1. Your underpainting should be in the local color, however, if you brighten the color the
subsequent layers will glow.
2. If you use great contrast in your colors your painting will be more dramatic and convey more energy.
3. If you use complementary colors your painting will have more energy and be more dramatic.
4. When layering colors to create another color ( for example yellow and blue to create green) you should use colors of equal value so as not to create mud.
5. Let the eye mix the color instead of your fingers. This will create a much more exciting painting, a more complex painting, and will keep the interest of the viewer. It will also eliminate mud.
6. Remember that colors in the distance should be cooler and closer in value with little to no contrast.
7. Colors in fog or at dusk will have little contrast and be closer in value.
8. To create a bright spot in your painting the colors around it should be grayed down.
9. Control your bright colors as you don’t want to create confusion and a cacophony of color.
10. Allow colors to remain juicy and bold. Don’t go over them so that they get watered down and lose their impact.
11. Push color. Try not to paint the color you know, but the color you feel. Feelings are always more dramatic than reality. Allow yourself to put down a bolder color than you actually see. It will elicit an emotional response in the viewer. Respond to the scene you are painting. Try to capture a sense of time and place.
12. When painting from photo the shadows are always too dark and the highlights too light.
Lighten the shadows with a mixture of colors and darken the highlights as they are never a white as they appear in the photo.
13. Remember that all colors are influenced by the colors that are next to them. Sometimes color decisions will change when the adjacent color gets applied. Don’t be reticent to adapt the colors you choose. If need be, layering another color on top may improve and create depth of color. That is one of the very special qualities of pastels.
1. You want your strokes to be fresh and bold unless you are painting a very placid scene.
2. Your stroke is your signature. Make it your own.
3. Believe in the honesty of the first strokes that you lay down in a painting. They are usually the statement that first drove you to paint the scene you are painting. Let them be. Don’t overwork them.
4. Allow your strokes to give direction to the viewer. Orchestrate your painting so that the eye travels the route you want it to. You do this by placing directional strokes. Allow the strokes to breathe and to be strong. Don’t blend your direction and signature away.
5. Try to limit the amount of blending that you do in a painting. Each time you touch the pastel with your fingers you flatten the color and destroy the color crystals that make pastels so luminescent. Coax your pastels gently and use a hard pastel or another soft pastel stick to move the color for you.
6. If energy is what you are after use diagonals and triangles in your paintings. These are the most energetic of all the strokes and shapes that we can use.
7. Don’t draw with your pastels. By that I mean don’t put down lines. Paint shapes and planes not lines. Your painting will be looser and far more painterly.
8. Always start with hard pastels and move to softer after your initial layer. You don’t want to fill the tooth of the paper too soon.
9. Sculpt your forms with your pastels. Do not paint contours, paint planes. If you put down the stroke as if you were sculpting the form your shapes will be more believable.
Have Fun and Let Loose!
The Pastel Journal, is a bi-monthly publication and it has great articles about techniques, visions and new products. It also lists upcoming competitions and workshops. The journal is a great resource that I revisit from time to time, for I find that I pick up something new in each visit. In fact, I believe in building a library of resource books, all of which will offer solutions and inspiration as you grow as an artist. The beginner book I recommend is The Pastel Book by Bill Creevy. His explanations of different techniques and color theory are very clear. He has a great way of teaching the basics and then takes you to the intermediate level. For questions about materials the Dakota Pastel website, dakotapastels.com , has good information. They explain the qualities of the different brands of paper and pastels. They have all the newest materials available and they respond quickly to any e-mail questions you may have.