Work In Progress: Suwanee River, Update 6
Working through this pastel painting has been a great learning experience for me. My thoughts will most certainly evolve further as I gain more experience in this wonderful medium. When I first started this painting I was not convinced, but I was strongly in favor of the premise that landscapes, at least loose style landscapes could be completed with pastel pencils. I no longer think I can do that. If I want to do a loose landscape, a painterly landscape, not a highly detailed landscape painting, I think soft pastels, rather than pastel pencils, are the perfect tools to accomplish that. On the other hand, if I want to create more close focus studies such as portraits and wildlife, I think that I will choose pastel pencils. That may even change in time as my experience increases but at this point in my journey with pastels, painterly landscapes will be completed with soft pastels and portraits will be completed with pastel pencils. I’m just having an easier time doing this landscape with soft pastels.
After the underpainting was completed I started back over the painting with soft pastels. I worked from dark to light and tried to keep to about the same values I established in the preliminary underpainting. I went from color to color, testing out a number of them as I progressed through the painting. Some seemed to work, others didn’t. Some looked good and others didn’t. Since it was easy to cover up colors that didn’t work, I could be more creative and spontaneous. That was a good feeling. If I completed a lot of work on an area and was not happy with it, I could scrub it off with a stiff brush and rework the area.
The center of interest was established at the conjunction of the tree lines from the right and left, with the river. It was there that I suggested the most detail. As I moved further away from that area, detail decreased. It wasn’t easy for me, however, to loosen up as I moved away from the center of interest. I am too used to putting in detail. When I am working on an area out on the right side of the painting, where the cypress trees are, for instance, I’m focusing on that, and I tend to add detail. I continually stepped back from the painting, where detail was not apparent, to get a feel for the scene and a feel for how to depict that part of the scene. There were many instances where I had to remove detail, even low level detail, to maintain the effect I wanted. I had to continually evaluate the importance of an area to the overall statement I am trying to make – to the story I’m trying to tell.
At this point I feel I’m nearing completion of this painting. I’ll continue to evaluate it, step back and squint to eliminate detail, look critically at all parts and see what should be included and what is unimportant. I’m looking for an impression, a feeling here, not merely a detailed inventory of what was there.