A thought was murmuring in the back of my mind, but I was ignoring it. When a friend visited, she brought it to the surface.
“The nest doesn’t really show up.” she queried about my pastel of the osprey nest.
“No,” I replied unconcerned.
A day later the thought about my nest is now front and center. If I COULD, how would I highlight it against the deep Ultramarine cloud without it being garish
Pondering, I continued painting other canvases. Could I lighten the cloud? No that won’t work. The intense Ultramarine Blue cloud is what gives the whole painting depth.
Could I highlight the nest? No way, the nest is is shadowed by the cloud. It isn’t out on the point in the light. It’s at the back of the cove, sheltered and safe.
What if I scratch an orange line on the underside of the nest? Can I do it right the first time without messing up the whole painting? Maybe.
Tweaking the Nest
Scanning the pastel palette, I found a gold pastel with a sharp edge. Carefully I rolled it down the left side of the nest and pole. Then added one more mark at the top of the nest ~ just a spark of light reflected up from the sand.
Feeling the light on the beach, I ran the same pastel gently across the shadow side of the sand. Then found a pink highlight and touched it softly just in front of the nest.
Stepping back I found a soft blue pastel for a soft atmospheric mist behind the nest. Careful not to disturb the deep blues, I touched it only on one side.
Now I must say that all of the symbolism of the nest is not lost on me. I get it, or at least I think I do. I am a shy person. My nest is my studio and this website. Tweaking it is what I do. Shining a light on myself is not comfortable. Much better to let light from the landscape around me reflect on my nest.
And my friend? Oh she lives in a tree house!
Now if you want to delve deeper, ask yourself about the osprey. What does she do in her nest? What does she symbolize?
Last week I wrote about my new palette. When twelve large tubes of Charvin oil paint arrived at the studio, I made up a swatch palette of the new colors. Even though some colors are the same, many times they will be different from a different manufacturer.
The Raw Sienna jumped out immediately as very different from my tube or Rembrandt Raw Sienna. Yellower and brighter, the Charvin pigment is less green than Rembrandt tube. I was also anxious to compare the French Yellow Deep with my Gamblin Cadmium Yellow Deep and Medium. Much more transparent than Cadmium colors, yet rich and deep in hue. I like it. It mixes nicely with the greens.
I don’t want to get into too much detail about individual colors here. Rather I want to show you how they impacted the painting on my easel.
I made swatches of each new color, full strength, medium, and tint. I find it helpful to see how a color looks mixed with white to show its mid-range, how it looks as an almost white, and straight from the tube.
Then I headed for the easel. As you can see I’ve already squeezed some of them down pretty well in less than a week! I used that Gray Green (upper left tube) to base coat two large canvases for a tulip garden diptych. More on that later.
Every person has an aura of colors that they are innately drawn to. While these may evolve over time, we ALL know what we like!
Since the late 70s when I began working in pastel, my palette has grown and evolved. Even though I haven’t spent much time with pastels in the last ten years, touching them again is like visiting with my best friend. Instantly, our colors jive and we resonate harmoniously.
My Bridge between Pastels & Oils
So here’s what happened on the easel when we connected! The oil painting I’d been struggling with all month melted like butter on my palette knife. The feeling of Tuscan atmosphere in October transferred from my two pastels into paint.
Side by side, it’s easy to see the close relationship between the two pastels and the oil. Drawing elements are more exposed in one, while painterly blends create light in the other. The oil painting melds these light and grounding elements together.
The funny thing to me is that when doing the two pastels, I thought I was doing two DIFFERENT versions. Yet now they appear very much the same to me.
At first I judged the first pastel to be ‘too disjointed, disconnected.’ When I attempted another try, it felt too linear, the colors too earthy. Howeve, together I felt them sufficient to go back to the oil. In several more painting sessions I brought them together.
Funny to see this detail beside my pastel palette of grays. Unison pastels, painterly mixtures developed by John Hersey, are very different from manufactured pastels. Instead of using white and black to lighten and darken pure pigments ~ Hersey mixes colors like a painter.
Hersey creates his grays by blending complimentary and analogous colors. These grays have color identity and resonance. Even his darks are alive with colorful pigments. The sticks are broad and durable, easily stroked sideways to create wide swaths of stunning color that is full of light.
Light is the word. For a painter the challenge is learning to see the light. When you compare the two details of this painting, you can see light in the dark shadows of the mountain.
In the lights, you see spectral light. Clouds are not white. The are Cobalt Violet, Cadmium Red Deep, Vermillion, and Ultramarine. When mixed to tint strength (as in the palette of pastels above), it takes some practice to see and feel these subtlties.
As in life itself, we are accustomed to seeing bold contrasts of light against dark. Taking time to readjust the senses. Take a breath of fresh air. Letting all the colors in you out ~ after a little bit subtle ones seep in. Looking for light in dark places changes the color of everything ~ even life itself!