It's always exciting to see how different artists use the same medium, in different ways, especially wonderful pastel artists like our own, Morgan Kari, member of the Pastel Society of the Gold Coast.
Pastel Artist and Instructor Morgan Kari
I admired an awesome iPhone photo taken by Jerry Mull of his traditional fifties era 1929 Ford Hot Rod, when it was in the early morning fog at the annual Redondo Beach Pier Car Show. I knew it would make a great painting full of detail and drama.
I like to start my work by first studying my subject in person. I went to see this fabulous car which was featured in the independent movie called Deuce of Spades. It got its nickname “Challenger” because it was driven in the film by a young Hot Rodder who challenged the film’s hero to a big race.
Notes were taken on the car’s details that were obscured by shadows in the photo. I also went to the Redondo Beach Pier to take more photos. The left side background in the photo was full of large buildings that took the attention away from this car and I wanted a strong hourglass composition. I took some photos of alternate backgrounds and more close-ups of the Pier.
I like to start all my painting projects with a detailed drawing on Canson Tracing Paper. It is more transparent than most brands and I usually do multiple corrections on many layers. I use General’s Layout Pencil as it is very black but it removes easily with Staedtler plastic and stick erasers. To get the drawing correct technically, straight edges, Alvin French curves, a divider, a Truflex flexable curve, a set of Alvin ellipses, and a triangle were used.
After my preliminary drawing was finished, I found out the measurements of the space where the framed painting was going to be and then went to Fed-Ex to have it blown up to that size. I then traced it down with a Saral transfer paper on to Canson Mi-Tiennes drawing paper in “Twilight”. This color was perfect to show the background mist and influence the rest of the painting. The background was to be kept soft and purple to recede.
Before starting the pastel work I put a small amount of “Gloves in a Bottle” on my hands. This protects them from the harmful ingredients in some pastels such as the Cadmiums and Cobalt. As an added safety precaution be careful not to blow on or inhale the loose pastel dust. It’s best to dispose of it outside in a wind-free open area, by holding the painting along one edge and carefully shaking it, avoiding contact with pets, you or your clothing.
I did four layers of Unisom and Terry Ludwig soft pastels on the sky and between the first three coats sprayed Krylon Workable Fixative, leaving the top layer without protection. This was done to soak the white pastel into the dark paper, darken the color for more value range and to create a rich and smooth sky. I found it was also useful to make a sign DO NOT TOUCH ARTWORK! PASTEL WILL SMEAR!
I finished the top area first so my hand was able to rest on the clean paper in order to get the details present on the 1929 Ford. Pastel is messy and I find isolating areas keeps them clean. I use a slippery plastic see-thru notebook divider to rest on top of pastel I have worked, as it picks up less of the pastel.
It is very easy to accidently cover your detailed drawing information with opaque pastel. I am very careful not to lose this. I also put in the darkest darks and the lightest lights and make sure as much as humanly possible that they are kept clean. Rembrandt’s black and Schmincke’s white pastel was used for their strong, rich color.
In certain key areas of the car I used a very sharp Koh-I-Noor Gioconda, Stabilo CarbOthello or Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel Pencil for extreme details. These pencils do not work if you have too many layers of soft pastel. In some cases the lines were still not crisp enough, so I used a black, blue and purple Pigma Micron 05 ink pen to define small areas. If used in longer lines, it will look cartoonish. I usually brighten highlight areas with a white Sigma Uniball, then put white pastel on top to unify the look. A great help was my lighted magnifying lens, reading glasses and a steady hand. Needless to say, I kept away from caffeinated coffee!
There is always an area that gives you trouble in a painting. My greatest stressors this time were the tires. They are not actually round, but multiple, odd eclipses. This took days to get it right. But then the Pier to the right looked great after just ten minutes of drawing and the concrete was easy as it was a beautiful abstract.
I used a dirty kneaded eraser as a detail blending tool. One side’s point is black, the other side is white. It worked better than a Tortillon which just seemed to scratch off the pastel. I like Sofft Tool’s pointed knife No.4 and my miniature Pastel Shapers which you can get from dakotapastels.com. The side of my little pinkie also did the trick.
Erasing details was no problem with Faber-Castell Perfection 1056 and Tomboy Mono Zero, from dickblick.com. Erasing the darkest spots left a stain on the paper but it was easily covered by a layer of pastel.
When the 1929 Ford Hot Rod painting was finished, it was bitter sweet to see it go. It looks great in its new cherry wood frame with museum glass on the blue painted wall in its new home. Thankfully I do have Giclee prints and cards to remind me of this both challenging and satisfying experience.
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