Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Paint animals using pastel and acrylic. Part 1

Several years ago I discovered painting animals using both chalk pastel and acrylic paint together. I had blocked in this Northern Pike using acrylic and then was in a quandary about how to paint the fish in the water. I started dragging chalk pastel over the image, became uncertain about what I was doing, and so used a kneaded eraser to lift off bands of colour.  What a surprise! A fish inside the water.

I discovered I could reverse the process and paint the creature by first working the pastel--which is pure pigment--around the paper with water, and then when satisfied with the detail, enhance the complexity by painting over the chalk with acrylic.

The under-painting of acrylic allowed me to both add pastel, and lift areas of colour with an eraser, on the already lightly painted form to create lost and found edges, which is one of my favorite visual effects.

Lost and found edges allows the viewer 's mind to fill in shapes and spaces, rather than have the artist paint every feather in the wing.

Sometimes the two media go back and forth in many layers: the pastel dragged across the white space to create irregular texture, the acrylic painted as a soft wash to suggest shapes in the texture. Next the pastel is rubbed with a paper stump to further define the detail, whites are reclaimed from the pastel with the eraser, and then the acrylic refines the forms with dramatic contrast.


Of course, some paintings are composed entirely of layers of painted, rubbed and erased chalk pastel

and others have the main subject painted in sharp-edged acrylic and surrounded by rubbed and blended pastel to create drama.

I am not very nice to my painting surfaces.  I can overwork an area until the surface of the illustration board breaks down.  Yet in this combination of pastel, acrylic and eraser I made a discovery.  If the surface is wet the eraser will lift up the top layer of paper holding the acrylic paint. This broken surface then catches the pastel and creates a physical as well as a visual texture.  What a surprise! A bird wing  more complex than I could possibly paint.

This combination of pastel, acrylic and eraser has become more and more compelling in their process. But what has been more of a surprise are these creatures themselves.  Who are they? Why are they in these odd relationships with each other?  Where do these images come from?

These paintings are the result of dreams I asked for when creating the Journey Oracle.  How I work with my dreams, what process originates the creatures in each image, and what they have to tell me is the subject of my next blog: Paint dream animals. Part 2.