It is hard to get started. There always seems to be something else that needs to get done. Painting time often takes a back seat. Especially when you haven't even been home for much of the summer!
When I return home form this trip I will have a long list of things I need to do but it is important for me to make a little time in my day to paint. I don't need much time. Under 30 minutes is enough. I think of painting time like doing a workout...30 minutes helps keep me fluent and flexible. All of my daily workouts add up and makes me a better painter.
Making time to paint is easier if you know in advance what you are going to paint. Having a selection of reference photos or subjects already planned saves much time and energy.
TIP: Spend some non painting time choosing reference photos and clipping them to the paper you will use. Put these painting ideas in a pile. When it is time to paint only choose from this pile. Feel free to add to the pile only during non-painting time. Generating a stockpile of painting ideas during downtime allows you to be more productive when it is time to paint.
'Happiness' 6x6 pastel sold
Today's paintings took about 30 minutes. I was able to start painting as soon as I went down into the studio because I had a pile of photos and papers all ready. I was able to get into the zone quickly. I enjoyed the first painting(top) and wanted to do more! I was inspired by the first painting to zoom in closer to the Hollyhocks and paint another version.
Often the act of painting will generate ideas for other paintings. My first painting inspired several new ideas that I look forward to exploring.
It was easy to get started when I have so many painting ideas all ready and waiting. It was just a matter of making time and ignoring all distractions! How do you generate painting ideas? Share in the comments!
It was an old and dirty piece of paper. It had been mounted on foamcore sitting in a pile waiting for inspiration to strike. But it had gotten buried in the pile and now was covered in splotches of random color. I never waste paper so I decided to use it and wash in the colors with a wet underpainting.
My subject was a scene from my last summer trip to France. Our home base in Normandy was surrounded by wheat fields. (technically they could have been barley but wheat seems more romantic somehow) Every evening after dinner we would go for a walk through the village and up into the fields. At the highest point you could see far into the distance and see the beach and water. It was an inspiring place and was especially inspiring one evening when the sun broke through the gray clouds of a rainy day.
Read on to see how I used the underpainting to help express what I remember of that evening.
I used two Derwent Inktense sticks to draw and block in the main shapes. I used a dark blue and dark purple. I used a stiff brush and water to create a wash with the ink. I was very happy to see how the water interacted with the inktense. It produced some interesting drips. I'm not sure what the yellow stain was but it was on my paper and seemed waxy. It resisted the ink and water. I liked it.
Because I really enjoyed what happened in the underpainting I wasn't sure how much pastel I wanted to use. I had to take baby steps and sneak up on the underpainting with pastel. I started with the most important thing first.....the yellow light on the wheat fields. I very tentatively added light layers of gold and green to the field.
I slowly added more pastel....an even lighter yellow on the filed and more greens in the grass hill. I chose to leave the yellow sloth in the tree. Just because.
I wanted to add some green to the trees but I started with a purple to match the color and value of the underpainting. Then I began to develop the tree.
I saved the sky for last. This isn't the usual way I work But since I liked the underpainting I wanted to let it do most of the work. The color and value of the sky were close to what I wanted so a decided to use a few warm and cool purples to lightly layer in the sky. I added a few pale yellow clouds to make a connection to the fields and the sky was finished.
All that was left to do was add the final marks....the spices. I chose a wonderful rich blue and made a few marks. Can you spot them? It was fun to work this way and allow myself to be guided by the underpainting. Painting notes: 10x10 on Uart 500 grade with Terry Ludwig and Unison pastels
Enjoy this post from the archives while I am away in Provence. I have my trusty portfolio book with paper with me!
One of the most important things to consider when traveling with pastels is how to carry and store your paper and finished paintings. I have been using this solution for several years and It has been the Best!! Read on to see how I transport my paper and paintings.
Plastic portfolio books by Itoya
When I travel I bring an assortment of my favorite sanded pastel papers. Uart, Pastel Premier,
Tip: Bring paper that you are familiar with. Unless you have a lot of room and want to experiment and play it is safer to work on paper you know.
I cut full sheets of the papers into smaller sizes both 5x7 and 8x10. I use a ruler and scissors or utility knife to cut the paper. (saves money)
I sometimes tone some of the Uart paper in my favorite plein air color (a medium value gray)
I fill my Itoya plastic portfolio folders wit the cut paper. These folders have plastic sleeves that work great for protecting and transporting paper.
I put finished paintings back into the plastic sleeve of the folder. This is how I transport and protect my finished paintings. (yes a little residual pastel dust is left on the plastic but not enough to harm the painting.)
The plastic folders are great for sharing your work with others and keeping the paintings safe.
The loaded folders are slipped into my backpack. The perfect solution for keeping both paper and paintings safe!
Are you dealing with the greens of summer? This post from the archives will give you some tips!
It's been raining in Georgia just about everyday this summer. So everything is very lush and green. My weeds are out of control. But it's raining so I spent the day inside painting instead of pulling weeds. I decided to paint a summer landscape from a tiny photo I took of a roadside mountain stream. I took some progress photos so follow along and see how I tried to make a very green landscape interesting.
I started the painting on a piece of Uart 600 grit paper with a loose charcoal drawing. I then underpaint the shapes with some orange and red NuPastels. I blend in the Nupastel with a piece of pipe insulation foam. I chose the reds and orange because I knew I would be adding a lot of green. So in using the compliment of the greens I would make the greens more exciting.
I started blocking in the dark shapes. I am now using soft pastels. This painting was done only using Terry Ludwig pastels. Next I put in the bright yellows in the sunlit areas of the grass. One of the things I liked about this scene was the strong light and shadow patterns so I wanted to be sure to get them in place early on.
I am using a variety of greens from Terry Ludwig's green set. I have some dark cool greens in the distance and shaded areas. I then put in the sky using a very pale blue green. I also use the same colors in the water. I try to break up the shape of the trees with sky color.
I now introduce some purple in the tree trunks and along the banks. One of my favorite quotes from Richard McKinley is about the secret of green. He says the secret of green is orange and violet is the friend. I like to keep this thought in mind when I am dealing with a lot of green in the landscape. In this painting the orange is the underpainting and the violet is the little touches I put in as I finish the painting.
I continue building up the layers of green. I am using bold strokes. I want to let some of the orange peek through and the bold stokes keep me from overblending the green and orange which could make the greens look muddy. I add the final punctuation marks such as the orange in the tree trunks and little purple marks in the grass.
This post from the archives is an oldie but a good one! Enjoy!
It's playtime in my studio today! I have a big to-do list but nothing pressing at the moment so it was time to paint for fun. It is a time to experiment and make discoveries. I will share all of the fun in upcoming posts. One of the projects today was a painting makeover. I love taking a painting that just didn't click and having fun with it.
Here is the painting that I decided to make over:
The original painting was a winter landscape
It was an 8x10 demo I did for a private class. The student wanted to paint a snow scene. The painting served it's purpose to explain some snow techniques but I wasn't excited about it. I am finished with snow and ready for spring and summer! Why not use the 'bones' of this painting and turn it into a summer landscape?
the photo that inspired the revised painting
Last summer was kind to Queen Anne's Lace. It was everywhere and it was thick! I had a photo that would work for my new landscape.
To start the transformation I brushed off as much snow as I could. I then sprayed the painting with some workable fixative to seal the ghost image.
I kept the major shapes of the trees and developed them a bit more. I added the distant blue mountain shape.
Next I put in some nice rich darks that would form the pathway under the grasses.
Time for the grass. I begin with a cooler and lighter green in the distance. I used a variety of greens in the mid and foreground to represent the variety of grasses.
Next came the flowers. I wanted the Queen Annes Lace to drift lazily towards the trees. I varied the size of the flowers to create this effect....big to small.
Some of the flowers were in shadows so they are blue.
I choose a few flowers to highlight and make more important.
a close up showing the textured surface
Painting tips: This painting is on a piece of Multimedia Artboard that I prepped with clear gesso leaving a nice random texture. It was originally toned orange.
I wanted some paper with texture. My subject was a wild and wooly Icelandic sheep. A textured surface would be perfect to help me capture the feeling of his shaggy coat. I didn't have any textured surfaces ready so I decided I would make my own. I decided to repurpose an old unfinished painting from my pile of discards. It was a piece of sanded paper mounted on foam board. It was the perfect candidate for recycling.
I brushed off the old painting with a stiff brush getting off as much pastel as I could. It was such a dark painting that I wasn't able to remove much but the dark value orange would work well with my white sheep.
Next I slapped on some clear gesso with a cheap brush using random brushstrokes. The clear gesso mixed with the pastel to create the dark tone. The slight grittiness in the gesso would give more tooth to the surface. It took about an hour to dry and then I was ready to paint my friend the sheep!
I am planning to continue my Iceland travelog in my blog www.paintingiceland.blogspot.com You can read about both my 2014 and 2016 trips to Iceland in the blog. Here is part 2:
I've been to Iceland before. It was the summer of 2014 and I joined Stan Sperlak and his Painter's Passport group for a pastel workshop/expedition. It was a wonderful adventure filled with many amazing experiences. I fell in love with Iceland and hoped that someday I would return. But it was a distant thought that was soon buried by my busy everyday life....Until the summer of 2015.
Once again I joined Stan and the Painter's Passport group this time as a co-teacher. Stan chose my roommate for me and that changed everything.
She was from Iceland and we connected immediately. She was a kindred soul across the sea. Sisters. Artists and forever friends. We bonded on the very first day. We shared an adventure in France and knew that our friendship would not just end at the airport in Paris. When she said "come visit me in Iceland", I knew that I would and this time it would be different. Very different.
The Heart stone that Elinros found on the beach in Normandy. If you'd like to read the story behind the stone visit my France travelog here: http://paintingfrance.blogspot.com
Below are two of the paintings done from the first trip to Iceland.
I have a basketful of pastel pencils. I never use them. I used to pull them out because I thought I needed them to paint detail and fine lines. I wondered how on earth I would be able to paint small detail with the fat clunky pastel sticks?! But as time went on and I had quite a few paintings under my belt I slowly developed a better handling of those fat sticks. I refined my control and I was able to make the most delicate mark with the latest softest stick in my box! What freedom! I didn't need the pastel pencils anymore. The pastel pencils made me color things in instead of painting them.
The other day I was cleaning the studio when I came across a small set of pastel pencils that I had won. They were unopened and looked so enticing and sharp! Maybe I did need them after all? And they would be perfect for the painting that was up on my easel.
a small set of pastel pencils comes in handy
I discovered that the pastel pencils were perfect for creating the finer grass marks in my marsh painting. Now that I knew how to paint grass with fat pastel sticks I could transfer that same sensibility to the pencils. Now I wasn't coloring but I was painting and making loose and dancing broken lines. I will keep the pencils handy from now on for grasses and stems. I just need to remember NOT to make thick solid lines but let the pencil dance just as if it were a fat pastel!
I always forget how in love I am with a homemade pastel surface. Overtime I paint on a textured homemade surface I am reminded. This month over on my Patreon page we will be exploring pastel materials. One of the things we will do is make our own pastel surfaces. I will be sharing a recipe booklet and some videos and much more. In preparing for the month of lessons I made some textured boards. Why don't I do this more often!!
A quick and easy way to make a textured surface.
Working on a homemade surface is definitely cost effective but that is only one reason to try it. I love the feeling of texture I can create with my own pumice and gesso mix. It was the perfect surface to create the suggestion of the wheat stalks in my painting....without having to paint every stalk!
Do you work on a homemade surface?What is your favorite?
Close up. See the texture?
For just $4 you can join us on my Patreon page and explore this subject and much more! www.patreon.com/karenmargulis. I share new lessons and materials every day!
It looked daunting. But I really wanted to paint them. The cows surrounded our home base and wandered the fields near our home. I wen tout each morning with the intention of painting the landscape but I kept being drawn back to those cows! But I would I paint them from life. They were always on the move or were changing positions. Would I be able to paint fast enough? I hesitated.
But then I remembered advice given to me when I first started painting. I was taking a workshop with Terry Ludwig. And somehow the subject of painting things other than landscapes came up. I expressed my fear of including figures or animals in my landscapes. His answer was simple. "They are only SHAPES"
They are just shapes. That made sense. If I stopped calling them by name and just looked at the shapes I should be able to paint the cows. It wouldn't even matter how quickly they moved because I could quickly capture their shape and gesture. Once I focused on the shapes and values within the shapes I was able to get a good impression of those French cows.
I am packing light for my upcoming trip to France. Well as light as I possibly can and still have all the art supplies I will need! I am bringing my Heilman single sketchbox of pastels and my portfolio of 5x7 paper. I am also bringing my sketchbook! Since getting interested in keeping a sketchbook I have amassed quite a few sketching supplies....all kinds of pens, pencils and such. More than I want to bring with me. I needed to downsize my sketching supplies.
Wherever you go this summer consider packing a summer sketchbook. Choose a few supplies that fit into a small pouch. If you have a compact set up there will be no excuses!
My small sketchbook zippered pouch
The supplies I will take with me to Iceland
Here is what I decided to pack in my Summer Sketchbook pouch:
Handbook sketchbook 6x6
small watercolor set
travel retractable watercolor brush
small plastic container for water...not critical but it fit!
General's Sketch and Wash pencil....good for doing value sketches/washes
Vision pen...doesn't bleed when wet
Wooden Cretacolor lead holder for my pencil....I love how it feels
Tombow black brush pen....fun for gesture sketches
Caran d'Ache water brush to make washes with the water soluble graphite.
water soluble graphite pencils
Keeping a summer sketchbook will give you material for future paintings. Taking time to sit and observe and make a sketch will give you more information than merely taking a quick photo.
I have heard many artists share that they can remember more details of a place and time by looking back at a sketch than looking at a photo of the place. Imagine how much this information will help you interpret your photos!
quick sketch inspired today's painting
underpainting is Derwent Intense stick and alcohol wash