Yesterday I painted with pastels and took some progress images along the way. Here they are:
First I sketched in the ducks using Derwent pastel pencils and started placing in the negative shapes around the ducks trying to leave the white of the paper as much as I thought would be good to have in the water and leaving the ducks completely white. I did get some blue into the ducks, but at this point it was like a very light wash, so it didn't matter much. For this painting I was glad that I had white Wallis sanded paper because I think it helped the water sparkle and also helped speed the painting of the ducks. I haven't painted with my pastels in quite some time and was surprised when I found white paper because most of the time I use the Belgian Mist, professional sheets. Sheet size for this one is 18" × 24" and I've taped the paper to a full sheet of foam core with blue painters tape. For the first few swipes of pastel and water as I wanted to be able to take it off the foam core if I needed to. I wasn't sure how wet I would get the paper and wanted to be able to dry the back with a hair dryer if I did get it too wet. Fortunately, working quickly worked for me and the paper did not get too wet or buckle a bit. I did not pad the paper with newspaper like I do sometime. Padding with newspaper helps me not get so heavy with my strokes for some reason. I tend to fill up the tooth really quickly because I do have a heavy hand. Wallis paper is touted to be able to take 25 layers, but they didn't use my hands to do the test. :)
Then I used some water and a sponge brush to make the blue pastel liquid and sink into the paper. I did this quickly and with as few brush strokes as I could manage and still get the flow of the water like I wanted it to be. I confess, some of the water helped create a water effect without my help. :)
Note: You can use water, denatured alcohol, Gamsol which is 100% pure odorless mineral spirits or Turpenoid as a wetting agent to turn the pastel into a kind of liquid. I've tried all of the above and have found that using Gamsol as the wetting agent seems to hold the colors better.
Adding in the shadows for the duck feathers was lots of fun, along with adding in the oranges for feet, beak, and a little on the feathers just to keep them from being too clean. :) Pastels, as any other media reflect color from the first colors put on the support as well as the support color itself. The colors you first put down might not be visiable in the end result, but are very important because of their reflective nature and color mixing effects.
More refining and headed for the last touches of sunshine. I've used a very limited palette of ultramarine blue, cad orange, burnt sienna, and a few greys. This makes it easier for me not to make muddy areas and certainly sets this painting up as a very effective complementary color study.
I used Rembrant soft pastels and Derwent pastel pencils with a final touch of a white pastel from my own collection of handmade pastels I made several years ago. I did not put this painting on my easel but rather propped it up on the counter and used some newspaper to catch the dust. I did this on purpose so I could lay the painting down on the counter or prop against the table or hold in my hand to sketch and work with the strokes for the ducks. While I layed in the water, I did move the painting around to let the pastel move with the water I applied to liquify the pastel and set it into the paper much like you would a watercolor wash.
Final image is 23x17 unless I crop a bit, and I don't think I will.
Critique from Elin Pendleton
Nice, Phyllis! You've handled the reflections well. The critique for improvement would be to get the water beyond the duck heads to "lay down" more by the addition of some burnt umber to the blues, and perhaps lighten them a bit (lighter, bluer, grayer with distance).
Your whites on the ducks seem very cold to me, so perhaps an addition of a whisper of either cad orange or cad yellow medium to the lightest parts would warm up the sunlit sides.