When last I left you on Friday, I had began a new artistic adventure. For my first time ever, I was using a new medium (New to me, that is!) in drawing with pastel pencils and blocks. I had seen a video from the very talented wildlife artist, Jason Morgan, in which he shared his ‘discovery’ of the joys of using “Pastelmat” pastel paper by Clairfontaine to draw with. He mentioned that it changed his entire perspective on pastel drawing. I was intrigued.
I just so happened to have a set of the pastels that Jason used (albeit a small set of 36 colors) and I thought I would give it a go. I love Jason’s “you can do it” teaching style and his step-by-step videos are a wonderful way to see his artwork come to live real time. I ordered the paper from Amazon and had to wait for it to arrive from England. Without the paper, the technique just would work.
It came on Thursday and that evening I began my journey. I decided to draw my own cat “Pancakes”. I took some of my own reference photos and chose one with a lot of detail. You can see the progress that I made that first evening in the previous blog entry. But long story short, I got this far:
So far, it was fun and not too bad.
I was pretty busy on Friday with other things, and didn’t get back to it until Saturday evening. I really got ‘lost’ in my work and finished up about 3am. Here is what I had done:
I was so excited, I posted on all of my Facebook pages and groups that night. I was truly proud of what I did and I was thrilled at the positive responses everyone posted. I found a new medium that was fun and fast (well – relatively fast – about 5 hours went into this drawing at this point). I was happy.
But when I awoke the next morning, I looked again at my drawing and began to see some things that needed fixing. I always hear how good it is to walk away from something and then return later. We always seem to see things a bit differently. This was definitely the case with this drawing. While people still liked the finished drawing, I started to really pick it apart and see a few things ‘wrong’ with it. I spent the next couple of hours correcting it and after that time, I now feel much, much better about it. Here is the “real” finished drawing:
While many of you may not initially see the difference, I am sure my fellow artists and teachers certainly will understand. The differences are very subtle – sometimes moving a line or shade only a fraction of an inch – but they do a great deal to make the difference between something that is nice, and something that is just a bit “off”.
When putting the pictures side-by-side, they look quite similar. But I will proceed to show you the things that bothered me and that I corrected in hopes that you will understand where I am coming from and also learn to do this with your own work.
The first thing that bothered me was the bridge of his nose. In the upper drawing it looked flat. I had also lost the subtle striping of Pancake’s markings on it. I added some shades and highlights to correct this. I also lessened the darker area to the side of the nose, as it was far too dark.
The next thing was the marking over his eye. It nearly went in a straight line and was far too light on the highlight. It stuck out like a sore thumb to me in the initial drawing and needed to be tampered down with some warmer coloring and re-shaped. That looked more like Pancakes’ real markings.
Next up was his cheek. Again – the color was flat and I lost the stripes . The dark area under the eyes was too drastic and pronounced, and again lost the subtle shading of his real fur. I added several layers of color in to make it look more rounded and natural.
Next was his nose. The first attempt had a definite division between his nose and the bridge of his nose. As I looked at him sitting next to me, I noticed that was not the case at all. The fleshy color rather blended in with a very soft transition. I also adjusted the shape of his nose to better replicate his real face. The nostril was more rounded and pink and it made his nose appear a little more bulbous (which is how he looks). The bottom photo is much better:
Finally – I wasn’t happy with the ‘grainy’ look of the drawing overall. The GOOD thing about the Pastelmat paper is that it is slightly textured to hold the chalky pastel colors and allow you to work several layers without losing “tooth”. However, the so-called ‘finished’ first attempt at the drawing still looked quite grainy and did not have the smooth blends that we associate with pastels. Perhaps this was exaggerated because I used such a dark colored paper, but I didn’t like it.
You can see what I am talking about more here:
I rectified this by adding more layers of color and blending them more with the blending stumps and really working the under-layers into the paper. The top layers then looked quite a bit smoother. I am pretty pleased with the result.
So here is the “real final” picture:
For a first attempt at this medium, I am really pleased. I certainly will be doing more work in these pastels and look forward to sharing the result and any issues I have with you all.
I suppose that the moral of this post is that we need to try to take a step back from our work and look at it objectively. Most of the time, putting things away for a day or so, or even over night can help us do that. If we come back to it the next day and look at it and see something ‘off’, we need to sit down and try to really look at things and figure out what they may be. It is usually some subtle things that we didn’t notice after staring at the piece for hours while we were creating it. I find that even posting it on the computer screen allows me to see things better and from a different perspective. It is all part of the learning process.
I want to thank all the teachers that take time to help us learn and expand our abilities. I firmly believe that ANYONE can do anything they wish, if given the proper tools, instructions and if they have the will to learn. We have to believe in ourselves in order to succeed. With encouragement and support from our peers and these wonderful teachers, it is truly possible.
I wish you all a wonderful Monday!