Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I have a little tin box full of self-imposed assignment descriptions - a medicine to keep momentum during the intersession! So there will be a steady trickle of posts of the most interesting ones - in the hope of some critique from the world out there. 
I had a single photo taken with my mobile camera of Nicolas sleeping in the grass on his yellow baby sling. What I liked about it was the high chroma shadows and the effects of transmitted light through the fabric, as well as the warm-cold contrasts. I thought it would make a great case study for transmitted light and chromatic reflected light. The composition also looked potentially interesting.

I made a small thumbnail first to study the value pattern and decide the edge treatment. The whole thing looked somewhat too horizontal, even for a quiet subject as this one, so I made two minuscule abstract studies and decided to make the patches of dabbled sunlight on the grass more diagonal (option 2).

I came to love pastels during the semester, and at the moment it is definitely the medium I know best, so that was the choice. I used Rives BFK paper with NuPastel, Rembrandt Pastel and the wonderfully soft but incredibly expensive Sennelier Pastels. I struggled with the color scheme a lot. I have learned that there cannot be three primaries in the same picture...the reference however looked like it had definitely some blue in the shadows on the left side, which together with the yellow and red of the right side would break the rule. Rules are there to be broken, but maybe not when you are just learning to deal with color! Much analysis later, I decided to experiment with Gurney's gamuts and picked one spanning  a high chroma red, medium chroma green and low chroma purple-red  - there are enough yellows in that one to handle the yellow fabric. Gamuts are devised for mixable media, but well, it is just a guideline. I recokened I could build the cool shadows from the purple red and the greens.So for the process, here is the charcoal underdrawing, fixed and toned (I forgot to take a picture before toning!)

Here is the first "wash" of pastel - a terrible stage when you start wondering wether the picture will work out at all...

And I think it did work out. I am quite happy with the result. The chromatic shadows and transmitted light worked out fine. The hands and folds around the head were intended as the focal point. I managed to defocus the legs and the background, I am not too sure about the bright lit fold on top. I fought with the legs a lot and I think they turned a bit muddy..maybe it was not a good idea to exclude the blues from the palette. There is one blue element, of course - guessed which one? 

The Little Blue Boat
Pastel on paper - 40x60cm (16.5"x25.5")

Pastel in my hands always seem to come out with this rich texture and gaudy brilliance that reminds me of a huge ice-cream cup with tons of smarties, cookies, cream and chocolate sauce. Maybe it is a bit too garish, but well, I will learn to tune it down one day - or maybe not! And did I mention I love drapery?

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