Monday, December 26, 2011

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN -- COLORED GROUNDS

Cedars on orange, 6" x 12"

In this experiment you’ll work on different colored grounds using the same photograph for each painting to see how the ground color affects the finished image. You’ll observe more clearly how much influence the ground can have on a painting once you try this.

Choose a simple photo that has good contrast and interesting colors. Cut your paper to the same size so that you aren’t trying to recompose the painting each time.

White paper is easy to find, as is a medium tone. However, you might want to try toning your own paper, which allows you to experiment with a variety of colored grounds. My method is simple. You can see just how I do it in CHAPTER THREE -- GETTING STARTED.

You might try some of the Pastelmat colors for this experiment.

For more about Pastelmat visit www.pastelmat.com/

Complete each painting separately, not side by side. Let each one come of your response to the ground. It’s not necessary to retain the same palette of colors for all three paintings. (If you do use the exact same palette, use a light touch that allows the ground color to be seen beneath the colors.) I prefer to allow each paper color to inspire me to use differing palettes. I usually find that light colors move me to use brighter colors, while darks result in richer colors that are deeper in tone. Very bright grounds make for a saturated colors – and sometimes a heavy hand as I desperately try to cover all that offending color.

Think of these as three paintings, not one painting done on three grounds. Let the color motivate you from the beginning, and try to analyze your responses to those first color choices. My observations on how I usually respond are below. Yours might be different.

White or very pale ground: Usually a white ground allows darker colors to harmonize quickly and intensifies pure colors. The light of the paper seems to glow through every color. Because it’s light, however, you need to nail your darks in place early. Take notice whether this light color inspires you to play with bright colors more, or if the lack of color bothers you.

Cedars on white, 6" x 12"
Medium ground: A “safe” alternative, the medium ground seems to allow all colors to work together without too much influence. As you paint on this ground, analyze how you feel and whether you’re relying on the ”usual” colors in your palette. Are you free to grab any kind of color? Or does it constrain you to certain choices?

Black or very dark ground: Dark grounds instantly harmonize lighter colors, which is often the majority of a pastelist's palette. Depending on how dark or black the color the ground, you might notice that all of your light and medium-light colors look similar in value until you have covered most of the surface. You therefore need to pay attention to the medium values in this painting. Notice whether this ground color influences your color choices. Are you inclined to pick up more muted tones? Does the somber tone make you feel differently about the colors? Or do you prefer stronger contrasts as a result?

Cedars on black, 6" x 12"
Bright ground: If you choose a particularly vivid color to paint on, you may find that your initial colors seem dark and dull, which may make you tend to grab more vivid, bright colors. The ground color influences every color, so depending on whether you’re using a complement or an analogous color you may feel very differently about each one -- at least until you cover more of the ground. Sometimes I find I’m just dying to blot out that color and work hard to cover it all, resulting in a thick layer of pastels that effectively ignores the ground color. Make certain you think the color is suited to the subject you’re painting, perhaps a complement to the majority of the ground color. Notice how this choice influences your process.

Once you’ve completed all the paintings put them up and study them together. Don’t lightly go over this step; really study the images and decide what worked.

• Analyze what worked and why.
• What colors made for a more successful painting and why?
• Do you feel better about working on a light, medium or dark tone?
• How about vivid colors?
• What other ground color experiments do you think would be helpful?

3 comments:

  1. great chapter, with really good insights on how to change to adapt to each color...Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is wonderful! Thank you. I've never systematically sorted out how I respond to different surface colors. I do, but I didn't realize what I was doing. Now I'm going to have to try doing the same scene with three different hues and values of ground.

    One thing I have always done by habit is that if my surface is white, I want to cover the entire ground. A white surface glares at me and any uncovered areas look unfinished. I don't even want to reserve whites on it usually, probably because of texture. In a heavy pastel painting, having the white highlight on a shiny object suddenly change texture turning into a hole in the texture breaks the illusion that it's a highlight.

    You're right about the light bright colors. Every time I've done anything on black, I wind up loosening up and letting the ground come through in broken color. It does harmonize light colors and I love the way it looks to have the little black flecks showing.

    I noticed on yours, that the Cedars on Black painting went cooler in the shadows of the trees, you brought in more violets and didn't just stick to turquoise and blue-green. It worked beautifully, it's just one of the differences I noticed. All three of these paintings are wonderful.

    Thank you for a great chapter!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What beautiful trees and wonderful script..I really like your blog....will visit more often!
    Cynthia Schelzig

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment on Painting the Landscape in Pastels ~Deborah