How many of you have had a soft pastel painting/s, which are framed and possibly have been in an exhibition and / or galleries over a period yet are returned unsold? This happened with one of mine a while back. I only re-discovered it lying almost hidden on a shelf in my studio. It would never be seen lying there on a shelf and I would need either to get it back out to another gallery or recycle it.
So, what to do?
Well I could try and rework it, redefine parts of it or enhance it in some way?
Or I could wash it out and start afresh.
After giving it some thought I decided the latter was best to start afresh with a new scene.
First thing was to unclip and dismantle the board from the frame. I then sprayed the board with water and basically mixed, with a large flat brush, all the previous pastel colours together (smiling, I don’t know how you feel if you do this but I always see it as a real cringe moment, perhaps the Scotsman in me seeing all these Unison pastels being wasted, washed off the board).
The result of this process can sometimes be very interesting and inspiring whereby some lovely tones and contrasts appear which I might keep and use in the new painting. There were nice blue-greens and turquoises initially although it was predominantly darker tones, most probably due to the amount of darker hues in the original painting. However there were some nice faint dark greens and hints of reddish brown here and there which may work well in the new piece.
Once dried I then mixed Golden pastel ground slightly diluted / thinned to give the board a key. This can be mixed with various amounts of water to give the type of key you like to work with be it smooth (fine) to rough (coarse) or somewhere in between.
I have chosen a Scottish mountainous landscape for this new soft pastel painting and am using a couple of reference images taken by a climbing and hill walking friend to achieve that accuracy in shape and form of the landscape.
Having a close affinity with the Scottish mountains and glens, they really do inspire me in so many ways and I love being out surrounded by them, thus I nearly always aim for a true likeness whichever hill/s I paint. Hopefully so the viewer can readily recognise a specific mountain or range or scene. For this reason an essential part of my work is to draw (outline using Conte pastel pencils blue, orange in this case) the actually topography first so that both the aspect and perspective are accurate.
Once the drawing is done I did something never done before which was to block out lightly the main warmer and colder colours of the hills.
Then it’s down to the really enjoyable part of getting my fingers moving across the canvas. I generally always start from the top left corner (being right handed) and sweep across diagonally downwards towards the bottom right corner. This prevents or rather minimises any smudging or trying to paint in an awkward position. I know many artists like the randomness of filling in blocks / sections of colour leaving a sense of freedom whilst working, which yes I do from time to time however, and more often than not, I tend to go back to this method. I suppose it’s a learned behaviour, a method that was taught when I first experienced pastel painting and one that seems to work best for me.
My main palette range from Unison’s Colour Chart for this are as follows:
- Blue Green BG 2, BG 3, BG 9, BG 11
- Green 29, Yellow Green Earth 7, 12, 13
- Yellow 2 & 10, Red 18, Brown Earth 9, 11, 12
- Light 7 & 8, Dark 17 & 12 Grey 27, 28, 36
- Blue Violet 5, 12, 17 and JS 11
Plus several others here and there.
It’s important to regularly step back and view your painting, making several checks for perspective looking at form and the warm and cold colours that make that overall shape or by checking perspective, angles of slopes in relation to others or negative spaces etc. Sometimes though I get a bit carried away and “in the groove” so to speak and I forget to check, this is where things can and usually do get a bit skewed.
So, on checking my progress at one point, thinking everything was flowing well, I had been going great guns. Then standing back from the easel I noticed part of the hill and crag in the mid foreground (an essential part of the main landscape) didn’t look right? It wasn’t the right shape. Something wasn’t quite right, so by taking a bit of time I soon realised what it was. Now how do I correct it, there are a few solutions open to me. I could try and overlay more layers or rub it out and redraw or I tried something different for me and to wet a flat brush and wash the affected area out. This seemed to work a treat and a method I will definitely use again. I thought this was best in this case and would allow me a clean base to build back up again.
From there it wasn’t long before I was starting on some of the fine detail parts of my work. For this I use a combination of fine edges of the main pastel sticks, a couple of blending tools, pastel pencils and several tiny little broken shreds of previously broken soft pastels. These tiny fragments although very fiddly to grip and hold in the right position between your fingers are really great fun to work with. So persevere in using these pointy bits or the sharp edges of these delicate morsels of broken pieces of soft pastel on your canvas. They can be tricky to use and do require some patience at first but they are an enjoyable challenge none the less to work with in getting the detail.
Once completed I gave it a light spray from a short distance back from the easel with Windsor & Newton colour fixative being careful to part shield the lighter sky sections to minimise any changes (darkening with the lighter colours).
It was then ready to photograph more professionally before setting it back into the frame.
Recycled and ready to go out again. Et Voila!
Thank You Best Regards Greg