For my latest soft pastel piece for The Pastel Place, I used a reference photo from Unsplash by Remi Baudouin. (Thank you, Remi!) The objective was to explore color using only the three primaries, brown and white. The exercises covered color mixing, complementary colors, temperature and value.
Rather than work on each exercise, I combined them all into one piece (and then some!) as I work out a pastel painting process that gets me closer to my goal.
I loved working on this piece. I learned so much. And I’m very pleased with how it turned out!
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Underpainting is so valuable for me. Beyond the line drawing, it helps me map out the light and dark areas as well as form a plan. It also is a simple way to just start – make a mark and get over “fear of the blank sheet.”
- An invaluable lesson working with chunks of pigment, otherwise known as the pastel, was using layering to create edges. For example in the blue feathers, I was able to create the central rib by making a mark with my brown pastel, then overlap the blue pastel to create the brown center line.
- While I don’t love the background one-hundred percent, it is an exercise in complementary colors and toning. I wanted the comb and wattle to pop without loosing the textured nuance, so I used a green background (the complementary of red). Same with the other side of the rooster – blue to augment the brownish-orange of his head and back feathers. Because I wanted the focal point to be on his right side, I also toned the blue down using a combination of blue, red + yellow, brown and white.
- With the exception of the background (where I used blending), all the colors are mixed with layering. Going forward, I’ll need to plan my layers better in that towards the end I felt that I stretched the capabilities of the paper’s tooth and stopped immediately when I felt the pastel slide.
This isn’t my full review, just a hearty endorsement. If you are interested in learning how to paint with soft pastels, seriously try out The Pastel Place. It’s one of the best online art courses I’ve taken.