Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photos - Reference, Inspiration or Both

When I can't work directly outdoors I use my own reference photos. These are handy when time is short or the light is fading quickly and I don't have enough time to complete a plein air pastel.

I always work from my own reference photos except when doing animal or property portraits for a customer. The photo helps me recall the feeling of the place and reminds why I was excited about the scene. My b/w sketches also help.

But I'm surprised when I view the reference photo after the studio piece is completed and see how much I interpreted rather than copied the photograph.

Here is the pastel "End of Autumn 3" that I showed in the last blog.

"End of Autumn 3" 18"x24" pastel

And here's my reference photo as well as the cropped version of the photo. Cropping in photoshop is an invaluable compositional tool.

Swift Camp Creek Fall Reflections

The completed pastel may seem photorealistic but as you can see by comparing it to the reference photo, the photo is as much an inspiration as a reference.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Working in a series

Sometimes is easier to find your own "visual voice" by working in a series and exploring the same topic from different angles or visions.

"End of Autumn 2"
Last fall I took a series of up-close images of leaves floating down Swift Camp Creek. The topic was mesmerizing, quiet and contemplative. I took lots of photographs just enjoying the process without actually thinking about using the images for a series. But when I loaded the images onto the computer and started enlarging areas and cropping for better composition I realized I had a lot of subject matter that related in a series. 

"End of Autumn 5"
"Nearby Creeks-End of Autumn" series began. As with all efforts some of the pieces are more successful than others but this series hit a high note. "End of Autumn 5" was accepted to the Pastel Society of America annual show in New York and "End of Autumn 3" won 5th place/landscape in the Pastel 100 contest sponsored by Pastel Journal.

"End of Autumn 3"
Years ago a friend of mine sent me a postcard that says, "Success is largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." I still have it tacked to my bulletin board and think about the low times when I wanted to quit but just couldn't. Glad I didn't.

The entire series can be viewed on my website, Mcdonaldfineart.com.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wilderness Road Farmhouse

Last night I mistakenly posted on my old Pastel Lessons blog. That's what happens when I post at 10:30 pm.
So here's what should have been on this site.

Last week my husband and I took our mountain bikes to Cumberland Gap area and rode on the Wilderness Trail. I spotted this farm and loved the rhythm of the barns, the golden maples and the farmhouse.

This pastel is done on UArt sanded paper with pastel and alcohol wash underpainting. UArt is very versatile paper which accepts watercolor and thinned oil washes as well as the alcohol type underpainting without warps or buckling. Because it only comes in cream color and I like to have a colored underpainting to make the pastel pop.

After considering what I thought was the final piece I felt like too many of the angles of shapes were headed in the same direction. They needed a counter-balance - not strong, just a subtle shift in colors and shapes. I changes some of the shapes and colors in the foreground field. I think it's finished but with pastel is always easy to rub out and change things.

"Wilderness Road Farm" step one - underpainting

"Wilderness Road Farm" 11"x14" pastel

"Wilderness Road Farm" 11"x14" pastel final