Tuscan Landscape Oil & Pastel

This Tuscan landscape oil painting and pastel study is finally complete. I began the oil this past winter. Along the way, I did the pastel to help resolve several issues that came up in the painting. Coming home to pastel completed the connection between drawing and painting, head and heart.

Tuscan Landscape Oil Painting

Tuscan landscape painting
Volpaia Village, oil, 20 x 24

The pastel palette is hundreds of colors pre-mixed, laid out where I can see them. In a flash, I can grab one and thrust what ever I am feeling at the moment onto the page.

Pastel Palette Schmincke
Tray of warm tone pastels.

The oil palette has an infinite number of colors ~ waiting to be mixed! Stop and think, which color do I want? How to mix it?

After all these years of painting, how to mix it is not an issue. Yet ~ the spontaneity of pre-mixed suggestions on my pastel palette is as powerful a force as ever. I received my first set of 45 sticks when I was 12.

After graduating college I began painting in pastel exclusively. The heart connection is immediate. Holding a large chunk of pigment in hand, the wavelength touches the heart directly. No detours through the head. Emotion channeled directly onto the painting.

Spilling one’s guts is healing. Though not acceptable in society as a rule, saying exactly what is in the heart moves mountains. A piece of paper and a few pieces of raw pigment seems a safe place to let loose.

The problem I was having in the oil painting was that there were so many objects (houses, trees, lines, colors) in the painting, I got lost from what inspired me to paint it in the first place. This is a very common problem.

Instead of spinning wheels with oil paint, a small pastel study addresses the issue. Unify the palette, pull the shapes together as a unit, and return to the source of inspiration. Pray it turns out, literally!

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Pastel Painting Lesson & Osteoporosis

Structure is a hot topic. I had lunch with two friends this week and osteoporosis was a topic of discussion in both conversations. One a writer, the other an artist, we chatted about creating both art and bones.

The Connection Between Art & Healing ~ Osteoporosis

I have been doing a lot of architectural paintings recently. Since my diagnosis of osteopenia in January, I now see the correlation to my attraction to painting buildings. This insight is helping me create a new daily structure of yoga, painting, eating well and enjoying friends. This is a healthier lifestyle than the workaholic one I was living without the support of exercise, friendships and regular meals.

Even my garden paintings are being impacted by this renewed awareness of structure. In the initial block-in, it’s easy to see the bones of this painting. Remember my post about the botanic garden last week? That’s where I first saw these tulips! To draw the tulip garden, I started with a gold ochre pastel on a 24 x 30 Ampersand sanded board.

Since artists are thought to be unstructured, these marks may appear random at first. So I will show you the structure I am using in this sequence, and how it is related to my osteopenia.

Pastel Painting Lesson

How Painting is Helping Rebuild my Skeleton

pastel painting lesson
Block-in on Ampersand sanded board with calligraphic drawing and bold shapes

Drawing is an extension of one’s signature. Everyone writes or signs their own name without thinking, a calligraphic expression of one’s heart. Like my signature, the scribbling calligraphy of my lines creates the specific foundation suitable for my painting.

Think of my canvas as a mirror. As I adjust each color, shape, and intensity, smoothing out or ruffling up ~ the same is happening in my aura reflected in the mirror. Like DNA, the wavelengths of my colors and shapes correspond to my own. I don’t need to see or want to know all the details. See that the colors work together, smooth out the hair, check for something out of whack, a little lip stick and off we go.

Like a prayer, my painting is simply a request for help and guidance. For a split second I let go of my fears and concerns about it turning out well. Yes, I still have them ~ without them I wouldn’t be able to paint!

Drawing is like holding a live wire. I hope you can see and feel the charge of glowing embers in these simple, rudimentary drawings.

pastel painting lesson
Block in warm cool balance show complimentary colors within shadow shapes.

Once I have drawn the image I use broad cool shapes to connect the shadows. The side of the pastel is perfect as a wide brush. You can see the wide triangle of cool shapes anchored along the bottom of the painting, coming up the sides, then slanting toward the center.

The tip of the cool triangle is missing. Instead it forms a V-shape in the center. This shape is open for receiving light from above.

In the second photo, I have added lavender pink to the cool shadow triangle. These pinks are part of the same anchor  triangle. The cool neutral greens and cool pinks are complimentary colors, opposites on the color wheel. Yet together they read as one dynamic cool shadow.

Again the V-shape is still open.

Shoring up the structure, I add a few more bones for the tulips and hyacinths with deep gold ochre calligraphy.  At this stage, I am not thinking about all this structure as I am painting. That would be like focusing on how to create bones when I do my yoga! As I move from one yoga pose to the next, cells in my body are called upon to build strength and bone mass. Painting the shadow structure of the flowers does the same in my painting ~ establishing an hospitable plot for my healing garden.

An Important Note About the Shadow Side

Without the shadow side, the flowers would blow away. Without the dark side of this story (my osteopenia), there would be no story, no painting, no friends to share it with. I shudder to think what would become of me if my bones dissolve!

pastel painting lesson
Block-in #3 shows addition of Highlight shapes and beginnings of integration with shadow shapes.

Integration of Light with Shadow

This third photo shows the highlights. Using a cool Nickel Yellow, I broadly stroke light shapes around the top of the triangle. You can see I have filled out the shadow with a few more cooler greens near the top of the triangle.

Notice how the light shapes begin to go in between some of the shadow shapes. And some of the shadow shapes reach up a bit to help define light areas. Without light, there is no color. It’s all shades of gray or pure intense pigment. I do not use black paint. White paint is only used when tinted with color. And with pastel, most of the color mixing is done on the painting itself.

Heart is the Healer

Now take a look at the placement of the three hot pink shapes ~ heart centers. These accent the shape of the triangle, tilting it back and open to the light. Seeing them now I realize they are my soul sisters. And the Deep Cadmium Yellow and Dark Gold Ochre calligraphy of the hyacinths brings the eye back down to ground in the lower right corner.

A bridge between earth and heaven, our heart connects us. A human being connects heart and mind day by day, moment by moment. No one stays connected all the time. The heart/mind/body/spirit connection is a pulse. Connect/Release, Connect/Release.

It only takes a split second to let this connection happen. Trying to stop it feels like holding the weight of the world on our shoulders.

What a gift to have this life on earth!

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