How to Paint in Pastel Beside an Arroyo

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“Arroyo Del Valle”, pastel, 11×14

Before I set out to paint on location beside an arroyo, I packed all the necessary items. First, I chose mounted UArt 400 as my support and cut a piece of glassine to fit the 11×14 pastel paper and placed it in an envelope inside my messenger bag. Also in the bag I packed my assortment of pastel in my Heilman Box, my zipper kit of tools, a small bottle of denatured alcohol, paper towels, and some water.

 

 


I found a place to paint at at Sycamore Grove Park located on Arroyo Road in Livermore which is close to home. Initially, I was drawn to some wild flowers by a stream, but there was a noisy group of school kids on a nature walk, so I moved to a woodland area beside the arroyo.

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Start of “Arroyo Del Valle”

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Easel on site at “Arroyo Del Valle”

After blocking in the basic elements of the scene as trees, stream, plants, and undergrowth, I washed it down with alcohol which adds color, but does not use up any of the tooth of the paper. I continued to add color while remembering to use a range of light, middle, and dark values of each hue. It was challenging to represent the tangled web of branches and trees. Since this was a plein air piece, I simplified the stream by omitting a few of the rocks. Although the color of the water was quite a dull olive green, I enhanced the color by adding a bit more blue and some light purples.

After a few hours when the light on the stream had changed, I packed up my gear. Later, I added a few details to the painting back in the studio.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about painting beside an arroyo.
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Beach at Cahoon Hollow

Cahoon Hollow in Wellfleet, Massachusetts is one of the most popular beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  There is a steep path down the 75 foot cliff to the beach on the outer arm of Cape Cod. The dramatic cliff collapsed in a  severe rainstorm last fall taking a vehicle with it, but it has since been repaired.  The Beachcomber, a seaside bar at the top of the cliff is part of the beach experience of Cahoon Hollow.

Working from a photo taken in summer, I began the painting of the beach with an alcohol underpainting on sanded pastel paper. This technique is useful when depicting waves that cover the sand on the shore.

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In Process – Cahoon Hollow

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Cahoon Hollow, pastel, 9×12

It is always a challenge to try to capture the motion of the ocean’s surf.  This alcohol wash technique aids in setting the lower layers of sand below the shallow water. I look forward to future paintings of the ocean at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Technical notes: UArt #400 Sanded Pastel Paper, various pastels including Unison, Terry Ludwig, Girault, Rembrandt, Nu Pastel, and Conte Pastel Pencils. 70% Alcohol.

A Colorful Summer

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Work in Progress on Easel and View of Highland Lighthouse

Summer on Cape Cod is always colorful. From the selections of ice cream, the beach umbrellas, the kayaks on top of the cars going over the bridges, and the towels on the beaches there is color. But, this year Cape Cod Life Magazine wrote, “It’s going to be a colorful summer.” Plein Air Painters would paint, demonstate, and exhibit their interpretations inspired by Edward Hopper in “After Hopper” events hosted by Addison Art Gallery.

Plein air painters were at Highland Lighthouse which is located in Truro in the Cape Cod National Seashore. I was one of the artists who demonstrated my painting techniques in pastel near the lighthouse and the Truro History Museum.

In describing Hopper’s work Dicum of the New York Times wrote, “Isolated buildings in broad vistas are meditations on form and color that steer toward the abstract while remaining figurative.” Keeping this in mind, I set up my easel, so that the lighthouse was viewed at a distance. It was also convenient for transporting my set-up.

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Assorted Pastels

There were many specific questions about materials and types of pastels and paper supports. I welcomed the discussion and enjoyed sharing my passion for pastel.

Technical notes: Assorted pastels – Terri Ludwig, Sennelier, Unison, Rembrandt, and Conte Pastel Pencils on Sennelier La Carte pastel card.

My ’53 Chevy

My recent painting commission was to paint the scene of an autumn wedding which took place in a barn in the hills of Northern California. I was given a few candid photos of the event, but decided to begin the pastel on location. The hills were still green from recent rains, despite my need to be accurate with the dry grass of October.

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Plein Air Start

My clients wished to have certain items included in the painting: the two barns, a red horse trailer, and a blue ’53 Chevy truck which was used by as the couple in place of a limousine.  Reference photos showed the truck on the right of the large barn at the event. I needed to consider the composition of these elements.  It seemed that the red horse trailer and the blue truck would appear as bookends to the two barns if placed this way.  Instead I changed the arrangement, so that the truck was placed on the left, and the driveway would act as a lead in to the barn which was the focal point.

This solution lead me to another issue which was how to accurately depict the Chevy truck without one for visual information.  Fortunately, I was able to purchase one on eBay that was 1/64 scale or the size of a Matchbox car. It was quite useful for drawing the

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truck as accurately as necessary given the changes made.

Here is the completed painting which I titled “Before the Wedding”.

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“Before the Wedding”, pastel, 12 x 18

Painting in pastels can bring back childhood memories of the sight of a new box of Crayolas or even playing in a pedal car or truck! Also, I hope that the newlyweds find that the painting brings back fond memories of their special day.

Technical Notes:  UArt #400 mounted board.  Pastels by Unison, Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, Rembrandt, and Girault. Conte and Stabilo pastel pencils. Some underpainting with alcohol wash. Color  in this image may differ from actual painting.

Flower Power

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“Lupine, Poppies, and Rocks”, pastel, 12×16

Despite the stormy January weather, flowers have the power to brighten the dark days of winter. My painting, “Lupine, Poppies, and Rocks” caught the eye of juror, Peggi Kroll-Roberts at the Delicato Winery Show in Manteca, California. It received an honorable mention in the show which is on exhibit January 11 – February 4, 2017.  The artist reception  will be held on February 4th.  What is not to like about art, wine, and appetizers?

Technical notes: Rembrandt, Unison, Terry Ludwig, NuPastels, and Conte pastel pencils on U Art 400 sanded pastel board.  A few photo references  were taken while on a hike at nearby Brushy Peak in Livermore, CA last spring.

 

Lace, Lighthouse, & Links

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Easel at Cape Cod Nat’l Seashore Highland Links, Truro, MA

Wildflowers in the windswept meadow in the rough of the links course by the Highland Light in Truro caught my eye. The Highland Links dates to 1892. Several artists were painting Cape Cod’s oldest lighthouse which dates to 1857 for the Light on Truro painting event. I chose to focus my attention on the natural beauty of the Cape Cod National Seashore, rather than the architecture of the lighthouse. A sliver of the blue ocean beyond the trees balanced the blue of wild chickory and Queen Anne’s Lace in the foreground. This scene beside the Highland Historical Museum is a reminder of a bygone era when the building was a turn of the century resort hotel on the Outer Cape.

I had a clear vision of the image that I wanted to capture in my painting. Soon I felt I had enough information to sign and frame the piece for an exhibit that afternoon at the Truro Library by the Addison Art Gallery called “Light On Truro”. The exhibit celebrates the Centennial of the National Parks and “Found Our Park!” which features art inspired by the Cape Cod National Seashore. “Queen Anne’s View” is available through the Addison Art Gallery.

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Queen Anne’s View, pastel, 12×16

Technical Notes: Sennelier LaCarte pastel card with a variety of pastels by Rembrandt, Unison, Terry Ludwig, Girault, Sennelier, and Conte pastel pencil.

On the Coast

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“Sea Thrift”, pastel, 8,5×11

I spent a week on the Oregon Coast at Depoe Bay watching the surf, eating seafood, and exploring the area with the Beach family. I began this pastel on the coast, but I finished this at home since I didn’t have many of sticks that I needed for the rocks. The motion of the surf on the cliff below was a constant source of entertainment. I also was attracted to the profusion  of Sea Thrift which was in bloom.  There were many other pastels used in this piece, but I have shown some of the assorted pastels and pastel pencils used.  To get the fine mist of the sea spray, I used a paste of pastel mixed with alcohol and applied it by flicking the bristles of the toothbrush.  The sanded paper was Wallis, 9×12 with a assortment of  pastels by Terry Ludwig, Unison , Rembrandt, Sennelier, and pastel pencils by Conte and Stabil0.

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Pastels for Sea Thrift

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Americana

Marshfield Hills General Store, 5x7, pen and wash

Marshfield Hills General Store, 5×7, pen and wash

Recently I visited family in Massachusetts and we stopped by the Marshfield Hills General Store which is now owned by actor and comedian, Steve Carrell. In a Boston Globe interview Steve, a native of Massachusetts,  explained that he saw this as an opportunity to preserve a little piece of history. He felt that the gathering places of general stores give people a sense of community. The Carrells have owned the store since 2009.

I remember going to this store in the early 60’s with my friend who lived nearby.  She and I rode horses, stopped and tied them outside on a post, and entered the store for a snack.   When I visited the store with my parents last week, it was a snowy afternoon filled with memories of the town where my father was once a high school  science teacher. How wonderful that Steve Carrell appreciates the importance of preserving this general store!  The Marshfield Hills General Store and Post Office is located at 165 Prospect Street in the Marshfield Hills Historic District.

Technical notes: Studio sketch from a photo of the Georgian Colonial General Store in a Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook, Micron pen and Watercolors by Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow House in Vineyard

"Yellow House in Vineyard", pastel 11x14

“Yellow House in Vineyard”, pastel 11×14


The yellow house in the vineyard caught me eye one day when I was out on my usual walking route. I returned with my painting gear of pastels and set up my easel at the edge of the vineyard last week. Soon, the growth on the grapevines will be pruned to stimulate the growth for the next season. I wanted to catch the vines at their wilder state despite the challenge of depicting the tangled vines. Of course, there is always room for artistic license.
On location in the vineyard

On location in the vineyard


Painting Notes: Some of the background was simplified, so the focus was on the main elements of the scene, the barn, house, and rows of vines. To avoid a tangent of the barn roof and distant hills which, I added some height to the hills. Otherwise, the plein air painting is an accurate interpretation of the scene.
Technical Notes: Pastels by Terry Ludwig, Rembrandt, Sennelier, Nu Pastel, and Conte Pastel Pencils on La Carte Sanded Paper.

Corn Hill Beach

“Corn Hill Beach”,11×14, plein air pastel


The days of summer on the Cape are just memories now, but I finally have a moment to post some of my paintings done on locations where artist, Edward Hopper painted in the 1930’s. He spent half of his summers in a home studio in Truro, MA on the outer Cape. He painted Corn Hill which is a long, narrow sand beach which borders grass covered sand dunes that is north of Pamet Harbor. Corn Hill is named for the location where the Pilgrims found a cache of Indian corn which sustained them through the first winter.
On location at Corn Hill Beach

On location at Corn Hill Beach


Often the experience of plein air painting is more than the created image. When I look at this piece it brings back the warmth of the summer day at the beach, the sounds of music from the group of beachgoers, and the scent of sunscreen covered bodies. These are sweet memories to sustain me until the next summer season.
Painting notes: Ampersand pastel board (11×14) with a variety of pastels from NuPastels, Conte Pastel pencils, Rembrandt, Unison, and Terri Ludwig brand pastels.