Using Pastel to Quickly Lay In an Underpainting in Oil

If time is short, or the scene will quickly change, or I want to experiment with underlying color, I will lay in an oil painting using a hard pastel such as a NuPastel and then ‘melt’ the pastel with OMS (Odorless Mineral Spirits). Pastels have the same pigments as any other colored product but the binder is different. OMS will dissolve the binder and allow the pigment to adhere to the canvas whether it is oil or acrylic primed. You can see where I’ve done this in another posts here.

In this painting I was after one major goal….to get the grapes to really glow. I thought the best way to do this would be to lay in the grapes with a color that is analogous to the general hue (color) of the red grapes. I chose a reddish plum because it is in the red family and the lighter, brighter orange would pop against it.

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In this image you can see the still life I’m going to paint in the upper left corner. The orange pastel is where the lightest part of the grapes will be.

For the green bottle I used a brighter pink as I wanted to dull down the green. I could have used an analogous color such as Cobalt or Cerulean which would have pushed the green better, and I might in a future study.

Notice that I just mass in large blocks of shapes. It’s these large blocks that I will make more specific as I move through the painting. At this stage I want to establish where things will go and their relationship to each other. One thing I ignored in laying in the pastel is the light/dark relationship. In fact, the bottle is darker than the grapes which are, for the most part, a dark middle and a dark value, and the background a light value. The lines that you see in green are compositional lines that I often use to help with the design and to quickly lay in an accurate drawing.

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I’m starting to lay in the dark dull green of the bottle and in the next photo I’m starting to add the lighter yellowish green elements of the bottle and the background

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Once I’ve set the value and hue I can start to move on to the grapes. The biggest challenge is getting the grapes to glow. Grapes are semi-translucent and I want to emphasize all the warm rich colors that are in them. One way is by using a green bottle as that is the opposite of red/orange. The other way will be to play warm/cool of the grapes and to add bits of grey. Because grey is so neutral it is a wonderful color that will help the color shine.

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Im still keeping the grapes rather blocky and loose, only establishing large shapes and light/dark relationships. I’m starting to make more distinctions in the dark areas by adding some darker and cooler spots of color as well as darker and warmer spots of color. Because I want to highlight the warmth and glow of the light part of the grapes I’m making sure to make the darker masses cooler in the area closest to the bright and light section. In the end, the goal is to have it read as true even if it isn’t exactly what my eye might be seeing.

The next step is to start refining the shapes of the grapes and the background. I keep checking through my viewfinder to make sure I’ve not lost my compositional structure and one of those is the triangle shape that is created from where the grapes lay on the ground plane and then start to move up.

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Finally, I will add any other details that will help the final result….color, temperature, drawing, highlights, and hard/soft edges.

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If you want to see a time lapse video of this click here.

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Art is Even in Your Latte

Art is never ever cancelled in the home-schooling community. Home school teachers, whether they be parents or other types of teachers, know that the arts is not only valued, but seen as completely relevant and especially important part of a well educated person. As a teacher, painter and draftsperson, ¬†who has taught art for the last 8 years and who also lives with an architect, I can tell you the importance of art instruction in one’s life. And I can show you by example how my own grown children benefited from exposure to the arts.

The creation of art in any form, whether it be 2 dimensional such as drawing, painting, collage, or 3 dimensional such as pottery, sculpture, or architecture, forces us to slow down. In a world that runs on nano-seconds, it’s hard to slow down and find the quiet where listening, experimentation, and creativity come from. It, slowing down to listen and create, is an important a skill as any other.

Art (and music as well) teaches us to not only look but to see. It gives us permission, in fact forces us, to see things from more than one view point. It allows for multiple mistakes and encourages multiple corrections.

Art is, 100%, in EVERYTHING we buy, touch, wear, sit on, travel in, and walk through. Art is in science and math. As an example look at the Fibonacci sequence, a conch or nautilus shell, and design concepts. Or Sacred Geometry. Or map-making. And why is a picture worth a thousand words? Because of the feelings evoked which are sometimes harder to express in words. Art works with the rhythm of music and the rhythm of words because as a designer we want to lead the viewer on a path. Sometimes it’s fast, other times slow, sometimes staccato.

Obviously I’m biased. But the next time you sit down with a latte and see a beautiful design laid into the foamed milk, remember that’s a form of art too.

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