Ten details from Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Peasant Wedding (1567)
// Paying Debt to Nature with a Death as Obscure
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Like many, if not most, classifications of groups of artists, the "Hudson River School" was not a term invented by the artists themselves, but assigned by gallery owners and art historians to classify a number of artists with similar inclinations, most of whom worked in New York State in the mid-19th century.
Another assignment of a category by art historians on a sub-set of those painters is luminism, referring to painters who eventually began to dissolve the detailed representation of landscape into soft edged evocations of light and color.
Foremost among these was John Frederick Kensett, an American painter who studied in Europe, and whose initial admiration for the detailed naturalism of the 17th Dutch landscape masters, and the refined devotion to nature exemplified by Constable, gradually evolved into a Turneresque dissolution of detail-filled compositions into serene arrangements of land, sea and sky, in which light predominates.
Though dramatically different in painting style, the painters classed as luminists had in common with the later French Impressionists a desire to represent the effects of light and atmosphere. Over time, Kensett's compositions became simplified, stripped of the inessential, and reduced to a poetic still point of light and color.
I very much like both phases of Kensett's career: the wonderfully textural naturalism more commonly associated with the second generation Hudson River painters, and the lyrical whispers of his later canvasses.
|Cirque Tents by Terri Ford, pastel painting.|
Major build-up. To get a vibrant glowing surface when painting pastel works, start by putting down a layer of color with the side of a soft stick of pastel. Then spray fixative over the area. Then apply another layer of color, and so on. You can lay down as many layers as you want, fixing in between each one. You can also allow the fixative to dry or experiment with your surface while it is wet.
Feather light. With pastels, it is easy to inadvertently blend or rub in areas, whether by resting your hand on the surface or as a result of too much blending and overlaying of color in a given passage. To brighten up an area again with visual interest, take a hard pastel or pencil and make vertical strokes over the area. It will allow the surface beneath to show through, but will no longer be a flat passage of color as it is built up with the addition of these feathered strokes.
|Architectural Remnants |
by Charles Timken, pastel painting.
If you really want to explore all the layering possibilities that pastel painting has to offer, landscape painting with pastels is the way to go. There's nothing more dynamic than nature, and using pastel to capture it can be an exciting challenge. Liz Haywood-Sullivan just the artist to lead us through the process. Her DVD, Landscape Painting in Pastel, is a wonderfully in-depth resource that gives us a solid foundation for understanding this beautiful medium and how to apply it to the landscape. Enjoy!
P.S. Do you have any strategies on layering pastels? Please share and leave a comment!