It's beautiful and delicate Marc. Makes me want to get out my pastels and give them another try!

Frank Gardner said...

Great step by step Marc. I dont do pastels, but it is fun to hear about the process. The "wash" stage is interesting.

Donna T said...

I had saved this demo from WetCanvas and refer to it often, Marc. So far I'm having good luck with the Viva wash on UArt 600. Sure, I have to blow off the little crumbs that form but it's worth it to get a more subtle layer of pastel. Best wishes for a very successful 2009!

Solvay said...

I haven't even looked past the first sketch - there's something about sketches that just rips open my heart - always has been that way.
---just had to comment on that instantly before even looking down at what comes next.
I think that's the first sketch you've posted. My heart is ripped open. Wide.
: )

on to the color part. then the word part.

Solvay said...

yep. the color - that's what it's like. Those dark trunk shadows and the light in the water "frame" the rest of it for me. Not sure if that's what they're supposed to do, but that's what does it for me out there in the 3D world on days like that, and there it is in your 2D rendering of it. Really warm and crisp all at once, like apple slices in cheese fondue!
: )

And, as for the words - VIVA - definitely the best! Rah rah!
And that "wash" thing - I love that suede-y texture!!!

Still, today, the sketch did it for me. ...put a smile on my face after a long, long day. Thanks!

Kim VanDerHoek said...

Very interesting to see the pastel process. I often paint with a friend who brings along her pastels but by the time I think to check on her progress she's almost done, so the whole thing is a mystery to me.

Do you ever make your own pastels? My friend mentioned that they are quite easy to make.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Carol... no time like the present!!! ;-) I should get mine out too.
The nice thing about pastels is, as you know, you can work a little, go away, come back and nothing has dried or changed in any way making it a very nice medium for working on a painting in broken sessions. That's one of the nicest things about pastel in my mind.
Thanks Carol.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thank you Frank. The 'wash' is my way of capturing one of the best qualities of oil paint, transparency. There are plenty of other techniques like using a water or oil based media to block in the pastel painting before adding pastel to it. I do sometimes use gouache as an under painting or even oil washes. But I prefer to use the pastel itself in this way.

You should try. Living where you do, with the weather you have, pastel would be a great medium for on location work. Rainy Seattle is not a place for pastel.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thank you Donna. I hear you. The Belgian Mist as it 'was' was nearly a perfect paper. I was so bummed out when it changed. UArt is a pretty good sub, but it just 'ain't' the same animal.
I think the blog format is a much better forum for this kind of thing than even WC, don't you?

Marc R. Hanson said...

Solveg... This must be the 'raw' musician coming out in you. I imagine that a sketch is like an impromptu jam session for a musician. In it's raw form ( think of kid's art ), like a sketch before refinement, art is the most personal be it a draft manuscript for a poem or letter, painting or, my favorite kind of working music, Jazz.

Color is 'icing' on the cake. Can't wait to get there but hate to cover up the initial 'idea' marks made by the lowly graphite tool.

Seeing a good pencil drawing is like being back to birth. Most of us started to be artists with a pencil, or a Crayola in the case of the little 'Monet's' out there. But a good drawing made with charcoal or graphite, or modern pen, brings me back to a "primordial" artist state of mind.

Thanks for the comments. Happy for smiles... :-)

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hi Kim... Yeah, pastel... the fastest medium on the planet. ;-)

Seriously, it's a Very, very nice medium for location work. Only drawback is that to feel like you're getting the most out of it, as a representational painter, you need a LOT of pastels. That means carrying out a palette (see my avatar) with at least a couple of hundred tints, shades and colors. I break mine into small 1/2" pieces, brush size, and that allows me to have around 300 tints and shades of a decent number of colors. But... as we like to say... You can never have enough pastels.

I have not made pastels. I've come close to doing it.

Just like I've come close to grinding my own oil colors, I do prime my own linen occasionally with rabbit skin glue and lead white, make my own gatorboard linen boards, stretch linen, do the occasional construction from raw materials and eventual gilding of frames, build crates, publish prints and book...well, you get the idea.

The thought has crossed my mind to weave the linen...I jest... and I have also made my own varnishes (damar crystals)... oh...if there were only more time.

I'm just being goofy, but seriously, I don't need one more 'thing to do' that takes me away from painting. ;-)

If all that I did was pastel, I'd make them. It would cost a lot less, I could control the hard or softness of the sticks, and I could come up with that one color that I desperately need but cannot find in the store.

You should try pastel????

Solvay said...

Sketches are transparent and show both a person's chops and what they see first, I think. And, yes, jazz improv is the best musical analogy, I guess.

William R. Moore said...

Would you please clarify the process: "I use a paper towel, usually a Viva to 'wash' the initial pastel layers into the paper surface." "Wash", is that with a wet(watercolor wash) or dry towel(rub in)? I assume that you mean wet(wash)but not certain.

Another question occurred while reading and looking at your demo. When painting in oil, which do you use more often a color
value block-in or monochrome value block-in?

Marc, I agree on the value of blogs. Thanks for sharing the demo.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hi William. Thanks for the questions.
I use the term 'wash' just to imply what we would do with a wet medium, spread the pigment around in a transparent sort of manner. But...the so called Viva 'Wash' is a dry method. On these finer sanded papers it's a way of taking the broken strokes of pastel and unifying them across the surface of the paper, and leaving the resulting 'massing' in as a fairly transparent passage.
Like I said, I could use water or another solvent (thinner, alcohol) to do this but those all change the value of the pastel. And they stay wet for at least a little time.
The Viva wash doesn't darken or stay wet and is why I prefer that way of doing this.

The answer to your second question would be that more often I use a direct, go for the accurate color and value, block in. Seldom a strict value block in.

William R. Moore said...

Hey Marc,
Thanks for the clarification and answer to question.

Glad, you have been posting a little more frequently. Enjoy your work and blog.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thanks William.

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this beautiful picture and demo - and with such high-res pictures too! You definitely make me want to attempt pastel sometime. I have heard that the softness of pastels vary by brand. Is this true? Do you stick to one brand or use multiple, depending on what type of look/edge you want to achieve? Thanks again!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Jeremy... You're welcome.

Pastels definitely come in different degrees of hardness and most pastelists do have specific uses for them accordingly.

Follow this link :
to Dakota pastels and a chart listing them in order of softness to hardness.

I would guess that I use appx. 10 different brands. The other reason for so many brands is that it's likely that you won't find that 'secret' weapon color unless you search the racks for it and that might entail a supply of pastels from different makers being store piled until the 'secret' color is eventually discovered... or not! ;-)

What else is there to spend money on anyway????

Joe Kresoja said...

this is very nice!

Susan said...

Marc, I too had seen the demo on Wet Canvas, but am so glad to see again... Thanks! Love your work! Great job! Susan

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thank you Joe...
Your gouache head studies are wonderful!!!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hi Susan... Thank you. I need to do another one but until then thought that this might be of interest to the 'bloggers'. Looks like WC has spawned a lot of the bloggers too.

Solvay said...

thanks for the Folk Alley listening between students!

Theresa Rankin said...

This step by step is so beautiful...I do admire your style. I find great inspiration in your work Mark. You are truly a talent!

Leslie Saeta said...

Hey stranger! I just found your blog. I love it and am still one of your biggest fans. It's been a few years since I took your workshop but you will be proud ... I have been painting a lot. I follow your work, art shows and am sad I missed the California workshop but the kids schedules are tough. You are an inspiration. Thanks!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Theresa... I truly Thank You! :) And... it is 'truly' my pleasure and joy to share with all of you painters out there.

Marc R. Hanson said...

HEY LESLIE!!! Great to hear from you. Yep, missed you in California too. Have to say though that the dates we were there were less than 'California-like'. The weather truly did a number on us. Amazing we all stuck around till the end.
Hey... you are Right, you are painting a lot I see. I'll take more time and dig around your blog and website when I can. But looks to me like you're getting to spend more time painting than before??? I hope so.
Thanks again pal....


Leslie Saeta said...

I am spending more time painting. Work has slowed down a bit and I am finally enjoying myself. But I am still using only a palette knife. I just can't seem to figure out how to use a brush. Go figure ...

Solvay said...

It is SO BEAUTIFUL OUT today - yes, I must be the only minnesotan NOT complaining about the -21 temps.... - but I do hope you're not outside painting in this.....but, I also do hope you have a good inside place to sit and paint it - it's stunning. The air density magnifies the light - so great! I hope you're enjoying it in a warm place!!!!!!!!!!

Billy Guffey said...

Thanks for the demo, Marc. I get so much out of watching how others approach their work.

lisagloria said...

Marc that was wonderful! Your blog is going on my favorites list right this minute. Thanks for putting the demo together.


Marc R. Hanson said...

Solveg it's still just too cold! Although today it's 40degrees warmer than it was yesterday morning, it's still not even above 20F! And that's with a wind of 20mph... I'm inside.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Bill I do too. I could spend a life just watching other painters paint. Well... at least I could for a while until the pressure to grab a brush and dive in drove me to my own easel.

I'm glad that you liked this one.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Lisa!!! Hi and you are welcome.

I just ran across your blog a few days ago ( I don't even know where or how??? ) and it's been on my blog bookmark list since then. I was just there reading your post, think it was yours, about the question regarding why it's difficult to paint in a naturalistic/realistic manner. That is a great topic. I had a long reply at one point, but had to sign on to post and "G-oops-le" cut me out and I lost the post!!! I will get back there to try again.

You guys are posting some Great things there. Thank you.

I have a Krylon "Never do this" to post too.

So, thanks! I look forward to keeping in touch with what you are doing on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Marc! What a treat to run across this step by step. We purchased Glorious Fall painting last year and I printed out the step by step from Wet Canvas and now I have this from your blog.
I have not started blogging yet but I am almost there. Retirement is in just four months! Hurray! I will have energy to paint and time to get out for plein aire work. Can't wait for the weather to start warming up.
Margie Larson

Jo Castillo said...

I am pleased to find your blog and this demo again. Very useful info. Thanks.