View Full Version : The Spotlight - October 2011 - Contrast

09-30-2011, 11:43 PM
Welcome artists!

Here is a quick recap of what The Spotlight is all about!

The Spotlight is an activity thread for pastel artists of all experience levels working from photos chosen by a monthly host. Most months, the host will choose photos from only one subject, putting that subject into “the spotlight,” so to speak! For example, one month the subject will be painting water, another month will spotlight flowers, etc.

Some months, rather than spotlight a subject, the focus will be on a challenge of some sort. In those cases, we might have a wider variety of photo references, but “the spotlight” will be on the challenge itself.

Since this is a group activity, we can pool our knowledge and resources, and grow as artists in a fun, “no-pressure” atmosphere. And no critiques unless specifically asked for. The intent is to have fun, try new things, experiment, and perhaps most of all, to see what our friends and colleagues are painting from the same reference material!

Please note: The photos this month are taken by me, or are from the Reference Image Library. You have permission to use the photos as reference to create your artwork and to sell them and/or exhibit them. The actual photos still retain the copyright of the photographer. So you cannot copy the photo to your blog, for example, without the permission of the photographer, or digitally alter or reproduce the photo for any purpose other than for your personal use, with the exception of crops, digital alterations and posts of these photos within "The Spotlight" thread.

This month’s Spotlight is on…Contrast!

The use of contrast is certainly one of the most important “tools” in the artist’s toolbox, so I hope you don’t mind if we study the topic a little more in-depth in this month’s Spotlight! I’d like to share some things that I have learned about using contrast over the years. Keep in mind that I will be giving my observations and opinions, but hopefully your observations will be similar!

When artists discuss contrast, it is usually value contrast that first comes to mind. Value being the degree of light to dark something appears. Here are a couple examples of paintings that primarily use value contrast to define shapes, objects, etc.


Monet (left) uses dark shapes – almost silhouettes – to make things stand out against the lighter water and sky values. Renoir (right) makes the girl’s face and blouse stand out against the background by using light values against dark. If we turn the paintings into grayscale, we see the values better and the paintings do not change that much.


Notice that in the Renoir, the face is the lightest value and the area around the face is the darkest. This area of high contrast helps draw our attention to her face. Notice also that her hair is very close in value to the background, so we don’t notice the hair very much. By manipulating contrast, however, we can change what parts of our paintings are emphasized. In the Renoirs below, we see some different value contrast strategies. On the left, the face is still light and the hair is still dark, but the background is more of a middle value which allows the hair to be a bit more noticeable. On the right, the dark hair is contrasted by the light face and a light value background making the hair very noticeable. The value contrasts help dictate what is emphasized and what is not in your painting.


A couple more examples – again, Monet and Renoir (Gee, can you guess who two of my favorite painters are?):


One thing I notice about the Monet landscape is that the highest value contrast is the middle ground trees against the water and sky. The foreground, even though there are some detailed grasses there, has almost no value contrast. So my eye goes right over those grasses with barely a notice.

In the Renoir, I notice the woman's face/profile right away – that is the center of interest. It is also an area of very high contrast. The back of her head/hair/neck and her hat, on the other hand, have very little contrast with the background making those areas very un-noticeable. In fact, using adjacent areas of little or no contrast is a way to create lost and soft edges.

So, when it comes to manipulating contrast in our paintings, we can generally conclude that:

Greater contrast = greater emphasis.
Less contrast = less emphasis.
Little or no contrast = one way to create soft or lost edges with little emphasis.

But value contrast isn’t the only contrast in out toolbox! Another major area where we can use contrast is color! In fact, there are two types of contrasts that have to do with color – contrast in hue and contrast in intensity.

Hue contrast is often achieved using complimentary colors – or near compliments (colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red-green, orange-blue, yellow-purple. These colors are also combinations of warm and cool colors, so hue contrast is also usually warm/cool color contrast).

Intense or bright colors would have lots of contrast with dull or neutralized (grayed) colors.

These types of color contrast can be used in the same way as value contrast – to create areas of emphasis and attract the eye. Contrast also is used, of course, to add “punch” and visual excitement to drawings and paintings.

Let’s look at some color contrast!


The Renoir (top) uses complimentary color contrast between the boat and the water. Both the orange and blue are quite intense, so the contrast is mainly one of hue – and since orange is warm and blue is cool it is also a warm/cool contrast. But it seems to work well - the boat is clearly seen and attracts our attention. In the Monet (below) there is both hue and intensity contrast. The warm orange and yellow colors of the land contrast with the cool greens and blues of the water. The land colors are also brighter and more intense compared to the water which is duller and grayer. Let’s take a look at the grayscale version of these:


Without color contrast, Renoir’s boat almost disappears! It is primarily hue contrast that makes it stand out in the original. Please note that Renoir is still using value contrast in many places, including the very light valued women’s dresses against the darker valued water. Monet’s painting is very low in value contrast. His painting primarily uses color contrast – both hue and intensity – to accomplish its goals.

Another example:


This photo has both types of color contrast, hue and intensity. This makes the orange leaves about as vibrant as possible. Let’s remove the hue contrast (orange-blue) and see what happens.


Now we only have intense/dull contrast, but the leaves are still emphasized, but not as vibrant.

What if we reduce the intensity contrast?


With less contrast, the leaves stand out even less. Where the background has the most color intensity, the leaves almost blend in.

So, we can see that the manipulation of color contrast, as well as value contrast, can change the nature of our paintings.

Note about using grayscale images to critique your paintings:

As we saw in our first examples, using a grayscale image can make it easier to judge the values and the value contrast. Many people recommend them for self-critique. In fact, I have used grayscales when critiquing numerous times here on WC. But as we have just seen, grayscale images do not show any types of color contrast. So, while grayscales can be very beneficial to judge value contrast in a painting, they have serious limitations for paintings using a lot of color contrast. I think it is important to realize these limitations and not change your paintings bases solely on what you see in the grayscale version.

That concludes my observations and opinions about value and color contrast!

The references:


Photo by Jemgold


Photo by she-she


Photo by aznugget


Photo by our very own Merethe T


Photo by stalksthedawn


Photo by me

Also feel free to use my "orange leaves" photo from above as a ref pic.

Please post your paintings, sketches, questions, observations here in this thread as we explore Contrast!



10-01-2011, 12:20 AM
Some good fodder for my 30 minutes paintings here, I'm sure I'll do at least a couple.


10-01-2011, 12:58 AM
Well I think Robert might like one of these! Thanks for putting this Spotlight together Don. I may not have a lot of time this month but hope to do one.

10-01-2011, 04:27 AM
Great info, Don! All the properties of colour taken into consideration (hue, chroma, value), in a nutshell. Brilliant lesson!

10-01-2011, 05:02 AM
WOT? No anatomy of trees? Only distant ones :lol::lol::lol: (thank goodness!)

This explains a lot, especially that we do not necessarily have to have a value contrast.....thanks I learned something today. A goodly selection this month. Something to really get our sticks into.

10-01-2011, 06:53 AM
Thanks for hosting. Great lesson.

I tried to paint achieve contrast in this quick 1-hour sketch in a couple ways.

First, by value, I tried to create contrast--and thus a focal area--by painting a strong value contrast at / around the base of the hay bales. I especially liked the darker side of the bales, and how in the photo that side contrasts with its surroundings.

I also tried to achieve contrast with color...pitting turquoise against orange...especially on the hay bales--the obvious choice for a focal point in the photo. The most intense orange (reds) and turquoise (or blues) meet each other near the bales.

I tried to pull the warmth from the field into the sky and hills using warmer yellow undertones.

I realize the whole painting reads intense, which is considered garish by some. But, I am drawn to intense paintings and these colors could be toned down to suit other viewers.

This is a fun start to the month and I look forward to the group's work, as always.

Dave (Greenbrier33)

10-01-2011, 11:27 AM
Thanks Don! Great info, outstanding selection of references. I'm going to make time to do a couple of these!

Wow David, fantastic painting! Makes my eyes hurt a little, but in a good way. I love the sureness of your marks. Very adventurous (read: good!).

10-01-2011, 12:08 PM
David, congratulations on going first! Especially with such a grand, eye-popping painting. It's gorgeous! I wouldn't have thought of putting the hay bales in turquoise but the wild color choices made this shine. I like it, that'd make an incredible poster.

I didn't host though. Don wrote the great lesson! Thank you for hosting and giving me two great lessons - a perfect example of how to write a good lesson as well as the lesson itself! Thank you!

And thanks for putting in the cat. You know I've got to do at least one of these since you included the cat. The references are all wonderful but that cat's really got my attention.

10-01-2011, 01:43 PM
Great lessons Don!! really like the refs too!!:clap:

Wow, david you are quick, gorgeous vibrant colors!!!:clap:

10-01-2011, 02:16 PM
Great great lesson on contrast. Just had to applaud the write up. Thank you for doing it!

10-01-2011, 02:26 PM
WOW, I thought last month was a challenge! I hope I can accomplish something from these great photos! Thanks for these wonderful pix. Cali

10-01-2011, 03:45 PM
Thank you so much Don for another great lesson! I really appreciate the time you freely put into this each month!
Of course I will be doing one....some once I'm properly back from vacation!

10-01-2011, 04:02 PM
Dave, yay for 'garish'! Love it!

Baleful at a glance... :D (Lousy joke, I know... :smug: )

10-01-2011, 04:11 PM
Thank you all for the nice comments! And thanks to the photographers who contribute their photos to the reference library! What would we do without them!

David, thanks for starting us off with such a bold painting! Yes, value contrast on the haybales within a very strong warm/cool hue contrast painting!


Some of Everything
10-01-2011, 04:17 PM
Hi all!

I'd love to join this spotlight this month! I am really not an expert with pastel but I have completed a very successfull (IMO) pastel portrait of my 6 month old baby long ago (She is now 10 already). Haven't really been working with pastels that much lately, so I think I need to do this to brush up on my skills!

Dave: Very bold choice of colour - I like, I like! :clap:

Thanks for hosting this Don:wave:

Looking forward to this one

10-01-2011, 04:55 PM
Oops, how rude of me not to comment on your painting David. Sorry. Bold is right! You do have great colour contrast and I think you have a very active imagination to be able to take a ref like this one and make it sing! I love the way you've handled the background for example. Good work! And so quick!

Magda, Hi and welcome to the spotlight!

10-01-2011, 05:04 PM
Landscape with Hay Bales
8" x 10"
Pastel on paper
Photo reference by Jemgold for October Pastel Spotlight

I blocked it in with Cretacolor Pastel Carre hard pastels and finished with Mungyo Gallery hand-rolled pastels. This one was fun! I will be doing more of course, just wanted to do a landscape today.

10-01-2011, 08:47 PM
Don, again you have an interesting subject and wonderful reference photos. I enjoyed the lesson in contrast.

Dave, love your bold rendition of the haystacks, the after-image is pretty cool too!

Robert, nice job, very soft and glowing. It is so enjoyable to see two different artist's take on the same subject.

10-01-2011, 09:11 PM
Thank you! I love playing with the light.

10-01-2011, 09:45 PM
Robert, Very nice! I like the value contrast between the row of trees and the distant hills and the warm/cool contrast of the haybales with the majority of the painting! Nicely done!

Magda, Welcome to the Spotlight! We look forward to seeing your work!


10-02-2011, 04:32 AM
Just wanted to say what a great lesson, thank you Don.

Great also to see the different interpretations of the same photo.
Love your bold and imaginative use of colour Dave :thumbsup:
And Robert, I love the greens and blues in those trees and the greys in the haybales.

Im going to try really hard to do one of these this month :o

10-02-2011, 05:17 AM
Sorry Don! I meant to write Don...not Robert. My bad.

Don, thanks again for hosting. :D

10-02-2011, 11:00 AM
Ah, another bold and beautiful entry for the haybales. I really like your tree treatment Robert, with the smudgy distant color and more definitive marks to emphasize their shape; same with the haybales. I think our Pacific air is doing something great for you! :clap:
Welcome Magda, hope to see some of your work soon!

10-02-2011, 12:41 PM
DON....thanks so much for the great art lesson you have posted here. I enjoyed reading every minute of it. Even though I have been an artist most of my life, I can always learn more and add to my artistic skill.
I am having a hard time getting motivated to work in pastels recently, partly because the dust is making such a mess all over my keyboard and desktop. I will try to work on something this month.
Last month, wow, what alot of participation and posts. This spotlight forum is getting to be very popular.

10-02-2011, 01:12 PM
made a painting from my own ref pix
with a similar subject .
- obvious issue is that the bg foliage goes cold/flat
because there's no red in it atall .
light's a bit stronger than the Spotlight pix ,
but it's a concept for punch/depth ...

Ed :}


Some of Everything
10-02-2011, 01:30 PM
Ed and Robert: you have very different styles in your work. I like both very much! :)

Here is my attempt:


Comments & critiques heartily welcomed! :angel:


10-02-2011, 01:40 PM
WOW! Some good-looking haybales there!
Dave...You certainly achieved great contrasts there! Lots of energy in it for sure!
Robert...Love the energy in yours, as well...Nice & loose!
Ed...I like the colors in yours...the shadows on each bale really look good.
Magda...Welcome, and really like your interpretation of the bales. Nicely done.
Guess the bales are off to a great start...i'll be trying them first chance I get...
Great choices again this month, Don. And the lesson is a real treat. Thanks so much.

10-02-2011, 02:59 PM
Ed, your complex scene from your own photo is beautiful. Plenty of good contrast in hue and value. I love the golden grass, that gives it a late-season look that's gorgeous. A touch of violet in the distant trees might help what you were talking about with seeing them as too monochrome, especially in the deep dark shadows at the base. That's if you want to rework it at all, I think it looks good the way it is.

Magda, yours has a cool misty feeling to it, I love the way the whole scene looks like it's damp and has just rained. That green reflecting everywhere gives a great mood. Good value contrasts, you played more with value than hue in yours and it's very dramatic with those deep shadows and softer shadows.

10-02-2011, 03:36 PM
LOL @ Charlie. :) I laughed.

Robert - -I love your bales. You do very well with lines. I like the gentle, yet powerful contrast of warmth in the bales against the cool background.

Ed - very nice, professional. Well done.

Magda-- mysterious! I like! Harmoniously green and I actually get that they are hay bales. I'm happy you are contributing to the group.

Dave (Greenbrier33)

10-02-2011, 10:18 PM
Tortie-Tabby 1
8" x 10"
Pastel on gray Strathmore Artagain paper
Photo reference by stalksthedawn for October Pastel Spotlight

You knew I'd have to do the cat. I might try her another time too in a less sketchy style. I just felt like trying to do her loose on gray paper this time.

10-02-2011, 11:24 PM
First welcome to the newcomers, Magda and Cristiona. It's great in here. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Good work on the hay-bales Dave, Robert, Ed and Magda. Each very different and each holding a particular charm of its own.
I like Roberts cat as well, looks as if it has a mouse in its sight and is waiting to pounce..

I'll probably try the hay-bales myself first, it looks like it's the one to go with.

10-03-2011, 01:23 AM
Thanks, Jim! That was exactly what I thought when I first saw the reference - I am so glad her attitude came through in the drawing!

10-03-2011, 03:02 AM
Excellent kitty Robert. Nice choice for paper, too.

10-03-2011, 03:26 AM
Strawberry Dish
6" x 7" approx.
Pastel on Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook paper
Photo reference by she-she for Pastel Spotlight 10-2011

10-03-2011, 06:17 AM
Thanks so much for the interesting lesson on contrast, it's quite amazing. I'm excited to apply that concept in my paintings. I've not yet posted in the Pastel forum, but I'll give it a try this month.
Happy painting everyone,

10-03-2011, 08:33 AM
Ed and Magda, Very nice haybale paintings! The strong shadow darks on the major haybales make them the center of interest!

Robert, Very nice job on the kitty! And your strawberries really have a lot of "pop." The intense color surrounded by neutrals really does the job!


10-03-2011, 11:32 AM
Hi all,

I guess I'm on a roll. Today, here is my first October Spotlight inspired by Robert. It is a 5 x 7 on Pastelmat and worked with Panpastels and Pastel Pencils. C & C always welcome. Cali

10-03-2011, 01:48 PM
Cali, Wow! This is great. It looks lovely and has the contrast between the shell and strawberrys in the three ways outlined by Don, value, hue and temp., - that is if I've learned it ok :wink2:

Roberts shell and strawberries are well done as well so I can see where the inspiration came from and of course the encouragment.
good work.
PS almost omitted another newcomer, hi there Charri. We'd love to see your paintings.

10-03-2011, 02:55 PM
thx all :)
Robert - a purple is an easy reach ,
but Everything would have to be re-worked .
Magda - like the palette and the energy of the marks in the bales
- not just cut-and-dead harvest/fodder .
Cali - you went for the intense colour of the berries !
and i wonder if some real high-key push on parts of the bowl
might give it some jump ...
> i thought about that one , but got lost in all the dimples
of the berries :rolleyes:

Ed :}

10-03-2011, 04:59 PM
Wow, thank you for all the comments on my cat and strawberries! I love this month's Spotlight challenge, might even do all of the references again because it's so much fun. Yep, I was contrasting both value and intensity in my Strawberries piece.

Cali, your strawberries are gorgeous. I love how you did the seeds on their surface, they look so tasty and lush. Beautiful form, translucence and glassy shine on your candy dish too! Well done!

CM Neidhofer
10-05-2011, 12:47 PM
Awesome! I've had those strawberries on my bucket list forever! And a couple of the other references as well. I'm in this month!

10-05-2011, 10:45 PM

Great job on the strawberries! Don't those strawberries really pop when contrasted with that gray/neutral background? I think they do!


10-06-2011, 12:02 AM
They do! The contrasting intensity in your painting is gorgeous, Cali.

10-06-2011, 09:00 AM
Wow! Thank you all for your great comments.

10-06-2011, 11:05 AM
Don Thanks for another great spotlight:clap: :clap: I see we are of to a great stat this month I am running a bit behind.( darn old watercolours kept me busy for a few days.) but I will get at least a couple done I hope.
Dave loved your bold colours in the field of bales very nice indeed.:clap: :clap:
Robert You are of like a house on fire this month. 3 paintings to my zero,and all done wonderfully in your own unique style. My 2 fav.'s are the cat and the strawberries but loved all 3.:clap: :clap: :clap:
Marta welcome to the pastel forum. Loved your rendition of the field of bales. I can see that you don't have the fear of the greens like I do.:envy: :clap: :clap:
Cali Just loved your Strawberries so very well done. hope I didn,t miss anyone. :clap: :clap: :clap:
Sarah Yes I think you should make an effort to turn out an other of your great paintings and as this is just for fun you wouldn't have to use your your Giraults:D

10-06-2011, 11:27 AM
Omg a cat!

I was reading stuff yesterday and I decided I will apply to all those Spotlight exercises from now on, since I have so much to learn!

I want to ask which was the very first Spotlight exercise? 5 months ago, 1 year ago? How much did I miss?

Is there a place I can follow all the links to all the months? I would like to get it since the beginning.

And Don, please always add a cat or a dog on those, that will make me want to practice even more :cat:

Oh, another thing, is that ok that I practice on a paper that I dont enjoy? (Ingres 160gm and Canson, I purchased a lot of those but once I got to know velour and fisher I never looked back, so I wouldnt mind wasting them)

Edit: I found the Spotlight achieve! STOP THE WORLD! I will be very busy the next weeks!!!:clap: :clap:

10-06-2011, 04:36 PM
Erica, please do the cat! I can't wait to see what you do with the stalking tabby-tortie, she's so lovely. (Reddish patches with black patches mean that she's female, any tricolor pattern shows up only in females.)

It's okay to use up papers you don't like in practice. Also practicing on them may improve your skill at using them. I fell in love with sanded and coated papers as soon as I tried them. I still played with Canson Mi-Tientes and at some point started to love it again for its own texture. I just use the different papers in different ways.

10-06-2011, 08:45 PM
Hi All here is my cat it is kind of funny it is every color but the right one colors are still a big problem for me. I hate using black and I used such a strong dark blue that i couldnt seem to cover it. Then I cant seem to come up with even a closeness to the fur:confused:

10-06-2011, 11:11 PM
But David, the blue is a nice complimentary contrast to the orange! I think it works.

Here's my attempt. I did this as one of my 30 minute paintings, 4x7 on Canson.


I'm not real happy with it but part of the reason for doing these 30 minute paintings is to push me to experiment more.


10-06-2011, 11:14 PM
Dude, your cat is fine! Sure, her markings have changed. But you didn't violate the possible markings of tabby-tortie cats, she's still real that way. You just gave her striking coloration and enough warm ginger areas to make her sunlit side really pop - and the way you handled ginger-in-shade is gorgeous.

It is OKAY to change the photo to make a better painting! That's exactly what you did on this cat. She's still a cat. She's still a tricolor tabby half in sun and half in shade. The light is pouring over her beautifully and so strong I can feel its warmth. You added a little blue collar partly obscured by her hair and it's a great complement to her ginger patches, it makes them brighter and more gingery (as a blue collar does on any ginger cat.)

Well done! I am a serious cat lover and you've got two thumbs up on this one. She's beautiful. Don't be a slave to the photo!

David, your Mardi Gras Hay Bales is a fun painting. Yes, it's got mad color but it also makes sense. Purple Green and Gold (orange) is a fun combination. Have fun and keep experimenting!

Second look, a touch of green reflecting from the grass up into the bottom of the shadows (about like a touch of orange comes in at the top) would unify it. That's my only suggestion, a little reflected color. Fantastic for a 30 minute artwork!

10-07-2011, 12:07 AM
A lot happening here in just a few short days!

Don -- Thanks for providing this lesson.

David -- Very effective contrasts, a wild interpretation.

Ed -- I had thought that you took really embellished the photo until I read you used a different one. :) Like the variety you used to orient the many hay bales.

Magda-- Wow, that's a lot of green! The bales do stand out effectively though.

Robert -- You've been a busy lad. The star of your show is the cat - really stunning, may be my new favorite of yours. Love the way she fades away, Cheshire like. Wonderful. The blue dish is berry nice too. :)

Cali -- Good job on the dish of berries too, that dish would give me fits I think, lots to keep track of with all of those scallops.

"Cat Dude" (it would be nice to know your first name) --- great contrast - the colors work fine and the play of light is fabulous.

David -- Looks like we made some similar color choices. You got a lot done in 30 minutes.

Ok, so here is mine. A couple of firsts: first time for Pastelmat, and the trees were done with Panpastels which just arrived today. I ended up tweaking this a number of times. I originally had a lot more straw colors in the field, which I liked better, but then my bales didn't stand out enough, so had to go back and add more greens, and darken up the ends of the bales. The original idea was to go after more of a yellow / violet contrast in addition to stronger value contrasts. It was a good challenge though to try and get everything working. Hmmm, just noticed that the second bale is tangent to the bushes on the right side, have to bring those down a bit...



10-07-2011, 12:21 AM
Omg a cat!

I was reading stuff yesterday and I decided I will apply to all those Spotlight exercises from now on, since I have so much to learn!

I want to ask which was the very first Spotlight exercise? 5 months ago, 1 year ago? How much did I miss?

Is there a place I can follow all the links to all the months? I would like to get it since the beginning.

And Don, please always add a cat or a dog on those, that will make me want to practice even more :cat:

Oh, another thing, is that ok that I practice on a paper that I dont enjoy? (Ingres 160gm and Canson, I purchased a lot of those but once I got to know velour and fisher I never looked back, so I wouldnt mind wasting them)

Edit: I found the Spotlight achieve! STOP THE WORLD! I will be very busy the next weeks!!!:clap: :clap:

Erica, welcome to the Spotlight! The Spotlight began in February 2010 (I think). I'm assuming you found the first few in the Soft Pastel Archive. The last year's worth are still in the Soft Pastel Talk forum. If you do a search for "The Spotlight" under "Search this forum" on the front page of Soft Pastel Talk, you will find the rest fairly easily (I hope).

The Spotlights vary quite a bit in content. Most are actually lesson free! We just Spotlight a specific subject. Occasionally we make more of a lesson out of it, as I did this month. I hope you enjoy looking through some of the older ones!

Let me know if you can't find them all and I will be glad to provide links.

And, yes, the Spotlight is a place for experimentation, so feel free to use up that paper that you don't really like!


10-07-2011, 12:30 AM
Dave (barriespapa) - I think your cat is excellent! Great contrast in the face/head area! Really nice soft and lost edges on the back of the head and back!

David (Davkin) - Very nice job on the haybales! Excellent color and value contrast on those haybales!

Dan - Also a wonderful painting! As with David's, you've got the yellow/orange - violet contrast - along with the value contrast - which really makes the bales stand out!


10-07-2011, 02:05 AM
Wow! Dan, I love your first experiment with Pans. They are gorgeous! Pans are so expressive and play so well with sticks on PastelMat. I see the tangent you pointed out but it's not that bad, you could bring that bush down to overlap or push it back a little. Gorgeous analogous color harmony - it works so well to go through from muted orange to blue violet and leave out all reds and pinks. I think it works well.

Tonight I sketched another of the references - looks like contrast might be another month I play with all the references!

Come into the shadow of this red rock
8 1/2" x 11"
Derwent Pastels
Stillman & Birn Gamma Series Sketchbook
Photo reference by aznugget posted for October Pastel Spotlight.

10-07-2011, 02:47 AM
Don -- Thanks for the comment.

Robert -- Thanks for the kind words. I used of lot of the Johannes guidelines from last year while working on this, in spite of which, I produced and endless stream of meatballs, clones, and the like, which is why it required so much reworking. :) Like your sketch, I need to do a lot more of that sort of thing. This lesson covers so much territory, could work on it for a long time.

Did a couple more little fixes, including adding back some neutral yellows to cut down on the green effect, and scanned it instead of using the camera, ended up with truer color. I think the composition is a little stronger with the value masses better connected by lowering the bushes on the right and darkening the field leading back to them.



10-07-2011, 05:55 AM
Dan, thank you! Your changes seriously helped, it does look better and much more unified. Well done!

10-07-2011, 09:52 AM
Hi Dan we haven't met I am David the newbie to art and particularly to pastels, I have no formal education in the arts. I do like hard critique It is what makes one better. I like your rendition of the field of bales I think it is very well done. Thanks for the positive comments on my cat. P. S. kind of like Cat Dude though.
David I love your 30 min piece I try these quickies but always end up tweaking and tweaking so I can't post them in that category.Thanks for your comments
Robert thanks for your kind comments as always you are a great contributor .
Don Thanks for the kind comments I am of to try another

10-07-2011, 02:32 PM
My nephew sent me a picture if his kitty in such a great stance. It's the same kind of cat in the spotlight. So I took liberty and painted my nephew's cat. If no fare, I'll do spotlight as well. It is a 5 x 7 painting using Pan pastels and pastel pencils on pastelmat. C & C wanted. Thanks, Cali

10-07-2011, 05:31 PM
Cool pose! That's dramatic and a very difficult pose. I love that leading paw as the cat's stepping forward, that's so gorgeous. Good idea extending the foreground farther than the photo shows.

10-08-2011, 04:31 AM
Cali---That's a cool cat. For some reason, and I truly can't figure out why, the cat looks to me like it's jumping, caught in mid air, not anchored to the ground. It's nothing I can put my finger on, comparing the picture to the painting, just wondering if anyone else gets the same feeling. Another thing that is happening for me is the left rear leg appears too far forward, and though shown clearly to be smaller in girth than the actual front leg, I can actually confuse it with the left front leg. Kind of like one of optical illusion, impossible shapes.

I think, looking again at the picture, the left front leg of the cat is well ahead of the other front leg, and the left rear appears half as long as in your painted cat as the one in the picture. The left front leg of the painted cat is just barely in front of the other front leg if you draw an imaginary line or better yet, hold up a piece of paper or an index card parallel to the bottom of the picture, you will se the difference of the relative positions of the legs in question. Check the relative positions of the two left legs in both pictures as well. If you can stretch out that left front leg more, and push back the left rear leg by making it shorter, and shorten the right front too just a bit, it might make it appear more grounded. Use the head as a guide, and measure the legs in head lengths, and I think you will see where things have gone awry.

You could push that left rear leg back a little more by more clearly showing that it is seen against the line of the cat's belly. This is hard to describe in words, and isn't terribly obvious in the photo due to the nature of the fur, but if this were a simple line drawing, there would be a clear line going from the inside of the left leg up to the "underarm", transversing the chest, and going down the other front leg - an inverted U shape. That line would cut right across the left rear leg, clearly making that leg the rear. There is no such line in or division in the painting, which I think is why the leg wants to come forward for me and give that impossible shape illusion. Anyway, I think the problems that I'm having with it would be solved by modifying the relative length and positions of the legs. You've caught the facial expression and tail position very well.


10-08-2011, 08:17 AM
Dan, thanks for the input although I got pretty confused by the time I got to the end of your post. My first mistake is I didn't measure using even my pencil from photo to painting. I worked this up all by eye. I will look at it once again using your post to figure out how to correct this. I'll post it again once I fix it. Thanks for your input. Cali

10-08-2011, 09:16 AM
I have been lurking for the last month or so, enjoying the art and getting inspired. Thanks Don for the tutorial and the photo selection. This is my first post to the pastel forum, and I would be very happy for constructive critiscm.

about 23 x 15 cm - Art Spectrum pastels on black colourfix
photo by she-she


10-08-2011, 10:55 AM
Hi Roz,

Very nicely done. Your strawberries look good enough to eat. I love the way you painted the milky glass plate using the blue background. Thanks for sharing. Cali

10-08-2011, 12:22 PM
Excellent, Roz! You captured the shine on the glass dish and strawberries perfectly. So beautiful. I love the way you created the form of the fluted dish too - there's some elbow room for shape on strawberries but the bowl is a lot tougher. Great indentations and seed pits on the strawberries. Well done!

10-08-2011, 12:58 PM
Cali --- Don't worry, it was late, I found it pretty confusing to try to describe it myself. :confused: Probably should have just said to check the relative position and length of each leg. Here is the "impossible shape" I was alluding to that the cats legs were reminding me of. This might clear up a little of the confusion, at least about what one impossible shape looks like. I first ran across this in Mad Magazene many moons ago. For some reason it popped back into mind last night.


Rizzi --- You really nailed the strawberries and the dish. Where have you been hiding? :)


10-08-2011, 08:01 PM
Robert, Nice sketch of the rocky plateau! Nice dark shadows for contrast!

Cali, The cat looks good, but I would look for areas of contrast to help delineate the forms - like the area between the front legs and down the underside. Shadow there might help push back that back leg.


10-08-2011, 08:04 PM
Ros, Welcome! Your Strawberry painting looks great! The white dish has nice contrast with the background and the red strawberries contrast well with everything! The blues throughout really harmonize the painting!


10-08-2011, 10:42 PM
Cali, Robert, Dan and Don, Thank you all for your comments.
Dan, I've been in the watercolour and gouache section since I discovered WC. I mess a bit with pastels and would like to do more - love it.

10-09-2011, 01:20 AM
Everyone's work is so different and unique.

Don, thank you for the detailed lesson. I wanted to copy the master's work to see for myself the contrast and here they are.

Pastel colored cardstock 8.5 x 11 inch with colorfix pastel ground

Terry Ludwig, Daler Rowney soft pastels
Pan pastels for the dark gray background one
Pastel pencils for details

http://img403.imageshack.us/img403/2707/spportrait3.jpg (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/403/spportrait3.jpg/)

Not sure why the girl in the original photo has a very dark neck. Perhaps she works in the sun all year long but her body is covered with garment.

[URL="http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/543/spportrait1.jpg/"]http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/3019/spportrait1.jpg (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/607/spportrait1.jpg/)

http://img847.imageshack.us/img847/6504/spportrait2.jpg (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/847/spportrait2.jpg/)

10-09-2011, 03:41 PM

I found this a tough photo to paint. My strategy (whether realized or not) was to use contrast to emphasize the natural focal point(s)--the rock formations.

I found the greatest value contrasts between the rock shadows, their peaks, and some of the highlight foliage. The heavy, dark-valued rocks also contrast against a lighter sky.

To utilize hue contrast -- the rust rock formations are contrasted against the powder blue sky.

An intensity variation is also hopefully present between the warm earth colors against a duller, grayer, background cliffs and sky.

Everyone's work from this month is exceptional. Great participation rate!

Dave (Greenbrier33)


10-09-2011, 03:50 PM
Cali, Robert, Dan and Don, Thank you all for your comments.
Dan, I've been in the watercolour and gouache section since I discovered WC. I mess a bit with pastels and would like to do more - love it.

Roz, that's awesome. Deborah Secor migrated from pastels into gouache and noticed the similarities, especially in final effects. Pastels are a joy, I hope you stick around and have fun with them! It's also possible to have dry watercolor effects with Pan Pastels.

Sandra, your copies of the masters are great! I'm not sure about the girl's dark neck though, that could be shadow as much as her working in the sun. I'd have gone with what the master did on that even though yours does look good. Your call whether to follow or not.

Dave, wow! You may have had a hard time with that photo but your grand view of it is spectacular! I love the way you softened the foreground so much that my eyes just skim over it - less intense yellows, softer edges, everything leads toward the strong clear rocky red spires against the brilliant blue desert sky. Excellent painting. Definitely frame and hang or sell it, this one's a keeper!

10-10-2011, 04:59 AM
Robert, appreciate your feedback. You are always so positive and constructive.

One friend / mentor of mine -- Michael Chesley Johnson -- paints breathtaking desert scenes. He's been a great inspiration, as have you and the other WC artists.

10-10-2011, 08:46 AM
Sandra, Thanks for joining us! I think copying Masters is always a great idea! I think your copies show the difference between a dark, medium and light background and the contrast with skin, hair, etc.

Dave (G33), I think your strategy worked exactly as planned! Your dark shadows give the rocks great emphasis, as does the warm/cool contrast. This is excellent all around!


10-10-2011, 02:37 PM
Great works everybody. Keep it up!
Sorry Don just not going to make this one. First the grandson came and all pastels had to be locked up and now I am off on my trip. I had hoped to do at least one:(
Will join in next month again!

10-10-2011, 03:50 PM
My gosh peeps have gone ahead here this month.

I like your cat Cali, even if some peeps see his back leg forward. But it does help to check if proportions are correct

Nice strawbs Roz, nicely contrasted.

Strong mountains David (greenbriar33) lovely contrast with sky and dark shadows to make them stand out.

Good on you Sandra for attempting to copy the masters – that Idea make a lot of sense.

I have been gradually going through the exercises in Jackie's work-book. But thought I' d done enough this week and so had a go at the spotlight hay-bales today.
Here's a scanners worth of this 16“ by 11.5” canvas board painted over with sand colourfix primer
Pastels are inscribe, Daler Rowney and Derwent.
All detailed work done with Derwent pastel pencils.


10-10-2011, 04:10 PM
Jim, I like the way you painted a cropped version of the hay bales. I think it could have used a bit more contrast or brightness, but all in all well done. Thanks, Cali

10-10-2011, 04:29 PM
The scanner cropped it not me.
If the uploader will work then I will uploade aphoto of the full painting. I've just found out that a flash doesn't affect pastel paintings like wet media.


PS I do not consider I know enough as yet to alter pictures much from where they start. I find it sufficiently challenging to just copy the image. If the image is rather complicated then I crop to something smaller which I feel able to do in the time I have.

10-10-2011, 07:11 PM
Jim, I take it back! Your painting as you've sent it now does have a contrast and brightness. Well done. Thanks for sending another image. Cali

10-10-2011, 08:24 PM
Jim, this is beautiful! I love the color and intensity, the way the bales are so three dimensional and recede so well. Your painting has plenty of depth!

10-11-2011, 05:16 AM
Thanks Cali and Robert for calling in and commenting. Don did go through contrasting so it was important to get some in this. It was alleviated a little by knowing that the scanner does not do the best job with pastels.

10-11-2011, 01:04 PM
Robert, I like the hot/cold combo on the strawberries. Red hot berries against a cool blue dish, etc.

Cali, your berries sparkle. I love the red. The pan pastels must have some decent reds and I like your dish presentation. As for the cat--there is no greater honor than painting to benefit of a child.

David (Davkin), I like your landscape colors…vivid and eye-catching.

Dan, You're also obviously not afraid of trees…they are really well done. The cool shadows on your hay bales are very effective.

Ros, love the berries!

Jim, copying an image is harder than painting from instinct, in my opinion. You did a great job on this…very believable. I like it!

10-11-2011, 02:01 PM
Hi all Cali good job on the cat The leg thing Is certainly a bit confusing ,even more confusing is the post of the three legged table.
Roz Very well done on the stawberries glass was excellent.
Dave greenbriar You did a fantastic rendition of the western landscape.
Jim great job on the field of bales.
Here is my next effort I attempted to make my strawberries look like strawberries but in a impressionistic style not sure that I accomplished that
This is 5x7 on pastelmat. mungyos and ludwigs.

10-11-2011, 03:22 PM
David, wow! I love your berries. That's fantastic. You captured the white shiny dish perfectly. Your values and contrasting textures are spot on. I like the way you variegated the dark background too. Beautiful contrast of color and value. Well done!

10-11-2011, 03:39 PM
David from N.B. --

I second Robert's opinion on the strawberries. Value contrasts are strong. The red / green play on the berries forms a nice hue contrast. Then, you created an intensity variation between the duller/grayer background contrasted against more intense reds / greens. This is also a value contrast...the background opposed to dish.

Dave (Greenbrier33)

10-11-2011, 03:51 PM
I'll join the applause :clap: good work. I'm unsure why you think this didn't make it for you? It works lovely.

10-11-2011, 07:49 PM
more good work coming in .
glad to see lots of responses :)

Ed :}

10-11-2011, 08:18 PM
Robert,Dave,Jim and Ed. Thank you all very much for the kind compliments It sure is encouraging to get them.

10-11-2011, 08:31 PM
David, beautiful bowl of strawberries!!! Well done! Thanks for sharing! Cali

10-11-2011, 10:08 PM
Jim, Very nice job on the hay bales! The strong contrast between their light and shadow sides definitely makes them stand out!

David (Barriespapa), Nice painting of the strawberries! Definitely works!


Some of Everything
10-14-2011, 03:40 PM
Hi all!

Robert: I like your cat you posted in post #30. Amazing how you indicate the fur without the background blending together of colours - and you do it so effectively! With pastels and even with oils I cannot seem to stop myself from using a finger to blend with. Guess that is how we all end up having different styles. I love the style of your work though. :)
Like your strawberries in post #34 too.
You really pushed the value contrasts in your mountain nicely.

Cali: Lovely strawberries. When I have the funds, I would love to try out the pan pastels, but for now, I am saving up for a new set of pastel pencil first. WRT the standing cat you tried, I agree with Dan's comments. Carefully checking the placement of all four feet in your picture space will take away the confusion with the legs. Also try blurring the detail edges for the furthest feet a bit more than in the photo while even emphasizing the detail of the fur in the body in front of those legs. This should help creating a "line" between the body and legs and should therefor help to push them more to the background.

Barriespapa: Love the lines you used for the fur. With a bit more practise I am sure you'll soon figure out which colours work best for what you want to achieve. You have got an excellent start with this cat - as already mentioned, the blue for this exercise was a good choice since it is the opposite of the orange of the fur. :wave:
Lovely texture on the strawberries. I just love how the shiny nature of the glass is evident.

David: I love the orange sky and the purple mountains and how these colours are repeated in the hay bales. Lovely!

Dan: I love the way you texture your work. Your colour choices also work well here. :) Glad you got to try the pastelmat and panpastels. I haven't tried either yet. Moving the bush on the right really made quite a difference.:thumbsup:

Ros: Lovely detail in the strawberries. I like how you just hashed in the background - very pleasing IMO :clap:

Sandra: good exercises while copying master works Well done!:)

Dave: Lovely detail in your rock formations. I love how you used the cooler colours for the sky and mountains in the background contrasted with the warmer colours in the foreground - great job!:thumbsup:

Jim: Lovely haybales!

After reading everyone's responses to my green haybales, I had another look at it. I know you liked the green, but I do think now it was a bit too much. :lol: I added a tiny bit of a yellow ochre in the grasses and quite a bit to the bales. I like this one better:

And here is my strawberries:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/14-Oct-2011/31277-Strawberries_sm.jpg I am not so sure if the yellow in the dish is so effective, but I chose it as a contrast to the purple shadow areas of the dish.

Do critique away - I have a thick skin and a wish to learn :angel:
Have fun

10-14-2011, 03:44 PM
Magda, I love the changes you made to your green hay bales. The sense of summer's reflected green is still there, the ocher accents help liven it up. Gorgeous painting.

Your yellow accents on the candy dish have an odd look, as if you've got a double light source and one of those is late afternoon approaching sunset OR an incandescent lamp on one side. That's okay. It looks like unusual lighting. I love the depth and shape of the bowl and the way you rendered the strawberries, they are beautiful.

10-14-2011, 11:56 PM
Red Green
8" x 10"
Pastel "Mystery Palette" of 14 randomly chosen pastels.
White Canson Mi-Tientes smooth side.
Photo reference by DAK723 for October Pastel Spotlight.
My Mystery Palette had no blue, no white, no black, no greys or browns. So it was a challenge for me finding a reference that leaned so heavily on greens and reds! Shows you what I've got lots of in my Dakota Traveller!

10-15-2011, 10:28 AM

The ochre you added definitely adds more contrast (and interest) to the hay bale painting! Nicely done!

Your strawberries are nicely done too! Since you have asked for critique I will pose a question...Do you think the fairly intense orange of the tabletop compete a bit with the strawberries? If yes, maybe a duller version of orange - or a duller, cooler color (like purple or blue) - would contrast more with the strawberries and make them stand out more. You could experiment on your computer before actually touching the original painting if you want!


10-15-2011, 10:30 AM

Nice job on the red-green contrast! And the limited palette keeps it very harmonious!


10-15-2011, 05:50 PM
Thank you! Yeah, there's no contrast of intensity and only moderate value contrast, the contrast is all in hue on this one. I love the challenge in this month's Spotlight. I know I'll probably do more!

10-17-2011, 07:36 AM
I've got behind with this thread but I'm back now :wave:
There are some really good haybales on here! I have to admit the photo didn't inspire me when I first saw it, but you have! So I've done the haybales and will post it soon.
ED, I particularly like yours from your own photo. The bales really look like hay and the grass in the field is very well done.
Likewise the Strawberries all look delicious. I think everyone is doing really well making these contrasts happen in their paintings.
Robert, I love your Cat sketch! Not surprised that it is so Cat like! I don't know anyone else who has studied cats more than you have.
David (BP), great rendition of the Cat! Your strawberries look luscious! Cali, your Cat does look as if it is jumping. That doesn't stop it being a very endearing and well done portrait!
Sandra, cool copies of the portraits!
Sorry for not commenting on each individual painting.

10-17-2011, 07:42 AM
Here are my haybales, about 18x12" (ata a guess, haven't measured it yet) on the bright gold pastelmat.


10-17-2011, 10:27 AM
Cali,Don. Magda and Ruthie ,thanks for the compliments. Magda nice job on the bales and the stawberries.:clap:
Ruthie I love your rendition of the bales very well done :clap:
Robert. really great job on the flowers with such a limited palette amazing work.:clap:

10-17-2011, 12:09 PM
Ruth, Wonderful job on the haybale painting! Excellent use of contrast all around! Wonderful color intensity on the sunlit grass!


10-17-2011, 12:19 PM
Thanks David and Don!
I've been busy today! Here's my next one, about 11x7" on re-claimed pastelmat. I've never done any of these fantastic Arizona(?) Rocks before and I had great fun with it :) No pressure when it's on top of a failed painting!


10-17-2011, 08:57 PM
Ruthie, wow! I love your hay bales and your red spires! Both of these paintings are fantastic. I can't even decide which of the two I like better. It's incredible. You did wonderful with them both. I love the depth and the subtle color and the power of the value contrasts in the spires. I love the soft color transitions in the hay bales scene and the values are clear in it too. Perfect balance of hue and value in both. Gorgeous.

10-17-2011, 11:17 PM
Ruth, The "Arizona Rocks" is another wonderful painting! Strong value contrast in the shadows and some nice, intense color, too!


10-18-2011, 05:17 AM
Thanks Robert and Don for your lovely words. Both of these were fun and, to be honest, both lent themselves to value and hue contrast just by their nature. I need to find a way to apply this to paintings where the contrasts are not so obvious and need to be "made" or at least "enhanced".

10-18-2011, 09:34 AM

Hay Baylee's and mountains are stunning! Good contrast and beautiful softness to both paintings. Well done! Thanks for sharing!

10-18-2011, 02:22 PM
RUTH....very nice..love it!
How long did it take you to do this one?
How difficult is it to repaint over a failed piece?
I have never repainted over a pastel piece before, dont know how hard it would be to do that.

Thanks David and Don!
I've been busy today! Here's my next one, about 11x7" on re-claimed pastelmat. I've never done any of these fantastic Arizona(?) Rocks before and I had great fun with it :) No pressure when it's on top of a failed painting!


10-18-2011, 03:34 PM
Robert...Your mystery palette flowers really glow!

beautiful, Ruthie! i'm embarrassed to show my very rough rendering of the rocks, after yours!
your haybales are lovely, too...

But...here goes...first attempt at a 'painting' this month...have just been sketching, and this is really more of a sketch, itself.


after it was too late, I realized I had used the 'wrong' side of the paper, and I didnt want to 'blend' too much...
oh well...better luck next time....

10-18-2011, 04:32 PM
Ann, Thanks. I think this one took me about 2 hours. I didn't really notice to be honest. On pastelmat (or sanded papers) it's quite easy to go over a failed piece. This one I just brushed off as much pastel dust as I could. Luckily there was already blue where most of the sky was to go. But I used all softies (unison, schminke, sennelier) and they cover so well. An alternative, after brushing off, is to go over the failed painting with a damp brush (I use water but some use alcohol etc). That sort of fixes the old painting and gives you a, sometimes interesting, underpainting to start afresh on.

Judi. Nice one! You have the contrast of colour and value very well. I see I'm not the only one who sometimes fails to check which side of the paper I'm using! Is this canson?

10-18-2011, 04:58 PM
Judi, good form and contrast on your red spires! I like the way you used the contrast of the white to make the rocks glow, it's very striking. You turned a problem of white specks into an advantage that gives beautiful contrast and a brilliant lighting effect.

What I do on unsanded paper is sometimes give it a dry underpainting, sketch lightly on it and blend it in, then work over that so I still have the bright broken color strokes showing against the blended layer. It works to have two or three layers together if I don't go too heavy on the blended layers.

10-18-2011, 05:09 PM
Thanks, Robert and Ruthie....no, it isnt canson....but Bugra paper (forget the correct name,now), and I am soon coming to the end of it, thankfully. It does not hold layers well, so I will put it out of my mind, once it is gone.

10-18-2011, 08:49 PM
Judi, thanks. I almost ordered some Hahnemuhle Bugra paper, now I'm glad that I didn't. I've got plenty of Strathmore Artagain and Canson Mi-Tientes for using non-sanded paper, plus some white Winsor & Newton pastel paper.

I love doing the Spotlight challenges. Got inspired to another one today.

Hue Contrast - Autumn Leaves
7" square
Color Conte sticks
Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook 180lb natural white rough watercolor paper.
Photo reference by DAK723 for October 2011 Spotlight Challenge.

I liked the contrasts on the leaves too, it's not entirely devoid of value changes.

10-19-2011, 01:51 PM
Nice orange / turquoise play, Robert. Sweet sketch!

One thing's certain--you give these challenges 100%. I've also been following your blog and reading your art lessons. It's great material to learn from.

Dave (Greenbrier33)

10-19-2011, 01:55 PM

Your Arizona rocks are spectacular. For someone who hasn't seen them...they look better in your painting than they do in person. Very nice cool shadows against the hot rocks. I also notice you omitted the foreground foliage: a smart move, as the scene is about the rocks and not about some distracting yellow leaves in the foreground.

Love it.


10-19-2011, 02:51 PM
Robert, nice job on the branches. I am partial to the color you used in the background. Nice contrast. Cali

10-19-2011, 03:13 PM
Thank you! Cali, that background color is a blended mix of the bright blue, a warm light brown, a little red and a dark blue violet to get that turquoise hue to the right barely muted color. I kept getting it too greenish and then it wasn't bright enough at the end so I had to add a little more of the bright blue over the mixture! Well worth it though.

10-19-2011, 03:19 PM
Robert, Oh yes I can see the value changes in the leaves! good work with a lot of "movement" in it. I have been tempted by that one but more tempted by one of my ornamental Acers in a pot which is just taking on it's Autumn colour and, backlit, looks just fantastic as the sun shines through and strikes some of the leaves, leaving others looking very dark when I squint. I just hope the weather will allow me to sit outside and try to capture that.

Dave, thank you for your comments about my Arizona rocks. You're right. I found the Yellow foliage too confusing to the scene so left it out. What I was going to do, but forgot, was to put a white stemmed bush near the bottom to add some further contrast there....there's one in the photo which I was going to develop. How come I forgot??? Maybe I'm already taking after my Mum...........

10-19-2011, 03:52 PM
Hello Magda and welcome to the spotlight. I like the additional straw colours in your bales. I also like your attempt at the strawberries.

Robert as you say there is only hue contrast in these flowers. There are a few darker marks in the red but very little. They still make a striking image though, red set against green.
In the Autumn Leaves painting you have again gone for a hue contrast. Red/orange against green always works doesn't it. It looks lovely.

Ruth your hay bales look terrific. I like the spots where the sun seems to catch a high light. Those background trees are good as well, and you simplified the next field over – as did I. I also like the variation in the grass throughout the field
The landscape with the land going up into the air with humongous spires, shadowed at their bases, surrounded by scrub/barren land, I don't think we have anything comparable in this country. Wonderful stuff.

Judi that is a good first attempt at the rocks. You've achieved the earth piercing the skyline with a tailing down away at the base. And using the wrong side of the paper as well.

I have been fault finding on this computer. Something is making it hang at intervals. I have scanned it for mal-ware and it has found something that does just that but a re-installation of the OS might be the only other option. I do not know about these things but the guys at freepchelp do. Thank goodness.

10-19-2011, 07:32 PM
Judi, very nice job on the rocks!

Robert, Yes, you've found a lot of variety in the leaves! Nice!


10-21-2011, 04:23 AM
Thank you! I love these Spotlight challenges. Every month something cool to focus on - contrasts is a great topic.

10-21-2011, 05:34 AM
Yay for the Spotlight :clap: I don't know why these pics did nothing for me at the beginning of the month and now I'm doing one after another!

Well, I found some black pastel paper when sorting. It's W&N tints pastel paper in a pad with lots of colours. I remember not liking it before, but this time I used the smooth side and it was great for doing the Cat with rembs and faber castell. Just used a schminke for the whiskers. A4 size.


10-21-2011, 07:41 AM
Ruthie, beautifully done! You captured his relaxed quiet pose. Now I want to try this as well. Thanks for sharing! Cali

10-21-2011, 09:00 AM
Ruth, Wonderful painting of the cat! Your painting has great contrast - the cat just jumps out of the dark background! Plus, you have some great soft and lost edges, too!


10-21-2011, 01:49 PM
Thanks Cali and Don! I enjoyed this so much I did another! Check out the studio where I posted them both.

10-21-2011, 08:49 PM
Yay for the Spotlight :clap: I don't know why these pics did nothing for me at the beginning of the month and now I'm doing one after another!

Well, I found some black pastel paper when sorting. It's W&N tints pastel paper in a pad with lots of colours. I remember not liking it before, but this time I used the smooth side and it was great for doing the Cat with rembs and faber castell. Just used a schminke for the whiskers. A4 size.


Ruthie, your cat is spectacular! I love the light and drama, that beautiful expression! You captured all her ferocity. Wonderful painting. I commented in the Studio too, your other cat is just as lovely.

10-24-2011, 02:22 AM
I'm just finishing a week in Vienna without my pastels. I see all this beautiful artwork--Monet, Picasso, Kandinsky--but am not able to paint.

The reference strawberries are my next project. Hopefully some of what I learned in Vienna (and what you guys have taught me) will rub off. :)

10-24-2011, 12:32 PM
I wanted to try the dish in green--kind of like "Vaseline" glass, if you've ever seen it, made in the 30's (?) Am hoping to earn a color/hue contrast as well as some value contrast.


10-24-2011, 12:48 PM
David, Contrasts galore! Very bold and effective!


10-24-2011, 12:52 PM
Don, after all this time finally managed to participate in your challenge that manage to keep so stimulating, this time contrast.
Here is my piece which was very challenging for me, 11”x8 on canson.

10-24-2011, 10:55 PM
Pedro, Thanks for joining us! This painting looks very good! The rock formations are very bold and convincing contrasting against that blue sky!


10-25-2011, 06:11 AM
Pedro, your painting is cool! You picked up on that deep rich sky and the hue contrast of those strong primaries, I love it. That was one of the elements in the reference that intrigued me too, only I cropped the yellow and lost that primary color harmony. Wow. Great contrasts of both value and hue. Powerful work!

David, excellent! You succeeded in transforming the dish and capturing the hue of that kind of glass. I didn't know it was called Vaseline glass but it's gorgeous and I have seen it on vintage glass objects in antique stores and markets. Beautiful way you handled the red-green hue contrast and the values.

The strong value change is what keeps the red-green balance from clashing, also the textures and chroma difference. You have contrasting chroma, the green is softer although still intense and a little iridescent, not as pure as the red of the strawberries. The bluish deep dark background somehow unifies it perfectly. You have an analogous color scheme with the strawberry red as the accent, the complement. Wonderful! It works so well!

The slight gradation in the background is one of the fine points too, that also keeps every bit of the painting lively and interesting. Hard to do that with a flat plane of color but when you did, it also made the background lay flat like a table cloth instead of a backdrop the dish is floating in front of. Well done!

10-25-2011, 08:05 AM
Robert and Don, appreciate your comments.

Robert, green was a risk for the dish color...a direct departure from an innocent and conservative white. I considered a muted earth-tone green, which could have worked against the very red berries, and would have posed less risk of clashing against / competing with the red. But it would have been less exciting.

Though as it stands: What's this painting about? Two strawberries, or a green dish? Both are...bright. Nonetheless, I wanted a catchier, more intense hue on both the dish and the berries to depart from traditional still-life painting styles and suggest something different...pop art, maybe.

I see your point about textures, too, although can't claim that was planned. I'd like to redo this painting and use a translucent glass bowl...see-through, instead of this solid or opaque look.

Maybe I'm over-thinking a pastel painting of 2 strawberries. But, if we can analyze something simple like this, then other paintings should come more easily. :eek:

10-25-2011, 11:11 AM

I really like your desert rocks painting. It's a tough subject matter...foreign to most painters, as it's located in a remote site few people have seen.

The warm colors used in the landscape harmonize, from the yellow foreground into the warm reds / browns of the rocks.

Well done and I'm glad you are participating in the group!

Dave (Greenbrier33)

10-25-2011, 11:18 AM
Thanks Don, Robert and David. For me was an experiment of using different values to obtain contrast. Quite fun.

10-25-2011, 01:05 PM
Robert, green was a risk for the dish color...a direct departure from an innocent and conservative white. I considered a muted earth-tone green, which could have worked against the very red berries, and would have posed less risk of clashing against / competing with the red. But it would have been less exciting.

Though as it stands: What's this painting about? Two strawberries, or a green dish? Both are...bright. Nonetheless, I wanted a catchier, more intense hue on both the dish and the berries to depart from traditional still-life painting styles and suggest something different...pop art, maybe.

These are the questions that artists ask themselves whenever they paint. What it is the painting about? What should stand out? How much should it stand out? And not always questions that are easy to answer.

So, yes, in theory two equally really bright elements in a painting might compete with one another, but in this case I don't think there is any problem whatsoever. It might be because it is a simple composition, or because the berries and dish are connected. Because they are connected, I don't think they can really compete with one another, compared to two eye-catching elements that are on opposite sides of a painting, for example. It would be interesting to compare this painting with paintings that vary the intensity and color of the dish and background. Perhaps a series is in the works!


10-25-2011, 11:03 PM
I love the green that you did, Dave. I think a transparent green would be fun but a more conventional still life. It's much tougher to convey opaque glass with an iridescent patina. I would love to see you set up a still life with one of those orange-with-iridescence Depression glass pieces, maybe with some clear glass with it to impress people but to me the Depression glass would be tougher. The lighter green you used is perfect, the color harmony in this is spectacular.

You achieved translucence. That's tougher than clear. Clear, you just tone it a bit and add the shiny highlights over whatever's behind it, look for distortions from the shape. That's common in still lifes. Opacity is tougher. Translucence, that is powerful and subtle.

Doug, you made an interesting point. My first thought was "I don't do that, I don't ever do that" because I remembered a series of recent serendipitous paintings that when they were done, wow, came out tons better than I expected and left me happy. That feeling is common.

But so is my working loose and expressive, looking at it very close and thinking "Ack! This is sloppy, people are going to know I just sketched it in and didn't bother to finish it, I feel like a fraud ..."

Then I put it across the room or see it online and realize that yeah, I did get it right. I post something I think was awful and it gets twice the comments, many of them specific enough to show me why I just made another leap of skill instead of falling down on my face.

I still drift into being too literal sometimes, when I let go and get playful it comes out well.

10-26-2011, 12:15 PM
good to see all the activity
and read how folks are putting thoughts into words
about a non-verbal activity .
it do get tricky to find the words and the flow .

this piece has the Southwest colours
but in a different context .


5x4 " on Strathmore , Nup's , Rembies , and a Conte

it's a rough study for a larger piece , and i thought it would apply here .

Ed :}

10-27-2011, 05:32 AM
I'm relatively new here Ed so I am unable to do a critique but I can say what I like about your work here.

I like the way you have the light showing up the shoulder and the tight curls that forms the basis of his hair. Also that strong light showing though the thin part of his ear with the highlight around the rim and the subsequent darkening where that thickness attenuates the light.

The strong light makes for shadows that put his back in shade as well as the front half of his head. Although some reflected light enables us to only just make out some features - or is that my imagination working overtime.
I would say this man had red hair.
Can all that be said by saying that this image relies on a value contrast?
Lovely picture. :thumbsup:

10-27-2011, 10:42 AM
thx Jim , for your observations .
you touched all the points that caught my eye
when i took the ref pix .

- would you believe the background here is grey , gray ?

Ed :}

10-27-2011, 10:51 AM
- would you believe the background here is grey , gray ?
Ed :}

Only because now you say so, but it really looks as if there is some purple (red and blue) in there and that makes it look brown.

10-27-2011, 12:31 PM

Nice job on the painting - and, yes, lot's of contrast here! Those few touches of highlights on the hair work well in giving us the texture for the hair. A good demonstration how just a suggestion of detail gives us plenty of information!


10-27-2011, 05:36 PM
Jim - yes , i see that .
for wet media painters lately , making a workable gray
rather than mud
from base colour(s) is a serious topic/discussion .

blending colour with pastel sticks is an ongoing issue as well .
- brands , pigments , formulas , and so on . :rolleyes:

Don - thx !

Ed :}

10-28-2011, 12:09 AM
good to see all the activity
and read how folks are putting thoughts into words
about a non-verbal activity .
it do get tricky to find the words and the flow .

this piece has the Southwest colours
but in a different context .


5x4 " on Strathmore , Nup's , Rembies , and a Conte

it's a rough study for a larger piece , and i thought it would apply here .

Ed :}

This is great! So full of feeling and the contrasts in values and hue are elegant. The shadowed profile against a similar value background is awesome, the highlights on neck and ear fantastic. It'll be a stunner of a big painting, looking forward to it!

10-28-2011, 05:30 PM
Robert - thx !
the shadows were scumbled in with a Conte 2454
with different densities and rubbed with a q-tip .
burnt sienna went over that .

it took an hour to freehand the set-up ( oy ) in charcoal .


and yes , that is writing showing thru .
i used a tissue box for a makeshift ' table ' :D
and pixed with full flash .

Ed :}

10-28-2011, 07:21 PM
Thanks for showing the first stage, Ed. It came out fantastic. I love my Conte, very happy to have them in hand again even in the smaller set.

10-28-2011, 08:46 PM
Hey Ed, a lesson on how to say more with less. And the size is so small, how did you like painting a portrait with bricks :lol: ? You handled it well, I'm looking forward to what you'll do in a larger size!

CM Neidhofer
10-29-2011, 12:13 PM
Ok, I'm squeaking in under the wire. I struggled with the bowl, the bowl won and I started over. I struggled with the bowl and the bowl won, again. Started over a third time when some part of my pea brain told me this month was about contrast, not so much the bowl! It's NOT about the bowl! lol So here is the bowl of strawberries. I wanted to do a couple of others, but have run out of time now. That's another ponder moment...how does someone who isn't working run out of time for anything??!! lol

This was done on one of those odd sized samples of UArt, 800. I think it's like 7 x 9. Came across it unpacking art supplies and decided to use it for the third attempt. Kind of like painting on wallpaper, but it eventually was ok. I wouldn't personally buy that particular grit, but since it was a free sample, lesson learned. Anyway, thanks for the great references and maybe I'll eventually get to the others that I wanted to do.


10-29-2011, 12:14 PM
Robert -thx
i've seen some portrait pros map proportions with
some type of brown stick , but their draftsmanship
is dead-on , so i'm quite happy with the charcoal :)
- my collection of Contes is 20 or so is from open stock
> the darkest and lightest have a reliably consistant release .

Chris - thx !
bricks ? :confused:
i've pointed up a few Nup's at one end of a full stick
without much guilt about losing material ( useful for ' peanutting ' ) ,
and if one breaks it's still useful .
> i've tried some pencils , but they didn't seem to play well on paper :(
>> i wouldn't think of doing that with the pricy American brands :eek:
-- radar looks pretty thick over LI , hope it's just rain !

Ed :}

10-30-2011, 06:17 AM
Christine, that is so beautiful. I love how you got the bowl on your third attempt. The translucence is there along with the shimmering reflected color and the lovely highlights that show the glossiness of the glass. You really outdid yourself on this one. Even if you don't like the 800 grit, it likes you!

Contrast isn't always about dramatic contrasts. Your contrasts between the highlights on the white glass and the soft colors of its light tones are perfect - those hard-edged pale highlights are wonderful and don't change the impression of whiteness of the entire bowl. Value carries this one, neck and neck with color.

10-30-2011, 11:19 AM

Great job on the strawberries and bowl! It may not be about the bowl, but the bowl is very well done. Love the pinks and blues in the bowl, too - and those bowl colors, as well as the background are very muted allowing the vibrant strawberries to just pop!


10-30-2011, 04:08 PM

I really like your strawberries and bowl. They are bright, vibrant, and realistic. You achieved contrast without modifying the photo to extremes.

I also know what you mean about starting over. I've had this "painter's block" all day... wanting to paint... needing to paint... but lacking inspiration in Frankfurt's cold, gray weather... and not wanting to paint something that would disappoint.

Thanks for sharing your painting...it is really nice,

10-30-2011, 05:02 PM
Christine, I love your strawberries! And the bowl just glistens! It looks iridescent. Great work!

10-30-2011, 10:55 PM
Yes! Christine, the iridescence of that bowl is inspiring. I love the way you did it. I'm going to have to try to find an iridescent glass object to paint from life, because that's just too beautiful. Maybe I'll visit a flea market.

Monet copy for October Pastel Spotlight
5" x 8"
Color Conte on Aquabee Bogus Recycled brown paper.
I don't know the title of the Monet original but I love it.

10-31-2011, 01:01 PM
Christine - good exploration !
didn't mean to miss your post earlier .

Robert - good choice .
referencing Masters' paintings is showing up here and there w/i Pastel ,
and relating personal project to challenge is something i'd like to see here from more folks
to encourage discussion of technique/palette/choices ,
especially working an analogous ' wedge ' of the colour wheel
so that there is some sense of control of colour/foundation
and the visual imprint carries over to select other colours
in the box from the other side of the ' wheel ' .

Ed :}

CM Neidhofer
10-31-2011, 02:52 PM
Thanks everyone! I am pretty happy with the painting once I overcame my "block!" lol

10-31-2011, 04:02 PM
Robert, very nice copy of the Monet! A few internet sites call this painting "Hauling the Boat Ashore, Honfleur".


10-31-2011, 07:02 PM
Thank you, Don! I love it. One minor leap for me in copying it was that I didn't just copy the landscape but did put the figures in rather than simplify it by leaving them out. Getting their gesture without too much detail was a good challenge for me. Even across the room I can see all three of them working hard at bringing their boat in.

I'll write the title on the margin, now that it's up on my sketch wall. Thank you!

Ed, thank you for commenting on my Monet copy. I love the palette of this scene, it's perfect for a sunset and I may use it again when I do my own sunsets. One thing I used to do was always use a full intensity yellow for the lightest color in a sunset, when Monet makes it clear that it works gorgeously to go through pale yellow to white in the area of the sun.