Part 1, project 1, exercise 3: Painting with pastels

Updated on 19 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

24 February, 2016. Since during Drawing 1 I used both oil pastels and soft pastels extensively I decided that I would go straight for the suggested small painting. I felt I needed to paint something very gentle and peaceful for once. Choosing a photo we had taken last Christmas I developed my layout from there. On a 40 x 40 cm square painting carton, a size I quite like for reasons I can only guess at, I prepared the background first and painted the figure of my son on top of that. With pastels this technique will already lead to a 3D impression. Since the goal of the exercise is to practice both mark-making and blending, I decided to make the background indistinct while combining both painting and drawing in the figure of my son (Fig. 2 below).

Figure 2. Christmas 2015, soft pastels on painting carton

This was the first time I used a painting carton with soft pastels and I soon discovered that the surface, at least of the brand I had chosen, would not take up the pigment quite as readily as the pastel paper I normally use, in fact found it impossible to blend the colours with a brush. All of them literally fell off the canvas – apart from vermillion that is, which turned out to be practically indelible. So I used my fingers for blending, which I normally prefer anyway, but this meant that I was unable to correct the fine detail on my son’s face, so mouth and chin are not totally correct.
To illustrate the difference between “all over” blending and mixing painting and drawing I include two close-up photos (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4 below):

Figure 3. Blended colours only, glass rocking horse on Christmas tree reflecting candlelight
Figure 4. Blending combined with drawing elements

Looking at the result I am pleased not to have subdued the bright background colours. I think that they help convey the feeling of joy associated with seeing the candles burning on the Christmas tree.
If I use pastels on a painting carton again I will try and prepare the surface of the carton with a layer of paint or something similar. Another surface I have been planning to use and did not have time to during Drawing 1 was fine-grained sand paper, which during tests proved extremely versatile. I am not sure, however, whether that would count as painting.


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