Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Behind the Front Lines II - Pastel Portrait - Laying in a Foundation II

The Gumby Portrait has been done for awhile now, but hopefully you'll find the continuing process reports on it worth the wait.

Now, the next stages are very pivotal to the overall development of a pastel painting, so please read through them and make sure you understand everything before moving on with your own paintings!

Beginning the Foundation: Continued
So here's where we go darker, and wouldn't you know it, but I don't do enough of a good job. If you look at the drawing at this stage, it's getting darker, but I'm not really taking it to a solid 7-8 scale darkness like I should.

"But Ian," you ask, "What does it matter if I'm supposed to go back over this all with the soft pastels - won't they cover all the charcoal up?"

Well, it's important for you to start dark and work your way to the lighter hues as you progress on the pastel application. This is mainly because of the nature of soft pastels; you shouldn't really overlap darker onto lighter because of how the different colors combine on the support. Plus, soft pastels, especially the Sennelier Soft Pastels which I use, are damn expensive (but very much worth the price), and so to start dark and go lighter means you are using a hell of a lot of black pastels to begin the foundation. Charcoal, being cheaper and just as dark, works well enough; but also permits you the ability to see your under drawing once you've taken a few extra steps.

So go dark, but only after you are sure your main drawing is satisfactorily correct in proportion in placement. Like I've said in the previous post, the darker you go the less you will be able to correct without serious damage to the paper. The drawing above also points out another side to the coin though; don't be afraid to get darker! I probably should have gone up a few more steps on the value of my drawing before proceeding to the next step, but I didn't.

Beginning the Painting: Fixative and Charcoal
If you look to the right, you see the result of me not going too dark. Granted, it isn't terrible, but instead of a very cloudy appearance, the darker areas should really stand out much more. I'm getting a bit ahead of myself though...

After you bring your charcoal line drawing to a sufficient darkness, you want to spray it down with fixative. This is to prevent everything being destroyed as you lay down an overall coat of charcoal on top of the entire drawing.

Workable Fixative is what you want to spray your drawing with, and I use Krylon because the product is solid and so is the spray can nozzle. You might be fine with cheaper art store brands, but I've found them to be lighter in consistency, therefore making it necessary to lay more coats down. Some advice on fixative: be careful and be watchful of what you are doing! It's so ridiculously easy to destroy a drawing you've labored on for several days with one stupid moment of inattentiveness. I know this because it's happened to me more than once. Here's some bullet points on applying spray fixative:

• Read the directions and follow them to the letter! The most important thing is to be outside when you spray this stuff - do not do it in your bathroom or in a stairwell...get outside and do it proper.
• Fixative will stain whatever surface your work is laying on; such as the sidewalk, a wooden fence or a drop cloth. If that will bug you, put down some paper that is at least a foot larger on all sides than your work.
• When you are letting your artwork dry between coats, cap the spray can and place it away from the artwork. Make sure your artwork itself is properly anchored to the ground or wall and can't be blown away by a sudden gust of wind.
• Begin spraying AWAY from your work, because the nozzles will spit, and that is not at all desirable when it hits your artwork. By starting this way you begin to spray first away from your drawing as the can starts spitting, and then you can swing the spray over to your drawing.
• Several light coats are better than one heavy coat. Of course, you'd know that if you read the directions on the can...right? That being said, give every coat time to dry fully (10-15 minutes).
• Put down at least 4 good coats, spraying evenly from side to side on one occasion, top to bottom on the others. When you can drag your finger tip over a dark, and hopefully unimportant, area of your drawing with minimal charcoal residue coming off on your fingers, you're good.

After you've sprayed down the drawing with fixative and let all fixative dry on, take a stick of charcoal and drag it sideways up and down the drawing until you've covered the entire support with a light coat. Then, get an old sock or paper towel, and rub the charcoal into the drawing. Repeat a few times, but not so much that you darken the paper to the point that you can't see your drawing underneath.

The photo in this section is partially the result of me not going very dark with my initial line drawing, but not putting enough fixative down probably has something to do with it as well. All that being said, I can still see my drawing, so all is not lost! What you want at this stage is to have a nice dark background to go lighter from, but you don't want to have lost your under drawing which helps you keep everything looking tight and realistic.

Next up we put down the soft pastel! Stay tuned!


Previous Posts in this Project: Reference PhotographyLaying in a Foundation I