Day 28 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” The Best Camera for the Pastel Painter

What Camera Should a Pastel Painter Buy?
I know what you’re thinking and no this is not going to cost you lots of money. You will need to eventually invest into your photography both for model shoots as well as for photographing your artwork. There is no way around this. I will share with you how I have been doing this for years and with limited means.


I thank God, for the advent of digital cameras. I remember the day before digital cameras when there was only 35 mm and its film needed to be developed at a photo lab. This was costly and often discouraging. Today with digital photography, the artist can take as many pictures as possible and see the quality of the photos immediately. The best part is there are no more costly trips to the photo lab.
What type of digital camera?
I feel that a digital SLR (which means single lens reflex) is best because you can change lenses and have total manual control over the exposure of your photos. This means you decide how dark or light your photos look. If you are new to photography, you may shoot in program mode until you get better. This mode does all the decision making for you and the pictures look amazing and professional. The camera I recommend today is the Canon SL2. For the money it takes the best pro photographs. It has the same sensor as the much more expensive cameras by Canon. I also recommend Canon because they have the widest range of lenses to choose from. This camera is by far the best in its class and there is nothing that can touch it in its price range.
Added Bonus, It’s a Movie Camera
The Canon SL2 will also help you to take pro looking high definition video. The SL2 has an external microphone jack for perfect audio and has the Dual Pixel Auto Focus that keeps your subject in focus as you or your subject moves about. You may want to start a YouTube channel down the line and this is a perfect camera for that. The body and a kit lens for the SL2 sells for around $589.00 USD. In my opinion, it’s the perfect studio camera for every pastel painter.
You will absolutely need a good tripod. Since your model or your artwork will be still, it is best to capture as much detail in your photos. The tripod will help you not get blur in your images since our hands will move a bit when we press the shutter. I also like to use the self-timer function on the camera. This prevents the movement of the hand down on the shutter. A good tripod is also adjustable to take pictures looking down at your artwork.
Remember the sharper the image, the better the painting. Our painting can only be as good as our reference. There should never be any corner cutting when acquiring reference for your pastel paintings or photographing your artwork. In the next chapter I will discuss lighting and several options when photographing your model or your artwork. Here is link to the camera I had mentioned:

The Canon SL2 Bundled Kit:   https://amzn.to/2Ljp1Th

The Best Tripod:                      https://amzn.to/2zHgyrI

Day 27 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Let Your Background Win an Award

Best Supporting Background
Timothy John-Luke Smith
Corporate Takeover
Pastel on Masonite

The background of your pastel painting is an extremely crucial element that you can never ignore. I dont 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.
Lets 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”.

Day 26 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Soft Edges are Telling Part of the Story

Soft Edges are Telling Part of the Story.

“Majestic”
By Timothy John-Luke Smith

Edges are crucial elements when painting the portrait or any subject in pastel. Pastel is, by nature, very soft. We can’t just let the medium of pastel have its way with us. We need to bend the pastels to our will. How do we bend the materials to do what we want when it comes to edges? We need to look harder and add some practices that are unorthodox to do this.
Variety is the Spice of Life
A painting or drawing will appear flat and uninteresting if all the edges are either hard or soft. When there is no variation in edges, the work does not move about in space. Our eyes can only focus on one thing at a time. What we see in focus is sharp and what we are not concentrating on is usually more blurred.
The sharper edges occur when the eye focuses on a specific area. Ingres stated that each portrait should have an area with the most focus and everything else should be less sharp or detailed. With that being said, in every portrait, one eye should be more in focus than the other.
The blurred and less sharp areas of the portrait need to be reserved for the areas that you would like to recede into the distance. You actually do not need to make this up because edge variation is found in nature. That is not to say that we can’t change the edges of a portrait to accentuate depth and clarity. It helps us a great deal when we look for these edge variations in our subject; Be mindful of the edges and where you want the focus of the viewer to be.

Day 25 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” To Blend or Not to Blend

To Blend or Not to Blend Pastels
“Procurement”
Timothy John-Luke Smith
Pastel on Masonite
This is a question that is often asked in the world of pastel painting. Some very accomplished pastel painters such as Edgar Degas and my mentor Harvey Dinnerstein almost never blended their pastel strokes on the surface. This is often a look desired by many pastel painters throughout history. I venture to argue for the blending of the pastel.
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, an oil painter, stated that we should never see the technique but only the objects that we are painting. I feel the same way. Yes, we may lose some of that vibration of color when we don’t blend the pastel strokes on the surface; However, I feel the accurate rendering of your subject is even more important than such vibrations of color through optical effects.
All things around us has a surface texture. The softest cloth, the hardest of wooden surfaces, to the wispy vapors of a cloud all have texture. How would we be content painting all these objects in the same way? I am not saying this is wrong but what I am saying is that our pastel painting can be more convincing and more evocative of emotion if we did the proper blending of the pastel.
If we search to render the different textures while maintaining a blended surface of pastel, our work will not be attributed to a style of “pastel painting” but to all painting. In conclusion, it is up to you and there isn’t a set answer; Although, for greater realism I side with Ingres. We should only see the painting and not the technique in the end result.

Day 24 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Art History and Your Study of Pastel Painting

Art History and Your Study of Pastel Painting

Photo by Bara Cross from Pexels

We all enjoy working on our art. It’s the continuity that keeps our work organic and ever growing. This is our quest to improve daily. What is one area of artistic growth that you might have overlooked?  It just may be art history.

Since I was 18, I have included the intense study of art history to my personal growth routine as an artist. I have found that art history helps me to find my place within the rich tapestry of artists. I am able to find painters and sculptures who were like-minded as me. These like-minded artists inspire me and let me know that I am not alone. They also had chosen such a life as being an artist.
There are so many movements in art throughout history. The understanding of various art movements will give us perspective into our own time and the movements that are at play in the art world today.
With a strong foundation of art history your work will become richer. You will learn about allegory and themes in art that are as prevalent today as they were hundreds of years ago. When I find a particular artist from the past whose work I admire, I immediately search for a biography of them at my public library. Most times, I find that I can relate to them as an artist but I can also relate to them as a person.
Another great art history resource is video on the Internet. There are wonderful movies and documentaries that are free on YouTube. These documentaries give insight from the most talented and brilliant art historians. Their knowledge of artists throughout history brings the art to life. 
We live in the information age and let’s use this wealth of knowledge at our disposal to grow as artists. Through the independent study of art history our inspirations will run deeper as we become part of that tapestry.

Day 23 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Painting in Pastel and Taking Notes

Painting in Pastel and Taking Notes

Today I am going to be talking about painting and the mind. Painting and the mind are two forces that can work in harmony or they can be opposing forces that mock one another. 

Do you ever wonder why some of your paintings come out marvelous from the start; they flow and move as if you have done them before? The painting feels as though it’s almost too easy. Your mind and the act of painting are working in unison. They are in lock step, creating a flowing beauty that you almost feel like an observer to its process. We have all felt this at one time or another, haven’t we?

Then there are those other moments, the moments when your painting is like a mule that doesn’t want to go anywhere that you’re going. You push, sweat and try to bend its will to yours with futility. This is when the mind and the act of painting are not working together at all. Do you ever wonder why this happens? There are not many differences from one day to next. The subject matter is very similar yet it’s a different world from the flowing painting session.  
  
We artists get in our own way so often, don’t we? We block our own geniuses because we fear the unknown results. We try and fix the problems before we even get to them. In the beginning of a new painting, especially after a successful piece, we hope that we can do it again. Our motto should be like that of the baseball pitcher, “Think Long, Think Wrong”. 

Planning your steps is very important. Making sure you repeat the processes that made your successful paintings flow with ease. Have a notebook and pen next to your easel. If we write down painting experiences during and after each painting session, both the hurdles and triumphs that we encounter, we would have a much better time at it. Let’s say for instance: The under painting was too strong and it got in the way of the application and coverage of the subsequent pastel layers; If you write that down, it becomes a written warning you have logged into your painting journal. If there is a great mixture for luminous shadows that you discovered, write that down. It now becomes an added weapon at your disposal.


These are tools that are just as important as the pastel stick or anything else in the studio. Before you start your painting session, read over the notes of the past painting sessions. You will find that you are now in more control of your mind and the painting process. If you see the bump in the road that you encountered in a past painting, you can easily steer around.

Progress is made when we learn from our mistakes as well as our successes. Alone in our studios we need to be our own teachers, coaches if you will. Writing detailed notes we are able to see trends in our own work; we can also share this insight with fellow artists.

Day 22 My Book: “The Pastel Palette Method” Erasers, Great for Details in a Pastel Painting

 

 Erasers, Great for Details in a Pastel Painting

Yes, all those wonderful erasers that you use for your pencil work are among the best tools you can use with pastel. As you know, erasers come in all shapes and sizes, from the very broad to the finest tips and from the very soft to the hardest and most aggressive.
When working with the marble dust treated Masonite panel, you can erase aggressively without worrying whether you are going to damage the surface. This is one of the many ways painting on Masonite is superior than paper.
Underneath the under painting and the layers of pastel is the pristine white of the gesso. If you wanted to achieve the most brilliant highlight in the pupil of the eye, you could remove the top layers with erasers. How many layers of pastel will determine which eraser that you would use. You can also use erasers for more subtle ways. You could create texture with a kneaded eraser or use a pencil eraser to create strands of hair.  In this book I will demonstrate a few of the many ways that erasers are one of the secret weapons of the “Pastel Palette Method”.
They say that pastels are the bridge between drawing and painting. Why not bring those amazing erasers over that bridge with you.

Day 21 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” How do you paint hair in pastel ?

Painting the Hair in Pastel

How do you paint beautiful passages in pastel to accurately and realistically portray hair? Too often I see hair that is painted too loosely and generalized that it no longer resembles hair. Sometimes hair is painted with so much detail that it looks like angel hair pasta. Why work so hard to create beautiful skin tones upon a stunning drawing if you are going to run out of gas when painting the hair?

I like to start the hair with the large shapes. In the beginning, all I need are the 2 values, the light and the dark. Once those 2 values are established, I concentrate on the exact shapes and how the edges are at the borders of those 2 values. In my search for larger groups of hair I don’t get concerned about smaller ones. Getting too detailed too early is a trap and the painting will look broken up without any structure.

The direction of these larger groups of hair is vitally important to gain the gesture or energy of the hair. I try to envision these larger groups of hair as thick ribbon like fabrics.  I also used a liner brush and some India ink to paint in the dark accents, this gives a deeper depth to the mid tones of the hair.
Now is the time that I observe and paint the highlights. I notice that highlights in hair often resembles the shimmering sun sparkling on a wavy lake. In hair, the next time you are painting a portrait, I want you to look for these shimmers of highlight. I carefully gauge these highlights with the highlights elsewhere on the model. I make sure they’re not relatively too light or too dark. This will insure that my work has a continuity of light as it cuts across her entire person. Painting hair is a “give and take” and “back and forth” between the lights and the darks and between the highlights and the dark accents.
In Conclusion, break down the hair from its larger shapes to the smaller shapes until it is refined with the perfect amount of detail. I want you to get detailed but only at the very end.

Day 20 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” Where do we find the time to paint?

How Can We Be More Productive Artists?
  
Artists are like sharks in the sense that they need to keep moving to survive and to thrive. It is often said that if a shark stops moving, they will die. If an artist is not growing they are artistically dying. That movement for the artist is their time working on their art.

There are no finish lines or pragmatic levels of achievements for the artist as there are in other careers. Art is not a career that one can measure in common terms. There are no promotions or company perks that come on schedule.

So how can this seemingly unbalanced and formless career bring balance to the artist? They need to use the tools of the non-artists to rein in their wandering, creative and active minds. One of these tools is time management. 
I have read many books on the subject of time management and most of them are not geared towards the visual artist. They are directed at the office manager or business person within the corporate structure. When I first began reading these books on time management I was a little disheartened. As an artist, I feel that I am the polar opposite of these corporate types who can naturally schedule their time within day planners and business meetings.
Just as we pose the model to capture what we want to express, so could be the time management techniques we capture to produce the work.
An example of making one of the principles work for the artist is the concept of scheduling their day and avoid little distractions that can mess up such a schedule. These little distractions of the day, such as unnecessary meetings, checking emails several times a day, are just a few of the silent assassins of effective time management.

The largest percentage of fine artists today must have regular 9-5 jobs to pay the bills. The artist today is no stranger to the corporate life although I honestly feel that the artist has no affinity for the corporate world. This mixture is oil and water.

We can, however learn from our time in the corporate world. At the easel or drawing board we need to be just as careful with our time. The easel is where our business happens. Just as for the corporate manager, one rule that the artist should set for themselves is to limit or prohibit checking email or social media while in the studio. Independent studies have proven that limiting social media and checking e-mail throughout the work day increases productivity by leaps and bounds. There are many other ways the artist can claim back time that has been wasted away of their own accord.

The artist can take back some of that lost time each and every day. Just one hour of intense and uninterrupted time dedicated to painting or drawing is worth a week of thoughts wishing they could get the energy to begin.

I definitely suggest picking up some powerful books on time management. Remember that they dont need to be geared for the artist. We artists definitely know how to adapt to and create opportunities to find the time, and space to work. Learn the skills to become better time managers and better artists.

Day 19 My Book : “The Pastel Palette Method” When to Use the Softest Pastels

When to Use the Softest Pastels
When you are further along in your painting and you feel that the texture, the darks, mid tones and lights are well established; you are ready to go to the next step in the “Pastel Palette Method”. Yes, you are ready to start using the softest pastels in your arsenal of pastel sticks. The Schminckes, and the Senneliers, are a few examples.
Not so fast! You need to ease into these extremely soft pastels when we apply them to the painting’s surface. You don’t want to ruin the beautiful textures you created by applying thick and unrealistic passages of pastel pigment. That would defeat the purpose of this method.
“Study of Vermeer” (work in progress)
Pastel on Masonite Board
Timothy John-Luke Smith
As you can see in the progression of my painting above, I am ready for the darkest darks and lightest lights. I begin mixing the softer pastels with my medium soft pastels, such as, Windsor and Newton or Holbein. As I apply these mixtures I will slowly increase the ratio of the Sennelier and Schmincke pastels. This will insure the proper build up of the softer pastel and I will retain the realistic textures that I worked so hard to achieve. My progression from light to dark needs to happen slowly to preserve the surface texture of the marble dust gesso treated Masonite board. I never want a surface that is overloaded with pastel.
You will find that as you go softer with this progression, that the softest pastels will be reserved for the darkest darks and lightest lights, this includes the highlights. It’s much like the progress of a drawing done in graphite. The painting will come together with the texture, color and the focus that you had envisioned when you first began your picture. There must be a game plan with any endeavor and painting in pastels with the “Pastel Palette Method” is no different.

Airbrush, Pastels, Drawing, Inspiration