Category Archives: Tutorials and demos

Building a pastel collection

Starting out with pastels- small and cheap sets

There’s such a huge range of pastels available at such different price points it’s difficult to know what to buy when you first decide to dip your toe in the enticing world of pastel art. At least that’s  what I found when I decided I wanted to try my hand at pastel painting. I didn’t have much spare cash for art supplies so I couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money and then find out it wasn’t for me. So I bought a very small and cheap set of earth toned pastels from my local newsagency. Turns out it was love at first sketch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard pastel set
Earth tone pastel set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding to the first set – half sticks.

Once it was clear I loved pastels I wanted to expand the colour range. You will probably feel the same! I still stayed with a cheaper brand ( Munygo) and bought a box of 64 half sticks which gave me a good range of colours to further experiment with. The advantage of half sticks is you get twice as many colours for your money . Because you rely less on actual colour mixing with pastels it makes painting so much easier if you have as big a range as possible of colours to choose from. Half sticks also have the advantage that they don’t come with wrappers so I didn’t have to spend valuable painting time peeling off the papers! The cheaper brands all have a good colour range and work fine when first starting out – I still use them sometimes for underpainting. They do make more mess and dust than the more expensive brands.

Good choices at this price point are: Munygo, Faber Castel, Cretorcolor

 

Munygo pastel set
Munygo half stick pastel set

 

Growing the collection – quality counts!

My first expensive, quality brand purchase was a box of Schmincke pastels I bought in Germany. We’d been travelling on holiday and I’d been thinking about buying a set as they’re a German made pastel and I thought it would be a great souvenir . On my last day I passed a small art shop and when I looked around there were no boxes of Schminckes! I was very disappointed as it was my last chance  so I decided to ask the sales person who got a ladder and found a box on the top shelf. How could I not buy them? I still remember the first stroke with these soft, buttery sticks that just glide across the paper leaving thick swathes of brilliant colour in their wake. I was officially hooked on high quality pastels from that moment on.

Good quality pastels come in all sorts of sets as well as individual sticks. You can buy landscape, seascape, portrait, floral or general sets. Sets generally work out quite a lot cheaper than buying the same number of individual sticks.

Schminke pastels
Schmincke set of 60 soft pastels

 

My favourite brands.

My favourite brands are Unison, Great American Art Works, Schmincke, and Sennelier.

Unison is a hand rolled British pastel with a wonderful colour range. I think they have some of the best landscape colours around. The pastels are soft but not crumbly and the sticks last longer than some of the softer, more crumbly brands. I have a number of their sets- Landscape, Darks, Lights.

 

Great American Art Works are an American brand that is buttery and soft and just glide right onto the paper.  Their Seascape selection is just fantastic with some beautiful acqua and turquoise colours. I also have  a set of greys that is very useful for more subtle , moody paintings and general cloud work.

 

Sennelier are a French brand with a beautiful colour range and same very good value half sets. I do find them a bit crumbly but they are still a great choice.

 

Hard pastels, soft pastels and inbetweeners.

At the hard end of the pastel range are brands like Conte, Faber-Castel and Cretacolor. These are usually square sticks that can be used to lay in the initial blocks of colour and add some crisp details at the final stages.

I’ve covered the soft brands above – they’re great for adding the top layers and highlights. Because they’re soft it can be difficult to get crisp lines and details .

The inbetweeners are often classed as soft pastels but they just don’t have that buttery softness. They can be good for underpainting and details but I prefer soft pastels for the majority of my painting. Brands in this category are generally a bit bit less expensive than the really soft brands . Good brands in this category are Daley Rowney, Rembrandt and Art Spectrum.

 

Where can I buy pastels?

Most good art stores will stock both cheaper and more expensive brands. Depending on which country you live in you may find it hard to get some brands. I live in Tasmania and it’s difficult to buy Unison here without taking out a second mortgage. I’ve never seen Great American Art Works but I can buy Sennelier and Schmincke for  a reasonable price. I do shop online for brands that are too expensive to buy locally or that I just can’t source and here are some of my favourite shops. When the exchange rate is good I can get some great buys from the US even with the postage costs.

http://www.jerrysartarama.com/discount-art-supplies/pastels.htm

http://www.dickblick.com/categories/pastels/

https://www.cheapjoes.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=pastels

 

Happy pastelling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PASTEL PAINTING COURSE

LindyWhittonStudio YouTube Channel

Join me on YouTube for my pastel painting course. The course will be structured to cater for the absolute beginner and progress from the materials you need to get started through basic mark making techniques and on to composition,creating textures, underpainting right through to how to fix your painting  and prepare and frame it.

As I post new videos I’ll add a link to this page. I aim to add a new lesson every fortnight so come and join me for a year of lessons.

Lesson 1 : Choosing Your Pastels

Lesson 2: Choosing Your Paper

Lesson 3: How do I choose the colour of my paper?

 

Creating a series

Familiarity  brings freedom in painting

It’s a fact that the more familiar I become with a painting subject the easier the actual execution of the elements becomes , the freer the paint or pastel application flows and the more instinctual the response to the material is. All this adds up to a fluid, responsive, and totally “in the moment” painting experience.

When I stop thinking about how to get the shape of a particular rock , or what colour to use in those shadows or how to create a sense of movement in the water things happen almost by themselves.

How do I get to this stage?

Getting to this stage is relatively straight forward – I paint a series! Of course this can become all consuming if I let it so I need to know when I’ve exhausted the material and said all there is to be said about it. To help recognise the moment to stop I organise myself before I start.

Preparing the references for a series.

In an earlier post Cropping is my Friend I explained how I took the original photo above and cropped it many times to create new painting references. From the many crops I did  I whittled it down to three possible series – and here they are.

The Shadows series

Here I focus on the shadows on the sand using different formats gradually cropping in to a intimate view  which emphasises the subject. Here’s my  my first painting in this series.

 

The Reflections series

Now I turn to the reflections bringing more attention to the water. Although the shadows are still in there it’s clear that the real subject focus has shifted to the golden reflections of the cliffs.

The Cliff series

It seems a natural progression to zoom in on the  cliffs now. The ochres and yellows glow and there are opportunities to make a feature of the gumtrees on the headland.

The Abstract series

After all those crops it became apparent to me that the reflections were the real pull for me in this photograph so now I get rid of much of the other subject matter and just focus on a sliver of the shore and the wonderful golden reflections.

 

I’m a bit excited by these possibilities now so all I need to do is get started painting!

Creating a dynamic visual pathway in a painting

What is a dynamic visual pathway?

When I paint a picture I aim to make a composition that will engage the viewer as long as possible in exploring the various elements of the painting. I do this by creating  a pathway that leads around the painting, providing areas of interest for the eye to stop for a moment before leading on again to a different area. I need to introduce design elements that will stop the eye from moving out of the painting edges too soon – of course the viewer will want to move on eventually but by using lines, shapes, careful positioning of elements , colour and texture they can be encouraged to explore the painting a little longer.

The reference photo

This is a pretty good composition already – the shed is a a touch too central and to the edge but the client really wanted the view sweeping down to the lake from the cabin porch so I left it there and emphasized other areas of the scene to draw attention away from the shed. The bottom left corner seems to pull the eye out of the painting so I plan to make the flowers a little taller and a bit bolder. At the moment the garden bed is a bit like a river running down hill!

 

 

Original photo
The reference photo – the view from a cabin by the lake.

 

The flower bed fix.

You can see how the riot of colourful flowers just lifts the whole composition. I took a few liberties with the reference photo to add greater interest but it’s still very recognisable as the original flower bed. I made the orange flowers much taller, fuller and brighter and now the garden bed doesn’t seem to flow out of the corner. The orange flower bush acts as a full stop and the eye is drawn back into the painting. I also flattened out the grassy slope at the edge of the lake a little which helps to keep the eye from running out of the picture at this point.

 

There are layers and curves that lead the eye into the painting.

First we follow the contours of the garden bed from the bottom left up to the shed, now down through the lawn terraces towards the lake . When our eye reaches the trees we start following the lake edge around until we come to rest on the trees behind the shed and again back around the far edge of the lake until we come to the tall trees again. The trees lead our eyes up into the sky where we skim across the hilltops until we reach the tall trees behind the shed again. Now our view is pulled up to the clouds across the sky following the cloud shapes and when we come to the trees again they pull our eyes back down to the grassy area and across to the orange flowers where we start all over again.

 

The visual pathway
The visual pathway

 

Next time you’re looking at a painting notice how your eye is drawn into and around the picture. Soon you will find yourself noticing the design elements an artist has used to help you enjoy the different areas in the composition, a place to linger , a jolt of colour to excite, a quiet area to let your eye rest a moment. If you find yourself lingering in front of a painting chances are the artist has created a strong visual pathway.

How to make a gift box from recycled card.

As promised here is a quick “how to” guide for making the dragonfly gift box featured in last weeks post. Although I’m making it to hold a small purse you can use this method to make a box to fit any size gift.

Materials

  • A sheet of waste card
  • A straight edged ruler
  • A pencil
  • a craft knife
  • double sided glue tape
  • a cutting board
  • a gift to wrap
  • an embossing tool or pair of scissors

 

Step 1 -measure the gift thickness

Place the gift on the sheet of card with a bit of space around the top and sides and a space the same size plus and extra 1/3rd at the bottom. Measure the thickness of the gift and add 0.5 cm to the measurement. The purse is 2cm thick so I add 0.5cm to give me 2.5cm.  Now I draw a line 2.5cm from the edge of the sheet from just above the top of the purse to just below the bottom of the purse. This will form the side of my box.

r2

Step 2

Now I continue the line to the bottom of my sheet making-Side A. Next I draw a line on the other side from the top to bottom of my sheet and another line 2.5 cm from it.This will make the other side of the box- Side B. To make the bottom side of the box I draw 2 lines 2.5cm apart just below the bottom of the purse.

Now I measure from the top of the sheet to the first line below the purse. I note the measurement and then draw a line the same distance from the second line below the purse. Draw another line 2.5cm distance from this. Now you have the top side of your box.

The last line to draw is the edge of the box flap which can be whatever size you like. I like to use 1/3rd of the box size for the flap.

 

r5

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Step 3

Cut along the outside line of Side A. Now score along each pencil line with an embossing tool  or ,as I’m doing here, a closed pair of scissors. You just want to use enough pressure to dent the card. Lastly cut out the 2 small squares and the sides of the flap as  shown.

 

Step 4

Once you have the template cut out carefully bend and crease along each pencil line.

 

Step 5

Fold in the side flaps. Cut a piece of double sided tape just smaller than the side flaps and stick a piece to the outside of the two top side flaps  Don’t stick any to the top flap.

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Step 6

Now is the time to decorate the outside  with stamps or other designs. It’s much easier with a flat template than once the box is taped together.

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Step 7

Remove the cover tape and firmly press the bottom side flaps to the taped top side flaps. Use your fingers to firmly press the flaps together by putting one hand inside the box and applying pressure from the outside.

 

Step 8

Put your gift in the box and secure. Here I’ve punched two holes in the flap and the box and threaded hemp cord through to keep the lid closed. You could simply wrap ribbon or string a couple of times around the box to tie the flap closed. You could also get a bit fancier and use sealing wax and a stamp – but I prefer to use a method that doesn’t destroy the box flap when the gift is opened- that way the box can be recycled again.

 

You can have a load of fun using  left over bits of card and decorative odds and ends to make  any size gift box. Some things I’m thinking of using on upcoming boxes are seed pods and  buttons as closures – I’ll glue on and then attach a loop to the flap by tying through a single hole punch and  have a loop closure. I also like the idea of using gum leaves to print  the boxes.

I’d love you to share a photo of your own gift box ideas. Happy recycling!

 

Light and Shadow – beach painting.

I love this little beach in the south of Tasmania – Drip beach seems such a humdrum name for such a gem of a place ! I painted this over the weekend and tried my hand at a time lapse video which I’m trying to edit to post on YouTube this week. Apparantly it’s very simple – I’ve heard that before! Actually I’ve already downloaded some software and done the time lapse bit but the music soundtrack didn’t appear to “stick” and it’s a silent movie – will have another Google and see if there’s a fix for that before I post it.

I also did a full length video of the process – the painting took an hour so not sure if anyone will ever want to sit through that. And I learned that I like to chew my cud whilst painting – who knew! So from now on I’ll have to mindful of all my little painting foibles and do a bit of editing before I hit record. I still have to do the voice over so that might have to wait till later for it’s first night release – so hold off on the popcorn and choc top ice cream till further notice!

Given all the delays that are bound to happen as I navigate the technological maze ahead I thought I’d just throw up a quick still demo here. Apologies for the photos which are not my usual quality – I took some stills from the video and didn’t realise they would be so low res.

Sketching up

Just a few simple charcoal lines to block in the basic shapes of tree line, beach and rocks. There’s no real detail and the rocks will change as I go on.

Full Sketch (28-02-2016 5-32 PM)

The sky

Here I just layer in loosely some soft pinks and yellows near the tree line and then some light blues at the top of the sky . I run the blues over the pinks and yellows and then with the side of my finger blend the colours together to cover the reddish background colour. I don’t really want the backgrund to show through here but it will give a bit of an underglow to the sky.

Next I go back in with the same colours and lay a light layer down to bring back the luminosity to the sky. The crystal structure of the pastels allows the light to bounce off them but not if they’re all pushed into the paper. That’s why I go back again to get a looser layer on top – I want that light and luminosity back again!

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The trees

Now I start to block in the tree shapes starting with some deep dark blues along the beach edge . I follow with some lighter greens , golds and siennas. I work the whole area going back and forth until I have a good balance of dark shadows and sunlit areas. I will come back later and adjust. I also add a sliver of sand at the base of the headland.

 

The Water

Using a light blue similar to the sky value I start laying in the water. I pop in sonme of the tree colours from the headland as reflections and then just smooth them a little with the side of my finger. I let some of the back ground colour show through the water.

I add deeper, darker colors for the water in shadow at the beach edge along with some darker blues.

Reflections2 (28-02-2016 9-51 PM)

 

The beach

Now I want to get the beach established which I do by laying in strokes of purples for the shadowed sand and pinks where the sunlight finds it’s way through the dense trees. I add some sienna next to the dark water where the sun is shining and the contrast really helps to add a bit of zing to this area.

Beach 3 (28-02-2016 9-53 PM)

 

Back to the water

In with some deeper blues, a few rocks and some white foam around the rocks. I also start some dark shadows in the rocky area.

rocks start (28-02-2016 11-06 PM)

Now for the rocks

With a deep purple I block in the shadows and then use a cream colour for the brightest highlight on the rocks. Then I can start modelling the rocks using mid value oranges, golds and greys. I then come back in with blues and browns in the shadows until I have the rock shapes defined.

 

A final round up

I go back over the painting adding a little here and subtracting a little there. I tidy up the rock shapes, add some grey tree trunks amongst the foilage, refine the pebbly area next to the rocks and the painting is done.

Light and Shadow

 

You can also watch a time lapse video or the full narrated 30 minute video.

 

To paraphrase Kermit – “It’s not easy painting green”

I’ve been doing a lot of commission paintings lately of wonderful, verdant landscapes. Forests, mountainsides covered with pines, flowering grassy meadows, homes set in expanses of green, green lawns  surrounded by stately trees.

It’s just not that easy to paint a subject with such a lot of green. You can fill the canvas or paper with swathes of lush shades of green – your trees can look just like trees, the grasses fresh and bright but somehow it just fails to look natural. Why is that when nature is so full of greens and they all look very natural???

I don’t really know the answer to that but I do know that there are ways to help avoid the “unnatural” greens.

Never use a green straight out of the tube – it’s a real killer 

  • mix your greens from blues and yellows
  • add a very little red, sienna , umber or  ochre for a more natural green
  • don’t over mix on the palette – let the colours mix on the paper/canvas
  •  here’s a good video on mixing greens

 

Underpaint with red or orange

  • adds a bit of a zing where the complimentary colour shows through the green
  • if you’re painting with pastels choose a red or sienna coloured paper

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Underpainting with red

 

Break up the green area

  • use wildflowers and weeds to add splashes of colour to meadows and lawns
  • use different textures with brushes, fingers, palette knife – more interesting that flat expanses of green
  • use several different greens to paint a single area

 

Don’t use green at all!

  • as long as you use the right tonal value it will read as “green”
  • mix it up with blues, yellows, oranges, ochres, reds all making up the impression of vegetation that you would normally think of as green

     

 

 

Use interesting darks in the shadow areas

  • try blues, purples ,violets, dark browns and deep reds instead of dark green
  • this is your opportunity to inject a bit of extra contrasting colour to break up the expanse of green so go for it!

 

Next time you’re faced with an expanse of green try a few of these techniques.

 

 

How to make a concertina sketchbook.

Sometimes I see something and think ” I like this, I could buy it or I could make it myself”. This happened just last weekend when I popped into my local art supply shop to pick up some canvas and spotted a very desirable little concertina sketchbook on a shelf in the corner. I could have bought it right then but it looked such a simple concept I bought a meter of bookbinding cloth and some fabric tape instead and decided to make some myself. The supplies cost more than the sketchbook but for the same cost I could make a few dozen.

Here’s how I did it.

First I got all my supplies together.

Supplies

  • a strip of waste artists paper 10 x 60 cm ( you can use any long thin strip of medium to heavy weight paper)
  • a piece of scrap matte board ( any thick card will work)
  • a ruler
  • a  pencil
  • a matt cutter ( you could also use a craft knife)
  • some scrap fabric
  • a roll of cloth tape
  • some glue

Step 1 – marking the pages

I divided the strip of paper into 10 equal “pages” by making a small pencil mark at 6 cm intervals along the top and bottom of the strip. (You can make your pages any number and any size depending on the length of your paper strip but there should be an even number of pages.)

Step 2- folding the pages

Now I used the bevelled edge of my metal ruler and lined it up with the first mark on the top and bottom of the paper and folded the paper firmly over the edge to make a sharp crease.

First fold
Folding the first page

Now I turn the paper over and make a crease along the second fold making sure that the edges of my first and second page line up neatly.

Second fold
Making the second fold

I repeat until all the pages are creased and I have a concertina length of paper.  (If you’ve made an error in your marking and end up with a final page that is too small don’t despair! Just cut off the last 2 pages so you still have an even number and continue on.)

Step 3 – cutting the covers

I measure up 2 rectangles of matte board 6.5 x10.5 cm. Using a matte cutter and my metal straight edged ruler I cut out the rectangles. You could also use a craft knife for this step.

 

Step 4 – cover with fabric

Next I cut out 2 rectangles of scrap fabric 3 cm bigger all round than the covers. I fold the long edges over to the inside of the cover and fix in place with cloth tape. (You can buy cloth tape at a hardware or art supply store). I mitre the corners and fold the short edges in and tape down making sure they sit neatly at the corners. (Mitreing the corners simply means to fold the side edge in to the top of the cover so it forms a 45 degree angle as in the photo below. ) The second photo shows the covers – outside and inside. You don’t have to be too neat with the tape as long as you keep it 3mm from the edge so it won’t show later when you glue the paper over the top.

 

Step 5 – glueing in the paper

Place the front cover face down and spread glue evenly over the taped area . Leave 4 mm unglued at the edges. Place a length of flat ribbon across the centre of the cover over the glue.

Lay down ribbon
Add the ribbon and glue

Now carefully line up the first page of the concertina strip so it sits squarely on the cover and gently wipe away any glue that oozes out. Spread the last page with an even coat of glue and line up the back cover neatly over the page. Check that front and back covers line up squarely.

Glue back cover
Both covers glued down

Step 6 – leave to dry

Now just leave it folded up and place a heavy book for a few hours.

 

weight down to dry
Weight it for a few hours

Step 7 – admire your handiwork.

Here’s one I did using black bookbinding cloth. You can use any covering you like , art paper, magazine pictures, collage, leather or fabric. You could also use coloured matte board and just leave it uncovered.

One I made earlier

I’ll post another photo when I finish making my dozen… and later I’ll post some pics of what I ended up using them for.

So go ahead and sort through your card, paper and fabric scraps and make yourself a beautiful, personalised concertina book- you don’t need to draw or paint – you could use it for poetry, a fun letter to a friend, a Valentines gift filled with expressions of love. The list goes on.

Post a photo – I’d love to see what you and your imagination can come up with!

How to paint a pastel seascape -demo

This is my very first post! I thought I would start with a demo painting of a local seascape to share my painting process with you. Hope you find it interesting…

Getting started.

Sometimes I’ll know just what I want to paint – other times I’ll  look through old photos or my ideas board until something says “paint me”!  Today I chose a photo of a local beach at low tide – I like the sense of distance and the diagonals in this photo. I know it will need something else to bring it alive but I have an idea for that.

Choosing the paper.

So I’ve decided which reference photo I’m going to use and now I need to choose the colour of my sanded paper. I use either Canson or Mi- Tientes sanded pastel paper because the tooth holds layers of pastel and I don’t need to fix the finished paper. ( more about fixative later!)

Anyway how to choose one colour from all the possibilities?

I take the photo and look for papers that either  provide a strong contrast with the main colour or temperature of the subject  or one that matches the dominant colour and temperature or maybe one that matches the temperature but is a darker or lighter tone than the dominant tone of the subject.

Here I’ve narrowed it down to 3 colours so I lay the photo over the intersection of the papers and see which one I think feels right.

Choosing the sanded paper
Choosing the colour – and the middle ground mid tone colour wins!

I choose the mid tone colour as I think it will give a good under colour showing through the pale foreground sand , it takes care of the middle ground and won’t dominate the sky which I want to stay light and bright.

Now for the pastels!

This is when I get out my boxes of pastels and the fun starts. I’m going for my Great American ArtWorks seascape set, a fantastic set of Sennelier half sticks and my “orphans” box and a couple of pastel pencils to sketch it up.

Sketching up

I could transfer the image by any number of methods but I’m not too fussy about getting it exactly right and just sketch in the  main forms of the mountains, hills, horizon, sea and sand The one thing I am careful about is getting the horizon dead level! I use a dark pencil for the background and then a light one for the sand and sea as I don’t want the dark to show through later layers.

Measure on painting
 

Rough sketch- but measure that horizon to get it level!

 

 Blocking in

Now I start blocking in the main shapes loosely. Mostly I use the local colour ( the actual colour I see in the photo) but in the middle ground hill I pop in some bright reds and golds. I want these to show through a little under the final greens to give some added warmth to the painting. I make sure to put in some light pinks and yellows at the base of the sky for some sparkle. The wet sand gets a swathe of dark blue as it will be useful later in establishing the dips and shadows in the sand. Once I’ve finished blocking in smooth the sky and hills with the side of my finger to blend the colours.

 

The sky and hills

Next I work in some blues in the background hills and some greens in the middle hill. I add the suggestion of trees and some more golds into the dry paddocks. Also a little work on the junction between the wet and dry sand.

Add some hill colour
See – the red hill has dissappeared

 

 

 

The sea and sand

I add more layers of pale pinks, yellows and blues to the sky and some of the same colours in the sea. I start adding layers of creams, siennas, ochres and some purples to the wet sand and darken the edges of the sand bar . Now I add a sprinkle of washed up sea grasses to the edge of the wet sand.

Adding some middle ground detail
A bit of sparkle on the water

 

Next it’s a bit of a suggestion of the path and then some seaweed on the dry sand.

I work up the grasses around the path using darks and then some lighter colours for the sunlit side. I use some hard conte sticks for the grasses. Notice I’ve darkened the water’s edge some more and added a little pink to the water as well. I want to give a sense of how shallow it is here. Some shadows from the grasses help to show the slope of the path.

 

Finishing touches

I want to add a little life and movement so I pop in a few wading birds on the wet sand. They also help carry the eye from the strong sand diagonals back towards the water and hills. You can see I’ve also strewn a few white shells and some darker marks around for a bit of added interest and texture to the sand.

Some birds

All done!

A final distant sail boat , my signature and the painting is finished. On the whole I’m quite pleased. The finished painting retains the strong compositional lines that first drew me to the subject but I’ve warmed it up, strengthened the contrasts and added some movement.

Signed and finished