16″ x 20″ pastel on paper
I was on Maui teaching a workshop and on a small country road, I discovered this beautiful natural composition. The rhythmic lines of the foreground, the pattern of darks and lights, and the overall color-tone made a wonderful impression on me.
It’s rather seldom that I have the opportunity to work in cool, overcast conditions, and I enjoy the fact that the beautiful range of color and tones all fall easily in the range obtainable in pastel. The added pleasure is in the fact that such days have a beautiful timelessness about them, effects of subdued light sustaining themselves for a much longer period than I’m used to.
Selecting a middle grey Canson paper, I began by lightly drawing in the elements of the composition, using straight lines and several colors of hard pastel. Satisfied with my placement after a few changes, I then add my darkest and my lightest notes, which are the tree mass and the sky. Every subsequent tone in the painting will fall between these two values, and placing them first helps me to judge the rest as I work. I consider this the most important single phase of the entire work.
Working with the side of the crayon as a painter would use a wide brush, I drop in large strokes, working from background to foreground, making general statements of color.
Cutting across the drawn lines casually and allowing the drawing to become lost in some areas, I redraw as I go, only using the original lines as a general basis.
In areas such as the dark mass of trees on the left, I redraw the shape more carefully.
Stepping back often, I check the painting with a hand mirror to see the painting in reverse, which gives ma an immediate fresh impression of the work. I’m aware of the tendency to want to go after everything that Nature throws at me, and I’m able to avoid making some poor decisions by getting away from the picture a few yards as often as I can, observing it as a whole.
As the day progresses, I’m pleased that the light has remained so consistent, I work on the picture to the point that I feel any further work would be counterproductive, and pack the painting up to go home.
After a day or two, I look at the painting again with a rested eye. I decide to make a few adjustments and a small change in the composition. The cast shadow in the middle ground seems to effectively bar my eye from traveling back into the painting, so I break up the shape and lighten it slightly. It seems better now, and I consider the painting completed.
The finished pastel, framed.