Monday, March 03, 2008


Fickle, I tell you! I'm talking about pastels. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't, you just never ever know.

Let's talk about MARCH MADNESS. I don't mean silly basketball, but the real thing. Well, I had this bright idea that I was going to give myself the challenge of trying to do a pastel landscape every night except Thursdays in the month of March. Sounds like a good idea, right? So, of course, on Saturday March 1, I have to prep a bunch of boards and paper to do it all on.

I start out with a stack of archival mat boards, and using a pre-cut mat, measure off an 11" x 14" area on each of them. Then I sketch in a border around THAT, just to give a little wiggle room. That way matting anything that happens to be framable will be simple -- it is already on the right place on the board ... yada yada yada.

The boards are prepped with a mix of acrylic matte medium, a squirt of brown acrylic paint (thanks, Zelma!), and a few spoonfuls of something-or-other-oxide-I-think grit, which I got from Paul at one of his workshops. I do all of this on a table out in the garage, with the door open for ventilation. Something about that grit makes me not want to inhale too deeply... Basically what I'm doing is making my own inexpensive sanded surface. Tons cheaper than Colorfix or Wallis, and you can customize the color and amount of grit. I accidentally mixed up more stuff than planned, so I was able to prime six mat boards AND about six 11 x 14 pieces of 300# watercolor paper. You can basically use this to prep anything for pastel use, or so I hear.

Notice the baggie of white powder in the bottom right corner? That's the grit. It stays out in my garage, and it just occurred to me that I should label it. (I wonder how many hits I'll get on this site because of the phrase "baggie of white powder"?? Sorry, guys -- wrong stuff!)

Well, of course the boards had to dry. And I had to gather some reference photos.

Sunday, March 2. If I'm going to do a painting every day but Thursday, I'm ALREADY a day behind.

Oh well. I'm using a photo from Wet Canvas that has had my eye for a long time. I think this is my favorite part of it all, and something I've started doing because it just feels so fun. I sketch out the drawing with a medium charcoal pencil - just a few lines -- and then take a filbert paintbrush and water and start making - you guessed it -- CHARCOAL washes. So much fun. I get to block in the medium darks, and then the real fun begins. While it is still wet, I draw back into it with the charcoal pencil. It makes the blackest black you ever saw. I could just do this all day long. Once it dries, the fickle pastel work starts.

A short while later I'm here. There's only a couple of places where I used the wet brush on the pastel -- on the dock in the lower right corner, on the very dark area in the upper right, and on the blue boat. Of course, it's bed time and I know I'm going to have to finish it on Monday. That means that as of March the 3rd, I will be TWO pieces behind.

At this point it occurs to me that a boat caught in the weeds along with a bunch of debris is not exactly a landscape. Huh. Next step -- modify the self imposed challenge from a pastel landscape every day except Thursday to several pastel pieces a week with a focus on the landscape. That feels better.

I don't know if it is finished (at the top) or not. It has to percolate for a week before I know. I may try to make it smoother, and I may want to leave it rough. I would love to hear thoughts about that -- ideas about the composition -- anything to help! My real goal for this month is to explore this medium, explore this new (to me) sanded surface, and learn what it might or might not do, so input is a good thing!

WHAT I LEARNED: This one was done on 300# cold press watercolor paper (prepped like above.) The watercolor paper is hard and bumpy, and the acrylic medium did not smooth it all out like I had thought it would, so the texture showed through on everything, making detail really difficult. However, look at how very very dark I was able to go -- I think that was because of the texture. So there were pluses and minuses.

And I was reminded that pastel is FICKLE!!! Will I make it through this March madness, or will I return to my senses? We shall see ...


mARTa said...

My eyes are tired so I'll have to read your post another day....but I want to tell you how much I love coming by to see your work. This looks so interesting and I can't wait to read how you did it. I so love coming along on your artistic journey!

Lin said...

It's GORGEOUS, Linda!! And I SO appreciate seeing just HOW it's done! I had absolutely NO idea of all the prep work for pastel!! WHEW! I'd be worn out before I even began! And I thought watercolor could be challenging!! SUPER SUPER job! And about that challenge -- how about a pastel landscape twice a month -- all he rest of the time you're in preparation!!! and that counts too!

William F. Renzulli said...

The painting is VERY nice, and you should be pleased with your efforts.

Also, unless you really enjoy all the prep work, try working on tinted, sanded pastel paper. It eliminates a lot of messy work and will add another dimension of pleasure to your work.

caseytoussaint said...

I really love this painting! Thank you for the explanations - I'm going to take some time and really study ho w you did this.

Teri C said...

This was really an informative post Linda. The use of pastels wanders around in my brain and I think it would be fun to try. You almost have me over the edge with this beauty.

Lindsay said...

Great project idea. I like the idea of prep too. I just wacked down 30 or so pieces of wc for my own project. I love doing this. You're off to a great start!

janey said...

I like the composition and the gritty stuff sounds interesting. Could you use it on your watercolor too? And this looks a painting. I love posts where people say how things are done.

seesue said...

A beautiful result and an extremely valuable post for us all. Thanks so much for the informative, well photographed progress and, since you've photographed each day's results, that counts as producing work (teaching) each day. Whella!

Toni said...

Linda so how is your March madness coming along. I'm 6 days late in seeing this but oh my I love it.
I love the roughness and it doesn't need detail. thanks for posting all the prep from the start. I learned something that I will have to give a try.

Rock Kyndl said...

Thanks for sharing your process...very interesting. The colors are nicely placed and bright.

dave h said...

fantastic! i love those oars, and the perspctive.. and everything! thank you so much for the play by play action; it's time consuming to write & it's apprecaited by people like me, that's for sure