Here are some of my favorite small paintings I have done this fall that I haven’t shared on here yet.
I did a lot of watercolor paintings this fall in an effort to prepare for a highly detailed landscape commission I was working on (more on that later). During this time I would either work on a landscapes or still life paintings. Whatever I decided to paint I would work to add a lot of detail and make it as realistic as possible. I wanted to improve my skill at a technique called glazing (layering transparent layers of paint), painting wet into wet, and looking at details.
When I first started using soft pastels I started with a small ten dollar store brand set. They felt and responded more like colored chalk than actual soft pastels. All the colors were anemic and the only dark color was black. I found them difficult to work with and couldn’t get the look I was trying to achieve.
Years later when I started painting with watercolor regularly I learned the difference between child grade, student grade, and professional art supplies. This knowledge changed my entire art experience. I was no longer frustrated with how weak my watercolors were in saturation. I remember my first time painting with a set of good quality watercolor paints and feeling so relaxed as I painted. I didn’t feel like I had to fight my paints anymore. Creating the pictures that were in my mind started to happen more easily.
A few months after this experience with watercolors I became inspired with some beautiful soft pastel paintings I had seen demonstrated on the show “Color in your life.” Seeing these artist work inspired me to pull out that ten dollar set again experiment with the pastels.
I learned that soft pastel artists often work on sanded surfaces so I went to the garage and pulled out some sandpaper to experiment with how the pastels responded to a different surface.
Being older and having a better understanding of art I could more objectively analyze what I liked and disliked verses being a kid and just throwing my paper way after getting frustrated. I liked how the pastels layered, it was a fast medium to work in (like watercolor), and how you could achieve easily achieve an impressionistic effect. I liked how the sanded paper held the pigment and allowed for many layers compared to my cold press watercolor I had been experimenting on. I didn’t like how my set was so chalky and didn’t have much pigment to it. As a result of this experimentation I decided to see what decent quality pastels I could find for a reasonable price. I ended up finding this koh-I- Noor pastel set and a Sennelier (yay!) 60 half stick set on amazon for really good deals. So I ordered them along with some Uart sanded pastel paper.
Getting those pastels was one of the best decisions I’ve made in regards to art. I experimented, played, and learned as much about pastels as I could find online. I watched hours of free YouTube tutorials and tried different techniques. I learned that I absolutely love this medium. It filled in the gaps that watercolor couldn’t quite fill. I learned I especially love painting pastel landscapes. Which was perfect because I typically dislike painting landscapes in watercolor. I also liked how easy it was to fix mistakes.
Since getting those two sets of pastels my pastel collection has grown by quite a lot. I have since tried pan pastels, mount vision pastels, Richardson’s, nupastels, Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils, Schmincke, and my current favorite terry Ludwig pastels. Each brand and type of pastel has its own characteristics that I am learning how to utilize. I hope to do reviews on these pastels types of the next few months.
Have you ever worked in soft pastels? If so, do you have a favorite brand? Leave a comment down below letting me know.
The other night my kids were all asleep by 8 PM (Hallelujah!) and my husband was gone working a 24 hour shift at the hospital. It had been a rough day; the morning was spent fixing things that hadn’t gone to plan. Kids fought, my three year old decide he didn’t want to poop in the toilet anymore, naps/quiet time didn’t happen (not for lack of trying on my part), and the list goes on and on. My anxiety and stress levels were high and all I wanted to do was binge watch TV shows on the couch while carb loading on cake. As I was about to turn on the TV I asked myself if that would really help me feel better. The answer was no. TV doesn’t help me de-stress and sugar certainty doesn’t. In fact, they usually make me feel worse because I feel regretful about the wasted time and sick from the sugar hangover the next day. Thus, causing me to feel worse and more likely to repeat it again the next day.
So with my answer I got up and made my way to my studio, A place that I had barely been in the past few weeks. Between going to visiting family, family visiting us, potty training previously mentioned 3 year old, and then getting a kidney infection there hasn’t been much time left to paint. This lack of studio time is a big reason why I could the stress and anxiety building up inside me. Painting is my job but more importantly it is what brings balance to my life. When I feel like my personal identity is threatened to be washed away by the demands of my husband’s schooling, motherhood, owning a business, and just regular adult stuff I retreat to my little studio. I shut the door and spent time with beautiful colors. On this particular night I turned on some dancing music, picked out a reference photo, and started. The picture I picked was a sunset picture from our summer trip to Seattle. I wanted to get right to work so I just used the pastels that were already sitting out.
My Goal that night wasn’t to create my best piece of work but to break the cycle of putting off painting until I had time or felt inspired. It was to feel the stress leave through my fingertips with each stroke of the pastel. It was to change my perspective of the day. Instead of feeling bad that the first part of the day went so poorly I could be happy that my kids went to bed easily and early thus, leaving me with the entire night to paint. Instead of feeling bad that I hadn’t seen my husband awake for more than an hour the day before and wouldn’t be seeing him for another fifteen hours I could be glad that he has a job he loves. Painting gives me time to process and gain perspective on my life.
I came upstairs a few hours later feeling rejuvenated. The responsibilities that are still on my shoulders felt lighter and more like an adventure pack taking me on new adventures instead of a punishment.
Ps. This painting was actually really difficult to do with it such having such strong contrasting in colors. I will have to try it again on a large piece of paper and I use what I learned from this sketch.