One of our members Brian sent in his landscape picture he has completed using pastel pencils and would like some advice on how to improve it. Brian writes:
I just finished this one a couple of days ago. Could Colin please give me his thoughts?
My pastel pictures seem to lack something but I’m not sure what, maybe contrast? Maybe value? I just seem to end up with works that are sort of dull and not vibrant.
Can Colin please give me some ideas to have my drawings turn out better.
To listen and read the advice for Brian please see below:
Hi Brian I’m looking at this lovely landscape reference picture that you have had a go at and I can understand totally where you’re coming from and there’s a couple of things that I’d like to point out to you. First of all you mention that yours doesn’t have “substance”. And the reason for that is you haven’t put enough pastel on. Now I imagine you’re probably using Canson paper I don’t know for sure and the that kind of pastel paper (the ingres’ the same), it doesn’t like you putting all those twigs and branches and all things on top of the sky because you’ve got to put a sky on that’s quite strong. Now your sky isn’t very strong that’s why you’ve managed to get those branches and all those little leaves on. But what I’m going to tell you now is you wouldn’t be able to do that if you make the sky stronger which you’ve got to do because if you make the sky stronger you’ve got to make the tree stronger, you’ve got to make the water stronger and you’ve got to make the foreground stronger and you’ve got to make all those trunks of the trees stronger which means adding more pastel. And if you do that it’s not going to get all those little twigs on.
So it’s a choice really of either going strong and making sure that you get a really good solid colour and the trees exactly the same (putting the contrast in in other words), there’s very dark colours on there which you’ve shied away from and I can understand why. Because if you put dark colours on there the rest of the picture would have been incipit compared with that. So you’ve got to make a decision really early on how you’re going to tackle this. Personally I can tell you how I would tackle it. I would go for the colour perhaps not quite the same intensity of blue that’s in the photograph but I would certainly make it stronger. So the sky would have to be much stronger so much so that you wouldn’t see any of those little dimples that you’ve got of the paper coming through.
If you have got pastelmat and canson smooth they do give you an opportunity to do more with your picture. You can actually (if you have seen my Constable picture which is the same idea) you’ll see that I could put a lot more colour and a lot more strength on top of the sky and the other colours because pastelmat and smooth give you an opportunity of more layers. So there’s another option you’ve got if if you want to do it but this would work really well if you were to do that. It’s one of the most difficult pictures from a pastel pencil point of view because you got to get the real substance of your picture you’ve got to work hard at it and you’ve got to put the colours on no way out of that but by doing that you’re going to have the problem with all those leaves.
What I would do and I have done is minimise the amount of colours I put on the twigs and leaves I put on. Don’t put quite so many on but it’s hard because then it might look sparse but that’s the whole reason why I’m here. Your picture as it stands at the moment probably you could have got away with a background a little bit or the background and the middle distance if you had made the trees a little stronger. But then you could also find that then it shows them up as being a bit incipit.
Very difficult thing to do and the only thing I can suggest if you re-watch my my country walk picture which we put up a few weeks ago on the site that will give you an idea of the kind of thing I’m talking about. Now I did make the background deliberately much more distance looking. It was only the trees as they started to come forward that there were strong but you’ll notice that I managed to get my leaves and twigs and things on top of it. So that’s another thing you could look at. Look at how I could put that together. But of course it wasn’t the same amount of sky on that as you got on your one.
Anyway it’s all a question of trial and error but I hope I’ve given you a few hints and tips that could help you in the future. And I think I’ve answered your questions as well. Because as I say your main thing is the contrast that you need to work on. Anyway I look forward to seeing you very soon with another picture by for now.
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