Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pastel Portraits: Demo by Gwenneth Barth-White [feedly]

Pastel Portraits: Demo by Gwenneth Barth-White
// Artist's Network

In her pastel portraits, Gwenneth Barth-White draws on the delicate nuances and rich sensuousness of layered pastel, as seen in this step-by-step demonstration.

Barth-White charcoal value sketch

1. Charcoal value sketch

1. Charcoal Value Sketch:

The sun is setting low, casting a red-gold beam on my model from the window. I'm crazy about this light situation in pastel portraits, and do a small charcoal sketch to see how this arrangement would work as a painting. I photograph the scene quickly.




2. Color study

2. Color Study

Then a small sketch in pastel as a study for color is in order. Whether creating pastel portraits or still lifes or landscapes, I need to determine that a contrast between warm and cool complementary colors will work in the piece.



3. Pastel value drawing

3. Pastel Value Drawing

After viewing the studies, I'm still excited by what I see, so I decide to commit! On Clairfontaine's white Pastelmat mounted on Gatorboard, I sketch the scene and then draw it more precisely, leaving lots of space around my composition so that I can change it at will. I love to crop down to the essence of my pastel portraits, as this creates a sense of intimacy with the subject. I'm using a Caran d'Ache pastel pencil of the darkest brown, as well as the edge of Rembrandt's darkest grayish brown pencil. Establishing values at the beginning of a piece is vital, as these are the foundation of a painting.



4. Alcohol wash

4. Alcohol Wash

Next, a wash of alcohol with a bristle brush pushes these pigments into the paper so that the surface will be completely receptive to additional pigment when I start with the color.



5. Begin color

5. Begin Color

I start applying the color with Rembrandt and Girault pastels, slightly blending this layer and pushing it into the paper with a pastel pencil. I avoid touching the paper at any time, and do any blending with the pencil, a pastel stick or a piece of Styrofoam.



6. Model

6. Model

I try for a maximum of pigment (Pastelmat holds it surprisingly well), now using Girault and Unisons, blended or not with a pencil or a pastel stick. As with oils, a lot of pigment makes modeling in pastel especially delicious.



7. Experiment on a photo

7. Experiment on a Photo

This is a moment for decisions. I realize that this painting can only be primarily a value or a color piece. I'm stuck in the blahs and am really unhappy, so I photograph the piece (as seen in image 7) and print out a few copies of it on matte photo paper, which takes pastel. On these copies I try out strong color contrasts (nope) and dark neutrals (deadly). Working on small photos of your pastel portraits gives you the freedom to try out variations, while keeping the painting fresh.



8. Maximize contrast

8. Maximize Contrast

I decide to go for maximum contrast, simplifying the background with darks (but nourishing them with cool greens, purples, and blues), and maximizing the golden light that I'd first loved. But how can I make that sunlight vibrate? Each of my pastel portraits is a mystery that takes an arsenal of techniques to solve. I speckle rich ultra-soft Schmincke and Terry Ludwig oranges and yellows in the shirt and neck, blending it just a bit. This is incredibly fun.

9. Lay in Final Lights


9. "Greg" (pastel on paper, 7×13) by Gwenneth Barth-White

Bringing out those last lights with a Schminke pastel produces one of those truly great feelings. I force myself to stop before the painting becomes too tight. Greg (above) is complete.

See More Pastel Portraits by Notable Artists


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Battle of Five Armies 2014 [feedly]

Battle of Five Armies 2014
// Muddy Colors

By Justin Gerard

This is the third post on Beorne and Bolg at the Battle of the Five Armies. We are about 95% Finished!  Still a few odds and ends to tweak but it is getting to a nice stage of pleasant mayhem.

This time, instead of trying to explain how we went from here to here:

I am attaching a GIF to show the stages that the painting goes through.

I like making GIFS. Sometimes when I paint I feel like I am actually going backwards, making the piece worse minute by minute.  Seeing the actual progress of it can be really encouraging.

In the GIF you can see I am working values first before ever really getting into saturated colors.  That is because saturated colors are evil.

They are like petting a cat....

Everyone is purring and having a nice time when suddenly he whips around and tries to bite your hand off.
That is what working with saturated colors is like.

I am still working on some of the fine details, and of course my signature. (Everyone knows that the quality of one's painting is directly proportional to the size and complexity of the signature.)

After it is finished we plan to make prints of it in time to be released alongside sketchbook 2014...
Stay tuned!

For previous posts on this painting check out:

Post #1: Concept work
Post #2: The Tight Drawing


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Going Beyond the Facts [feedly]

Going Beyond the Facts
// Gurney Journey

Blog reader Haden asks: "Everyone is familiar with the rule - the darkest light in the light has to be lighter than the lightest dark in the shadow. Keep the light and dark tonal ranges separate to show realistic form. But I've seen a lot of paintings when an object with a dark local value is pretty dark even though it's in the light." 

Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923), "Sad Inheritance"

Haden continues: "Take for instance the Sorolla (painting above). The coat and the kids flesh are very different local values. According to that rule, the coat in the light should be lighter than the shadows on the kids (reflected light would be lightening their shadow sides a touch). But still the coat in the light is almost black, shouldn't it be a mid-grey?"

"If the answer is paint it as you see it, then it's not really a rule, is it? Isn't it more just a general guideline for scenes with objects similar in local value? "

Reply: Haden, you are very observant to notice that the Sorolla painting breaks the rule. I believe you are right. If this scene were actually staged outdoors in front of the sea with real people, the monk's cloak would be much lighter in the sunlight and the sea would be lighter and bluer. 

I found an alternate scan of the image which I would suppose is closer to the original, but even in this scan, the values of the cloak and the sea are still very dark.

The best answer I can give is that rules are made to be broken. The rule should be understood first, and then ignored whenever the story demands. Here, because the form of the monk is not as important as those of the children, a simple dark shape suffices. 

This is what Andrew Wyeth and other artists describe as "going beyond the facts." The painting "Sad Inheritance" is about the frailty of the human condition, the triumph of the spirit, and the gift of compassion. These are all fairly sober themes, calling for a sober palette of color and value. 

Sorolla tells a very different story in this painting of children running along the beach. It communicates pure exuberance and energy. Like the other painting, the figures are front-lit, with the sea behind them. But (assuming these scans are accurate) here the blue colors are stronger, and the foam is purer white, creating a more carefree mood. 

Sorolla's first sketch for "Sad Inheritance"
This is why it's so important to allow a composition to grow in the imagination or the memory before facing facts, regardless of whether those facts come from observation or photography. 


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