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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rocks Are Fun To Paint!


River Run, Pastel 20"x16"


Painting with pastels is so much fun with rocks. You get to choose a stick of pastel and make a beautiful angular shaped stroke... and that first stroke just looks like a rock! How cool is that? Use that broad side of the pastel stick. I break all my pastels in half and it is just the right size to make that mark.

Beginning Shapes


My Method of Breaking the Shapes Down:
  1. Be sure to squint to look at your reference so you can see the dark and the light shapes of the large mass of rocks. When you open your eyes, quickly think: "Is the dark a warm or cool dark?" This will help you decide to use that temperature when you pick your dark color. This means the light rocks will be the opposite temperature. So, if you decide the dark is warm, then the light part of the rock will be cool, and vice versa! Does that make sense?
  2. Break the large shape of all the rocks down into a dark mass with no reference to small rocks, just the large dark shape. Choose a dark pastel that is a couple of values lighter than black... this could be referenced as a "middle" dark. Stroke it on the complete dark shape, lightly caressing it on the surface.
  3. This leaves the part of the large shape of all the rocks that you have determined is the light mass. So, choose a light pastel that is a couple of values from white... this would be referenced as a "middle" light. Now, you can caress that shape with this lighter pastel on your surface.
  4. Make sure you have touched the dark mass to the light mass, and by this I mean don't leave the surface showing to create a "halo" effect around or between your dark and your light. You want them butted up against each other. If you leave the surface showing, you have in essence a third value!
At this point, you can use a wet under-painting method if you wish, or you can leave it dry. It really does not matter, and is only a personal preference. Sometimes I do one, and others I don't.

The Second Layer of Pastels

As you start layering other pastel colors onto those first two, the dark and the light, you will start breaking down the large mass of each. Important point to remember at this stage is to not introduce anything from the light half of the value scale into your dark area, or dark into your light area. You have four values you can use from each half of the value scale, saving the lightest light and the darkest dark for the end as your accent and highlight marks. And, make sure you use that pastel stick in such a way as to look like the angles in rocks... no potatoes please! :)

 Here is my progression of these rocks:

Breaking up the Light Shape

Breaking up the Dark Shape


I have added details to the dark shapes with warms and cools, but with all those being in the dark half of the value scale. This gives interest to the rocks without making them look too spotty... and of course the same thing was done with the light shapes. All of my marks until the end, are done with a "light hand" instead of a heavy-handed stroke. This is just me. Play around with different pressures of making your mark. Find what works best for you. Sometimes it will be light, and sometimes heavy as the "feeling" of what you want to give the viewer will come through. Also make sure some marks are larger, some middle and smaller and move in different directions or angles. Variety is what we see in rocks!

Adjusting the Greenery and
Creating Interest in the Rock


To make it look three-dimensional, I have made sure the part of the rock moving down and inward under the bottom is a little darker, but never as dark as black. The same has been done for the top of the rocks... highlights on a few as if the sun was just touching it. Remember too, the light of the sky will reflect onto the top and make it a little lighter than the angled sides of the rocks.

"River Run" won an Honorable Mention at the Southeastern Pastel Society's International Juried Exhibition this past Spring. It will be one of my paintings available at Taylor-Brawner "Park With Art Exhibition" in Smyrna GA. The event will run from Friday, Oct. 7th through Sun., Oct. 16th at Smyrna's historic Taylor-Brawner House. The exhibit will be open 6 - 9 pm on Friday for a Reception and meet the artists. The show will be open daily thereafter from 12 noon - 5 pm. On Tues. and Thurs. (11th and 13th) the time is extended to 8 pm.

Come see me at the Reception!


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