Abstracting an Image

Pastel study of construction site (WTC Memorial tower), acrylic and pastel on PastelMat, 9x12 in.

When I paint a subject, it can be any subject, I don’t focus on “what” I am painting. I don’t give objects names, instead I view darks and lights purely as shapes, focusing on form and value to get my drawing mapped in. Doing so allows me to abstract the imagery and yet still come up with a drawing that describes the subject, accurately yet in a simplified, geometric manner.

In this case, I began with a wash of cobalt blue acrylic on white PastelMat. On top of this, I mapped in my darkest values with NuPastel #353 (dark brown-purple). I did this while the paper was slightly damp, which resulted in some great bleeds. Next, I began adding in the local colors of the elements in the composition. This piece has dramatic lighting, with very dark shadows and very bright lights, so there was not a lot to do in terms of middle values.  Additionally, the blue background helped a lot for establishing a middle toned base, on top of which I applied similar tones in soft pastel.

I plan to do a large painting of this landscape in oil or possibly acrylic. Working out the idea for it in pastel is very helpful, and this sketch will be used far more than any reference photos I have once that process begins.


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