View Full Version : Conveying Nature with Simple, Rough Pastel Strokes

03-03-2017, 03:36 PM
Monet said it all:

"When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you...merely think, here is a little square of blue, an oblong of pink, a streak of yellow.." *

Working on a winter scene, I pondered how to convey the dense woods to the left of the snowy path in the reference photo below.*


The reality is that this area is a crowded collection of varying width trees, fallen branches, leafless shrubs, and a few leftover autumn leaves.

Rather than crafting onerous detail to convey the actual vegetation, I borrowed Monet's insight to capture the essence of that scene: blocks and streaks of brown*gray, blue hues all in the same value (Values 5 and 6 on the Gray Scale and Value Finder).

Here is a close up of this area in pastel. *Looks rather rough up close:


Note that there are clearly-defined branches yet a bunch of varying blocks and streaks of pastel to convey the depth of the woods as well as the variety of vegetation.

Here is a wider view of the painting in progress:


As I've said to my students, "nature was not drawn." *Edouard Manet once said, "you wouldn't dream of counting the scales of the salmon, would you?"

03-04-2017, 12:05 PM
Bob, this is beautiful! Thanks for the demo! Tangled areas like that are difficult to paint and pastel isn't always the medium for photorealism. That's very close to how I'd handle those trees. The way those short strokes play off each other in hue works so well for an overall texture.

This technique is also a way that a very high chroma pastel painting can work and look natural, even very strong saturated colors when used like that will optically soften and just give a sense of intensity to the whole area.

water girl
03-04-2017, 02:40 PM
Thank you for the demo, Bob. I'm giong to move this to the Gallery. I believe it will receive a bit more attention there. So you don't lose track of this thread, I'll leave a redirect arrow for you.

03-06-2017, 07:17 PM
That's the look I love and hope one day to master


Donna T
03-07-2017, 08:07 AM
Looking good! Your wooded area looks very natural. Wolf Kahn has some insightful thoughts about tangles too. This comes from Wolf Kahn Pastels:

"... there is a constant battle between making the tangle dense and keeping it transparent. Or between defining its volume to be composed by objects (tree trunks, foliage, or branches moving away from the eye), and keeping it ambiguous, hazy, unformed and undefined."

03-08-2017, 08:08 AM
The use of oranges and blues, warm and cool is an effective contrast to those "brown*gray, blue hues".