“New World” A Painting in Soft Pastel and a Watercolor Color Study

Hi all! It’s the day after election day, 2020, and I am looking to spend some much needed time seeking creative solace in my studio.

After doing some reorganizing and clean-up, I decided to post about a soft pastel painting and color study I finished up a while back with baby chicks as the subject.

We raise chicks almost every year on our little hobby farm, and this year I took hundreds of photos so I would be ready with inspiration when I had time to paint.

(You might be surprised just how many photos one has to take before getting a “good” one! Those chicks are always on the go!)

When the time came I painted this color study in watercolor….

Watercolor on Winsor & Newton watercolour paper

And here are some of the progress photos….

Once I finished, I knew that I wanted to do these little chicks in soft pastel too!

So I did….

Study (top) & Soft Pastel painting (bottom)

And here is a closer view of the pastel painting in better lighting to make the colors true.

“New World” 8×8
Assorted soft pastels on Strathmore mixed media paper
R. Sorrells, Artist copyright 2020

I hope you enjoy these little chicks as much as I enjoyed painting them!

Till next time—

I hope you are well and finding ways to stay creative!

~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

“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: “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

Sorting A New Box of Soft Pastels: How I Do It!

Hello my Creative Friends!!  

Today I would like to show you what I do with a new box of soft pastels before I incorporate them into my working palette.

Both my studio and plein air pastel boxes are sorted by color and value; however, my plein air box is much smaller and carries fewer choices, so I like to be doubly sure I have exactly the values I need in that box.

How do I do that?  Well, I am glad you asked!!

I call the process “Testing the Sort”.  I have to give credit for this idea to Gail Sibley, a wonderful pastel artist who did a video on this process (here).

 

The set I will be sorting for this blog post is the “Brenda Boylan Northwest Plein Air” set of 80 Handrolled Richeson Soft Pastels.


MAKE A COLOR CHART

Before I begin the sorting process, I first make a 9×12 color chart of the pastels which I will use for future reference when I need to replace certain colors.  This also helps me get a feel for the color and value range of the set BEFORE I break it up!  

Plus, it’s just fun to play with the new colors! 🙂  

I sometimes will use this time to remove wrappers…not so fun, but necessary.

I make a simple grid using a Micron Pigma pen on a middle value gray piece of Canson Mi-Teintes.

Here is the completed color chart with each box labeled with the color’s code for reordering purposes.  I will store this chart in a 9×12 self-laminating sheet to protect it.  I DO NOT spray the paper with fixative before storage, as that would darken the colors and make it more difficult to find a match when I need to reorder a pastel!

 

SORTING THE BOX

Okay, let’s start sorting!!!

The first step is to pull out a piece of neutral colored, mid-valued paper such as Canson Mi-Teintes.  It is important to use a middle value paper for the sorting, as it will help you spot very light and very dark values more easily!  I chose a neutral gray so that the paper color would be less distracting as I sorted.

Next, use a pencil or pen to draw 4 columns down your paper.  
Label each of these columns from left to right, respectively, “Lights / Mid-Lights / Mid-Darks / Darks”.

Now, the next part is relatively easy!  (You might want to use an old hand towel laid out on a table or even a cookie sheet tray with rims to keep any pastels from rolling away!) 😉

  • Pull out all of your lightest valued colors and set them to one side of your work space or tray.
  • Pull out your darkest valued colors and set those aside on the opposite side of your tray.

At this point, you should have only middle values left in the original box.


MAKE YOUR MARKS: YOUR FIRST PASS

Now that you have the lightest lights and darkest darks pulled out of the set,

  •  take each of the light pastels and make a mark on the Lights column,
  •  and make a mark on the Darks column with each of the darks.

 

This next bit can be a little harder if you are inexperienced, but hang in there because even if you get it wrong, you can change your mind in the next pass!

Squinting your eyes down to see the values better, take a look at the all of the middle value pastels left in the box and determine whether each falls closer to a middle light OR a middle dark value, and 

  • then make marks in their corresponding columns.

Phew!!  You should have marks in all four columns now.

***It’s OKAY at this point if you are unsure about where you placed some of your marks.***

That’s actually normal—especially for the middle values, as they are often trickier to classify!

 

Here is my first pass through the Brenda Boylan set using this method.  

The beauty of this method is that with each pass, you get closer and closer to properly sorting the values.

 

First pass

 

 

TESTING THE SORT

Now, draw a line under the bottom row of test marks because you are going to refine your first choices!

This time, squint your eyes down and look at the middle two columns.

Chances are that you will see a few colors that don’t seem to “fit in” value-wise with their neighbors in that column.  
They might need to be relocated!  If so, make a little line under the color and then an arrow in the direction you think they might fit better.  

Here is my example:

Second pass

As you can see above, I had quite a few colors in the mid-lights column that I wanted to try out in the lights or
mid-darks sections.  And there were two I thought might need moving in the mid-darks….but oops, I actually forgot and moved only one! (You can see that bright yellow-orange is still in its original column after the 2nd pass…)

 

After the second pass, if you are still unsure about some of your choices, do a 3rd pass!

Third pass

 Here is my 4th and final sort:

Fourth sort

STILL UNSURE????

If you are still unsure about your final pass, take a photo of your chart and convert it to monotone using your phone’s photo editor.

Like this:

 

Monotone

You will likely see some choices that you might want to change.  I saw a few in the monotone image above; however, I felt this last pass was sufficient for my needs.

The last step you will take is to either put them back in the original box, sorted, of course!  
Or you might need to sort them into a larger box that already has pastels in it.  In that case, you would add your lights to your light valued section, your mid-lights to your middle light value section, and so on, paying attention to the color families as you add. 

In my case, I used this set as the foundation for my plein air box which had 4 dividers, hence, the need for 4 values.

This is what the pastels themselves looked like on my towel after sorting.

In black and white:

And in color:

Well, I hope this post takes some of the mystery out of sorting a new box of soft pastels.
It’s actually a lot of fun!

Let me know in the comments if you try it out or if you sort another way.

Till next time, thanks for reading. 🙂

And stay creative!

~Rhonda

Pastels en Plein Air (Painting Outside with Pastels!)

Hello Everyone!

Since it has been some time since I have had time or energy to post, I thought I would pause to blog about my latest creative drive — plein air painting with pastels!

Many of you know that “plein air” painting is nothing more than painting outside.  Some prefer the term “on location”.  Some lucky ducks get to go to exotic locales to paint, taking workshops with well-know instructors.  Others (like me) 😉 simply seek out the fresh air and sights of more familiar places.

I am a farm girl at heart, so I am drawn to our little farm’s treasures: uncut pastures, farm animals, weathered fences, bird nests in springtime….  It doesn’t take much to make me happy!

 

(Here is a picture of my set-up….More to come in a future post.)


NEW INTENTIONS = NEW GOALS = GROWTH

Though I am new to plein air painting, I am finding that when painting outside my goals and intentions are very different than those I have when working in my little studio.

First, I have no expectation that I will produce any great or /even good pieces of art!

While I have to admit that was a tough one to wrap my Type A personality around, it has done me a world of good to let go of the idea that what I produce needs to be “frameable.”  This is extremely freeing!!  I am coming away with the notion that if it isn’t any fun, I’m doing it wrong 🙂

Second, I am learning that plein air painting is a great teacher. 

I find that as I immerse myself in a live scene (instead of a photo), I see more!

Colors are livelier and values are more accurate than those in the photos I take of that scene.

Of course, I have and will continue to paint from reference photos all the time.  There is no shame in that.

But I am now more acutely aware of the way the camera can distort colors, values, and other things, which means that I can deal with these distortions appropriately when working with photos in the future.

Thirdly, painting out in nature has enormous VALUE!

I treat my plein air outings more like sketching opportunities–a way of taking notes on color, value, and composition that is an enjoyable process in and of itself, but can also be a way of gathering information useful for future studio paintings!

Lastly, painting outside is just a lot of FUN!   

Once I worked out my supplies and my set-up (the subject of my next post), I discovered just how enjoyable painting on location is.

It has become a surprisingly exciting new creative outlet that combines my love of being out in nature and my desire to express my feelings about my surroundings.

(Plein air piece in progress)

 

So…..

  • Do you paint “en plein air”?
  • What medium do you prefer when painting outside?
  • Do your goals, intentions, or creative process differ considerably while painting en plein air vs. in your studio?

I’d love to hear about your plein air experiences!

 

Till next time, stay creative!!

~~Rhonda

Pastel ColorPlay Project # 5 & #6

Hello creative friends!

Today I am posting a little experiment I did recently with my latest Pastel ColorPlays.

(For more about how the Pastel ColorPlay Project started, see this post!)

 

PAPER COLOR: DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

I wanted to see what the differences would be if I used the SAME color scheme on DIFFERENT paper colors.

I have posted the progress shots and results below, but here is the summation of what I found:

First, the VALUE of the paper’s color, not just the hue, makes a pretty big difference!  I was surprised at how different the exact same pastels looked on light-valued paper compared to mid-valued paper.

Here are shots of the paper scraps I used to test my preselected pastels.  See how different some of the pastels look on the mid-value gray paper compared to the lighter paper?  Some actually look like different colors!

  

(Both papers are Canson Mi-Teintes, one in gray and one a light yellow.)

The other thing I found was that while my intention was to apply the same hues and values in approximately the same locations for both paintings, working on different valued papers forced me to work in slightly different ways.  

For example, on the mid-toned paper, it felt much easier to establish the darkest and lightest-valued areas; whereas, on the lighter-toned paper it felt like I was constantly having to go back and reestablish the darks and really work at having my lights “pop”.  That was unexpected!

Now onto the ColorPlays….

 

COLOR SCHEME & HUES:

I chose to use an Analogous Complementary color scheme using the main hues of Orange, Yellow, and Yellow-Green with the complement of Red-Violet.

                                 #5                                                                        

 

                                  #6


SIMPLE BLOCK-INS WITH RED-VIOLETS:

                                  #5

 

                                  #6


ADDING MORE COLOR:

                                  #5

 

                                  #6


THE COLORFUL RESULTS:

 

 

 

 

Side-by-side:

 

What do you think?  I am partial to the painting done on the mid-toned paper.  It is a little more somber, moodier, if you will.  The painting done on the light-valued paper is brighter, sunnier.  Different moods.

 

Thanks for stopping by to read about my latest play-time with color.  I hope you enjoyed this post  and look forward to your comments and hearing about how you might be exploring color!

Till next time!

~R

Pastel ColorPlay Project #3 & #4

Hello dear art lovers and creators! 

In today’s post I have combined my third and fourth Pastel ColorPlay paintings because they share the same type of color scheme: ANALOGOUS

Analogous simply refers to 3-5 adjacent hues on the color wheel (like red, orange, yellow).

Now, even though these paintings used the same type of color scheme, the hues (colors) chosen to execute these paintings were very different. 

Funnily enough, even though both paintings used analogous hues, I struggled much more with one painting than the other; in fact, it took me twice as much time on one as the other!  

Still trying to figure out exactly why that was the case, but I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with my being more comfortable with certain hues and not others……

This possibility is not really surprising to me. One of the benefits of doing this type of concentrated work on color is that it teaches me where my weaknesses are!


NEW COLOR TOOL:

Before I continue with today’s ColorPlays, I would like to touch on a new tool I am using.

I am trying out a different color wheel than the one I used in my last two ColorPlays.  
It is called the Original Hal Reid Analogous Color Wheel and is available from www.ArtVideo.com.

In my opinion, this color wheel has certain advantages and disadvantages.  One advantage is that it helps you find what it terms “discord” colors (colors which add that extra little bit of color zing to your painting when used in very small amounts, especially near the center of interest.)

One disadvantage I found while using this wheel is that you have to visualize your own tints and shades; whereas, they are printed right on the Creative Color Wheel I used in my previous posts.  Having the tints and shades right in front of your eyes can be very helpful, especially for pastelists unsure of color choices!

The other thing I noticed when comparing these wheels is that they are not based on the same color theory!

For example, the Hal Reid wheel is based on the Munsell hue circuit which has 5 primary colors: red – yellow – green – blue – purple.  
While the Creative Color Wheel is based on 3 primaries: red – yellow – blue.

(More information is included on the back of the Hal Reid wheel.)

The Bottom Line?  

Well, depending on which wheel you use, it will determine slightly different complements!  

For example, the Reid wheel shows blue-purple as the complement to yellow, while the Creative wheel displays violet (a true purple, not reddish purple or blueish purple) as yellow’s complement.

Confused?? 

Well, I suppose not much of this matters if you simply choose the colors you like and that work for your painting, but it can be confusing to new artists.  

 

NOW, ON TO THE COLORPLAYS….

#3 COLOR SCHEME & HUES:

As you can see in the photo above, I chose Red-Orange-Yellow for my analogous hues.

PAPER: 

I chose an orangey piece of Canson Mi-Teintes (smooth side).

PROGRESS PICS


#4 COLOR SCHEME & HUES:

 Here is the preselected analagous palette for ColorPlay #4.  You can see I chose hues of yellow, yellow-green, and cooler greens (with a hint of zing from a blue-green Terry Ludwig!)

PAPER:

I let myself work on more familiar paper – Canson Touch (cream color).

 

PROGRESS PICS

 

THE COLORFUL RESULTS:

As you can see from the photos above, using analogous schemes for each painting produced very different results because of the HUES I preselected for the paintings.  

~Which do you prefer?

~Can you tell which I struggled more with?

 

Thanks for taking the time to read about my latest ColorPlays.

I have to say I am having loads of fun learning about color and pushing myself to try new things! 

I look forward to your comments, observations, and questions, so feel free to chat!

~R

(Up next time: a tiny break from ColorPlay to show you a snow scene I recently finished.) 

Pastel ColorPlay Project #2

Hello again fellow creatives!

Time for my second Pastel ColorPlay.  

This one brought me a few challenges.  But hey, bring it on!  

With each experiment, I am feeling a heightened sense of accomplishment and (dare I say it?) confidence that I think comes from just starting something NEW and getting through it.

As my daughter often describes it, there is a “nervous-citement” when you embark on a new path with the expectation of both growth and obstacles along the way.  

Well, this artist is definitely nervouscited 😉

Here goes….

 

COLOR SCHEME & HUES:

For today’s ColorPlay I chose a scheme I have never used before–SPLIT COMPLEMENTARY. 

My Hues are Violet, Orange Yellow, and Green Yellow. I found out very quickly that I am in need of more orangey-yellows!    

Here is my color wheel and preselected palette.


PAPER:  

UGH!!!!!  This was a real challenge for me.  I used white Fabriano Tiziano paper that I have had lying around for literally the last few years….and now I know why!  It has a machine-made dimpled surface on both sides that leaves “pits” of white with pastel sitting up on the ridges.  Not my favorite.

So, to help get rid of the white flecks, I toned the entire paper with a mid-value violet pastel and then rubbed it in with foam pipe insulation.  Two coats got me where I wanted.


SOME PROGRESS SHOTS:


THE COLORFUL RESULTS:

 

I learned to live with the odd paper texture by the time I was through.  I have 6 more pieces of this paper to use up if I force myself to.  For practice, it’s ok to work with, but believe it or not, (and I NEVER thought I would EVER say this), I prefer Canson Mi-Teintes over the Fabriano!  

See?  I’m learning! 🙂

 

Thanks for taking the time to join me on this journey of color.  Feel free to comment and join in!

-R

 

Pastel ColorPlay Project #1

Hello fellow creatives!

Today is the day.  Time to post my first color experiment of the Pastel ColorPlay Project.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to live through #1!  (Remember, I was skeered…!)

So there I was.  I had all of my supplies ready.  My chosen paper and thumbnail sketches were taped to my easel.  I had decided on my color scheme and preselected my palette.  I had music playing in the background.  I was ready.

It was now or never….I took a deep breath and remembered my intention: PLAY WITH COLOR!

  

COLOR SCHEME & HUES:  

 For my first colorplay, I chose a scheme and colors I don’t usually use.  Might as well jump in at the deep end, right?

I selected a Triadic scheme with the 3 hues of blue green, red violet, and yellow orange.  
(Not to be confused with green blue, violet red, and orange yellow….but I digress.)

PAPER

For paper, I jumped out of the pan and into the fire once more by choosing my old nemesis, Canson Mi-Teintes.  I have always had a hate-hate relationship with this paper, but I have to say that today’s experiment made me hate it a little less.  

I was very careful to start with harder pastels on this paper since it doesn’t hold as many layers as the sanded papers I am used to. 
Here is the line drawing and you can see the 5 values I chose for each hue tested on a scrap of my paper. 

 

THE COLORFUL RESULTS:

I am surprised at how much I actually LIKE how this turned out!  For colors I would never have chosen to put together, it’s very fantasy-looking.

I also got some extra practice on a paper I have never really ever had success with–SCORE!

 

I hope you enjoyed this first posting of my project.  I look forward to posting more ColorPlays, though I still have to decide if I am going to post them individually, or as groupings.  

Thanks for taking the time to read about my project!

Now go get creative with color!

-R