Best Supporting Background
Timothy John-Luke Smith
Pastel on Masonite
The background of your pastel painting is an extremely crucial element that you can never ignore. I don’t want your backgrounds to be an afterthought. I want you to see the background in your pastel painting as an important supporting actor to your model.
Let’s continue on with the supporting role metaphor. When we watch our favorite actors, they are usually supported by a wonderful cast of co-stars. These actors support the star of the movie with their own skillful acting abilities. An excellent supporting actor will always enhance the work of the star. Likewise, this is how a well thought out and excellent background will support the star of your pastel painting.
One thing I should mention is that the background of your painting does not necessarily need to be elaborate. Even if it is a color field, such as a Rembrandt portrait, the background needs to bring out the attributes of your model. Too often I see a wonderfully painted portrait and the background is just hurried together and the work suffers terribly.
There are some amazing photo manipulation programs out there. I like to use some of the older programs. One of my favorites is Roxio Photosuite 8. This program is intuitive and not difficult as Photoshop can be. You can find used versions of this software on eBay from time to time. In programs such as this you can scan your reference of your model and try different backgrounds for your paintings. This is a great way to see what works or doesn’t work before you begin the painting.
One point to always consider when working out your background, is to never ignore the edges. As any painting that you are working on, be mindful of the edges. This will keep your subject from looking as though they were a paper cut-out pasted on the background. Consider the atmosphere and the surrounding colors of your chosen background. It will, of course, have an effect on your subject.
Even if your pastel painting is only a head and shoulders portrait, you must have a concept that includes the background. Remember to think out the whole of your painting. Let the background enhance the strengths of your subject and not detract from them. This is why there are Oscars given out to “Best Supporting Actor and Actress”.