Just in case any of you are curious as to how I use pastels, here is a run-down of the technique I use to create the images you will see here.
1. Concepting - I like to pour over my favourite books, catalogs, photographs, illustrators, fine artists, graphic designers, look out the window, go for walks and generally just look at as much as I can stand, or until I am inspired, before I begin most projects. I keep all kinds of wierd stuff around that inspires me. I bring rocks, sticks and other stuff home from parks and anywhere else I am able to get my hands on things that strike my fancy. I spend more time goofing off looking at art and playing than I do illustrating sometimes. Seeing, at times is more imporant than drawing. It is always good to hone your technique, but it is equally as good to observe everything. Don't let someone thinking your wierd stop you. Their vision is not yours and they are not doing what you do because they are not doing what you do. It is good to hear how other artists work and see them work as often as you can, no matter the skill level. You will always learn something. These are the things I do before I start paintings.
1a. Thumbnails - I explore many different scenes, angles, etc. for an image before choosing one idea. These thumbnails are usually small, but contained within a space roughly proportonal to the final image size.
1b. Rough Sketches - Usually I explore my final thumbnail choice a little more by making several larger rough sketches of the same idea but considering a few different angles or positions.
1c. Final Sketch - After the rough sketches, and I have picked a final image, I draw it out without using much reference. This way I can place all of the elements I want where I want them, then take reference later and use that to help define areas rather than determine them. This step is done at the size of the final image, in most cases. Sometimes I make it smaller, but it is always proportional to the final dimensions, with room for bleed and trim.
1d. Colour and Value Studies - For this step I usually make a photocopy of the final sketch at a smaller size and mark the darkest darks and lightest lights in abstract shapes so that I know where the eye is going to be led by the play of light and shadow. Sometimes I make a full value rendering in addition to or in lieu of a general breakdown of light and shadow. Either way I am able to see where the darkest darks and the lightest lights are. I do several of these, modifying the final sketch to coordinate the value study better, if necessary.
Then I use another photocopy and, after deciding on the colour scheme I want, mark the colours on the photocopy, not worrying too much about value. I just want to know where the largest blocks of colour are and how they respond to one another. However, I tend to make full value scale colour studies over the photocopy in addition to or in lieu of the more general colour study. The important thing here is to make sure the colours work and your colour choice is adequately indicative of the mood you wish to express, both metaphorically and literally. If your value study is fully realized this step is easier. No matter what colours you choose, the values will make the image work. Even if your colours are not working the image can still be recognizable by virtue of a good value structure.
1e. Reference and Final Drawing - This step is where I collect any reference I might need. Sometimes I do this in other stages. If I have a hard time finding a colour scheme for the colour study, I look at other painters to see how they handled a similar situation. Don't be afraid to reference other painters. They did the same thing and people will also be inspired by you. We don't work in a vacuum. Take photos, use catalogs, whatever gives you the reference you need.
Once I have reference I do one of three things. One, I grid off the final sketch and redraw it on the final board or substrate, making corrections to the sketch where it needs to be corrected. Sometimes I do sketches and studies of the subject matter, separate from the value and colour studies, to better support an intuitive connection when I make the final drawing. Two, I take tracing paper and lay it over the final sketch, tracing shapes and changing what needs changing to tighten up the image from the final sketch. This way I have the added bonus of being able to flip the tracing paper over and see the composition from a mirrored perspective, which, in some cases, ends up being more interesting than the original orientation. Three, I erase the final sketch and work into it with whatever reference I need to tighten it up and transform it into the final drawing. This method gives me the added bonus of having a full value rendering of the final composition ready if I had used my final sketch as a value study.
Note - As you can see I am pretty loose with the way I work, mixing the above steps up quite a bit, but generally find myself working in the afore mentioned ways more than in any others. Sometimes I find that limiting myself too much to one specific method is stifling and can cramp the creative process. In fact, I find that when I am most stymied is when I am doing a series and have fallen into a rut. Each piece will tell you how it wants to be realized, if you listen.
2. The Final Image - Despite the loose quality of the conceptualization phases, I tend to stick to a pretty strict regimen when I lay down colour for the final image. This is the way I work as the image actualizes itself. That is not to say I don't run into problems sometimes. Maybe values are not dark enough, lights are not light enough and I need to rework them.
2a. Transferring the image - Usually when I work in pastels I will make a photocopy of the final image, find or make a toned paper I think works well with the colour scheme, whether it compliments it or is analogous, secure the paper to a hard, flat surface, usually a drawing board, then rub a light coloured chalk over the back of the photo-copy, rub off the excess dust, but make sure there is enough to sufficiently transfer the final drawing, then line the drawing up over the toned paper, trace the drawing with a pencil, hard enough that the chalk on the back of the drawing will show up on the the toned paper, remove the drawing, and voila!
Now, sometimes I will grid off the final drawing and redraw it on the toned paper. Sometimes the line quality from the tracing is a bit monotonous and uninspiring. So to maintain that fresh line quality, I will redraw the final image from a grid system. Yes, it takes time, but it is worth it. The final image invigorates me more to see the thick to thin relationship in the lines.
2b. Laying Down Colour - When I lay down colour, I start from the background, lay down the darkest darks then build up to the lightest lights, then gradually work my way to the foreground. This way of working allows me to better establish a perpective and makes it easier to work details later. And, of course, I have my value and colour studies there so I don't have to guess how I'm going to build the colour and value structure. I've already done that work, this is the easy part.
As I work to the foreground, I start to go back into areas that I have already worked, as the image does change when new colours are introduced. It always amazes me how much faith you need to have in the colour's ability to work itself out versus what you think it should look like when the first stages are underway. And remember, keep your final drawing handy so that you can have a reference if you lose your linework under the colour. The drawing will allow you to pick the details out again. This is helpful because I work loose to specific and lose the linework occasionally. I start with a general application of colour, not caring too much if I spill into other areas, as this can later lend the piece a sense of variety and unity, then tighten it up as I work into the highlights and final details. This allows me to see the painting as a whole rather than getting too lost in noodly details and thus losing coherence and perspective. For broad applications of colour I use Prisma Colour Nupastels (c), then tighten up with Stabilo Carbothello (c) pencils.
Please, feel free to comment on this process. Sheesh, it doesn't sound this complicated when I'm doing it!