This one is quite a lengthy post, so, if you just want to look at the pictures and enjoy them….feel free!
The temperature has plummeted here in Pennsylvania and I have now hastily wrapped up my frantic repairing of my garden and lawn (post patio construction) and returned to my cosy little art studio. I am finding that I now have some fresh energy for art….plainly, downing my art tools for about 12 days and picking up a shovel and various other gardening equipment and doing something totally different and physically exhausting for every spare moment of those days was somehow creatively beneficial for me!
I have put some of that new energy into experimenting with my fairly recently acquired 96 colour (the full range!)box of Prismacolor Nupastels. Really, this started a little before my frantic gardening session, when I picked them up just because I knew I was having a hard time concentrating with a baby bulldozer revving its engine outside my window and the thoughts of potential plant murder and mayhem sending me rushing to this window and that.
My thoughts then were to show up and go through the motions and I chose the Nupastels because, well, the novelty made them potentially more FUN.
So I went on to my favorite copyright free image site Pixabay and picked an appealing shot of Lochinvar, Scotland, and set about creating my own version on an 18″x 12″ piece of Strathmore Grayscale paper – a sort of mid-tone grey. Any of you who use this paper will understand when I say that it has quite a pronounced, regular, dimple pattern as its texture and, after a few sessions on this picture I started to feel like the pigment just wasn’t going down into the dimples and so was creating a very unfocused effect, that might work well in the middle to far distance, but, was no good in the foreground. So, I put it down for a day or two and almost just let it go, and sit on the side and be forgotten, (until the next time I had a fancy for the dusty little sticks…..)But then I suddenly remembered that actually Nupastels are water soluble. Some people dissolve entire sticks and use them as water-colour, some dip the end of the stick in water and draw with the softened pigment and some take a brush after the fact and spread the pigment on the paper. Trusting the robustness of the greyscale paper, I decided to go with the latter technique. There was some buckling as it went on, but, as it dried it flattened again. I have to say, the infill of the dimples, in the foreground made me a good deal happier with this piece and I also discovered that using a damp brush was great for blending the clouds, and some of the water. Aha! No wonder some people ONLY use Nupastels for their pastel work.
Anyway – since then, having discovered some of the secret (not really, it blatantly says on the back of the box that they can be used with a water-filled brush! but how often do YOU clamp the lid on tight and flip over a box containing 96 pastels in two layers?! 🙂 ) Anyway…..I have been trying this new technique out on several other mediums and subjects.
I tried watercolour paper, toned lightly with a dull green and then washed over with a big brush. For the punts on the Cam (Mathematical bridge and punting in the rain, viewed from Silver Street, Cambridge, UK – my own reference photo) I used a combination of various Nupastels and some brushwork, following up, ultimately, with touches of Sennelier LaCarte pastels, because they are so intensely pigmented and I wanted them to save what was a rather strange and somewhat muddy palette. Interesting picture and good learning was had, by me, but I am not sure if starting from white paper was a very good move and the reference was not the best, due to poor lighting….ah well.
Next, I tried some mid-grey Art Spectrum Colourfix paper. This one is a very toothy, but fine paper, almost thin cardboard, really – made in Australia. This time I picked a reference of a young girl (Pixabay, again – one of the best sites I know for random portraiture references that are copyright free) and a very limited palette of black, white and a few shades of grey Nupastels. I laid down the landmarks and put in the tones and then, to finish up, I wetted a brush and blended the pigment, especially on the skin. There was a touch of black Generals Multi-Pastel pencil in there, for the eyes – it’s hard to be accurate enough for eyes with just a pastel stick, on this size of paper, though some people might just break a stick and use the edge, I don’t really fancy breaking my fairly new pastels into little bits! I really enjoyed this one – definitely on the line where expertise meets challenge and has a very fun party in zone-land – for me 😉 and I do really love how this medium lends itself to a more loose and painterly effect.
Finally the girl with the pink hat – This one is on a piece of green Canson MiTeintes. This surface is rather an old friend of mine and I was really just curious to see how robust it would be with the addition of water to what is essentially considered a Pastel and dry medium paper. I didn’t go crazy with the water and it buckled and then went flat as it dried, so, pretty good result. This was another one that worked well with a loose and painterly approach and a very limited palette and I enjoyed it a good deal for a couple of hours on Thanksgiving day (thanks for this one too, Pixabay; copyright free references are awesome!)
Maybe next week I will go back to my Acrylics – who knows? If you have read THIS far, I must applaud your tenacity and/or level of interest…..maybe you have a comment to make or a question to ask about Nupastels? I don’t know all the answers but I am happy to learn something new or pass on what I do know….either way! Enjoy the journey!:-)