Working With Line in Pastel

A step by step demonstration applying line to a landscape painting.

By Ursula Reese, SCA PAC

Dry Pastel lends itself beautifully to apply line to your work. Line can be used to move the viewer around your picture. No centre of interest is needed.

Material: A sanded pastel surface, museum quality. A good selection of hard and extra soft pastels.along with an inexpensive hard bristle brush and a kneaded eraser for corrections.

Step 1. Outline of Shapes

Determine the centre of your painting. Outline all your shapes in relation to the centre. Some shapes are negative while others are positive. Pay attention to line only, not to detail. Always measure where these shapes and lines are located in relation to the centre. I use a harder pastel stick of a neutral, fairly light colour to draw, preferably one which I will use later in the painting. The lines will disappear during the painting process.

Start applying the darkest value of each colour, that you are going to use in your painting. I used blocks of colour in the background and lines in the foreground and sky.

Step 2. Filling the Shapes

Fill the entire surface with lines leaving just small white spaces. This allows you to apply more of the dark colour later if you need to. I use extra soft pastel sticks for this process, but harder brands can also be used.

The use of radiating lines in the sky will draw the eye into the picture. I used a true blue at the top of the sky and moved down towards the treeline with a cooler lighter blue and a very light warm yellow, where the sky meets the trees.

Step 3. Layering and Colour Relation

Now I am ready to use midtones first and then lighter colours and layer them over the dark values. I also added some darker line where I left white paper.

Now I check, if I have used all colours in at least three of the quarters of my painting. Grasses in the foreground are accented by repeating a hint of the sumac red, the blue from the sky and the green used in the background trees. These green trees are being pushed back by using a dark ultramarine blue.

Step 4. Final Touch

I filled in all the white paper spaces with line and applied the lightest colour values to give highlights to the trees in the background, as well as the sumac and grasses in the foreground.

Final check for 'Wild Grasses at Mountsberg': Did I relate all colours? Are the lines moving the viewer around?

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