PASTEL STEP-BY-STEP DEMO: SARAH G'S SUNNY, RED HIBISCUS
Updated: Apr 13
I was lucky to paint from a photo of this sun-soaked, red flower.
The painting is done on black Uart 400 and the image area is 8" x 10."
Reference floto (flower + photo) credit: Sarah Graham
First step: a sketch with a Generals white charcoal pencil that was fixed with light spray of a nontoxic product call SpectraFix.
The underpainting palette was done with NuPastel in a dark red and yellow.
Underpainting: The basic shapes of the image were lightly filled in with the hard NuPastel.
Complementary colors were chosen with the plan to cover these areas with local colors: red (flower) and green (background).
Notice there is a margin that will be used for testing pastel marks. It will be cropped out.
Then, using a piece of the pipe foam insulation, the image was scrubbed to spread and blur the pastel color. The fixative allows the white outline to remain. I chose a dry underpainting on this one (as opposed to an alcohol wash) to try to maintain sketch lines.
Because my process is to work dark to light, it became clear that the background area would need to be darker. Eggplant and dark brown from Terry Ludwig INTENSE DARKS II were used to take the value deeper. A dark red was LIGHTLY applied to the petals.
GAH! Panic time. This painting is so RED!
In every painting, there is a point when the painting looks like a big, hopeless mistake and I have no clue what to do next. This is the moment for this painting.
I picked this flower because it is so SATURATED WITH GORGEOUS RED and I wanted to challenge myself with practice in seeing the subtle colors that may not be obvious on first glance. I was drawn to the juicy red but there is pink, yellow, lavender, green, and peach in the bloom, too. Here we go...
Pastels: Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, Schminke, NuPastels. Pencils: Stabilo Carbothello.
Tools: cut pipe foam insulation (that gray, half moon thingy), hake brush for light blurring, and a color shaper to pick out some details.
Final tweaks: The image on the left was my "almost finished" version. I photographed it and realized it was missing the intensity of red that had drawn me to this, in the first place. The petals were given more red-orange to fire things up. The background needed to recede more, so I darkened and blended, just a bit.
What I learned: I don't really love using the dark Uart. Keeping the dark value from dulling the intensity is a fight the whole time I'm painting on it. It would probably be a good substrate for a nocturne and I will try that in the future.
Using an underpainting of a complementary color on the petals may have been a mistake. In general, I am mindful of hues that become too CANDY-colored (my own sensibility drives this - I'm not saying bright colors are bad. You do you, Boo). I thought the complementary tones would balance that. In the end, I wanted the intensity and had to work to get it back in the flower petals.