Easy Way to Create Toned Pastel Paper Using White Clairfontaine Pastelmat!

Pastelists who are new to Pastelmat may not know that it comes in a variety of colors. A quick on-line search reveals that you can buy it in single large sheets or in pads of different color combinations.

In the past I have purchased several of these pads. However, experience has shown me that there is always at least one color in the pad I tend to not use.

While I LOVE the performance of this paper, it’s too expensive not to use all of the pad.

So….I looked for a way to tone the paper myself.

I had some oversized colored charcoal blocks sitting around, purchased a few years back from here. (They are also sold as individual block colors.)

Derwent XL Charcoal

I also had a pad of white Pastelmat, so I thought I should do an experiment to see if I could successfully tone and fix the colored charcoal to the paper.

I started by rubbing each charcoal block across the paper. Then I rubbed the charcoal into the paper using a piece of pipe foam insulation.

You could try using a chamois or even some paper towel to rub in the charcoal. Pastelmat is relatively smooth compared to most sanded pastel papers, so it shouldn’t tear up your paper towel.

Once the charcoal was rubbed in, I applied 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol with a cheap brush onto the left side of the color swatches.

I applied plain water to the right side of swatches using another cheap brush so as to avoid contamination from the alcohol.

Here are the results:

Top left to right: Sepia (olive green), Sanguine, Ochre
Bottom left to right: Mars Violet (a warm almost black), Black
The set also includes a white block untested for this post.

Conclusions:

First, the alcohol side dried much more quickly than the side fixed with water. Pastelmat paper is really a heavy cardstock, so it tends to absorb water. Since alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, this absorption is not as much of a problem when using the rubbing alcohol.

In fact, this quick drying would be a great benefit if using this toning method in plein air…hardly any wait time!

Once the applied alcohol or water is completely dry, I found that the charcoal is fixed onto the paper very well!

No transfer of charcoal from side fixed with rubbing alcohol.
Very little charcoal transfer from side fixed with water.

I did notice that the side fixed with water has a bit of a “grainy texture” to it, whereas the side fixed with alcohol tended to look more smooth. This could have been a result of the brushes used to spread on the alcohol/water, but I’m not so sure.

Of course, there may be times when one wants more of a textured look. In that case, water might be more likely to produce that result.

In the past, I have used plain vine charcoal as an underpainting value map paintings done in plein air. I fixed the vine charcoal to my paper using spray fixative. While effective, it’s smelly, probably not great for the environment, and is bulky to carry around for a light-weight plein air set-up.

However, adding a block of this charcoal and a small screw-on plastic container of rubbing alcohol or water, plus a cheap wide brush, could be a helpful addition to your plein air supplies.

Well, that’s it for now!

I hope this gives you another tool in your artist’s toolkit!

Till next time….stay creative!

~R

“Golden Pines” A Soft Pastel Painting

Hello creative ones! I am happy to be sharing one of my latest pastel paintings with you today. 🙂

I am finding that I am seeing myself more as a seasonal painter….although I have to admit that sometimes I am a little behind the season when I get around to painting my subjects.

While some of the United States is looking forward to or even starting to experience some spring-like weather, here in northern Indiana we are expecting snow and sleet for the next few days!

So today I bring you a wintery scene featuring some evergreen trees being lit with golden light.

I hope you enjoy this painting. And if you are curious about how I painted it, click on the link at the bottom of the post to see a time-lapse video on my YouTube channel.

Let me know if you like it!

My reference photo (copyright R. Sorrells)
Thumbnail and brown Clairfontaine Pastelmat paper with line sketch
Well into the process now…Needs just a bit more….
“Golden Pines”
Assorted soft pastels on Clairefontaine Pastelmat
6×8 in.
R. Sorrells, Artist
2020

Till next time!

~R

Pastel Painting Demo: “Fallow Field in Winter“

Hello everyone!

I hope this post finds you well and loving life. I can’t believe it’s already February! My, how time flies…

Well, I’ve been moved in to my new studio for about a month now, and it has taken me some time to adjust to working in the new space….something I wasn’t expecting.

I have spent the last several weeks in this new year cocooned in a sort of creative solitude. My goal was to forge a new process or rhythm of working in my studio balanced with the demands of family life, schooling, and other obligations. Not easy.

Mainly, I have been focused on musical inspiration. Many of you may not know that I play violin, so I have to keep up my skills on that instrument. But recently I have also been learning to play guitar—something I tried to teach myself long ago, but that’s another story….

In addition to learning something new, I don’t mind telling you that I had a little trepidation about creating my first art piece of the new year in the new space….and I was feeling the pressure.

When I feel pressure, it’s usually because I am raising my expectations to unreasonable levels, and then I tend to procrastinate so as to avoid that pressure, and it can become this vicious cycle.

Sigh….

Anyway, I gave the perfection and people-pleasing parts of me a good kick in the pants, and went out to the studio to play. And today’s post is the result!

I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Let’s start with the piece.

Now for the progress shots….

First, the set up:

Next, an underpainting of cool blues and purples for this snow scene:

Slow building up of color and establishing the sky.

Deepening the shadow areas and beginning to feel my way with those pesky wintry trees:

More development of the dried grassy areas, as well as the trees:

At this point in the photo below, I thought I was getting close to being done, so I put up some black artist tape….Usually, I use a black mat that I keep on hand for this purpose, but I didn’t have a square one handy!

Hmmm. SOMETHING was bothering me. The painting was missing something or a even a few things, but what?

It was at this point that I let the piece sit on my easel for several days while I thought about it. I often need to step away for a day or so while the painting “cooks”.

When I came back to it with fresh eyes, I used my editing app on my ipad to make some notes of things that I thought needed to be changed.

For starters, I wanted more contrast in the overall piece.

Next, I wanted to bring more unity to the color scheme—especially by tying the sky colors into the rest of the piece.

Finally, I needed to lead the viewer through the work with some subtle hints about where to look.

In the photo above, you can see that I added subtle hints of turquoise into the snow shadows to tie the sky into the rest of the scene.

Next, I deepened some of the dark areas for added contrast.

And lastly, I pushed the colors ever so slightly in areas where I want the viewer to look—namely the golden grass near the focal tree and continuing in the mid-ground grass.

And here is the final result once more.

“Fallow Field in Winter” 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
Assorted soft pastels on Pastel Premiere sanded paper
Rhonda Sorrells, Artist
copyright 2020

I hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Now go get creative!

~R

Tour of my New Studio!

Hello friends!

Today I would like to share with you something near and dear to me…My new studio!

I can’t believe it’s finally done. After several months of dreaming, planning, working, revising, and more work, my hubby and I added the final touches to my new creative space.

Here is a pic of the outside. Landscaping will have to wait…

It’s 16×20 feet which is large enough for me to do my art plus double as a rehearsal space for my own needs as well as those of the string band that I lead. (Prior to having this space we held all of our rehearsals in a small room in my house that doubled as a home office, and we were pretty cramped!)

I love, love, love the tongue and groove walls and ceiling, the laminate flooring we picked out, and all the lovely natural lighting.

So without further ado, here is the video with commentary. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed taking a little tour of my creative space. I hope to do lots of painting and music-making in it this year!

Thanks for stopping by!

~R

Goodbye 2019

Hello fellow Creatives!

Here we are….literally minutes away from a New Year as I begin writing this post. Maybe I’m getting more sentimental with age, but this year, I am kind of sad to see the year ending.

Don’t get me wrong–I am looking forward to all the “new” of the new year. For me, there are plenty of things to look forward to! But I can’t help feeling a little nostalgic for the waning of 2019.

I think part of the reason I’m feeling this way is because so many wonderful things happened this year.

First, I was given the opportunity to design my very own studio–talk about exciting! I got to plan and dream and work and decorate (more about that in a future post). I was involved from the very first step of laying the foundation to the last moments of hanging curtains and placing artwork.

And I loved every minute.

For those of you who don’t know, I have been working in a very small corner of a very small room in our rather small house. But no more!

I am so grateful to my dear husband, Matt. Without his “let’s do this now while we can still enjoy it” attitude as well as his hard labor and enduring patience while I revised, tweaked, and re-tweaked my vision, my studio would have never become a reality.

Thank you sweetheart! Xoxo

Second, I was given the opportunity to share my art in person with a larger world than just family and friends for the very first time during a Christmas open house. Which brings me to a third wonderful event…

I sold my first painting… EVER!!!

In fact, I sold 9 paintings, but that’s not the point. You see, I didn’t really know how my work would be received. It felt so risky be putting myself and my work out there, you know? I mean, family and close friends tend to love you and what you create no matter what….but others???

Well, I’m glad I took the risk! And that brings me to the fourth wonderful thing that 2019 brought to my life…

A better understanding of who I am as an artist.

Let me explain.

If you’ve ever tried to learn something new–how to paint, how to play an instrument, how to dance, etc–you probably started out by learning the basics. The what-to-do and the what-not-to-do. The “rules” as it were.

Well, the same is true for my artistic journey. I have spent the last several years learning about drawing, values, composition, color, perspective, different media, the materials that go with those media, and a host of other important subjects.

As I became better with the basics and could actually begin to produce art, I concentrated on replicating what other artists did. Replication is a time-honored way of learning and is how pupils learned from the old masters because it works.

But as I grew artistically, it was only natural that I begin to have a desire to express my own voice and vision. My style began to emerge and continues to develop.

I can only tell you that it is a very exciting time of growth, change, surprise, and forward movement for me personally. I am grateful that I have been given the time, support, and encouragement to continue on this path, no matter where I end up.

It’s a journey I am happy to be continuing into this new year…for as I glance at the clock, 2020 has arrived!!!

So for now, friends, if you have made it to the end of this last post of 2019, let me share with you a collage of some of my favorite pieces of the year.

And may I say with the utmost heartfelt sincerity, Happy New Year friends.

May peace that surpasses all understanding, joy to be alive and breathing, love that conquers fear and hate, and gratitude for our Creator and the ability to glorify Him by sharing in acts of creation be yours this year.

Until next time…

~R

“Moody Blue” Soft Pastel Painting

Hello friends! Welcome back to my blog.

Today I have my latest soft pastel painting and progress shots. I don’t have a lot of progress photos for this one, as I  got carried away and before I knew it, I was making final marks! 🙂

I started this painting on Pastelmat after doing some fun acrylic ink underpaintings.
Here is the underpainting….

Acrylic Ink underpainting

 I started by sketching and blocking in in a VERY BASIC way…

Sketch-in with Nupastel

 

Block-in

 Pretty far in the process in this next photo:

Developing the sky and tree…

 

“Blue Day” Assorted Soft Pastels on Pastelmat, 4×4 in

 Hope you enjoy this one. Let me know what you think or what you are working on!

Also, you can follow me on Instagram @ArtGoneCountry.

Thanks for taking a peek!

Stay creative!

~R

Pastel Painting: “Paradise Lost”

Hello to everyone, and thanks for stopping to read about and view my latest pastel painting! 

In December of this year, I am going to be offering some of my pastel paintings for sale at a town-wide Christmas open house near me.

I am very excited and a bit nervous. As my daughter used to say when she was very little, “I’m nervous-cited!

First, I don’t really like to “market” myself or my art much beyond this blog, Instagram, and a few other places.
I am just not comfortable with the whole thing, but this open house is a way to dip my toe in, if you like, and hopefully enjoy myself in the process.

So, in order to get ready I have begun painting some smaller pieces that might appeal more readily to those who may attend this type of function. Solitude from my last post, is one of those smaller pieces…

Which brings me to today’s painting. I call it, “Paradise Lost.”

“Paradise Lost”

 

I started this painting with a fun acrylic ink underpainting: 

Underpainting in Acrylic Ink

Next, I blocked in using soft pastels starting with the darks.

 

Adding and building up the form:

 

A few more finishing touches and a signature, and I’m done!

 

“Paradise Lost”  Assorted soft pastels over acrylic ink
on Pastelmat paper, 4 1/8 x 4 1/8 inches 

 Let me know if you enjoyed this piece. I’d love to hear what you think!

Till next time,

Stay Creative!

~R

Pastel Painting: “Nesting Behavior” with progress photos

Hello Friends!

Summer is almost done and we are starting up homeschool next week, so I wanted to take the time to post my latest piece along with some thoughts and progress photos showing my process.

I definitely had a different mindset for this one. 
I was aiming for something a little looser, less refined. More impressionistic, I guess.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂 

 

FIRST MY REFERENCE: I took this photo in my front yard. 

Reference Photo

I think the photo is beautiful. But that’s a problem for me because as beautiful as this photo is, I am NOT into copying for the sake of realism. It’s just not my style.

As I grow and change as an artist, I find that I enjoy leaving some things to the IMAGINATION when I create a piece. I am not a camera and my eyes and brain don’t see the same way a camera lens does!

I also think it’s important to leave room for the viewer’s imagination—to suggest some things and let the viewer fill in the rest.
This approach INVITES rather than CONTROLS and let’s the viewer engage with the art.

 

PROGRESS PHOTOS & PROCESS

After selecting my reference, I began to do some expoloration—probably more exploration than I’ve done to prepare than for any other work!

First, I did a simple charcoal study to get a feel for the subject and composition…doesn’t look like much and isn’t meant to!

Vine charcoal sketch

Next, I did a simple line drawing for use on my larger paper.

Simple line drawing

Once I had a feel for the subject, I uploaded my sketch to iPastels to do a more in-depth monochrome study.

Monochrome

Now I was ready to move on to a color study. In the original reference (top), if you look closely you can see lots of green from the vegetation as well as yellowish reflected light. I wasn’t too keen about either, instead preferring to leave the background abstract and focus on all of the beautiful neutrals of the dove.

Completed Color Study

After completing the color study, my next step was to play around with the background. 

Remember, I wanted something loose that wouldn’t compete with the bird itself, so I uploaded the above image into iPastels and tried out different backgrounds…a real time saver and easy way to compare backgrounds side-by-side without wasting materials! 

I finally decided on the top right (blueish) background, and tested it out on the bottom left corner of the photo.

Background Choices

With my color and value studies to guide me, I began my painting on Pastelmat paper using a variety of soft pastels.

 

 

By the time I got to the stage in the above photo, I knew I needed to let my painting sit for a few days so that I could look at it with fresh eyes later.

So….after many days of life getting in the way 🙂 , I made a few white board notes of things I might want to change.

Refinement Notes

And Finally, the finished piece:

“Nesting Behavior” 5×7 Pastel on Pastelmat

Sorry this one was so long, but thanks for coming on this wonderful artistic journey with me!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please leave your comments in the comment section.

See you soon and stay creative!

~R

A Light From Above: Pastel Painting Demo

Hi Creative Friends!

Today I bring you a brief pastel painting demo and accompanying video of a beautifully lit scene that inspired me to run outside with my camera when I saw it. 🙂

As you can see in the reference photo below, the far tree-line was lit with orangey-gold light, and it contrasted in such a lovely way with the dramatic sky and the darkened foreground…definitely inspiring!

I began my painting with a soft vine charcoal sketch on Pastelmat paper. You can see my thumbnail sketch to the left of my support.

Sketch

 Next I blocked in the major shapes….

Block-in

My palette of colors using a mixture of hard and soft pastels:

 

Here is the final painting!

A Light From Above  6×8 pastel on Pastelmat

Below is the link to my Youtube channel for those of you who would like to watch a video of this painting coming together. I hope you enjoy it as much as I had fun painting it!

 

Thanks for visiting! 

Till next time,
Stay inspired!

~Rhonda