In this painting, the challenge I set for myself was to render depth while using only two pastel sticks–black and white. All the shadings of gray were achieved by blending the two colors on the painting.
blending pastel colors
In pastel painting, I can’t really mix colors, but I can layer colors. Pastels are often painted on sanded paper or board. The grit, or “tooth”, of the paper picks up color unevenly, so gently dragging one color over another will create a visual effect similar to mixing. The first color will be visible in places under the second color, and our eyes tend to “mix” the colors for us.
I can also blend the dry pigment particles a bit on the paper using silicon tools shaped like brushes. Silicon is durable, shapes easily, and doesn’t leave particles on the paper. I use my fingers once in awhile to blend, but skin oils can darken pastel colors so I try to use other tools most of the time. Pipe insulation (the gray plastic foam wrapped around pipes to prevent freezing) is also a popular tool for blending. Pipe insulation is very inexpensive and I can shape it as needed with scissors. A certain amount of blending will also happen by simply applying one color over another.
To achieve a feeling of depth, the main technique I used was varying the amount of detail. I included more detail in near objects and less detail (softer edges) in the “distance”. This produces a textural difference that feels natural. I also overlapped the dark fir tree over the light colored birch to make it appear closer to the viewer.
It was definitely a challenge! This painting is the fifth in the Portage Island Cliff 6×6 Series.