Coastal Hills in Late Summer

Since I had all the pastels out from Tuesday’s class, before I straightened up the mess in the studio, I decided on another study. This time, the oak-covered hills of California. In spring, the hills are brilliantly green, often covered with wildflowers, such as poppies and lupines. As spring gives way to summer, the heat comes, and the grasses dry out. Perfect conditions for all these dreadful wildfires of late . . . Anyway, the coast can be socked in with the summer fog, but inland, the hills are under the brilliant sun. As you look toward the Pacific, you can see the “fog monster” lurking on the other side of the range.

Poppies in Pastels

This is the second week of an online class in pastels, through the local adult school. I had begun the class last spring, a couple of weeks before the pandemic lock down hit California. I got my money refunded, which was good as I’d only had 2 of 8 classes under my belt. This fall, the same school and same teacher are available as a virtual class, using Zoom.

I am not a big fan of online classes that are live simply because I love the real-world interactions of students and teacher. Being able to wander around a classroom, have a conversation or two, discuss things with a teacher in depth (and close up!) when painting are all big, big advantages to a lap top and a poor monitor, as well as limited video capabilities. Still, learning does happen! I just like real life better than virtual. Nonetheless, critiques are possible as are good suggestions, some of which helped my painting out a lot.

That said, it is fun to paint in pastels. Here, the California Poppy Reserve was the subject matter, particularly wonderful after the beautiful, wet spring and “super bloom” we had. I used 400 grit Uart sanded paper, Rembrandt and Nupastels with a bit of charcoal, and sealed it with a Krylon semi-gloss acrylic finish.

Study at Pt. Lobos

You could spend your life exploring and drawing and painting Pt. Lobos in the Monterey area. Here is a quick study in pastels. This was a particularly difficult one to do because of the nature of the medium – messy and full of fine dust!

The distant cliffs across the waters are seen through the trees. Unlike gouache, you cannot paint over layers as successfully in pastels. More layers mean less success, even when you use a workable fixative. In watercolor masking can help as well as the fact you work from light to dark, so darker watercolor can obscure lighter washes.

In the end, the sky was a messy mush up weirdness – the white scribbles were my solution to the problem, but oddly, it did help out in the end. The sky was a flat grey, and here it gives the same flatness of color that morning.

Field of Flowers

I did a painting in pastels yesterday.  Out of practice!  Plus, I had to contend with curling paper, new pastels that are softer than what I am used to, a new fixative, and the fact that one of my boxes of 90 colors fell to the floor.  You can imagine that mess.  A day later, and the pastels are out, still jumbled, along with the curling paper, etc.

Antidote needed!

Flowers are always cheerful subjects, particularly those in a field.  Walking through the field, hearing the birds and hum of insects, feeling the itch of the grasses, is something I love and wanted to capture.  I think I did.  Such happiness!

Tanglewood (Pastels)

Another series of three to emerge from this Land of Pandemica, where house arrest prevails and imagination runs wild!

I took this picture about a month ago, just as the shelter-in-mandate order came down from on high.  I really like this picture because of its moodiness and the brightness of the leaves.  It looks pretty mysterious, but in reality that is an effect of the editing.  Still, I like it enough to give it an attempt for a number of reasons!  There is a rhythm in the trees and their curves.  The leaves on the ground lie fairly horizontally, while the green leaves are vertical.  All these conspire to challenge me . . . So, without further ado, below is the first attempt, in pastels as today is dedicated to pastels!

As you can see, I moved the leaves from vertical to a bit more diagonal.  I also added some “stuff” to the lower left corner as the original photo was pretty dark and lacking in detail.  The floor of last year’s leaves are more orange than beige.  I tried to pay attention to my marks – the stroke of the pastel stick – as well as to doing some negative painting to help the lighter areas stand out.

I am a fairly pleased with this painting.  Pastels are more forgiving than either gouache or watercolor – especially watercolor! – and because of this, I can think about contrast and structure a bit as I go along.  It may make the final one (watercolor) easier to do after the next one, which will be in gouache.

 

The Slough II (Pastels)

A second rendition of “The Slough, II”, this time in pastels on Mi Teintes 9×12 paper.  Perspective is fixed, and I like this version so much better!

The original “The Slough, II” was done in gouache a few days ago – you can see it in my earlier post.  That version was totally wackadoodle in the world of real perspective – the only part that worked out was the front curve of sand, whereas the midground and background didn’t work.  Fraggy (another blogger!) had some good insights about the issues.

In thinking about Fraggy’s comments as well as reviewing what I did, I really have no excuse.  I just did a very, very poor drawing on the paper, sort of sketching things in without checking their relationships.  So, today, I worked on the drawing a bit, and the result is much better.  I considered vanishing points and straight lines, et cetera, et cetera.

I really feel so at home with pastels.  My only complaint is that the end product is easily smeared, even with the use of “final” fixatives.  I need to research that a bit . . .

The Slough (Pastels)

I have been busy sewing masks for friends and family, and it’s been a slow process, taking a lot of time. However, I am back to my determination to paint or draw something every day, either in the morning or in the afternoon. As I had an appointment this morning, I used this rainy, rainy afternoon to paint the Goleta Slough. Or part of it. Generally speaking, I rather like it – all those little dabs of white, grey, and black are seagulls and other critters. The sand jutting out needs to be fixed – seems like it is riding upward or something, but …. ?

Lavender Field

Pastels are getting to be addictive.  Unfortunately, this scan for some reason came out a bit too yellow-green, but I wasn’t interesting in putzing with it!

I tried a few different things here – in particular how I made marks.  Vertical and horizontal to contrast.  Obviously the lavender is vertical and tilty, but in between, horizontal helps create some interest.  The trees I used a torchon to scumble and blend the colors, as well as push shapes into the sky.

I know I am getting addicted to this – I just ordered a roll of Uart 600 grit sanded paper – 56 x 10 yards.  That should last awhile!  This was done on a 9 x 12 inch bit of Canson Mi Teintes, which is a very nice paper, but unsanded.  I like them both.

Northern Marsh

Still working in pastel.  I cleaned up the pastels I was using yesterday by putting them in a container of corn meal and shaking them gently.  It did the job.  I also took a different approach to today’s painting, and the difference is evident to me (cuz I did it!).

I decided to use a piece of 7×11 Uart 800 sanded pastel paper, which is the finest grit in the Uart series.  I bought a sample pack a while back, and now that I think I get how to use pastels fairly well, I thought it was time to begin.  Having cleaner pastels also helped.  I also decided to work from light to dark this time, like a watercolor, and it seems to have been a bit more successful.  My colors were getting rather muddy in the last one.  I also did not apply any fixative to the painting until it was done.  In the others I had used workable fixative between layers.

Overall, rather a bit more pleased with this pastel painting than yesterday’s.  It was more pleasant to do, probably in part because I simplified my approach.  Working light to dark – putting in the sky and water first – may also have helped.  The Uart 800 sanded pastel paper was really nice, too, and gave a nice smooth finish as the paper has a very fine tooth to it.  I used a final fixative on it, but I am still unsure how many layers of final fixative are to be used.

Now, time to attach sleeves to the sweater I am knitting!