Hang in there everyone! Glad you could join me again this week from containment. I sincerely hope that talking about painting will keep your mind off any worries for a few minutes and we can chat about beauty and art.

So continuing from last week, as this painting moved forward I had set up some clear goals… the biggest of which is that the lit areas needed to stay lit, and the shadows needed to be clearly not lit while staying “airy” and beautiful. If you know anything about my art and my passions, it is that I love painting in the dark. “Playing in the shadows” I call it. I would rather paint a portrait in shadows than in full light. So understanding darker skin tones is crucial. Dead, uninteresting and boring shadows kill a painting. So I wanted the tiny shadows playing across her face to be full of color and life.

This means not being timid! I threw in reds, oranges and greens, lots of versions of violet and made sure I didn’t think about “real colors” at all at this point. If you have taken a workshop with me, then you will recognize this as the third stage in my layering also known as the “Rainbow Color Stage.” All colors are on the table with no thought to color harmonies or “right colors.” Not yet. Intuition rules.

The overall background got darker and I took my fingers and blurred around the shapes more like a pinwheel in motion. This was actually not part of the initial planning, but once the idea took hold, I went with it. At this point I was planning on covering up the very yellow section on the left, but I didn’t want to do that right away since it seemed to balance out all the yellow that would be left in the hair on the right.

Here is where I started tightening up the shapes of the shadows yet making sure they were full of color. In the end I would say there are maybe 30  layers in some places in the shadows across her face. I must confess now that this painting is on my very last piece of Wallis pastel paper. If you are a pastellist you would know what that means. This surface has not been made in a very long time and this was a tiny piece that I had left. I was waiting for a very special image to use it and I knew that this was it. Man! How I miss this surface! Others have come close to it over the years, but for me there was something about this surface that made the pastel act like magic. Like drawing and painting combined. It was put to good use here developing the shadows. Bold and bright yellow got dashed into the lit areas and then I started to carefully render how those areas met and faded into each other.

Here is the painting at his stage on my easel with the iPad close by. Yes, I have to use photos for kids of this age. I was lucky to get the shots I did and out of the over 400 photos that I took, only a few were useable. Here I am studying the hair…

Then I started the arduous process of what to keep and what to exaggerate, what to render closely and what to “let go.” Notice below how the hair on the left side of her head starts to remain untouched from the initial block-in and how that side of her head will now start to get attention and darker applications to the front curls. Playing with space. A painting is nothing more than a lie- “breaking the picture plane” so viewers will believe that the side of her head is round and goes back in space. So the back of her head gets blurred into the background even more. Then that blue creeps into her head.

Tiny strokes built up the shadows and lit spots on the right side. I kept adjusting as I went until eventually colors flowed and melded into each other. Lots of pastel pencils. Lots of tiny strokes. The yellow became more mellow and yet I was careful to not overwork it.

More next week.

If you are looking for more on my work, I was asked to contribute to the amazing “How to Pastel” blog by Gail Sibley as a guest blogger. The article I wrote elaborates on a post about color and the portrait from a few weeks ago and will go online on March 20th. I will send out a link to everyone that is signed up for my blog email announcements. If you haven’t done that yet be sure to sign up! You will get a link every Wednesday to my latest blog post.

Until then be safe and healthy.

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