Day 18 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” Using Markers in a Pastel Painting?

Markers on a Pastel Painting?
You most certainly can use waterproof markers when working on your pastel painting. There, I said it. When I say that you can use waterproof markers and some brush work, I mean that in a very sparing way and only when it’s needed.
The Pastel Society of America, states in their annual open exhibition prospectus that an eligible pastel painting for entry must be done at least 80 percent in pastel. This gives the pastel artist a wonderful 20 percent of other mediums to work with and still have their work considered a pastel painting.
I usually don’t start to use markers or paintbrush techniques until the late-middle or the end of the painting process.  There are instances where pastel, even with the “Pastel Palette Method”, that the medium cannot handle certain details. Some examples would be the tight details inside and around the eyes or strands of hair. The markers and the paintbrush are the perfect tools for such details. 
As you can see by the example above, using the pink waterproof marker is a much better tool for the tiny details in the corner of her mouth. If you follow this 80/20 rule, it will open the doors for you to experiment and discover radical methods to solve particular problems. Another great example is using a liner brush and brown ink to depict some of the strands of hair against the background. We must free our minds of convention and think outside the box.
Happy painting and happy experimenting.

Day 17 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” The Painting Won’t Accept Any More Pastel!


The Painting Wont Accept Any More Pastel!
(Don’t Worry There’s Hope!)

This is when there is just too much pastel on the surface and the texture of the board is totally covered and filled up. The pastel is pushed around with no adhesion to the painting, leaving the artist unable to complete their work.
There are many different variables that could contribute to this overloading of pastel. The most common occurrence is when the artist uses pastels that are too soft and they used them too early in the painting process. The texture on the board accepts and holds the pastel pigment only when its pores are not completely filled. Even with the perfect surface such as the marble dust treated Masonite, the surface can get still become overloaded.
There are a few fixes that I have used over the years to save an overloaded painting. Here are two of my techniques to get the surface to accept a few more layers in such an emergency.
One of the ways would be to use a “workable fixative” spray. This comes in a spray can and you can purchase fixative at any art supply store or online retailer. It is a little toxic and I recommend spraying your painting in a well-ventilated room or even outside. Spray an even coat, holding the can about 12 inches from the painting. Apply this in a back and forth motion.  Please make sure that it is a very light and even coat. You need to spray with no visible patterns. After it is thoroughly dried, repeat another coat if needed. You will notice that it did darken the colors a bit but the surface will now accept some limited pastel applications. It will not accept a great amount pastel but at least you will be able to adjust the colors and complete that area of the painting.
A second technique that I like to use for overloaded pastel on my board is using leftover marble dust gesso mixture from when I prepared my boards. First, I will try and lift as much of the pastel as possible with a kneaded eraser. Once much of the pastel is removed, I will cover the affected area with a light coat of the marble dust mixture. Let it dry and after I can repaint the affected area.  This is a more radical technique but there are times that even the fixative wont work. This will save the day and your painting.

Day 16 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” When to use Packing Peanuts.

Covering Large Areas of Color
“Study of Vermeer” (work in progress)
Pastel on Masonite Board
Timothy John-Luke Smith
When working with the “Pastel Palette Method”, there comes a time when you want to work with pastels in the traditional sense. Sometimes applying the pastel on the surface with the pastel stick is actually best. One time time this is definitely true is when you are covering large areas of color such as a background.
Using the pastel stick directly on the surface is vastly more efficient for large areas. You don’t need to be exact in large areas and the triangles would take too much time to cover them. In this instance you would simply find the pastels that would make the colors that you would need and then layer them until you have the desired color and value. The next step is where the technique differs using the “Pastel Palette Method”.
Earlier in this book, I mentioned the particular packing peanuts that you can squeeze into different shapes; we will be using them to blend the colors of the background. The packing peanuts can be used on their side to blend large swaths of color or squeezed into points to blend tighter and smaller areas and along the edge of your subject.
This blending into the surface will also produce a smooth area of color to match the rest of your painting. It will create the perfect “block in” of the background and define the contours of your portrait or figure. You will have an exact background in a relatively short time. Once the background is in place, we will once again, be using the foam triangles and the sand paper palette to apply the pastel to the surface. This will help to vary the edges of your figure or portrait against the background. I will explore the subject of hard and soft edges later in this book.

Day 15 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Patience and Pastel Painting

Patience and Pastel Painting

“Study of Vermeer” (work in progress)
Pastel on Masonite Board
Timothy John-Luke Smith
Patience is definitely a virtue in life. It helps us not to make careless mistakes and patience helps us to be calm when others are impulsive. Remember, between stimulus and your reaction, there is a space. The length of that space or time that you react to the stimulus is up to you.
This need for patience is especially important when painting in pastel. I always tell my students to never get too excited or emotional during the painting progress. The most common instances are when the painting is going very badly or very well.
When there is a mistake our initial instincts are to hurry and fix it, like a leak in a pipe. This accelerated thought process usually makes the mistakes worse because we are running on emotion.
Here is where the patience is most needed. The artist needs to stop, step back, and assess the situation. Often times, I will walk away from the easel, have a cup coffee, and then return to easel. This way I could calmly find solutions to the issue with a clearer mind set. This is the thought process that I want you to have whenever you make a mistake. After you had found the solution, I want you to write it down in a notebook. This way you recorded your solution and it is available if you come across a similar mistake in a future painting.
The second instance where you need patience is the opposite of a mistake. It’s when your painting is going very well. When the painting is flowing, moving along very smoothly; you are excited about how beautiful that it looks. This is often when the instinct to rush the completion of the work comes over us.  It is same as when a runner can see the finish line and accelerates too early. They run out of energy and ultimately lose the race.
When the painting is looking amazing and all is clicking and flowing, I want you to recognize that impulse to rush to the finish line. When you do that, step away and slow it down. Write down what you did and how did you get it to flow so well. This way you have a reference to reference to and then recreate this blissful technical occasion.
In conclusion, when things are getting nerve wracking or exciting, step back and assess the situation; make sure that you calmly choose the best decisions rationally and not emotionally.

Day 14 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” Now for the Softer Pastels

The Pastels Must Get Softer and Triangles Change
Now we are getting deeper into the process of applying the color onto our surface using the “Pastel Palette Method”.  After several layers of pastel, the process of using the harder pastels and using the foam core triangles are no longer effective. There is now more pastel pigment on the surface and you must paint with softer pastels going forward. At this stage we will gently apply the softer pastel pigments with the foam triangles. These foam triangles are able to load more pigments and deposit them over the harder pastel already on your painting. This is economy of surface in action.
This is much like painting in oils and the technique of fat over lean. The same principle is at work here. You need to progressively apply softer pastel over the harder pastel. I want you to begin to use the pastel brands such as Holbein, Windsor and Newton, and Art Spectrum at this time. These brands will cover the existing pastel pigment on your painting rather easily. The mixing of the pastels on the sand paper is the same; However, the difference is that you are using the foam triangles and not the foam core triangles. You’ll notice the color just flows off the foam triangles with more ease and authority than that of the foam core triangles. Take your time with the application of pastel.
With these softer pastels you are layering, progressively, darker in the darks and lighter in the lights; while making sure that you are working the whole painting together. Refine the shapes as you paint and continue to look for the subtle edge play of hard and soft borders. This the lion’s share of the painting process. Below is where the painting will be during this stage.

“Study of Vermeer” (work in progress)
Pastel on Masonite Board
Timothy John-Luke Smith
Be concerned about the relative temperature and values of the colors. Is the dark in her pupil lighter than the shadow behind her ear?  Is it lighter than the shadow under her nose? Make these comparisons and you will find the correct ones. Colors are either cool or dark. In the same way as values, compare the colors of your subject to find the proper temperatures. 
Moving around your painting will help you to create a painting that has unity and structure. Tomorrow we will explore getting to the lightest lights and the dark accents and when to use the packing peanuts.

Day 13 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” How to See Transition Tones

Rembrandt Van Rijn
Gray is a Beautiful Color in Transition Tones.
As we are getting further along in the color portion of our painting, I want you look at one of the Old Masters and learn from your study of their work.

Observe this painting by Rembrandt Van Rijn. When we look at this marvelous self-portrait we are struck by the many different colors, such as, earth tones, pinks and the fleshy yellow-orange color of his hand. 
 

Let us look closer at the master’s use the grays. Notice the use of the greenish gray under the cheek bone and the reddish gray under the chin. These colored grays are used throughout this wonderful work of art to give life and depth to the painting. If Rembrandt, painted this portrait without the use of these grays, the painting would have come across as less three dimensional, almost like a comic book figure. To find the grays while painting the model in our own work, we must look for and recognize these grays in nature. They are just one of the many secrets that the Old Masters used to create paintings that look convincing and realistic.

I remember when I was an art student in Harvey Dinnerstein’s class at the National Academy School of Fine Arts, I would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, after class each day; I would study the work of the Old Masters, such as Rembrandt, Ingres, and Jacques Louis David. I poured over the paintings and took note of each of the brush strokes and colors. One day I went to class and asked Harvey about the gray transition tones that were between the dark and the light areas in the painting, “The Death of Socrates”, by Jacques Louis David. I asked him about this transition tone that I had seen in the painting and why I dont see it on the model?

Harvey would tell me that this was the first step; that I am seeing that gray transition tone in the paintings. Now, I need to look for that transition tone in the model that I am painting in my own work. He was correct. To this day, I see and look for these very grays in nature everywhere.

With that being said, now that you are able to see these transitions tones in Rembrandts self-portrait, you are now aware of those transition tones.

I want you to begin to look for that patch of gray that is between the lights and the darks. Remember that the transition color is gray because it is not receiving color from the main light source (the sun or lamp) or from of the secondary light source which is the reflected light. It is also, rarely, pure neutral gray but it’s usually a colored gray.
In painting with the “Pastel Palette Method”, I want you to take advantage to the very subtle tones that you are able to achieve. Your pastel paintings will have that “Old Master” look.

Day 12 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” The Layers of Pastel as Glazes of Color

Pastel as Glazes of Color
The definition of glaze is a verb which means to fit panes of glass into a window frame. I want you to think of glazing as laying colored windows of glass over your surface. Remember that you can see through glass. Any color can be transparent or opaque. Whether you can see the colors underneath is the difference between transparent colors and opaque colors. Glazes are the application of transparent colors.
Now is the stage of the sequential application of glazes after the initial color layer. This is where you will begin to darken the darks and increase the color saturation of your painting. With every mixture on your pastel palette, you will be applying more layers to your painting. Remember to build up your darks and mid tones slowly. Adjust the shapes and how those shapes relate in edge work to their adjacent shapes. Just as the coast line of land on the ocean, make sure you get the topography correct. Are the borders hard or soft or both? Observe this aspect carefully along with color, saturation and value. You will gain accuracy in your painting by matching closely to your model (or photograph).
You want to cover the entire pastel painting with color because much of your decisions about color and edge work are going to be relative to other parts of your painting. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, stated: 
  
“The chief consideration for a good painter is to think out the whole of his picture, to have it in his head as a whole… so that he may then execute it with warmth and as if the entire thing were done at the same time.”
I agree that this philosophy helps both in the accuracy of your painting as well its cohesiveness. You do not want your painting to be a collection of parts such as a nose mouth and eyes but one organism that is affected by light and air all at the same time. Trust me this will make a sound difference in your artwork over time.
Keep your related color mixtures on your pastel palette together; your warm mixtures, your reds, oranges and golden colors in a different area than your cool colors, the blues, greys, and greens. Just as you would mix oil or acrylic colors on your palette, you want to keep them clean and not muddy. Muddy happens when too may colors are mixed together either intentionally or unintentionally. Another way to keep your colors clean is not to use the same triangle for different mixed colors that you will be applying to your painting. Work the painting to the stage that you see here. The colors are beginning to darken and the shapes are more refined. Tomorrow we will begin the middle game of our portrait using the “Pastel Palette Method”.
“Study of Vermeer”   (work in progress)
Pastel on Masonite Board
Timothy John-Luke Smith

Day 11 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” The Initial Layers of Color

Initial Layers of Color
After the drawing and the under painting steps are complete, it’s time for the initial step of the color portion of the “Pastel Palette Method”.  
When you start the color portion of the painting you want to find the local colors of your subject. This would be the “flesh color” for example of your portrait or figure. I am not asking you to find that color in a pastel stick as done traditional with pastel painting. In the “Pastel Palette Method”, just as an oil painter does, I want you to mix the colors on your palette.
With your hardest pastels, such as, Cretacolor, or Rembrandt brand, I want you find two to three sticks of pastels and rub them next to one another on the sand paper of your “Pastel Palette”. Next, you will take one of your foam core triangles and mix the rubbed pastel colors together on the sand paper to mix the desired “flesh color”. This is how you will mix any two or more pastel pigments on the “Pastel Palette”. You may now go ahead and apply the mixture of the local color on the under painting. I gentle scumble the color onto the surface until there is a light glaze over the desired area of the painting.
Repeat this process throughout your painting. For example, find the local colors of the hair, the clothing and background. Mixing the colors on the “Pastel Palette” and applying them with the foam core triangles is a more exact way to apply these initial layers of color. Here is an example of what the initial layer of color over the under painting should look like:
“Study of Vermeer”   (work in progress)
Pastel on Masonite Board
Timothy John-Luke Smith
It is the very thin application of transparent color that allows the under painting to show through. This is the perfect base to gradually and slowly apply more color. Remember pastel is best when used in glazes as opposed to thick applications of powdered pigment. Tomorrow we will go further with application of color.

Day 10: My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” The Importance of the Under Painting

The Importance of the Under Painting
It is my contention that a solid, light line drawing followed by an under painting is crucial to create a pastel painting with a strong structure of both line and value. In art history the under painting was also known by different names. The word grisaille is one term that was used during 19thCentury France at the ateliers and academies. I had also heard the phrase “dead color” used when referring to an under painting.
Here is an example of an under painting or grisaille done by the French Master, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
La Grande Odalisque
Jean Auguste Domique Ingres
When executing an under painting it is very important to adjust the values to be 2 values lighter than the finished painting will be; 2 values lighter on a scale from 1-8 with number 1 being black and number 8 being white. This is because when you glaze color over the under painting the painting will darken slightly with each layer. Remember that it is always easier to darken something than to make it lighter in painting.
I like to use Higgins Waterproof India Ink, for the under painting on the marble dust treated panel. My preferred method is definitely with the airbrush. With the airbrush you can slowly work up the values, gradually getting darker until you get to the desired value. Here you will also be shading the forms of the subject. You may also use the India Ink with a conventional paint brush employing a water color technique; in both cases you will want to gradually work from light to dark. This example below is the look when I feel the under painting is ready for the color stage. Notice that the values are lighter than the finished piece will be and the major shading and modeling of the forms have taken place.

 “Prosephone in Autumn”
The Under Painting Stage
Timothy John-Luke Smith

In the next chapter we will explore the initial color layers of our pastel painting using the “Pastel Palette Method”.

Day 9 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” The Drawing Stage of Your Pastel Painting

“Line is the probity of art.”

~Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
The drawing is the structure of the skeleton in which all else drapes over; just as the steel girders are the bones of the skyscrapers. The principle of a sound drawing has always been paramount in the tradition of Western Art.
The drawing on the prepared Masonite board must be clean and light. That is why I prefer a mechanical pencil over charcoal. My favorite pencil is the 0.5 Pentel mechanical pencil with F grade leads. F is neither too soft or too hard.
The drawing should be refined and exact. There won’t be any alterations of the drawing after this stage. During the drawing process, make sure that you apply the pencil lightly because you want the pencil lines to be easily erasable. Some effective ways to get your drawing onto your surface are the use of digital projectors or the grid method. Both methods are perfect for our purposes.
The drawing should look like a cartoon, meaning no shading. The contours as well as the most important details should be lightly indicated. The less important details need only to be suggested yet accurately done. Even the so called insignificant areas of the subject like the fingernail or the under lid of the eye needs to be accurately rendered in contour lines. While you are drawing during this stage you need to continually lighten and clean up the lines with a kneaded eraser. Remember this is where you are making your linear decisions and you will have to live with these decisions in the under painting and color stages of the painting. Here is an example of a drawing that is ready to be under painted. Tomorrow we will discuss the under painting process of your pastel painting using the “Pastel Palette Method”.