Pastel Fundamentals – Class Notes from 10/29/08

October 30, 2008
portrait demo on Wallis paper, 9x12", Prismacolor NuPastels

portrait demo on Wallis paper, 9x12
















Concepts presented:

  • working from a black and white reference, therefore color is left to the imagination
  • I chose the complementary colors orange, green and purple for color harmony in a way that suggests a mood suitable to the subject
  • charcoal under painting done first
  • begin with darkest darks (red violet and medium cool green for shadows)
  • orange background with some bits of blue violet for color variation
  • bright, almost flourescent greens on highlights for drama
  • who says a portrait has to be serious? or beautiful?

Happy Halloween!!! 😀


How do you know when you’re done?

October 28, 2008
Casual Encounters, oil on canvas © Anne Kullaf 2007

"Casual Encounters", oil on canvas © Anne Kullaf 2007

This close up of the painting shows how detail is implied with loose brushwork--the point is to make each stroke count as opposed to fussing over minute details.

This close up of the painting shows how detail is implied with loose brushwork--for me, the point is to make each stroke count as opposed to fussing over minute details.

I am asked this question by at least one person in every class, workshop or demo that I present. To me, a painting is done when it says what I want it to say clearly and concisely without embellishment, fussiness or extraneous decoration. It isn’t a question that anyone else can or should answer for someone else. As an artist, only you know what you are trying to convey with your work, therefore it is up to you to decide when your painting has effectively communicated your message.

Knowing What Your Work is About

It helps if you know what direction you are going in with your work as a whole. Writing an artist’s statement can help you to identify the concepts that are important to you as an artist.  For example, here is mine:

“My paintings are rooted in the visual patterns created by motion, repetition, color, texture and light. Using these patterns as a point of departure, I attempt to capture the essence of objects and places with a form of realism that is expressive rather than simply a recording of what I see.”

If I am to remain true to my artist’s statement, my work needs to imply detail rather than painstakingly capture every petal on a flower or every crack in a city street. As a result, I try to make each brush stroke count and am conciously aware of the effect each stroke has on the painting–as soon as I can tell a Mason jar is a Mason jar and its filled with water and flower stems, my job is done.

Now, if my goal was to paint photorealistically, the above would certainly not work.  That’s why I say it isn’t the type of question someone else can answer for you.  Take the time to really get to know your own style, figure out what you are trying to convey–once you’ve done this, you’ll always know when you’re done.

Note: The painting above, “Casual Encounters” is available for sale through Trudy Labell Fine Art.

Expressive Drawing – Preview of New Class for 2009

October 25, 2008
Orchard Street Market, 1880s - acrylic & white charcoal on paper

"Vintage NY: Orchard Street Market, 1880's" - acrylic & white charcoal on paper

I’m in the process of developing a new class that I will be offering in February of 2009 at the Somerset Art Association. The course is called “Expressive Drawing” and is designed to help students develop their drawing skills so that they can produce stronger, more confident drawings and paintings. Here is a description:
Expressive Drawing
Put more expression, spontaneity and life into your drawings! This class teaches the basics of value, form and perspective in a manner that encourages individual style development and expression. Using charcoal and acrylic, students will create studies of still life set ups provided by the instructor, as well as work on landscapes from their own reference photos brought to class. Emphasis will be placed on practicing in a loose, natural style that will ultimately build confidence and produce stronger drawings and paintings. All levels welcome.
To register early, contact Somerset Art Association at 908-234-2345, they can provide information on pricing and dates/times the class will be offered.

Color & Compostion – Class Notes 10/24/08

October 24, 2008
pastel study, Wallis paper about 9x12

pastel study, Wallis paper about 9x12"

Concepts presented:
  • Block in values first with charcoal
  • Beginning with darkest darks, add color in large bold strokes, use the side of the pastels (using NuPastels or other hard pastels)
  • Move into medium values, I started with the greens, use complements for shading
  • For the water, use vertical strokes to imply depth
  • Added in large leaf areas that are in sunlight using yellow orchre and light greens, some pure yellow
  • Added a few small patches of blue/grey sky
  • For branches, use quick bold strokes, don’t fuss over details
  • Final details in soft pastel for highlights and a few darkest darks (Sennelier soft pastels)
  • Don’t overwork, keep forms semi-abstract

This was our last class, I enjoyed working with all of you very much and hope to see you again in one of my future workshops or courses.

Pastel Fundamentals – Class Notes from 10/22/08

October 23, 2008
9x12" on Art Spectrum paper, pastel study

pastel study, 9x12 on Art Spectrum paper

Concepts presented:
  • Begin with darkest values, block in forms
  • Think in terms of abstract shapes and values, work from dark to light
  • Don’t be a slave to the photo, use purely for reference
  • When sketching trees, use strong bold strokes rather than tentatively trying to replicate each trunk or branch

Miscellaneous: My web site issues are ongoing and I hope to work on resolving the problem after my morning classes end. I apologize for the inconvenience, once I have re-built my site the images in the other demos will once again be on the blog.

Value & Color – Class Notes 10/20/08

October 21, 2008
the image on the left has been converted to black & white to show the relationship of value and color

the image on the left has been converted to black & white to show the relationship of value and color









I have combined the class notes for my Monday oil painting and pastel classes since the concept of values and their relationship to color was discussed in both classes.

Basic premise: values (darks & lights) define the form of an object, color enhances the visual definition of the object. In order to make an object appear 3 dimensional, a drawing or painting must have a range of values.
Value study:
  1. Begin by doing a value study in charcoal of the subject. Focus on capturing a range of at least 3, preferably 5 values working from dark to medium to light. (If you are working in pastel, the charcoal study can serve as your under painting, if working in oil or acrylic, do the value study on your canvas in a dark neutral such as burnt umber or burnt sienna.)
  2. Do not think of the object you are drawing, focus purely on the values and the shapes created by each area of dark and light. This frees your mind of any preconceived notions you may have about what you “think” an apple looks like versus what you actually “see” when you look at it in terms of darks and lights.
  3. Try not to outline, instead block in the shapes of the darkest values you see, followed by the medium values and ultimately the highlights which you can add in with white charcoal if you like.
  4. When you are finished, your drawing should have a range of 3-5 values, look 3-dimensional, and have an accurate representation of the form of the object you are drawing. It will have the same characteristics as the black & white apple on the left above.

Adding color:

  1. When you have your value study completed, you are ready to begin working in color. Once again, you will work from dark to light.
  2. Complementary colors will be used to create the areas in shadow.  For example, the apple I drew was yellow-green, so I chose a red-violet pastel combined with green to create the areas in shadow on the apple. Red is the complement to green, violet the complement to yellow (look across the color wheel to the opposite color to find the complement -see color wheel below).
  3. I started with areas in shadow first, using complementary colors for shading and establishing the darkest colors based on my under painting or value study. In this phase, you have to remember that colors have values, so you are matching the value of the colors you choose to your value study. By doing the value study first, you are elminating the need to define the initial values and color simultaneously.  You’ve already defined your values, now you have to find the right colors that match those values based on the color of the object you are painting.
  4. Next I moved into the medium values and began working in color on those areas, followed by the lightest values and highlights.

Again, by separating the definition of the initial values (doing a value study) you are allowing yourself to focus on values first followed by the addition of color.  This enables you to concentrate on one thing at a time–get the values right first, and then follow with the color.

The color wheel above shows the color choices I used for the apple. The apple is yellow-green in color, therefore a red-violet is the complement chosen to define the areas in shadow.

The color wheel above shows the color choices I used for the apple. The apple is yellow-green in color, therefore a red-violet is the complement chosen to define the areas in shadow.

SoHo study revisited in acrylic

October 19, 2008
5x7 acrylic gesture study

5x7" acrylic gesture study


















Another study of Canal St. / Broadway from underneath scaffolding. Purpose of these is to capture gesture of the figures, work out color scheme and composition. Will likely do this in oil sometime soon as a finished painting.