Painting with pastels – some different approaches

I wasn’t happy with where I left the pastel exercise and, having read some of Bill Creevy’s The Pastel Book, I wanted to try a more impressionistic approach in order to develop atmosphere and mood.  I have continued the series with three drawings (all roughly A4) employing different approaches and on different colour papers.  In the first, I prepared an under-painting using pastel pencils, stroked on to the paper.  I used colours that are analogous to the intended surface colours.  The ground was a grey mix Daler-Rowney pastel paper. The blending has improved and there is a sense of distance and light. I am not sure about ending a diagonal at a corner – it tends to “slice” the paper, visually-speaking, and so draws the eye very quickly into the background.



The second drawing was made on blue pastel paper using using chalky pastels of unknown provenance.  I added touches of red to bring out the foliage – there is too much in the background.  The strokes in this one were made using the pastels on their side often for broader strokes, as well as stumbling to create a more broken texture. The composition is slightly altered – I have brought the viewer closer, reducing the foreground expanse of cornfield and enlarging the sky. The sky needs more development as it has now become the dominant focus. 



The third drawing was made on A4 watercolour paper using Jaxon soft pastels and the chalky pastels with touches of pastel pencils, too. This time, I used a complementary underpainting first in fluid watercolour (Ecoline) and aimed to cover most of the paper. The foreground texture was created incidentally using kitchen paper in order to lighten the centre of the field.  I can imagine using this elsewhere in the future.



I began stroking the chalky pastels over the underpainting using predominantly one direction. 



The finished drawing is below.  Although the underpainting can only be detected in a few places, the drawing overall is warmer but less atmospheric than the first one. I have brought the trees more into the foreground and the field feels more enclosed, more like a wide path. There is more interest in the sky due to the darker underpainting although this is exaggerated in the photo.



Where to from here?  Although pastels are not a main medium of the painting course, I would like to refine my technique such that I can use them to interpret landscapes in a semi-abstract way as much for my own satisfaction as for the course.  I have begun to do this here.  This is unlikely to be the end of the series – I would like to explore the subject in different lighting and at different times of year.  I also need to find a way to develop foreground interest.  However, I have shown that by zooming in or pulling back, the viewer experiences a scene in completely different ways because it alters the balance of the composition.  

In future, I will use paper intended for pastels as the experience of drawing on such paper, compared with a smoother surface or a cheaper watercolour paper is much improved. Coloured grounds also contribute greatly to the mood, whether that is the colour of the paper as manufactured or as a watercolour wash. I would be interested in trying differently textured backgrounds such as sandpaper, or creating my own using a fine structure paste, for example, or sand mixed with gesso. 



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