View Full Version : Simple Stream Demonstration

Deborah Secor
03-06-2006, 12:20 PM
I did this demo for my beginning pastel class this week and thought I'd share the progress.

Here is the underdrawing done as usual with extra soft thin vine charcoal on a piece of reclaimed Wallis paper, 12x18" in size (although I've taped off about a half inch or so all the way around).


This is the first layer, which is pretty true to the underdrawing. I was enjoying the colors in the water, but I wasn't at all happy with the composition (not well thought out...) I think it did a pretty good job of showing how to handle simple reflections in the water, however. The lavender tones are the color of the water itself, as it runs through a red rock area.


Generally what I do is lay in the colors of the landscape above, then drift a bit of that same color lightly onto the paper in the reflection. I want to build up a silky underpainting that I can then feather with the charcoal. I use a long stick and hold it at the very tip so that I can't push too hard, then quickly and very lightly swipe over it to make the values come together, muting the brightness with a fine layer of charcoal. This mimics the value shift in the reflections.


I was unhappy with the composition and contrast, though, so I added some shadows in the grasses and across the water in the foreground. I wanted your eye to go to the end of the stream and the tree there, so I tried to keep the values quiet and dark in the fore, allowing the heightened contrast in the river to draw you upwards. I found the rusty earth tones were just too distracting in the land, so I muted them with more pale blue-greens, allowing the lavenders in the water to be more subtle and distinctive, plus I added more purples and blues to the shadows. I detailed the grasses against the dark tree to give it some punch there, too.

You can see how the feathering has made the layers of rough color from the first layer of colors look far more silken and watery. This is a great bit of technical 'magic' for water! Hope you'll give it a try.


03-06-2006, 12:59 PM
Wonderful Deborah. It's amazing to see those colors pop out. I'll have to try this technique one day soon. Thanx for posting the pictures of the different stages.

03-06-2006, 01:05 PM
hey, great demo! i'm gonna keep this idea to try!! thanks!

03-06-2006, 04:22 PM
this was great.
thank you.

03-06-2006, 04:46 PM
Hi Deborah,

I liked the simple way that you've explained this.
The water came out really great.
And also the rest, of course.



P.S. but I really liked the water best :-)

Deborah Secor
03-06-2006, 05:23 PM
Thanks, all. :wave:

I forgot to mention that the lighter marks on the first image posted were made with a colour shaper, which works a lot like an eraser. This was a relatively unused piece of Wallis, so it didn't have a lot of colors underneath. I had only painted one failure on it and wiped that out, so the whiteness of the original paper was easier to recover.


03-06-2006, 05:47 PM
I love using the feather technique with charcoal!! It works so well..does great for softening hard edges also..love the water.
ps..when I am not happy with a demo, I always make it into a "don't do this" lesson..hehe


Piper Ballou
03-06-2006, 05:48 PM
thanks for your "little" demo...this is very simple but I sure like the painting.

03-06-2006, 07:44 PM
Hi Deborah,

Thank you for doing this demo. The colors and atmosphere are beautiful.

If I may ask, can you explain a little more about feathering with charcoal?

I've heard this term before but I'm not quite sure what the technique is. Can the charcoal be seen on top of the pastel, or does it just blend the pastel?


Deborah Secor
03-06-2006, 08:08 PM
Terri, I think there's some pretty good information about feathering in a thread from a while back... I found it! ESP August 2004 (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=209061) Check it out. There are a lot of photos of how to scumble, glaze and feather.

Basically, to answer your question, the extra soft thin vine charcoal (it's best to use this kind of charcoal to effectively feather--not soft, not vine, but all four words: extra soft thin vine) leaves a tiny bit of the softest of charcoal on top of the colors, ever so slightly blending them and muting the values. It's extremely useful for water but also good for pushing mountains farther away or softening clouds or marrying together a distant hillside covered with trees. I hold a long piece of charcoal at the very tip so that I simply can't push too hard, then swipe it over the colors. It leaves them in place, not making a black mark, but more or less mixing the grains of pastel on top just a bit.

Give it a try--it works quite well.