Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Have You Tried Pastelmat Sanded Pastel Paper?

'Room to Breathe'           10x10          pastel          ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $145
I am still packing. I came across a stash of Pastelmat paper and decided to pack some.  Yesterday's painting just so happened to be on Pastelmat and someone asked me if I ever wrote a review on the paper. I searched my blog and found 3 posts on Pastelmat.  I thought it would be a good idea to share them again. Below is the first post and here are the links to the others. Enjoy!
Six Reasons to try Pastelmat
Pastelmat Review

my drawing on a piece of black Pastelmat
I had a scrap piece of black pastelmat already attached to a board so I decided to use it for todays painting. It is fun to paint on black anyway. It seem to make colors so vibrant.  As soon as I touched pastel to paper I remembered just how unique this surface is. It is soft and velvety  and the pastels go on oh so smooth. I just feels nice. It is a pleasure to work on. I don't use Pan Pastels but I understand it is a perfect match for the pans. Here are some things I noticed:

  • The paper accepted both hard and soft pastel equally well. And as I said before, it feels good....the pastels just glide on.
  • I found I had more success when I made bold and direct strokes. The paper does take several layers but I found that the marks want to stay in place rather than be blended. (this is a good thing if you tend to over blend)
  • I was able to use fixative with success. I decided midway through the painting to change color scheme so after a little fixative I could add more pastel. However some spots got too slick from fixative and I could get pastel on top.
  • I didn't use a wet underpainting today but I do remember that while the paper takes a wet underpainting, the cellulose fibers seem to suck in the wet. You tend not to get the drips and blooms like you get with other papers.
PASTELMAT® is a premium card surface (360gsm / 170lb) specially developed for pastelists. Its unique velvety surface, made from a fine coating of cellulose fibers, has the ability to grab and hold multiple layers of even the softest pastels.
PASTELMAT® significantly reduces the need for fixative, which means that colors remain vibrant and fresh once applied. It has the added bonus of being gentle on both fingers and blending tools. It is acid free and lightfast.
PASTELMAT® is ideal for use with all dry media - pastel sticks, PanPastel, pencils and charcoal. It is also water resistant which means that it can be used with wet media – such as acrylics and watercolor for washes and mixed media techniques.
Overall I do like Pastelmat. I would like to get some more to see what else I can discover. Do you use Pastelmat? I welcome your thoughts!

Visit Pastelmat's website for more information and for a review by Richard McKinley.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Great Tip for Plein Air with Pastels

'Aspen Impressions'              5x7           plein air pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase  $50
 I  am not exaggerating. This is one of my favorite ideas for plein air painting with pastels. I am always looking for ways to streamline packing and solving plein air problems. I discovered this tip by accident but I am thrilled.

If you like to use foam insulation for blending pastels this tip solves a big problem. 

 I love blending in my first layer of a plein air study. I use pipe insulation foam cut into small pieces.

The problem is that the little pieces would blow away when I tried to use them outside. I tried storing them in baggies but it was inconvenient to dig them out of my bag of supplies. I needed a better way to carry them with me.

Jennifur inspects my new idea

Problem is now solved! The pipe insulation foam comes in long tubes. They are split down one side to make it easy to cover pipes. That makes them just as handy to slip on the legs of a tripod!
I cut the tubes to fit the legs of my tripod. Now I have three large pieces of pipe foam available for my use while painting. All I have to do is tear off a piece as I need it! No more tiny pieces blowing in the wind. (When I am done with the piece I will throw it away in my trash bag.)



Pipe foam pieces on my tripod legs

Look closely to see the foam on the tripod legs
Painting notes: Today's painting is a plein air study I did near Lake Tahoe. It is on a piece of gray Pastelmat.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Packing for a Plein Air Trip part 3....the Pastels

'Wishes Do Come True'          12x12              pastel              ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting $150  
It begins with a mess. It ends with controlled chaos. It takes a few hours. In the end my box of pastels are packed and ready to travel. I have been through the bell curve of plein air pastel supplies. I began with a small cardboard box of pastels and a bulky french easel. I gradually added supplies and carts and folding chairs and an assortment of 'necessities'.

Now I am on the way down. Getting rid of the excess weight and paring down my supplies to the bare minimum. Sometimes it scares me. What if I need something? But in the end I am grateful for the lighter load.

Paring down and simplifying my pastel selection was the most difficult part of the process.


I began with an empty box. I am using a Heilman double Sketchbox. Yes the backpack size fits into my backpack but it is heavy and I can make do with less pastels. I will use the Heilman easel attachment and a tripod.  I decided to bring an assortment of Terry Ludwig pastels in one half of the box and Girault pastels in the other half. The Giraults have been cut in half so that I could fit the entire Richard McKinley plein air sets.

But they still look messy. Why?  Yes I didn't organize them by color or value. In fact they are not in any order at all. I work better that way when I am painting quick plein air studies. I don't have to worry about putting them back where they belong. I just paint...make a mess and put them back wherever they fit. It works because the palette is very limited. There aren't  many pastels to choose from so I can scan and find an appropriate color and value.

The Heilman double sketchbox

The Heilman double and single sketchbox
I also have my Heilman single sketchbox packed and ready to go. It will come in handy on day trips when I don't want to bring all of my supplies. I can slip this little box into my daypack and I have pastels and paper all in one place.

Ready to travel!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How To Prepare Pastel Paper for Plein Air Painting

'Dreams of Zion'                5x7          pastel           ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $75

I love to experiment with paper. Not always though. When I go on a plein air trip I want to be sure I have my favorite paper with me. Plein air painting is challenging enough. Especially when visiting an unknown place. We are dealing with different light, different weather, new scenery. It is easy to get overwhelmed. Throw in a new paper and it is a recipe for frustration.

I always pack plenty of my favorite go-to paper for plein air. It used to be Wallis Belgian Mist paper. I loved the gray brown tone of the paper. It worked perfectly for quick plein air studies. I didn't have to tone it or do any underpainting. I didn't have to worry about the light bits of paper peeking through my pastel layers. The nice brown tone unified my paintings.

Last time I checked Wallis wasn't available. Last fall Kitty Wallis was taking orders for seconds and a new warm mist paper but I don't know if that is still available.  So I have decided to make my owned Belgian Mist toned paper!


I start with a full sheet of my favorite paper....UArt 500 grade sanded pastel paper. I cut it into the sizes I want to bring. I only will bring 5x7 and 8x10. I use a ruler and scissors or utility knife.
Alternately you can tone the entire sheet first and then cut it to size.


I am using sample cans of latex house paint that I found in Home Depot in the 'oops' section. Someone couldn't get the color they wanted but it was the perfect color for my paper. You could just find a color chip you like and have a sample can prepared. A sample is usually under $5.

I diluted the paint with water so it was thin. I don't want it to clog the tooth of the paper. If I can see the paper through the paint than it is thin enough. I also use a cheap brush. You can use a roller for a smoother application.


When the paint was dry I cut my paper to size. Here is my paper ready to be loaded into my portfolio folders.  You can see I have tones Uart, regular Uart and some Pastel Premier Italian Clay paper. I am still too new to Pastel Premier to make it my only choice. I need to work with it some more.


Loaded and ready to go! You can read about how I carry paper and store finish paintings HERE.

Today's painting is a plein air study done on tined Uart at Zion National Park.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Packing for a Plein Air Trip part one

'Desert Oasis'             5x7         plein air pastel               ©Karen Margulis
sold
 The adventures will begin soon. It is time to pack. I don't like to pack for a plein air trip at the last minute. I like to spread out the project over a few weeks. It's is part of the fun anticipation of a trip. I set aside a table in my studio and lay out all of the things I think I need or would like to bring.

Then I go through it all. I eliminate most of it. I keep the bare minimum amount of supplies. I want to travel light and free. I want just enough to allow me to paint quick studies. I want to capture fleeting moments in time. I don't need to bring the contents of my studio with me. If it can't fit in my backpack or carry-on then it will stay home.

As I pack I'll share my process. Packing light isn't for everyone but perhaps you will like some of my ideas. Perhaps you will have tips of your own you'd like to share?

Packing Paper for a Plein Air Trip

Today I am packing paper. I won't be painting anything larger than 8x10 on my trips. I will be gone for a total of 6 weeks this summer so that is potentially a lot of paper.  Since I will have a three day turn-around in between trips I will be able to restock my paper but I am getting it all prepared now.

Itoya Portfolio folders in two sizes....8x10 and 5x7

  •  I will bring an assortment of my favorite sanded pastel papers. Uart, Pastel Premier, Pastelmat, Multimedia Artboard and a few pieces of leftover Wallis paper.
       Tip: Bring paper that you are familiar with. Unless you have a lot of room and want to                     experiment and play it is safer to work on paper you know.
  • I am cutting full sheets of the papers into smaller sizes both 5x7 and 8x10. I use a ruler and scissors or utility knife to cut the paper. (saves money)
  • I am toning some of the Uart paper in my favorite plein air color (more on this tomorrow)
  • I am filling my Itoya plastic portfolio folders wit the cut paper. These folders have plastic sleeves that work great for protecting and transporting paper.
  • I put finished paintings back into the plastic sleeve of the folder. This is how I transport and protect my finished paintings. (yes a little residual pastel dust is left on the plastic but not enough to harm the painting.)
  • The plastic folders are great for sharing your work with others and keeping the paintings safe. 
  • The loaded folders are slipped into my backpack. The perfect solution for keeping both paper and paintings safe!
How to do store and transport paper and paintings on a plein air trip?



New Mexico Workshop Note: 
Registration is now open for my October workshop in Pecos New Mexico. It will be a pastel workshop retreat at the Pecos Benedictine Monastery in Pecos, New Mexico located in the Pecos River Canyon 25 miles east of Santa Fe. 

October 8-13, 2015   4 day workshop
 Arrive Thursday October 8th, workshop on Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  and Monday. Depart Tuesday October 13

$800  includes  workshop instruction 4 days and lodging for 5 nights. Lodging   
 includes 3 meals daily. 

To register for the workshop and secure your lodging please contact:
                          Bruce Wadsworth
                          Marketing/Retreat Director
                          Pecos Benedictine Monastery
                          Tues.-Sat. 9-3:00
                          manager@pecosmonastery.org
                          (505)-757-6415 ex t12  (505)-946-7281 cell    




Plein air paintings done last October in New Mexico

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Two Important Functions of Pastel Marks

'Invite the Bees'               6x12              pastel                   ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $145
The marks are important. The way you apply the pastel matters. Not only do they reflect your style, they help express your message. I have discovered that my marks have two important functions:

1. Marks help describe.  The way you make your marks can help describe your subject. Look at the poppy painting in this post. There are a variety of marks. The flowers are painted with broad and bold marks that go in the direction of the form of the flower. The grasses are painted with thinner linear strokes painted in the direction the grasses are growing.
Take advantage of making marks that help describe the things you are painting!

2. Marks show emotion. Big bold, small and precise.....the way you make marks says a lot about you. It is how you express yourself with pastel. You can adjust your marks to express a mood or feeling.
Take advantage of making marks that help show the emotion you feel about your subject.

I'd like to share a handout from a recent class I taught on mark making. Feel free to try the exercises!

Embrace Your Calligraphy

A Focus on Mark Making in Pastel Painting

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing. In pastel painting it refers to the way each artist produces marks, most often referring to linear marks. 

Every artist has their own personal way of making marks. Just as we all have unique handwriting we make unique marks when painting.

Discover your own personal calligraphy and embrace it!

Here are some suggested exercises to help you discover and refine your own personal calligraphy:

  • Study other art especially pastel work. Look at the marks. Do small studies and duplicate the marks you see using your own subject.
  • Abstracts: Look at other pastel paintings (books, Pastel Journal, online galleries) Use a tool such as a viewfinder to isolate a small section. Paint the section concentrating on duplicating the marks.
  • Paint a simple subject such as an apple using several kinds of marks: linear, scribbles,hatching and cross hatching, stippled,side stokes,blended.
  • Compare blended marks with unblended by painting two versions of the same subject…one blended and one with visible marks.
  • Practice your Touch…..how light can you paint? How heavy?
  • Paint large!  Do a painting that is at least 16x20. How does the size effect your marks?



The above exercises are meant to help you experiment with marks and show you the many possibilities that we have with pastels. Now it is up to you to just paint! The more you paint them more your own personal calligraphy will emerge. Don’t force it. Just paint, see what happens and embrace it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Best Way to Evaluate Your Mark-Making

'Excitement in the Air'               8x10        plein air pastel            ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $125
It happens when you aren't paying attention. When you are caught up in the moment. When you are painting with passion and excitement. That is the time when you let go and stop overthinking every mark you make. That is the time when your own personal calligraphy emerges. You are making marks to express your feelings and you stop thinking about HOW to make them.....you just simply paint them.

In yesterday's blog post I wrote about mark-making in pastel. Read the post here. I wrote about the importance of embracing your natural tendencies for applying pastel to paper. Are you a linear painter? Or Bold or delicate?  How do you even know?

You can take a look at several recent paintings and evaluate the marks you made. But here is an even better way:




The painting in today's post is a plein air pastel I did during a paint-out. The weather was changing quickly. A storm was moving in. I had to paint fast! I had to simply respond to the scene. I painted furiously and with passion. My marks are my own. I didn't stop to think about the best way to apply the pastel. I just let my marks fly.

Tomorrow I will address the power of marks and how we can harness them to create better paintings.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Do You Have Mark Making Envy?

'My Friend Raven'               5x7                  pastel                ©Karen Margulis
painting available $50
 It happens to me. I admire a painting. I study it. Maybe it is the color palette I like. Maybe it is the subject. But often it is the the marks...the way the pastel is applied. Oil and acrylic has brushwork. We admire an artist's brushwork. In pastel we don't call it brushwork  but the way an artist applies the pastel is often known as mark-making.

The way an artist makes marks is unique to that artist. It is like handwriting. No two artists have the same calligraphy or application of pastel just as no one has the same handwriting. 

When mark envy occurs we often wish we could make our marks the way we see others do. "If only I could apply the pastel like __________"  We could try to copy but ultimately it wouldn't be authentic. It would be forced. We all have natural tendencies in our way of making marks. Some of us like linear marks, some of us like big broad strokes. Some have soft feathery strokes.

close up of linear marks
I like to remind myself that I have my own natural way of making marks. The best advice I can give is for you to discover your natural tendencies and EMBRACE  your own personal calligraphy. Make the way you apply pastel your own statement.  I have some more thoughts on mark-making which I will share in upcoming blog posts.

TRY THIS:
What is your personal calligraphy? Line up 5 recent paintings. Look at them and try to define the types of marks you made....linear? Side stokes, Light hand? heavy hand? Bold marks? delicate marks? Write down your observations.

What choices do you have? Sometimes it is fun to try different types of marks. This allows you to see what feels the most comfortable. Try a simple subject such as an apple and do several small studies changing the type of marks you use.


Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Make Better Business Cards

'Garden Party Time'              6x6            pastel               ©Karen Margulis
painting available $65
 I want my business cards to be keepable. What's the point in giving out business cards if they end up in the garbage. Business cards need staying power. You never know when your art or services may be needed. If your business card is a keeper it is more likely to be there when the need arises.

I am a big fan of Moo.com. I love their business cards and I am always trying the latest products.  I was excited to try the new square business cards. They measure about 2.5 x 2.5 inches. I got my first order and love them so much I ordered another set!

Square cards are cool!

I think these cards will be keepers! I decided to showcase about 50 different wildflowers paintings on the front of the cards. The great thing about moo cards is the ability to use up to 50 different images on one batch of cards. There is no set up fee or extra image fees. It is a very simple upload process. The back of the card has my contact information. You get full color printing on both sides for no extra charge.

I am very pleased with the printing and color reproduction. The card stock is heavy and feels expensive. You can even upgrade to an even more luxurious card stock.

The quality of Moo cards is wonderful
If you don't have business cards or need to get new ones consider giving Moo cards a try. If you use this link to create your cards you will get 10% off your first order.  Click here for the link.

If you don't have business cards or make your own, treat yourself to some really nice business cards. You are your own brand and your business cards reflect you as an artist. You DESERVE nice business cards!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Timeless Tips for Painting Daisies

"Sparkle and Shine'            8x10         pastel             Karen Margulis
sold

As I prepare for my IAPS Wildflower demo, I am immersed in daisies. I wanted to share this older post as it is very timely. I hope you enjoy it!

 "My daisies look like a 5 year old painted them"   I hear this all of the time when I teach my wildflower workshop.  There is actually a very good reason why this can be true for many artists.  It has to do with how well we really look at the daisies when we paint them.  The problem is that often we don't observe these flowers as well as we should. Why not?

A Collage of Available Daisy Paintings
We often don't spend enough time observing the daisy because it is such a familiar flower to us. We think we know just how they look. We know they are white with yellow centers and that there are petals surrounding this center.  We probably drew daisy-like flowers as children whenever we had to draw a flower.  Our brains have developed the daisy into a symbol.

This is the daisy that we drew as children. The yellow circle surrounded by white petals.  Now as mature artists we often revert to this symbol without even being aware that we are doing it.  Our brain jumps in and helps us by supplying the symbol for a daisy and as a result we don't take the time to study the daisy and see that it isn't like our symbol!   The result: child-like daisies!


How can we paint more painterly mature daisies?  Here are some tips:

  • Take the time to really look at the daisies you are painting whether it be from photos or from life. Notice the colors and the way the petals are not always perfect and regular. Notice the direction of the petals. Are they pointing up or down?  What about a variety in the stages of the flowers? Are some not quite in bloom or maybe on their way out?
  • Color is important!  We typically think of the local colors of the daisy as being white petals with yellow centers.  But painting them this way will give them a sterile look. Add some colors to the petals and the centers. 
  • Pay attention to the light source and it will help you choose colors to make your daisies come alive.  Paint the petals in the shade with cooler colors...pale blues and lavenders.  Paint the sunlit petals with warm pale lights....pale yellows and peaches work well. Rarely do I ever use pure white.
  • Stems and leaves: Try not to paint every stem and leaf. Hint at some and the viewer will fill in the rest. Be especially careful not to make stems too thick and regular. You don't want them to look like balloons on sticks. I like to vary the thickness and pressure when I paint stems.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How to Paint Daisies in Pastel Using a Watercolor Underpainting


'Daisies Make me Smile'             9x12              pastel            ©Karen Margulis
sold
Daisies make me smile!  I love to paint them but I wasn't always successful. In fact anytime I tried to add wildflowers to a painting they would look childish and sweet. I didn't want that! I wanted my wildflowers to look authentic ...to look like they belonged in the landscape and not just an afterthought. I wanted them to look as wild and free as I saw them.  But they always looked stiff and boring.

I didn't give up.  I just practiced and observed and tried different techniques.  I am still learning but at least now my daisies don't look like they were painted by a preschool child!  I have discovered ways to help me paint them better.  Last year I put together a step by step demo on how I paint daisies using a watercolor underpainting.

The demo is available as a pdf booklet in my Esty shop for $6. Click here for details 

The cover of the pdf booklet
I am sharing the demo again in honor of my upcoming Wildflower Demo at the IAPS convention. You could say I have wildflowers on my mind!  This demo is 30 pages filled with 60 color photos. I have documented each step of the painting from the watercolor underpainting all the way through the layering of the pastels.  I extensively cover the watercolor underpainting stage....something I didn't always have great success with!  Through the many photos and my description you will be able to see how I work through the addition of pastel while preserving the underpainting. Here are a few sample photos:


close up photo of watercolor underpainting
sample from the pdf demo

This demo is a PDF file so you can either print it out and staple the pages into a booklet or just save it and follow on your computer or tablet. I know several artist who like to follow and paint along on their iPads.
I would love for you to take a closer look and consider giving this demo a try. I have 11 other demos available as well. They can be found in my Etsy shop.
Here is a link to the demos.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Paint with 38 Pastels or Less

'Its the Simple Things That Matter'          8x10              pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available for purchase $125
 I have enough pastels. Really I do. It doesn't stop me from having pastel envy though. Whenever a new set comes out or someone shows me a box of new pastels it begins all over again. The desire for more pastels. I don't need any more and I will have to be strong at the candy store at the IAPS Convention in a few weeks.

More pastels mean more choices. That is good but it can also lead to color chaos in a painting. It is sometimes hard to hold back. We want to use them all.....but the truth is Less is More.

The 38 pastels I used for this painting 
Think about it.....if we were mixing paint we wouldn't have hundreds of tubes. We would have a few and we would mix the colors we need. It leads to more harmonious color. Pastels are a bit different. We can physically mix colors the same as liquid paint so we need to have more sticks of color.

But we can take a cue from mixing paint....the idea that a limited palette leads to better color harmony and more unified color. It works for pastels as well. Try limiting the number of pastels you use in a painting. Choose a possible palette in advance. Make sure you have colors that match the values in your painting. (some darks, lights and middle values) When painting, try to reuse colors rather than reach for a new color. It may feel limiting at first but it is truly liberating.

Too many pastels to choose from
TIPS FOR SELECTING A LIMITED PALETTE

  • The underpainting colors are important. Choose them first. They will peek through and help unify a painting.
  • Select the darks. Look for colors to represent that darkest areas of your painting.
  • Choose colors for each element of the painting....sky colors, distant trees, mountain colors and so on. Visualize the colors and values you will need for each element.
  • Keep track. Try not to exceed 40 or so pastels in your initial selection.
  • If you add colors as you paint keep them out and add them to your tray or pile of pastels.
Read more about using a limited palette in this blog article by James Gurney. click here to read.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Think Outside the Box ...Painting Format Matters.

'Reach for the Sun'      10x20       pastel          ©Karen Margulis
painting available $195
Do you think outside of the box? When it comes to choosing your painting size what governs your  choice?  Often for me it was the Pile. That is the pile of papers I keep in the corner of my studio. I would often just choose the piece of paper that was on the top of the pile. Size, type and color didn't matter. Or should it?

Sometimes I did give it more thought. A bit more. If it was a landscape then I would automatically orient my paper to landscape mode....horizontal. That was limiting.

I started to think outside the box. Landscape don't have to be painted in a horizontal rectangle. What about vertical or portrait orientation? Or how about squares? Even more interesting how about panoramic?  What about size? Standard paper sizes are safe. They are easier to frame. But do they fit the subject? Would a non-standard size be a better choice?

detail view
This is food for thought. I tend to stick with standard sizes but when I think outside of this standard box my possibilities are limitless. For today's painting I decided that a long and narrow format would be the best fit for my concept. The flowers are tall and leggy and are reaching high above the meadow. They called out for more room to grow and a 10x20 piece of paper was the answer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Revisiting a Favorite Painting Spot...Blue Ridge Georgia.

'Autumn Lace'               8x10           plein air pastel               ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $125
Imagine driving  on peaceful country road. It winds it's way slowly alongside the river. You can smell the freshly mown hay and hear the gentle sounds of the river. As you round each bend the views get better. Soon you arrive. It is time to get settled in and take a deep breath of the sweet country air.

Imagine staying in this spot for three days. Painting. Learning. Laughing. Imagine being surrounded by other passionate artists. Artists of all abilities. Artists who just want to become better artists and who share the same passions as you. 

Come join us this October. Marsha Hamby Savage and I will be teaming up to teach a 3 day plein air workshop in Blue Ridge Georgia. The workshop will be held October 2,3,4. Friday , Saturday and Sunday. Marsha has a wonderful rustic cabin on the river where we will paint. We will also paint in some other beautiful spots....we know the secret spots!


Down a country road
I had my first plein air workshop experiences with Marsha and she taught me well! Now it is time to give back and work together pooling our teaching strengths and experience. You benefit from two great instructors!

Intrigued?  Let us know you are interested. The workshop is filling quickly and there are only a few spots left in the cabin. The cost of the 3 day workshop is $350 with cabin lodging or $300 without lodging. There are plenty of places to stay in the area. Rent a cabin with friends and come join us!
*** Update: as of May 13 there is one spot left in the cabin but still room in the workshop!***

To ask questions send us an email: Karen  Marsha
To register: visit our workshop page. You can use Paypal for your deposit or send us a check. Please email us so we can send you a contract and recommended supply list.

Plein air painting in Blue Ridge before the flowers are mowed down!


Marsha leading a group to a cool painting spot


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to Choose Pastels for a Plein Air Trip

'Visiting Honfleur'               8x10            pastel               ©Karen Margulis
available here $125
I am in countdown mode. In a little more than a month I will be in France. I will be a guest instructor with Stan Sperlak and the Painter's Passport group. We will be visiting Paris and then spending a week in Normandy. I have a lot of preparations to make since I will be teaching at IAPS in New Mexico before France. I will also be staying on in Europe to visit a friend in Sweden and to teach a workshop in Finland.  A lot to prepare but I am taking it one day at a time.

Today I am organizing my pastels for France. I want to travel light so I have pared down my supplies. Everything needs to fit in my carry-on backpack. I am bringing my Heilman double sketchbox for my pastels. I don't usually change the pastels in the box. It is a good assortment that will work for most landscapes. I try to have 3 values of each color on the color wheel. If I have a range of values I can make a painting work. I may not have the exact color but I can find a value that will work.  I use smaller pieces of pastel and an assortment of Girault pastels so I can fit more in the box.

My box is filled with Giraults and some Terry Ludwig pastels

Once I have the general assortment I decide if I need to supplement with colors specific to the area where I will be painting. I have a tip that I like to use.  GOOGLE STREET VIEW.
I google the painting location and look at the street view map. I basically take a tour of the area looking at general colors....are there a lot of trees? Buildings? What colors are prevalent? I take a few screen shots and do a few quick studies. This allows me to evaluate my color selection. (be sure to take into consideration the season of the street view photos. They won't be as helpful if they are winter photos and you will be going in summer!)

The beach in Honfleur France from Google Street view map

 I also study the work of the artists who painted in the area where I will visit. Today I found a book on Eugene Boudin at the thrift store. It is timely because Boudin painted in and around Honfleur which is near where we will be visiting. It is interesting to see how Boudin interpreted the area.

A timely thrift store find on Eugene Boudin