What to do with those pastel chips

If you work with pastels then you probably have noticed over time, that you may tend to reach for your favorite "go to" color in your endless stash of pastels.  If you are anything like me, that favorite color gets worn down to a nub or a chip.  Or then there comes a time when your pastel accidentally jumps from your dusty fingers and happily lands on the floor below, ending up in a scattered pile of chips and dust. Yeah, you know what I'm talkin' about here.... "Pastel woes". 

While I was online surfing the web, digging up information on art and artists, I stumbled upon Kitty Wallis' "Crumble Colors" idea that she shared on her blog. This was an exciting find and wanted to try it with my pile of chips that I had been saving over the years, and here is what I came up with....

Here is my pile of chips and thinly worn down fav's. (somewhat separated)

First of all, I took my chips outside to avoid inhaling and spreading pastel dust in my studio. I then separated all the chips into piles of values and likely colors. I moved a few chips into opposing groups, but kept in mind to always gather near values together.

Here I have mixed crushed orange and pink chips.

In the example above, I separated one pile of similar colors into two groups, each onto their own paper towel...some more orange, some more pink, keeping the colors separated to avoid making mud. Fold one side of the paper towel over like a sandwich. Then take a glass cup from the kitchen, to act as a rolling pin, and crush the pastels down evenly into small bits the size of beach sand. As per Kitty's directions, I tried not to crush all the chips into dust so that the colors still have their individual hue. However, some dust should occur to act as a "binder" to hold the chips together. When both piles are evenly crushed, combined them together to make the mystery color, or "Crumble Color". Stir them together by holding the opposing ends of the paper towel to allow the chips to roll and mix together and are evenly dispersed in the pile (as shown above).

Rolling with protective gloves

So you have your crumbled chips all mixed and ready to roll. Take a spray bottle and fill it with water and set it to "mist".  (Hint:  I use a paper towel on the spray bottle handle so not to spread the pigment onto it.)  Gingerly spray the mixture on the pile of chips and disperse the moisture throughout the pile. At some point, you can pick up the moistened mix and try to roll it into your desired shape. My shape looks just like a little cigar, but you can make any shape to your hearts desire.  If you add too much water, you can simply pat the "clay" into the paper towel to absorb the extra moisture and then finish off the shape. As you roll the pastel stick, you can pick up the leftover fragments to combine all chips.

Here is my finished "Crumble Color" set out to dry

Depending on your region's humidity, set the rolled pastels aside to dry for about a week. If the pastel seems "cool" to the touch, then it is still too wet and weak to use. Allow plenty of time for it to dry out completely as the binder will "cement" the stick together.  I have not tried my new sticks at the time of this posting as they are still drying, but hope to try them out soon enough on my next work of art.  If you come up with some interesting mystery colors, do share with me as I'd love to know what works.  Have fun!

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Twilight on 33rd, 24x24 (process)

"Twilight on 33rd" 24x24" Pastel

Getting back to my favorite medium, pastel, I have decided to work on furthering my urban series for a Portland gallery that has been wanting to represent my pastels. I currently have only two pieces available and must create more for a nice presentation for this gallery if I wish to show with them. As I was contemplating what to paint, I stumbled upon a photo I had taken last year from the passenger's seat of our car as my husband was driving me out to a special dinner. He had planned a surprise birthday party for me, and I had no clue! But I digress. As we were arriving in the Belmont district of SE Portland, the sun was low and the neon signs and traffic lights were in dire competition for my attention.  The atmosphere was dense for an October evening. It was the perfect photo for my next urban painting.

First things first, I sketch out the idea to check value patterns

Laying out the sketch onto the mounted Wallis sanded paper. 
I do not use any grid system to map out the idea. 

The beginning of a painting is where drawing skills are most important, as the keen sense of dimension, depth, angles and such can be taken off course, making the finished piece impossible to read well.  When that happens, we end up re-rendering and fixing (fighting the work) throughout the piece instead of using our intellect in the beginning process of the work. Once the rendering is set, and all questions of illusion are solved, I can leave the intellect behind and enter into the intuitive part of the painting process. Mapping by grid is a great way to solve complex illustrations and I will use them from time to time, but I haven't mapped since I began painting plein air. (perhaps another blog topic)

I start out with a value driven, monochromatic warm underpainting. 

I chose a warm underpainting because the atmosphere of the day was very warm and muggy. Had I used a cooler, perhaps a blue underpainting, the mood of the work would have been more sombre. 

I blocked in the main colors of most of the structures, asphalt street and sky. 

I then began to layer veils of similar values over one another. Not sure if you can see in this photo, but the sky has about 8 different colors, all pretty close in value and temperature to each other.

 Developing the details and playing with more punches of color here and there.

As I am looking at my resource photo, I notice the play of warmth from the surrounding car lights on the asphalt and so I added some more color to the asphalt. The reflections on the sides of the cars, and slightly suggesting figures and signage are some of the final details to be added.

All lines are drawn in while holding my breath!


UPDATE!  This piece was entered into the IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) 23rd Juried Online Show. This honor has earned me a total of 2 points towards the 5 needed for "Master Circle" designation. Looks like I am well on my way!

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Winding down the Plein Air Season

Crossing Sellwood, 8x10" Oil

The weather cooperated for a wonderful Fall outing of plein air painting these past few days here in Portland so I took the opportunity to work my magic out on the streets of Old Sellwood's antique district to finish up this one painting that I started last year.  As you can see the viewpoint could be a bit distracting to the traffic, but it made for a unique viewpoint.  There are so many street scenes I'd like to paint but I'd probably be killed in the process. Here on SE 13th Street in Old Sellwood offers a small island with a crosswalk for pedestrians to stop and take a peek at what's on the easel.

The only drawback to this location is that the island didn't offer much
room to step back to view the work in progress.

Then on Saturday, I drove out to Oregon City to participate in the Willamette Falls Festival plein air portion of the festival. There were a handful of artists out working the incredible views of the city and falls. I was stationed on Main Street at the very end of the bridge with a viewpoint of the ever-so-stiff icon of the city, the Elevator that has a viewing platform on top of the cliffside.

Main Street Elevator, 10x8" Oil

I used a panel that had been "prepped" with a reddish underpainting. I used a dry brush effect on most of the piece, allowing the underpainting to come through, much like how I work with my pastel work. After I completed the artwork, I ventured up onto the bridge to see what the view was like downstream. Below is my quick study of the Willamette Falls. I was told that the falls have the second most volume of water next to Niagra Falls.  The cliffs on the right support an old turn of the century Zellerbach paper mill that once was a major cause of pollution in the Willamette River. It no longer is in operation because it could not be retrofitted to new safety standards. Imagine all the logs coming into the mill by way of the river to be processed into paper. I asked the organizers of the Willamette Falls Festival event if they ever offer a tour of the 100 year old building that I would love to tour it and perhaps document it's history in paint.

 "Oregon City Crossing" 8x10" Oil

So I'm hoping for more good Fall weather to bring out the paints again to document the turn of seasons, but already the weather man has dashed my days away with rain. Oh, so Oregon!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,