View Full Version : Explore Soft Pastels-July 2004-ground colors

Deborah Secor
07-12-2004, 07:44 PM
I love what Sue has been doing in the Oil Pastel Classroom, so I decided to take a page from her book and do something like it over here next door. I thought I’d do a series of threads that will be posted every couple of weeks. Exploring Soft Pastels—ESP

I thought I’d start with the basics. So today we’ll tone paper… Pretty basic, huh?

The idea isn’t just for me to show you, but for you to try it, too! You learn best when you get in there and give it a go. This week you’ll see something fairly basic, but I’d love it if you’d try this technique and take a couple of pictures to show us all.

So—the assignment this week is to tone a piece of Wallis paper and use it for a painting. Not a tough one to do! Just starting you off easy… In case you don’t have or cannot get the Wallis, I’ve also given you an exercise that will help you think about ground colors and how they affect your paintings, which can be done on any paper.

Okay, here’s the first one! I hope you find it helpful…

Toning Wallis Paper with a Foam Brush

Because Wallis is so dazzlingly white and bright many artists prefer toning it to begin with. In order to lay down an even tone of color on pure white Wallis paper, without using water or any other wet media that may warp the paper and require stretching, try using a foam house painting brush. One advantage to toning the paper this way is that any charcoal drawing done on top of it erases with ease, and if you choose to wipe out part of the image you can recover some of this base color.

This works on either the Wallis Professional or Museum grade paper. Museum grade seems to look somewhat more even in color, but in the end both work equally well. First tape down the paper all the way around, so that you can lay the board flat and not have the paper move around.

Next you’ll use pastels to tone the paper. This is a good place to use harder, less expensive pastels like NuPastels or other cheaper brands like Mungyo--but any pastel will do. Put down two or three light layers of color using the open, flat side of a stick of pastel. You don’t need to fill up the grain of the paper. It just wastes valuable pastel and will be rubbed off in the process. I usually suggest beginning with one color for all the layers, but if you want to be adventurous you can certainly layer various colors over one another or lay them side by side for a different effect.

Now, hold the foam brush flat and scrub like crazy! You won’t damage the surface of Wallis doing this. The tough abrasive takes a lot of abuse. Scrub hard! I usually thoroughly rub in all directions while the board is flat so that I can be sure to push most of the pastel particles down into the surface. When done right the end effect is an overall solid tone of one color—not too splotchy or scumbled looking, and not so thick that it looks like you already painted a layer.

You can also use the leftover pastel dust most of us find in the trays of our easels. I don’t know why it is, but my leftover dust always seems to become a green-gray color, even when I use all kinds of colors in my paintings. At least it’s a good neutral color for most other landscapes. If you want to give this a try, all you have to do is dip the flat side of your foam brush into the dust and scrub away.

Before beginning to paint on this toned surface, use the foam brush to further sweep the paper while it’s upright on your easel, in order to remove any color that might contaminate your painting. When done this surface can be any color you choose, it will not dirty your pastels, and you can even wipe out part of the entire painting, recovering a version of the original toned color for another painting.

Here are two layers of the same color in place with the foam brush in action.

Here's the look of the overall tone.

The charcoal wipes away easily. (I use Grumbacher EXTRA soft THIN vine charcoal for this--not just soft vine...)

I did a quick painting on the toned paper just so I can show you…

You can see that the colors are not contaminated, but are clear and bright.

You can quickly and completely wipe away part.

Or wipe away the whole image! This is the same piece of paper, with the image completely wiped away. The paper is then ready to be reused, just slightly darker than the original.

An experiment in toning paper:
Many students ask me about what color to tone their paper for different paintings. There are as many different answers to that as there are people doing it, so my suggestion is that you try different things and see what happens. Here’s one experiment you might do.

Cut three 9x12” or smaller pieces of Wallis paper. Make three experiments with different colored grounds. I suggest you tone each piece as shown above (even the white one—just tone it white!), if you want to be able to erase the charcoal or the painting easily. (NOTE: YOU CAN USE ANY PAPER FOR THIS EXERCISE—JUST MAKE SURE TO USE THREE DIFFERENT COLORED GROUNDS.)

A. First experiment on a very pale, white or almost-white ground.

B. Next tone your paper a very dark color—or try black.

C. Then use a piece of paper that is a vivid medium value color. (Or try several.)

Paint using any image you like, but paint the same image on each different colored ground. Do not use the exact same pastel colors—it’s best if you let the color relationships inspire you to try different things. Don’t keep the paintings you’ve already done in sight or you might be tempted to try to make them look the same.

See what happens when you put colors on top of white, analyze what changes on the dark ground, and have some fun with the bright color. The idea is to be playful and learn at the same time, like a kid. Remember: the photograph is NOT the goal! Let the color of your ground give you new ideas, new ways to combine colors, and respond to it as you paint.

If you post any of these paintings here, be sure to identify the ground color (maybe shoot a photo of the paper before you start.)

These snow paintings are both 9x12”. Number one was done on paper I toned a very pale gray-white. Number two is on a dark purple—almost purple-black—tone. (The darks in the weeds are warm dark browns, not black, by the way.)

Snow #1

Snow #2

I did these a while ago as a demonstration for my class, which is why I didn’t show photos of the toned paper. :rolleyes: I haven’t done the bright colored ground version yet, but if I can find the photo I’ll do one and post it here later on.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them. I’ll do my best to answer them for you, and maybe others will have some input or ideas. There’s no ‘right’ way to do this—so if you discover something cool, share it with us. Try things—see what happens and let us know.


If there are others of you who want to teach something, just let me know. I’d love to share this series with anyone who has technical knowledge they want to share! I really hope this can become a repository of ideas we can all look back on.

And if you have certain technical questions you’d like to see addressed here please let me know. If I can’t do it, maybe I can find someone who can, or already has.

Okay—have fun toning and painting and I look forward to seeing your work! :D


Kathryn Day
07-12-2004, 07:54 PM
This is great Deborah, thank you. I will give it a try this week. I have a few sheets of Wallis left. I have been waiting to order more till I go to Santa Fe for the expo. You are great at giving visuals, which help me lots.

07-12-2004, 07:59 PM
Thanks so much Deborah...I'm going to give it a go ( happen to have some of that bright white wallis on hand) I'll take photos to share. This is great....thanks again :clap:


07-12-2004, 09:07 PM
What a fabulous idea. I'm signed up and will be sitting in the front row. I want to learn all I can. Thank you so very much for starting these lessons, Deborah!!!! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:


Mikki Petersen
07-12-2004, 09:19 PM
Deborah, what a wonderful and generous thing for you to do! I really liked this article and will be watching closely for future articles, ESP. Thank you for taking the time.

Deborah Secor
07-12-2004, 09:19 PM
Oh, thanks Kathy, Artsie and Gwen! Glad you're all so enthused... Can't wait to see what you do with this.


Oops! Cross-posted with you, Mikki! Thanks.... :D

07-12-2004, 09:33 PM
Deborah! What a delight to read this post.

I'm such a goof when it comes to my pastel work that I usually end up scrubbing off my pastel strokes with at least 80% of what I do. I had not thought about using a foam brush, so I'll be sure to add one of those to my collection of tools. I wonder if this technique would work for creating a toned background for future work from pastels that maybe just didn't turn out right and a clean surface is needed rather than trying to save the old try?

What do you think? Could this technique be used this way as well?

Deborah Secor
07-12-2004, 09:53 PM
Well, Llis, over the years I've found that after I've wiped out 10 or 12 previous paintings sometimes the Wallis gets a little used looking--but not too bad. In other words YES you can do that! I do it all the time. It makes this 'expensive' paper very economical for my students. (I make them promise not to wipe out a painting until after the final critique--and then sometimes the dust flies!)

Now, I have to tell you that I still grab a 'virgin' sheet of Wallis and tone it sometimes, just so I can have the perfect color and value to use as a ground. I sometimes take the time to wash off the paper with water and a scrub brush, which will remove more of the pastel, but usually I save the 'pre-used' pieces for paintings that will work on a little darker tone. Happily I enjoy working on middle to medium-dark tones a lot of the time!

I also tend to edit my paintings quite a bit as I paint, wiping out with the foam brush and recovering spots. For instance, if I have a white cloud and it's gotten muddy or too dark looking, I'll use my smaller size foam brush to remove a section and dash in some pure, bright white! It can work for any color or value. Sometimes I'll wipe away a section and add some strong darks that I can then build on top of. Verrrrrry convenient!

One thing to mention--wiping out an image doesn't work when you've sprayed fixative on the paper. I find it makes it slick, somehow. Of course it may depend on the fix you use...


07-12-2004, 10:07 PM
Thanks so much Deborah for this excellent advice.

I can not imagine you brushing off too many of your pastel works...sure hope you don't. All the ones I have seen are lovely. :)

07-13-2004, 06:20 AM
This is great, thanks do much for doing this. I'm just organising getting some Wallis paper from Jackie so I may be a bit late but I'll be with you.

07-13-2004, 07:30 AM
Dee :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

This is excellent....... love it.... love the way you have set it out and your easy to follow explanations..... I do hope you or at least someone else will submit a lesson each week such as this... would be truly wonderful, a lesson progressing each week ...... they will become invaluable to all ...... so thanks to Sue for thinking of the idea.... and especially to Dee for stealing it, for us :D ... you little rascal you :evil: :)

Deborah Secor
07-13-2004, 10:47 AM
Thanks Joy--and there's no time limit here, this thread will just be stickied until the next one comes up.

Yep, I agree, Dawn--thanks to Sue for the idea! Glad you like what I've stolen... ;) Um, I don't think there will be a new one every week, but maybe every couple of weeks... I have another one in the works!


07-13-2004, 12:08 PM
Deborah ... wonderful lesson for everyone here, everyone should be very grateful that you are so giving of your time.

Just one comment. You suggest that people use different colours, being inspired by what happens on the paper.

I suggest they also do something small using the SAME colours each time. Something simple, like a single lemon, with a white and green background, for instance. It is incredibly interesting to see what happens when you use the same colour sticks, on different colour backgrounds. The atmosphere of the piece changes dramatically.


Deborah Secor
07-13-2004, 12:16 PM
Jackie, I agree this can be instructive. A caveat, however, is that one should not cover every bit of the paper color in doing this. I found that many of my students tended to carefully create the same painting with no evidence of the ground color left--and that is simply a waste of time and materials, in my opinion!

The Wallis will allow you to fill up the grain so if anyone tries this idea be sure to let the color show through in the end.


07-13-2004, 05:06 PM
Hey, Dee...lurkin around and found this...what a nice lesson and study for everyone! It's really nice of you to do this and I'd sure love it if I could handle the dust. I do a monthly lesson over in OP...but it's going to be more of a study group thing when we get to things like landscape etc where I'm not so experienced. :rolleyes: I may be sneaking over here for ideas lol! :p

07-13-2004, 05:51 PM
Thank you Dee! This is great. I have been using Rembrants on Wallis with alcohol to create an underpainting, but this is a great way to just tone the paper. I have also used the Createx airbrush pigmients recommended by Kitty Wallis, but this is a bit simpler, and could more easily be done in the field or while travelling.

Good thread! Thank you again.

Kathryn Wilson
07-15-2004, 09:46 AM
I have one sheet of Wallis left - :eek: I'll probably be late in joining, but don't fear, I will! I knew this was a great idea - :clap:

Deborah Secor
07-15-2004, 01:34 PM
Thanks Barbara--hope you'll join in and see how it works! Ifind toning paper this way is far easier and quicker than doing an underpainting, though the results differ.

Kat, I do hope you can join in! No time limit or big rush, of course... ;)

I'm finishing an article this weekend, then I'll see if I can post a couple more thngs to make you think!


07-15-2004, 01:44 PM
I do something like this for certain pieces- especially ones where I need deep, rich, colour. But I block in the major shapes, first, and scrub them in, covering the whole paper usually (sometimes I am careful to "carve around" an area I know I want to sing loud, clear and light). I've toned the whole paper before, but I'm not as enarmored of that as I am using the blocking method- perhaps when I get to feeling experimental again, I'll try that "same painting" thing on different tones.

What I've found is REALLY good, though, is to tone the paper the opposite temp of what I envision for the finished piece; for instance, right now I am working on a piece with mostly cool tones, so I am using a warm-toned under-toning. (That doesn't look right- too many "tones" there- lol)

Best part, though, as you said, Deborah, is you can easily wipe back to "original" tone.

07-17-2004, 05:20 AM
OK, here's my go at three different colour grounds. These are on Art Spectrum paper, the orange is white toned with watercolour.

First black:


I found I was choosing darker colours than usual but not brighter (which I had expected). In all these I started with the sky colour and this influenced all the other colours. Choosing a darker blue for the sky made the whole picture darker than usual. I didn't feel the need to use any white in the clouds, a pale mauve felt light enough for the highlights.



I didn't enjoy doing this one at all (and it probably shows !). I found it incredibly difficult to judge tones and lay down a dark colour. Anything dark just felt wrong on the paper. However when I compared this with the one on black I was surprised that there wasn't much more of a difference in the finished painting. THis was the only one of the three that I really felt the need for white as a highlight in the clouds but it still didn't highlight much as the darks weren't dark enough.


I really enjoyed this one. I felt compelled to use bright colours, most of the sticks I picked up looked perfectly OK on their own but I was saying to myself ' I can't possible use such a dull colour on top of this' so I just went to town and used whatever felt right, and ended up with blue trees and orange ground, but it was fun!

I was surprised at how influenced I was by the ground colour, of course I've known intellectually and usually choose a darkish colour depending on what I'm painting, but I will be much more aware of how much this does influence the final painting. Thanks for the lesson, Deborah.

Deborah Secor
07-17-2004, 10:56 AM
Whoo! I love that third one, too, Joy!!! :D The excitement of the colors against the orange is really fun and your adventurousness shows. The dark one is very appealing, too, and has a rather classic look to it, with the rich darks and saturated colors. In the white one the trees are all that's dark, which rather tips the weight there too much, doesn't it...and the colors have no life. A very interesting trio. ;)

Now, did you paint these in this order, dark first, light second, and bright third? I assume so. Did you find by the third one your knowledge of the image and your expectations were changed? Were you consciously trying to avoid using the 'same old colors'? Did you find that the image you were painting from dictated certain colors, or did you find you could completely free yourself of them?

I'm so glad you tried this. Next time you do this, try a different order--and then sometime give it a go with a light subject (say, snow) which will look very different on light colors vs. dark, or a very dark subject (maybe deep shade in trees or some such).

Thank you so much for trying this and showing your results, Joy! It looks like it was instructive for you in many ways. :D

Anyone else have something to share??? Hope so!


07-18-2004, 12:00 AM
teeheehee...I get to sneak an oilie in here...all in the name of SOFT pastel toned backgrounds!!! (you can move if not appropriate :crying: )
Ok...did this for the WDE today...on an ugly brown art spectrum.
I first laid in some yellow ribbons (side swooped swipes that look like rippled ribbons) and then added a small amount of green and some orange along the sides. Then I put a mask on and rubbed like crazy with the foam pad...I love the effect and wish I had a better pic. I fixed it heavily and then did the OP painting on top...it did make it a bit slickery though and didn't want to hold the OPs that great. I think i want to try and see if an acrylic varnish will go over the softies and then apply the oilies...I really loved the effect!

first just the background...


and the final after 3 1/2 hours...only had to the neck done by the time the 2 hours was up for WDE.


Hope you like...I loved doing the background and didn't sneeze too much. :p Thanks Deborah!

Deborah Secor
07-18-2004, 12:26 AM
GASP!!! :eek: An OP in the SP Studio! EEEEEK!!!
But then you suffered for your art. What a noble sacrifice. So...it can stay... After all, this segregation is purely voluntary and pretty new.

<giggle> I love it! I think the colors on that paper are really interesting, and what a great experiment! How did the Spectrum tone? I've never tried it myself, figuring that it was already colored. (Hate to say it but I'm not fond of the AS myself. After Wallis it feels too wimpy to me!)

I think this is a great idea for a way to make a background color for any figure/ground painting. The bird is exquisite! Can't believe you did this in such a short time, either. What personality, Sue--it's just wonderful!!

Oh, by the way, I've varnished over my soft pastels and it makes all the colors very dark and oil-paint-ish looking. I donated a painted panel that went on the back of a bus (don't ask...) that I pasteled on gesso-and-pumice coated masonite, then spray varnished. I had to experiment a lot to find out which pigments were more translucent because they just disappeared. Yellows weren't good, as I recall. I also had to structure the whole thing up about three notches lighter in value to accomodate the dark shift when it was sprayed. All in all, I figure I wasted quite a bit of pastel and I never did another one.


07-18-2004, 12:29 AM
I really want to try this..I need to!!! What if the only wallis paper you have is the greyish color....and doesnt the paper rip up the sponge leaving little bits??
You certainly can see the difference in the end result with the different grounds used by dragonlady!! I hope I can get a chance to try this..!!!!!

07-18-2004, 12:38 AM
Thanks, Deborah...yeah, I DID suffer for my art :p Actually it toned really well, I'm trying to use up the last of it. And I loved the ease of it all, just a shame those softies and I don't get along anymore...I laid moist paper towels down and shook the dust on those at the end and then tapped it really hard outside before spraying..it really held though. And in real life it's softer and more diffused than it came out in the pic...it really is a golden glow type effect. It really doesn't grab the OPs right, like trying to write on silk or something...they just want to slide on the pigment particles. Only the light yellows though...the darker greens went on perfectly and so did the white and grays and orange...strange, that. Was a great experiment tho! Did you use acrylic varnish?

Deborah Secor
07-18-2004, 12:49 AM
Dana, I've toned the grey Wallis paper, if only because I find that when I tone it this way I can very easily draw on it in charcoal and then erase and adjust things. Sometimes I even tone it a color very similar to the grey--or I put a light coating of a lavender over it--and once in a while a greyish-yellow color, depending on my subject and mood.

No, the foam doesn't get ripped up like that. Over time it will wear away the foam and leave a hole in the brush, but they're cheap so I buy them by the bag at those home decorating stores. I like the kind with plastic handles because sometimes I'll wash them out. The wood handles hold water too long. Sometimes I just take them out back and smack them off to clean them, and boy does the dust fly then!

Yep, the color of the ground really does make a difference in the finished painting! I hope you can give it a try--and keep one thing in mind, if you don't like the painting in the end you can just wipe it out!

Sue, yes, I used acrylic varnish. It was a loooong time ago, so details escape me, but it was some readily available spray varnish.


Mikki Petersen
07-18-2004, 01:05 AM
Wow, Sue! That really worked well. The background is a perfect setting for the parrot which is beautiful.

Okay, my Wallis paper order is in the mail. Meanwhile, I'm using my last sheet of Le Carte, which I also like. I did a study of Crater Lake from one of my vacation photos and decided to try this technique. I toned that surface with sapphire blue using Deborah's method. Then I went and toned the water and sky using layers of color and the foam brush. After that I toned the mountains and the forground cliffs using the same technique. Finally I went in and added the details. The result is here:
What I found with this is that one can achieve gorgeous skies and water using gradients of color and the foam brush to rub it in. The whole piece went pretty fast for me, 2.5 hours. Thanks Deborah! Now I'm really "painting" with pastel!

07-18-2004, 06:24 PM
talk about suffering for your art!!! :crying: the softies act as a wick for the oilies! :eek: I have an oil stain about 1/4 inch out all around the bird now. This is on art spectrum which never shows the oil, even when you don't do a background. Oh well, was fun to try!

Mikki Petersen
07-18-2004, 10:13 PM
Sue, that's terrible! He's such an adorable fellow. Can you salvage it by going over the backgound with oil pastels?

Deborah Secor
07-18-2004, 10:25 PM
RATS!! I love the bird!! WAH! I hate when we learn expensive lessons...

:( Deborah

07-18-2004, 10:27 PM
Well, instead I did a matt acrylic varnish...soaked up more of the dust, then scumbled some colored pencil side strokes in using the same colors...I prefered the pastel one but am happy enough with this. whew!

Deborah Secor
07-18-2004, 11:02 PM
Oh good! Glad you could save it!!!

07-19-2004, 07:46 AM

Sorry to take so long answering your questions - I do appreciate your comments.

I did the three painting in the order shown, i.e. black, white, orange. Before starting each one I replaced all the pastels from my working set back to their boxes then rechose them with the ref pic and the coloured ground in front of me, so I wasn't quite specifically choosing different colours but the ones that felt right given the ref pic and the colour of the ground. So I chose the colours based on what I saw in the ref pic, tried them out on the ground (and against any colours already laid down) and then shifted to a darker/lighter/brighter colour accordingly.

Not sure if my expectations changed by the third, but I know from doing this exercise that I have certain habits of using colour that I should challenge - e.g. I have certain colours I always reach for to paint the darks under trees, which is probably why the tree line on the white ground is much darker than the rest of the painting - I just used the usual colours instead of the colours that would work best with the rest of the picture !

Deborah Secor
07-24-2004, 01:08 PM
I just thought I'd jog the memories of some of you who mentioned wanting to participate in this thread. If you have any paintings done on different grounds, or want to give it a try, I'd love to see what you do and find out what you learned from the experience.

As a broad generalization dark background color tends to instantly harmonize lighter colors laid over it, however we are fooled into making all the colors somewhat darker because they all look light to begin with! Then we can add the lightest lights at the end, which is the 'normal' way to paint in pastels --light over dark.

Light background colors make all tones look darker, thus harmonizing medium values better, but often forcing us to add real darks later in the structure when we see their lack--which is against the flow. We have to correct the value structure before finishing.

Bright colors, on the other hand, effect people differently. Some want to quickly cover all that bright so they can see what's happening. Others seem to enjoy the bright color, and respond to it with inspired colors, taking pleasure in the relationships that develop. Often bright backgrounds result in colorful paintings--but not always! A lot depends on your color choice, your visceral response to it, and the color of the subject you place on it. (Of course, this could be said of all the ground colors, couldn't it?) Add to that the fact that a bright color could be light or dark in value and you see that another level of complication has been added.

I'd like to know if you find these generalizations to be true in your case. You don't have to paint a masterpiece, just some little quickie sketches on different grounds. Joy's (dragonlady) experiences seem to bear out these thoughts, to some degree.

My question about your expectations changing, Joy, were to see if by then you were analyzing the photograph differently. I find that when I paint the same subject three times in a row (which generally bores me to tears!!!) by the third one I 'know' what color belongs under the trees or as the shadow in the cloud. Like you, I may have put my colors back in my palette, but I still grab that same lavender for the clouds or green for the shadows...but then the bright paper can jog me. The lavender looks weird or the green is toooooo dark. Something happens in my expectations. I've found that if I tone my paper different bright colors--maybe a vibrant cobalt blue in contrast to your bright orange--things really change again.

There's no 'right' answer here. Anything you learn is interesting and meaningful, and it's always a process. There's no 'z' in this alphabet of art, as Handell is fond of pointing out. So I hope to see some more here! Please feel free to add your images any time!!


07-24-2004, 02:04 PM
sorry Dee...I am remiss in starting this..I got up early this morning to give it a go..but I got sigetraked as usual..I am going to do something simple..like a pear (well...not so simple for me!)
I propably should do a dog..like always..but I cant stand to do them more than once!! LOL

Deborah Secor
07-24-2004, 02:59 PM
Great, Dana, hope you find the time!


07-24-2004, 04:28 PM
OK..let me start out by saying..I have never painted from anything other than photos..that I can think of!! Sad isnt it!! I have been wanting to try some real life painting..oh yeah..I just remembered I have done some life drawings..and recently I have been sketching my dogs and my husband..while they are asleep..or on the pc(not the dogs) Soooo I bought a couple of fake pears..with this in mind (they looked real)
I started by toning each paper (grey Wallis) the first with an off white..the second with blue and the third with black. Then I sketched my little fake pear on all 3. I did find trying to remove the charcoal would lift the underpainting..or ground..oh well..I can live with that!
The cream colored tone I put on the first one I pretty much painted in a traditional way
The blue ground was very exciting to work with (I should have saved that one for last!!) I wanted to try and use more exciting colors on the blue!!
I really enjoyed doing that one!
The black one I thought was the toughest (maybe I was bored by then??)
It was a lot more challenging than I thought!! I have painted one dog on black canson paper and found it easier. Still life is tough for me! I had no clue about how to do the shadow..so I left it black and painted around it..I had a hard time getting the mid tones and the lights..I also found that I blended more with my fingers where as the others I let the pastels do the blending.
Well..go and have a good laugh now!! I know I did!!
Thanks Dee..I really needed to do something like this..I am kinda new to pastels..a few dogs and cats here and there..but I am hooked on them!!
I might take some lessons this fall!
Oh yeah..if you are reading this Barb..my masai woman is now purple!!I am afraid its a goner now!! LOL
Oh yeah again..these took me about 1 and a half hours to do..about 5x7
Can you spot the fake pear!

07-25-2004, 10:09 AM
Dana, I love your yellow pear on that vibrant blue! Do more!! :clap:

Deborah Secor
07-25-2004, 12:26 PM
Dana--these look great!!!I agree with E-J that the blue one is very exciting, though I suspect if I were to see the light colored one separately I'd find it beautifully subtle in color, too. It's just overshadowed by the blue one.

I did find trying to remove the charcoal would lift the underpainting..or ground..oh well..I can live with that!
I can't tell for sure, but it may be that you didn't rub the color into the paper deeply enough. I can't emphasize enough how vigorously you can rub and wipe off the pastel on Wallis paper. I mean, I really go to town! Rub it until you get no more fall off. You shouldn't see any of the paper color showing through at all. When I do that I can draw with charcoal and just flick it away with a touch of the foam brush or my hand and it's gone. In your blue one I see some of the grey showing through, I think, which means you didn't get the blue rubbed in thoroughly. (I don't suppose it matters, but in case I'm right I'd like to encourage you to try it again and see how this makes such a difference.)

The black one I thought was the toughest (maybe I was bored by then??) It was a lot more challenging than I thought!! I have painted one dog on black canson paper and found it easier. Still life is tough for me! I had no clue about how to do the shadow..so I left it black and painted around it..I had a hard time getting the mid tones and the lights..I also found that I blended more with my fingers where as the others I let the pastels do the blending.
Again, here it looks to me as if you didn't have the black rubbed in and it may have dirtied your colors a bit. I think I can see some of the grey through it at the top, too. I could be wrong--but when I put light yellow down on black toned paper it doesn't become even slightly darkened.

Having said all that, may I also add that I'm so glad you did it!!! I think your pears are beautifully drawn and I love the colors. (BTW, I didn't even smirk once, let alone laugh!)

Now, maybe we need to see more still life from you--and obviously the bright colors work for you, so give that a go, too!!

Thanks for taking part. :D

07-27-2004, 05:00 PM
Here are my efforts for this lesson in using pastels. First is my reference photo. Then the scene done on white toned white Wallis 9X12. Next is the scene done on dark (black and dark blue) toned white Wallis 9x12. Finally the scene rendered on bright red toned white Wallis paper 9x12.
There are some things I like in each scene. My inexperience shows in the one on white ground; I think I improved on the trees in the succeeding efforts. I like the far shore and the water in this one.
I liked the black ground peeking out between the trees. The black made it easy to get the darks in there. I like the water in this one too.
I chose a red for the bright color ground because of the complementary aspect with the green trees. However I found myself trying to cover up all the red, but did leave some behind the tree trunks. Making the water look right was the most difficult part of using this ground.
Deborah, thank you so much for starting these lessons. This is just what I need. Please give feedback on what I need to do for a better outcome.

Deborah Secor
07-28-2004, 12:43 AM
Beth, these look quite good! I'm so glad you gave this a go. I can see your changes and the learning process in each one.

In the white one I sense very little of the ground color showing, although in reality there's probably a bit more than I can see here. I like the curve you gave the far shore and the water has a very liquid movement to it, perhaps more so than in the others. The angled trees, and the reflections in the water, add a nice touch to it, too.

In the black one I can see the ground color in between the trees, leaving some striking darks that work well. However, as a suggestion I'd like to see those areas a bit lighter in reflection. I'd also like to challenge you to layer more colors of the same dark value into those spots, so that you arrive at a dark purple-green-red violet-blue color there. The shape of the water allows it to dominate this one, and I especially like the purple colors you used in the near water and grasses.

I rather like the color of the red (which looks a bit more magenta here) against the greens in the trees. I think the shape of the grass bank on the viewer's right side is a little less pleasing and interesting than the others. I wonder if in a future painting you could use touches of red, magenta, orange, and other warm colors to make the greens visually interesting, while not working on a bright colored ground. This one seems to lack the strong darks that the other two have--but it's not too late to add some. You might try that, perhaps inspired by what worked in the others.

What did you learn from doing this exercise? (Just curious...) If you were going to do a big finished painting of this image, what color ground you would choose? Why?

My only overall suggestion for you would be to allow the ground color to further influence your color choices in the future, so that perhaps when you're working on a very dark ground you choose different greens or blues than when working on a bright color or a light one.

I think this was a very successful experiment for you and I'm so glad you enjoyed doing it! thanks for taking part!!

Anyone else have anything they hope to show?


07-28-2004, 10:06 AM
Deborah: Thanks so much for the helpful feedback. I will study your advice and try to absorb and make use of it in future paintings. Perhaps the limited number of pastels I have to work with dictates the amount of variety I can achieve with the greens. Yes, I understand that using other colors of like value would make the greens more vibrant and exciting. I will remember this advice and make use of it. THANKS.

What did I learn from this exercise?
1. Working on the toned ground was faster and easier than starting with the white ground. Having color already there to build on, or work against, gave better results.
2. More careful drawing of tree trunks gave a more rewarding result. I achieved this in my second and third efforts (on the toned papers).
3. Using a variety of hues of the same value to achieve the appearance of "trees" or "water" yields more interesting results. (I already knew this, but my limited supplies and my somewhat sporadic production requires that I relearn these basics from time to time.)
4. I love the Wallis paper--my first time to use it, and my first pastel landscapes.
5. These exercises inspire me to try still lifes and portraits in pastel.
6. I think I need a more varied, larger, supply of pastels???

At this point in the experience, for a larger, more finished painting of this landscape subject, I think I would choose the dark blue-black ground because needed contrasts seems simpler to achieve. However I want to work a bit on each of these to incorporate your suggestions for improvement. This may be difficult because the spaces between the tree trunks are quite narrow and I already have perhaps-too-many layers of pastel filling the tooth in some places (the water in the reddish --yes, it is more of a magenta--ground one). I may have to scrub some out and try again.

Thanks again for your helpful suggestions.

07-28-2004, 10:20 AM
Deborah, I just looked at your website and saw your painting illustrating your book. Now I see that I relied too much on the colors in my reference photo, tried to make my painting look like those colors. I can see how I can vary the colors I use to make the scene look more like the real thing than the photo. Also I must learn to be more discriminating about what to include and what to ignore in a scene. Some plein air experience would be so enlightening!
I must have your book! and will order soon.

08-02-2004, 12:30 AM
This sounds interesting, I don't have any Wallis paper and was wondering if it would work on white Art spectrum colourfix paper? Not so much for the colour but for the ability to wipe away bits you don't want.

Deborah Secor
08-02-2004, 12:38 AM
Deanna, I haven't tried it myself but it might work just as well. If you could give it a try and let me see how it works, I'd appreciate it! Always hoping to learn more....