Monday, February 13, 2017

Pastel Demo-Revisiting Botany Bay

After a long break from blogging about painting, I'm back at it. While spending the last few months in South Carolina, I was able to take a painting trip with a group of artists for a couple of gorgeous days in one of my favorite places in the world, Edisto Island, SC, to paint plein air and photograph some of the best Lowcountry landscape available. One of the highlights of this excursion was getting to see the wonderful work my former students are doing these days.

We spent the first afternoon at Botany Bay on Edisto, a 3380 acre wildlife preserve owned by the state of South Carolina. We were only able to access part of the preserve due to Hurricane Matthew damage to the causeway that leads to the amazing Boneyard Beach, which will remain closed until further notice unless you have a boat, but there were plenty of incredible painting opportunities. Various public hunts take place at Botany, so make sure that you call before making the drive.

We set up our easels at a lovely bend in the river with large live oak trees hanging over the water. Here's one of the pastel sketches I did "en plein air", or on location:

Several days later, I brought all my reference material to the studio to do a larger pastel.
Recently I've been using Sennelier La Carte pastel paper and a variety of soft pastels from Terry Ludwig to Sennelier to Unison brands. My go-to color for watery landscapes on La Carte paper is "Sienna".

1. Typically my process is to tape up my paper and block in the big shapes, after having done several value sketches where I make the composition decisions. I determine the horizon line, and the focal area (in this case the point where the marsh and overhanging tree meets the horizon line, and attempt to create an interesting trail or movement to the focal area.

2. Once I get the main elements down, I continue blocking in the big shapes, trying to keep it loose and leaving some of the warm paper color to contrast with all the cool blues.

3.  If you have a good design and composition, the painting develops with less of a struggle. I try to leave some of the "mess" and not be too careful, it is important to retain the energy of my initial marks, and use this calligraphy to draw the eye to where I want it to go in the painting. I added a lot   of rich dark blues in the water filled in the marsh/tree/sky areas.

4. Feeling the overall temperature to be too cool, I added a few more touches of orange/gold in the marsh, some mauve in the trees, and some brighter yellow/green in the tree line, and called it done.

                                                  "Botany Bay" 17"x20"(unframed size).