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The painting process

Each artist will approach the painting process a little differently. I sometimes have different approaches based on the subject; plein air vs. studio and so on. There is more than one way to make a painting, and no one's process is right or wrong; just right for them. It's good to "try on" different methods and see what fits your style.

Here's a process for abstracting a landscape and starting off with blocks of color. This is big

swaths of pastel on a 24x36 #ampersand_art #pastelbord. This shows a basic composition with a sense of distance in the middle and big diagonal shapes. All good paintings start off with a good abstract composition. This is probably the most fun stage as I get to make large movements and will often paint flat on the floor.

Once I have the color blocked in, I start refining the edges. I want the edges to be "lost" so that you can't clearly see where one block ends and the next begins. This is also called "soft" edges. I blend these edges with the palms of my hands, pushing and pulling the pastel into the tooth of the board.

Now the composition is clear and looks more refined, it's time to start sketching the shapes in. Using deep blues and violets, I roughly lay in the clouds, paying attention to the edges. Clouds are studies in "lost and found" edges as well. You want to have some clearly defined edges and some that are hazy.

I'm also using the clouds to give a sense of perspective. Now we have a horizon line with islands and smaller clouds in the sky. This gives the illusion of depth.

Once I have the sky shapes and clouds refined, I start working on the water reflections and water's edge. I am working mainly from imagination here. I have a photo reference for the foreground, but I'm really just creating the calm sea. Using pastel strokes to create the illusion of ripples in the water. Now I've set the stage and I can add my focal points.

This is the photo reference I am working from. Note that it is black and white. I print all my photos in black and white so that I get to choose what colors to make them. I don't want to be too influenced by nature here since I am creating the lighting in the background. I want the birds to look like they belong in my sunset scene, so I'm changing the lighting in the photo.

Here's my finished piece called "Sandpiper's Sunset" pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 24x36.

If I were to describe my painting process here, it would be back-to front, and dark-to-light. That means I started with the big shapes of color in the back and worked toward the small details in the birds in the front. Once the back to front is established, then I can work from dark to light; starting with the dark shadows under the wave and dark parts of the birds up to the lighter areas.

My process is different than others, and is suited for my style in pastel. If you just starting out, you haven't really established your style yet, so you have some latitude to experiment. Try on my style and take it for a spin! Hopefully it will work for you!

As always, I'd love to see what you do with it so leave a pic in the comments section below.


Welcome back! Hope to see you!


WOW 🤩 This method is cool and you do it so well! Will be sure to try it as soon as I set up my art room...still unpacking! 🤪

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