For this article we went to the Swinton's Research & Development Team. Deep in our secret underground facility we gave the white lab coat and goggles to Duane Hendricks. His mission: to test the new Canson Touch Sanded Pastel Paper with the Unison Pastels.
All kidding aside. Along with the likes of Horace Champagne and Susan Woolgar (demo), Duane is one of Canada's most accomplished pastelists and he has offered his skill to give us a review of Canson's new addition to the paper world, Mi-Teintes Touch Sanded Texture Board.
Duane Hendricks demonstrates...
Pastel painting has been my passion for many years, and it is exciting to observe the rising popularity of this medium in many art markets. Pastel is the purest form of painting when you consider that you are holding sticks of colour that are as close to pure pigment as you can get.
There are many excellent brands of pastels and papers on the market, and occasionally something new and exciting comes along. I always work on textured papers, and for me the new Canson Mi-Teintes Touch board was love at first touch. This paper has a smoother feeling texture than some others, but it is still capable of accepting many layers of pastel if you work with a light touch during the first layers. My favourite Unison pastels on this surface gives me a winning combination.
For this painting I used a full sheet (20 x 30 inches) of flannel grey knowing that the cooler blues and greens will show nicely against the warm grey undertone.
I start the painting with only a few lines to establish the horizon placement (slightly above centre), and to give a guide to the rock edges and tree heights. Using a light touch, I begin placing a few shapes with half sticks of Unison pastels. It is important to establish a colour harmony at the
beginning of a painting, and I am careful to put each colour in every quadrant. I even put green in the rocks, although it wasn't there in reality. While I paint realistically, it is important to not copy a photo. Each painting must stand on its own as a statement of the artist's imagination.
Very quickly I place a couple of light shapes to show where the main area of interest will be. That location will have the greatest contrast, the most colour variety, and the strongest treatment. I put it in early in the painting process so it goes on the paper and not over other pastel layers. And, I make sure that most of it stays pure.
Now I lay the painting flat and spray it with SpectraFix.
The second stage of the painting reinforces the strokes of the first stage, not adding too many new colours, but concentrating more on developing the pattern and movement. The sky patterns are invented to relate to those in and below the waterfall, and I am careful to avoid putting the white of the water in the clouds because it would instantly compete.
I put some warm and cool browns in the rocks and in the trees, and the same colours in lighter values are put in the sky and the water. Various values of blues and blue-greens are also put in, coordinating with the strokes of dark blue green in the water and in the shadow areas of the trees and the rocks.
Do I blend? Yes, a bit, and only in the shadow and sky areas where I don't want any paper texture or colour coming through.
This has taken a bit more than two hours for me to reach this stage, and I want to look at it in different light and different times of day before I continue. I spray the painting again with SpectraFix.
In stage 3 I develop the sky and hill almost to completion, and work on the rock faces on each side of the waterfall. The light is coming from the left, so the right rocks get more strength and light. I am keeping my attention on the darks so the painting feels balanced in terms of weight.
After the rock work, I spend some intense time and energy on the waterfall, trying to create the illusion of movement, and coldness, and sound.
Some warm greens go into the trees where they catch the light, and I select those greens very carefully, keeping them in the grey-green area. If those greens had been too bright or saturated or too light in value, the waterfall would have lost its impact. A very few strokes of those same greens go into the water. Without it, the colour harmony would be lost. No, they were not really there, but it is an important artistic choice.
Another spraying of SpectraFix.
Stage 3 has taken at least another 3 hours of easel time, interspersed with periods of study and analysis.
It is important in the last stage to paint only the fewest strokes to bring the painting to completion. It is easy to do too many strokes and to get fussy or muddy or both.
I go through each area of the painting. I don't touch the sky or hill. I decide to introduce some orange, related to the warm browns already in the painting. My thinking is that the warm orange and the cool blue-greens will result in a colour vibration and make the cools feel colder, and I think it works. So I put them all around the waterfall, in the rocks and trees, but not in the waterfall itself.
In the trees I add more little flicks of colour, trying to direct the eye to move from the far trees around to the right where there is a subtle increase of light to bring the attention to the focal area. I finish the water below the falls.
In this final stage I paint some, work on other projects, and alternate between them, so a couple days go by before I think the painting might be almost finished.
I show the piece to a friend in another province (via Skype) and she says that the dark rocks are like black holes. Grumble, grumble...but eventually I agree, and do more patterning on both sides. I also remove a lot of pastel from the top of the rocks on the right, using a bristle brush and kneadable eraser, and bring the tree shapes down to meet them. Yes, that's better. I don't spray this final stage.
Finally, I go back into the waterfall to make sure that it is the strongest and most active part of the painting. Let it sit for a couple days, and then I finally sign it.
R. Duane Hendricks