View Full Version : Towards the light

07-09-2010, 04:01 PM
Hi guys,

Finally my computer is deigning to allow me to do imagework, so here is my latest. It began as a Plein Air, but my PAs are quite horrid (I'm slow), and this is the studio version, based on the PA. In fact, shortly after I made the PA, aercheologists dug into the place, in the water too, as they'd discovered a sunken ship from the 1700s. This meant I couldn't return to the spot to finish the PA. The place is historical, a famous battle took place here, and if you're interested in that kind of thing, I've blogged about it (http://charlotteherczfeld.com/blog/21181/towards-the-light).

Have to say I really enjoyed paintings this one. Tricky, difficult, but fun. I made a discovery: if one puts on too heavy marks of the opaque Unisons, one can take a terrycloth and gently -- barely touching the painting -- dislodge excessive pastel pigment. You know, "they" say necessity is the mother of inventions? Well, actually, I think it should be "laziness is..." I *really* didn't want to get up and fetch a brush. :D

C&C welcome, as always.


Pastelmat (pale terracotta), assorted pastels, mainly Rembs and Unis, TL.
Size ca 12x16 (30x40 cm).


07-09-2010, 04:35 PM
Charlie this is gorgeous! I've just stared at it for quite a while and I am mesmerised by your use of colour. You "seem" to use so much pure colour and it should look garish but it doesn't. I love the rocks and the beach and the light on the water beyond the tree is amazing.
Fabulous tree foliage too!

07-09-2010, 05:08 PM
YOWZA! This is just stunning! I am so enamored with pastels and hope that I can learn this media and do it justice. You certainly are a master and I look forward to seeing more....thanks for sharing! :)

07-09-2010, 05:18 PM
Charlie, WOW! what a fantastic piece. I just love the way you see colours and convay it in your paintings. your comp works so well in this. most of all the way you captured the light on the water brings you right into the piece. makeing you wonder whats past the tree i the river. (Besides the boat now)

Kathryn Wilson
07-09-2010, 05:37 PM
Love it - the color palette is amazing - I am especially drawn to the rocks.

Not sure why, but the upper left quadrant is not working for me - it just doesn't seem to be cohesive with the rest of the painting.

Other than that, good job!

07-09-2010, 06:04 PM
oh, Oh, OHHH!!! The colors in this painting just SING....I absolutely love them!
I do have to agree with Kathryn about the upper left distant area. I know it's supposed to be difused due to the distance, but maybe a few touches of that dark lushious blue along the base of the vegetation would do the trick. Not only would they make that area feel more a part of the whole, it would also be a 'lead' in for the eyes into the painting. Just my thoughts....even so, you've got a real eye popper there!

07-09-2010, 06:05 PM
I like this very much Charlie...the colour is almost surreal...the light is very well done....but the peachy upper left doesn't work for me either...whereas the acidic yellows bottom right are fabulous!

07-09-2010, 06:27 PM
Yet another beauty Charlie! For some reason made me think of The "Shire" from Lord of the Rings. A fantastically beautiful, luminescent, dreamy otherworld. I love the upper left corner too, with it's sunlight bathed trees!

Donna T
07-09-2010, 07:40 PM
It's aglorious painting, Charlie, and it sure has your signature use of color! The way you do shadows is so stunning - they glow! The water is really beautiful too. I don't have a problem with the upper left section. It looks like bright, washed out, hazed out color to me; very natural. If we don't get to see the plein air version (horrid? come now ...) would you mind telling me why the studio version turned out better? Are you more creative with color in the studio or do you make compositional changes or both?

07-09-2010, 08:06 PM
That upper left is just as Monet would have painted it - it's classic!

Your water is to die for - it's fantastic!

But what impresses me most are the wonderful 'wild flowering parsnips' in the right foreground!

Charlie, you have a winner here - love it!

'blue....' :thumbsup:

07-09-2010, 08:13 PM
Beautiful painting, I like it as is. I also enjoyed the history lesson. Dan

07-09-2010, 09:11 PM
Beautiful colors and light! Enjoyed it very much.

07-09-2010, 09:26 PM
Gorgeous Charlie! What a pleasure to look at! Really nice, I love the rocks and the shadows and the water...just stunning.:clap:

07-09-2010, 09:55 PM
Charlie, glad your computer is well enough to post! We have missed you (and your masterpieces)! Absolutely wonderful painting! Just glowing with color!

I do agree somewhat with the comments regarding the upper left corner, although it doesn't really bother me. I think, in my case anyway, I notice the lack of purples in that area. The rest of the painting has very predominant purples in the shadows. Perhaps just a touch of a more noticeable purple in the darkest shadows will unify that area with the rest of the painting. On the other hand, this is quite fine as it stands!


pastel lover
07-09-2010, 10:50 PM
Wonderful, wonderful work Charlie. Personally, all four corners work for me.


07-09-2010, 11:05 PM
Charlie - this is just lovely - absolutely beautiful.

Would you mind sharing with us where your thread is on color that Robert refers to so often? I'm hoping to have some time to work on some more in-depth projects over vacation, and I would love to have a go at your color workshop/class/instruction!!

Again, absolutely lovely.


07-10-2010, 12:33 AM
Charlie I love the greens and the water it is all so vibrant yet peaceful I think the left side is fine as it gives the eye a place to rest and take you around again.Fantastic job! Jen

07-10-2010, 06:14 AM
Fabulous work, as always, Charlie.

Lynn - I had a look and I think Charlie's thread is


Please correct me if I am wrong, Charlie!

I'm going to have a good look at that thread later!

07-10-2010, 09:11 AM
Hi guys, Kathryn, Pat, Deirdre, Chuas, Dan, Ron, Drucilla, Don, Tanja, Jen, Juliajane, thank you so much!

Ah, that upper left corner... That was the area that gave me so much trouble, and I've touched it up a bit, I think it works IRL, now. I'm impressed by how quickly you all zoomed in on the trouble area. I've wiped it out at least four times.

Ruthie, thanks! Oh, muted colours are made up of bright ones, so as I layer, scumble and such, they mix by sticks blending, and also as an optical mix. Colours look a hair more bright on screen. If I do things right, it all just flows together and looks real.

Judy, thank you. Not a master, but very nice of you to say so! You'll get to where you want to be, just paint on!

Pete, thanks, there is indeed a little marina behind the trees, for pleasure vessels (can one say that?), for recreational little boats. I'm so glad you say you get drawn in, as that was my intention (and intentions do not always work out).

Donna, thanks, and great questions for a conversation! (Y'all, I love conversations in my threads, so go on.) I'll get back to it, in a separate post in this thread.

Blue, thank you! So glad it reminds you of Monet, as I strive to use light as he did! And, behave!, no wild parsnips, hnh! ;-) Look, some of them lean right, too. Meant to hint there is a breeze, perfect day for sailing, and the water shows the remnants of a wake of a sailing boat having passed towards the more open water to the left, (moved by its small engine). (Wild flowering parsnips... mutter, mumble...) :-)

Lynn, thank you so much. Juliajane got it right, that's the monster thread with a colour class using still-lifes. In the third page from the end, there is a post with an index to all posts where I've 'pontificated' and show examples. It is in the Libary section of the Pastel forum, and there are tons of *really* good demos and classes there, a wonderful resource, Kathryn collected them all there. Much easier to find than in the 'silt' and 'archaeological' layers of the Studio/Gallery forum.


Kathryn Wilson
07-10-2010, 10:14 AM
LOL, Charlie, we all struggle with something in a painting, don't we?

My one thought was that it is not needed, but if you want to balance out the comp, perhaps a smaller area in that corner, rather than a larger mass of oranges. I put my hand over the image and it works for me - but you are the artist and see the painting IRL.

07-10-2010, 11:53 AM
Longer response to Donna:

The Plein Air... ohdear, I set up, and after some 20 minutes, a clear blue sky turned cloudy in just 5 minutes, and then into rain. All I have on the paper is a few brightly coloured patches (not even a decent abstract). However, that *is* enough for me to do a studio studio painting, as the first stages set the quality and quantity of the light. It looks horrible, as this method doesnt start to look even remotely like the subject until I'm nearly finished. And, I'm a slow painter, very slow. What others can paint in 2 hours, I need at least 4 h to do.

Oh, I’m taking this opportunity to type a rather long reply to your question, musing a bit.

I actually used a reference photo taken at another time that day, when the light hit the distant island more directly, so the PA and the studio painting are not from the exact same light or angle.

I’ve gathered some ‘incarnations’ of this painting for comparison. Top row is the Plein Air, and it is a not finished stage 2. (This is when a spectator comes up an starts to chat about art...) But look at how the “PA panic” (light shifts so fast, no time to think or compose, hurry, hurry!), made me jump right into painting. A few scattered dark blobs, and a dark band (islands) paralleling the top edge... (shudder, cringe), and the ‘ghost’ of a boat bisected by trees was supposed to be COI. Top, second, is posterized, and top third is in bw.


Middle row is same stage of the studio painting. In the quiet of my studio, I had time to think and organize and compose the picture. I chose a ref with more foliage visible, sans boat. Second pic is also posterized, to see the structure more clearly, and third is in bw. This structure is connected, and consists of mainly a mid-value, with some joined darker bits. No shape floats isolated.

Bottom row is underpainting (garhish!), left, and bw of finished painting, right. I’ve managed to keep the basic structure decently well. Although there are lots of colours and shifts in value, the whole thing keeps together as shapes. The lightest lights and the darkest darks are next to each other.

What I’ve done with the studio version takes a lot of all of time, thought, and planning. Usually I do thumbnails, notans, maybe a colour sketch (nearly thumbsized too). And, I work larger, usually. The studio painting is 12x16”, the PA 8x12.

But usually I do not get more creative with colour. If anything, they get more somber in the studio, and more bright outdoors where I see the shimmering effects so much better. I simply paint what I see, and everything is brighter out there.

Hm, seems I really wanted to muse... :-)


Alberto P
07-10-2010, 12:05 PM
Hi Charlie.
Wonderful painting .... as always.
A greeting.
Alberto P.

07-10-2010, 12:23 PM
always good to see your paintings and read your descriptions
i covered the lower right-hand corner and the painting came together right away - interesting that the value/saturation holds everything together without sharp/crisp marks - definitely a scene/mood that suits your style
:} Ed

Donna T
07-10-2010, 03:25 PM
Thanks so much for taking the time to muse on this subject, Charlie, and thanks for sharing the images of both the plein air and studio paintings too. Now I know what that sickly feeling is when the light is changing, I'm nowhere near being finished and I start to sweat regardless of the temperature: the Plein Air Panic! Seriously, I don't think your PA version is bad at all. If anything, it gave you the feel for the place, the atmosphere and the sense of distance; all of which I struggle to obtain from a photo. I also do better in the studio when it comes to "think, organize and compose." I hope that someday I will be able to do these things better out in the field but for now I am happy to see my plein air attempts for what they are: on-the job training. It's interesting that your studio paintings tend to be more restrained in color. It's the opposite for me. I can only be brave and make a purple tree when I'm in the studio since I don't really see purple trees when I'm out painting (but I'd like to.)

Thanks again ... lots for me to think about!

07-10-2010, 07:19 PM
Wow Charlie, this is really beautiful. My wife just walked up behind me as I was looking at it and said "Oohh, look at all those colors. See, Corey, this is something I would love to have hanging on our wall". She doesn't get excited or make comments about anything, either.

07-10-2010, 07:31 PM
The glare from the water makes me want to put my sunglasses on. Beautiful effect. I zoomed in to look at all the colours in the water. The warm and cool blues, pinks, oranges, greens and viloets in the water reads true and makes the painting interesting. I always love your water, Charlie, and this makes me want to try doing another "colourful" painting.

Thanks for sharing.


07-11-2010, 09:47 AM
Alberto, thank you!

Ed, thanks, funny conincidence you mentioned the lower right corner, as I've just "killed my darling", that is, decided it took too much attention, and have quietened it down. It is amazing how blurry a painting can be, and still read right, I usually don't dare to go as far as could be gone. Blurry is more atmospheric, quite often.

Donna T, you're welcome, musing helps me to get conscious about my thoughts, so it is valuable to me, thank you so much for asking. PA Panic, yes :-), I call it that as all rational thought flees in the face of the racing sun. You're so right, even an aborted attempt at PA, or a failed sketch, they do help very much when back in the studio. Having studies the scene in depth, literally in depth, makes a difference. About 'purple tree': It is visible, but hidden. (Yeah, that was really explanatory and helpful of me. :-) Often it is there as "this green is more purple than that other green, which is more yellow". Both are still green, but they have different components. So those who see purple, they mentally 'remove' the local colour, i.e. green in this case. Your own PA, they are fantastic, finished paintings, I admire your ability.

Corey, thank you, and thank you to your wife!

Doug, thanks! Well, as my suburb is on an island in an archipelago, I see plenty of water. Fascinating subject, really, it has so many moods and appearences.


07-11-2010, 11:00 AM
Charlie, I just sent a PM to you and then I finally realized I never looked at the threads and here you are! Good going on the PA for as long as it lasted.

I'm not bothered by the upper left that much since it's so different an approach from the other area... I find it as a place to rest my eye and warm up in the sun before heading back to the rich colors in the shady part.

You are always so strong in your colors. Enjoy the archipelago for me. I did it one summer and I loved it there.


07-11-2010, 04:25 PM
OK Charlie I'm stepping out on a limb here for as you probably know my monitor doesn't always read true, but I just have to say that upper left corner doesn't bother me one bit. I can see where some of the orange sparkles behind the large tree, and it makes me want to "go" to that side of the water too. In my view, the oranges and greens are cooler than those on the foreground right side bank, and therefore recede just enough to create the right depth of field for this piece. It is a place for my eyes to rest before darting off to explore the rest of the work again.

07-11-2010, 10:24 PM
Beautiful work Charlie, It has your colour signature and style throughout
Best wishes

07-11-2010, 11:57 PM
This is a nice one Charlie. It has your signature style and use of color, which is quite beautiful. I especially like the way you handled the foilage in the tree, as well as the water - really well done!:thumbsup:

07-12-2010, 08:06 AM
Thank you, Barb (will reply the PM), Gary, Chris!

Peggy, thanks! Monitors can change things dramatically -- what's seen on my notebook isn't the same as the very good screen that goes with the stationary PC. Yours seem to be good, as it is as you describe it, peaches peaking out from cooler paler greens. (And a myriad of other colours... :-) I think it works, IRL. That distant 'wall' of 'green stuff' is just a backdrop, it is the only function of it. Something hazily sunny, providing calm and no real attraction. At least, it was my intention.

I'm a bit worried, because my husband really likes this one. :D Usually he says 'nice' (sometimes without looking... :-) but this one got a 5 second stare and "very nice, I like it". He's my reverse "lithmus test", normally. He usually doesn't 'get it'.

Anyhow, actually, the colours are not *that* bright, they just look bright. I happened to do some patches, testing a thing, so I can as well show it. Every patch is taken from an area near it:



07-12-2010, 09:03 AM
It's beautiful, I love your use of colour. How fascinating that your colour patches look so restrained, yet the picture is full of colour and light. Lovely.


07-12-2010, 12:40 PM
Oh Charlie. What dull colours you use :lol: :lol:
Have to say I'm surprised they look so muted. I think it is the whole, with the colour contrasts, which gives it that special "zing". Maybe if you hadn't scumbled and muted the colours it would look garish.
I live and learn, and learn some more, and realise how much I still need to learn.........

07-12-2010, 02:07 PM
[quote] charlie "I'm a bit worried, because my husband really likes this one. Usually he says 'nice' (sometimes without looking... :-) but this one got a 5 second stare and "very nice, I like it". He's my reverse "lithmus test", normally. He usually doesn't 'get it'.

Anyhow, actually, the colours are not *that* bright, they just look bright. I happened to do some patches, testing a thing, so I can as well show it. Every patch is taken from an area near it:" [unquote]

Charlie I never know what my husband is going to like. Once it was my abstracts were his "favorite/best ever" and lately it is my very almost photorealistic work. I'm just suprised when he says anything!

Your "patch test" is fun to analyze. There appears to be a "theme" here; color temperature and near analogous or analogous colors with some compliments thrown in for that "sparkle" for which you are so famous. :thumbsup:

07-14-2010, 07:39 AM
Lesley, Thank you! Part of the 'secret' is to not blend.

Ruthie, Peggy, right, not muting colours would be very garish. Analogous? Blue sky, blue water, green vegetation, and rosy beige sand. ;-)


07-14-2010, 07:01 PM
This is beautiful! I really admire your ability to mix so many colors into one painting and have it work! I am not as courageous as you haha. Another winner for sure!!!

07-16-2010, 10:03 PM
Beautiful, Charlie!

07-17-2010, 07:03 AM
Kevin, Tatiana, thank you!

Kevin, mixing colours is much as an oilpainter mixes them, only difference is that a pastel painter 'mixes' on the paper. If you want to mix pastels, do your 'scales'. :-) That is, test different 'mixes', neat rows of coloured patches = scales.

I advocate that, as it gives greater freedom with the sticks one has, and one needs less of them.


07-17-2010, 11:30 AM
Hey Charlie.... nice choice of a mat. Didn't know they came with those lovely little circles in them! :evil:

Truly - it's a good one! Barb

07-17-2010, 12:15 PM
Charlie this is a stunning piece. i like the upper left part but agree with don that maybe a little purple over there would make it more cohesive.

You are a master with color. One of these days I will be able to get through your class on it and may be able to use the knowledge to put my paintings up to the next level. I just love your work so much!


07-18-2010, 12:58 PM
Charlie: always a treat to see your work. This is lovely. What you do with warms and cools is stunning.

Paula Ford
07-18-2010, 02:22 PM
OMGoodness! I almost missed this. This is so beautiful Charlie! You are the queen of color! Gorgeous piece! Sorry it took so long to get here and comment.

07-21-2010, 09:35 AM
Charlie, this piece is really stunning! I love your use of colour and your impressionistic style, there is so much I can learn from your beautiful work. I have been away in Europe for nearly seven weeks and really missed seeing all the wonderful work here, it's great to be back!

07-21-2010, 09:38 PM
Charlie, Beautiful -- I've looked at this so many times, just keep coming back to it. Plus the additional info you've added is very helpful. I would never have thought the colors would be so subtle when they are isolated. I'm fascinated by the water and how the light sparkles.

Thanks for sharing all of it.

KD Art
07-21-2010, 11:54 PM
Gorgeous colour, love the tree especially - the patch test was fascinating! Thanks for taking the time out to show that! Kat

07-22-2010, 06:24 AM
Barb, I've heard of decorative mats, got inspired... ;-)

Sara, Derek, Paula, Nancy, Kat, thank you so much!


Enid Goyers
07-22-2010, 11:31 AM
Hi Charlie,

I join all the other commentators about the colors, the beautiful rocks, the light, the water. Maybe you can do something about left upper corner so it may better fit into the overall.
Thanks for such wonderful painting.

07-22-2010, 12:47 PM
Charlie, your painting is so enjoyable, thanks for sharing. It is amazing how you use the colors, they look so vibrant, but are really not that shocking by themselves. I am discovering that in this environment, the deserts here, that I can do the same thing, but my learning curve is WAY behind yours. You are an inspiration!:clap: