Rolling your own pastels & more...

What do you do with all that pastel dust that collects at the bottom of your easel? How do you roll such unique colors? Where did you get the stuff to do this? When I open my studio in October, these are the most commonly asked questions I get when I'm at the easel demonstrating. So I thought I'd get a head start and educate a few of you on the science of pastels...well, maybe not science. But at least it's interesting stuff if you really LOVE pastels like I do! Anyway, here goes...

You will need the following:
Spray bottle with distilled water.
Paper towels, already separated cuz you'll go through them quickly.
Newspaper to cover your workspace.
Drop cloth
Butter knives with no serrated edges. Smooth ones don't hide pigment in the grooves.
A box of disposable latex gloves.
A jar of Wallis pigment, your choice. (I'm using Quinacridone Magenta and Ultramarine Blue)
A jar of Wallis white pigment.
Ziplock bags, sandwich size.

First, gathert the pastel dust by using a piece of paper or a small spoon to carefully scoop up the dusty pigment. Collect as much as you can get into a zip-top sandwich bag and zip tight with as little air inside. Try not to let the dust escape, cuz it goes everywhere, including your lungs!

Now the best and safest thing I do here is make a workspace outside. I do this because the pigment could ruin your new carpet, or your cat might want to walk over your project and make things worse.
Lay layers of the newspaper down so to protect your workspace. I also have my paper towels pre-separated from the roll and lay them in a pile next to me. I can access them quickly when I to pick up something with my messy gloved hands, like the spray bottle for example.
Take the baggie and mash with your hands the contents so there are no clumps and chunks of pastel. This makes an interesting gray color, but can make some beautiful shades of landscape colors too.

Now that the dust has settled, ha ha, humor at work...anyway, let the dust settle in the baggie and slowly add a few sprays of the water from your spray bottle (keep the baggie closed so the dust doesn't get sprayed out). Since the pigment already has binder in it from it's original state, you will not have to add any more. Close the baggie and mush it up till it is a consistency of playdough. You may have to add some more water. If you add too much water and the pigment becomes runny, it can be dried out by keeping the baggie open for awhile.

Scoop out some of the gray pigment.

I'm wishing to create a grayed purple that would work best for those distant hills in my landscape paintings. You can use any pure pigment to gray down, or just the grey alone. In the photo above, I have a bit of the grey that I just processed on the right, and a few clumps of Quinacridone Magenta and Ultramarine Blue pure pigment from my Wallis Pure Pigments on the left.

Now, get your latex gloves on cuz this is where it gets messy!

Roll in your gloved hands the pure pigment. Roll it and bend it back into a ball, then roll again. Roll until all the color is consistent. This ensures a good mixture of the pigment. Then you can begin to add a series of white pigment to the mix. Break off a batch for every value step.

Here is the roll of grayed purple mixture with a batch of white on the right.

Add white to the grayed mixture and begin to roll, roll, roll. If the rolling seems dry and crackly, add a drop or two of the distilled water to the mixture. If the pigment seems too wet, press it against a paper towel, to absorb the extra moisture.

Here is a stick of rolled pastel. Cut into half the size and set one piece aside to dry. Then take the other half and add a bit more white to it. Roll and repeat, adding white each time until you are happy with the value selection.

Here is a series of two colors with a value shift of at least four of this particular grayed purple.
Let them sit out in a safe spot to dry over the course of about 5 days. Note: I have used a straight edged knife to square off the sticks. You can make them any shape you wish.

Now wasn't that easy?
If you have any questions on this process, just ask me. I've done this enough to know the pitfalls and successes. Happy rolling!

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Cascade Respite, 14x11

"Cascade Respite" 14x11"

I'm finally getting this last painting posted from Maggie's workshop I took back in July. It's been so hot here this past week and I'm not complaining, but when you add that Oregon moisture to the mix, all one can do is just lay around. I've so many little art projects that I've been working on, but the heat just puts a stop to it all. I woke up this morning to thunder and some welcome rain. Now that it has cooled down, I can get back to framing all these pieces for my Open Studio show in October.

In this final exercise in Maggie's workshop I was introduced to a new paper called Richeson Pastel Paper. It has a toothier feel to it that made me loosen up my mark-making. The paper is black that gives a moody feeling to the painting and it comes in other colors too. I picked black just because I wanted to experiment with it. The original painting has more greens and ochres in it, but the camera just doesn't capture the range of colors here, giving more heed to contrast. I liked trying the paper, but I still prefer the Wallis Sanded Paper hands down.

Below, Is a photo from the last day of the workshop. I just had gotten news that my daughter had a seizure and I had to rush through the review so I could get to the ER. I later found out that she was ok, but she will be getting a few tests done to make sure of it. Can you say "smile under pressure?" What a way to end a great workshop week! That's Maggie on the left and me, the short one...

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10 Minute Exercise

10 Minute Exercize, 9x12"

In Maggie's next lesson, she prepared us for a Plein air experience. Although we were doing this exercise indoors, it still prepared us to go outside. Anyway, we were given this fun exercise to paint a 9 x 12" painting from a photo resource using 12 pastels, no longer than an 1" long (because we use the sides, right?) all within 10 minutes! We were encouraged to paint as quickly as possible, no details, no noodling. Just get the color down! This was to stretch our eyes and to get our hearts racing, because when we went outside to paint, we had to race with the sun! Maggies tips for plein air painting were:

Never spend more than an 1 1/2 hours on a plein air piece. The sun moves quickly in any window of light.

Capture shadows first, then the sunlight. (Don't move/chase the shadows)

Get what you get.

Nature is our best teacher. Don't retouch in the studio if at all possible!

Every inch of your painting is a learning experience.

It should take you no more than 10 min. to set up your easel and supplies.


Where The Koi Go, 9x12

"Where the Koi Go" 9x12"   Sold

Water and reflections are very intriguing to the viewer. I find it mesmerizing. This is probably the most challenging element to paint, but such a beautiful one as well. Water is my favorite subject to paint. It is written about in depth (no pun intended here) in my artists' statement. In Maggies' workshop, I was thrilled when she had water as one of our studies. Here are some tips to know that she shared with us that give a painting that "wet" look.

* Deep water has a dark base.
*Lay in the reflections after painting the surrounding environments.
*Give only one "splash" the lightest value, making that particular splash the star of the painting.
*Use a skipping scumbling stroke for moving water.
*Reflections always come toward the viewer, shadows can cross over a reflection.
*What is reflected always is affected by how high or low the viewer's perspective is coming from.
*The color of reflections always depends on the color and depth of the water.
*A light object will reflect a bit darker, a dark object will reflect a bit lighter.

I've painted this scene once before, so it was a snap in the workshop. But, I must say, it is better the second time around!


Sun and Shadow exercise

Sun & Shadow exercise 9 x 12"

In this exercise taught in Maggie Price's workshop, we worked on making a sunlit area with shadows. The emphasis was how to get that warmth from the sun to come through in the painting. Maggie explained to us that a dark object in full sunlight is lighter than the lightest object in shadow. Does this make sense? Let me share this with you then...

We were to pick out a simple subject, a photo with sunlit areas and strong shadows. Since I had no photo that had these qualities, I borrowed a photo to work from. The composition should have a 70/30 relationship to shadows and sun. 70% shadows, 30% shaded areas. Or, if you are the defiant sort, then go 30/70! Then, we had to pick out 3 values of yellow from light to a dark yellow, possibly an Ochre, and 2 values of blue. A light and dark Ultramarine works best. Then carefully block in with your yellow pastel all areas that have sunlight hitting it. Then block in the shaded areas with the light and dark blues. Then we carefully turped the blocked-in areas, keeping the edges clean from each other. (Trying not to make green from the yellow and blue.) Here is my underpainting:

It looks a little abstract, doesn't it?
Now here is the confusing part.....see where the sky is in the top photo? It's blue, right? And take note that I used a light yellow for the sky underpainting. I did this because the sky is the lightest area in the painting! After the blocking in, the light blue sky was painted in just like a "whisper" of color atop the yellow underpainting. This makes it glow! And where the darkest darks are, in the shadows, I placed my darkest greens with a variety of colors in the same value. Notice, the tree trunks are not brown, they are actually painted using a purple and yellow!

This exercise was the hardest for me to grasp, but being uncomfortable means I'm learning new things.


I have a voice!

Have you ever wondered how one goes about getting their voice heard? I'm talkin' about an mp3 recording for your blog or website! Well, this opportunity just landed in my lap, and I couldn't be happier! Mike Turner, who is a recording professional, has just launched his new business, Infopods. Infopods creates an interview with you and turns it into a wonderful, informative story of you! If you are wondering how to get your word out, or have credibility on the net, then check out Mike Turner's new site Infopods. He has the capability to interview you over the phone, if distance is an issue. The many layers of my work and evolution into being a pastelist now makes sense and hopefully will cause someone to stop and spend a little time looking, really looking at my work. Link is at the top of my blog, on the right....