People are curious about anything that’s hidden. Car enthusiasts look under the hood. Engineers check foundations. Journalists look for the back story. If something is covered up, you can bet someone will come along and lift the cloth to see what’s underneath.
This weekend I took a workshop to learn how to create something that’s hidden under pastel paintings – the under-painting. You usually don’t see much of them in the finished work unless you know what you’re looking for.
I knew the workshop with Nancy Vance would be good because Nancy had been prepping for it for months, but I had no idea how much I’d learn! I was the pastel rookie of the group, encouraged by Nancy and Wendy Fetters to give pastels a try. Now, I think I’m in love with a new medium (and have an excuse to buy even more art supplies)!
I’ll summarize what I learned without ruining the experience for those who plan to take Nancy’s workshop in the future. We did a lot of experimenting on small pieces (5×7) rather than trying to large create finished works. The pacing gave us time to play, but kept us moving.
The emphasis was on under-painting to establish the structure for a pastel paintings. We also tried different types of paper and used either water or alcohol to set the pigment. Here are my under-paintings and “finished” pieces for each technique.
An underpainting with local color (the basic color that the object will be):
A monotone (mine isn’t exactly monotone since I introduced some yellow greens with the blue green):
Sunshine and shadow (three shades of blue and three of yellow):
(Oops! I forgot to capture this underpainting.)
These pieces only begin to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge and experience I gained in two short days. When you take a workshop from someone like Nancy, you get the distilled wisdom of all the study and experimenting she’s done, including what she’s learned from the workshops that she’s attended. This was the first workshop that Nancy’s taught, but I’m sure many more painters will be learning from her in the years to come.
I left the workshop anxious to try these new techniques with pastel but also thinking about how to apply to other media. You never know what might be hiding under one of my paintings!
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