Freitag, 1. Mai 2015

Marf Challenge April 2015: Pastels

That will be 'chalk pastels' for me, but oil pastels or whatevers pastels you might fancy are just fine.

Alright, the last time I actually used chalk pastels for drawing was about two years ago for my life drawing class. It wasn't 'my thing' to say the least.
Then I stumbled upon Ashly Lovett's amazing children's book illustrations some time last year and thought that maybe I should give that old and dusty box of pastel chalks rotting on my shelf another try. That never happened, though 'pastels' made it on the list for future Marf Challenges and now it turns out the future is here and you'll have to stick with me for another round of 'I don't really know what I'm doing here, but I'll figure something out'.

First things first, I need a concept. Since I don't feel especially proficient with chalk pastels, I decide to go for something relatively simple. My ancient pastels are also chalk sticks as opposed to pastel pencils, so I don't want to go for too many details either (I'm not working on a large format).
Taking all self set limitations into consideration some of my older pictures come to my mind.

As you can see my initial thought was to go for a face peeking out of the surface of an overgrown lake (maybe a bit predatory?), which struck me as too boring, though. Alright, I wanted nothing complicated, but I was letting myself off the hook too easily here.
A change in perspective, then. I actually do a lot of planning while scribbling. At first I placed the figure in the centre of the composition because it seemed only natural to me before deciding to shove her into the left hand corner because 'Why not?'. (No, actually to work against my preprogrammed composition patterns. I really like going for very central compositions and decided consciously against it, which brought an ACEO card I had created for Maren's and mine advent calendar project 2 (?) years ago to mind.)
To me atmosphere is an essential part of planning an image. I need to know how it is supposed to feel. For this one I wanted an underwater image that felt 'safe'. No terror of drowning or anything, more tranquility, peace, and … safety. That was basically my leitmotif.

The next step was asking Google for reference images and creating a rough composing to use as some kind of guiding map.
It's amazing, I know.
My layout drawing is pretty amazing, too.

So, as I said before, I hadn't touched chalk pastels for some time (Uhm, years.) and that was before I new anything about anything and even less about painting or drawing or chalk pastels. I mostly remember smudging a lot. Some years later I decided against that and went for toned paper and, well, drawing. What really irritated me at first was that the colours at hand were all very saturated. If you know my work, you'll know I'm a friend of the monochromatic ('I'll learn that thing with the colours eventually' is right up there with 'Some day I will learn how to actually paint'), so being faced with … colors turned out a bit intimidating. But, what the heck, what's the worst that can happen?
Especially when it's about midnight, which is in my experience a great time for questionable decision. such as using purple for an underpainting. Or something.

Especially, when you come to the point when you seriously wonder why your picture is all purple. Wasn't it supposed to be green? What happened? Oh right, you used purple for the shadows. 

Adding more layers and more layers. Maybe you notice a decided to add a lot of light blue in placed that were  purple before. I actually didn't think pastel chalks were this forgiving, but they are. Nice surprises are the best surprises.

At this point I really liked the textures a markings that had developed and the light blue had turned out to be a great decision (my opinion). At this point I was even thinking of using pastel chalks more in the future. Maybe they go well with my acrylics/charcoal drawings? Something else to try out? 
So I was over the 'ugly stage' of the drawing and started to get excited again.

Until I scanned the whole thing. Nothing more frustrating than scanning something only to wonder what you actually wasted those last few hours of your life on? (Like mirroring your image and realizing  everything is just wrong. And then you can't unsee it. At least on screen. The original still looks fine. Or not. Depends.)

My good old pal Photoshop comes to rescue! Remember I sad atmosphere was important to me? Well, yeah, it's actually more important to me than colour schemes. I generally decide on one beforehand (at least when I plan on using colours otherwise tonal values are enough for me), but the great thing about personal artworks is that I don't have to stick to them when a different colour palette feels more appropriate. (Uhm, nice surprises …)
This one looks a lot warmer now, less like an underwater scene actually, more dreaming that drowning in a way. I also really like the purple shadows now. 

Okay, I really have to clean my scanner of chalk dust now.