Monday, December 20, 2010

Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels

Posted by Maggie

I received something really wonderful in my email: the final image of the cover of my new book, Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels. Published by North Light Books, it's due to release in April 2011. Seeing the cover made me even more eager to see the design and appearance of the inside of the book, but I'm trying to be patient. (That noise you hear is me patiently tapping my foot and drumming my fingers on the desktop.)

As you might guess from the title, this book explores the subject of sunlight and shadow in depth: how to understand the way these elements work together to describe form, and how to paint the effects they create. Of course, there are lots of reproductions of my own work, and I wrote most of the text. But in order to give you examples of different approaches and styles, I enlisted the aid of five wonderful artists. They are (in alphabetical order since they are all on the top of my list of artists): Phil Bates, Liz Haywood-Sullivan, Kim Lordier, Richard Lundgren, and Colette Odya Smith. Their stunning artwork and concise explanations of their methods added depth and richness to the book, and I'm grateful to all of them for their contributions.

The book can be pre-ordered (at a very nice savings) from North Light Books, and later when I have them in stock, you'll be able to order signed copies directly from me through my web site. And of course, they'll be available for sale at the IAPS Convention in June 2011, and I'll be doing book-signings there as well.

Writing a book is a long process, and the journey to publication of this book began over two years ago with my first proposals and outlines. I'm very excited that my part of the task is completed, and can't wait to see the printed results!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Finishing a painting

Posted by Maggie

When I get close to "done" with a painting, I like to let it rest for a few days or a week. It gives me time to move away from the outdoor subject or the photographic reference, and when I come back to look at the painting again, I can judge it based on its own merits without comparing it to nature or a photograph. Usually, whatever's wrong with the painting or whatever could be improved becomes obvious after a little cooling off period.

I do a lot of demonstration paintings in my workshops, and I frequently don't have time for this last analysis and completion of a painting until I get back home days or even weeks later. In mid-November, I presented a demonstration for the Pastel Society of New Mexico, in the facility where their annual National Exhibition was held. About 40-50 people attended this demonstration, and since it only lasted a little over an hour and people had lots of questions, I didn't finish it. The photograph at the left shows what the painting looked like when I stopped.

The following day, I flew to Cincinnati to film two instructional DVDs (they'll be released in February). After returning home, it was time to prepare for Thanksgiving and a family reunion. So it wasn't until a couple of days ago that I was able to begin studying the painting with an eye towards finishing.

The first thing that really bothered me was the shape of the hill. I'd moved the position of the hill over from the photo reference, so that I could see more water. But the shape no longer worked; too rounded, too unnatural. Then, while I was happy with the foreground colors in the weeds, there were too many horizontal strokes, rather than vertical strokes which would imply upright grasses and weeds.

Finally, colors and shapes in several of the trees, including the dead scrubby trees at the far left, needed to be adjusted. At the time I finished the painting, I wasn't sure I'd like the effect of the roughed-in distant mountains, but as time went by, I decided they were just fine as they were. I didn't want them to draw too much attention, but wanted to imply that the trees on those far-away hills also displayed some fall color.

Above, Fall Palette, 16x20 pastel on Richeson Black Sanded surface, ©Maggie Price.

Now it's time to give it a few more days in the "holding zone" to make sure there are no serious problems. There's nothing worse than noticing a fatal flaw after you've framed the painting!