Starting a new piece, with pastels

I’ve been asked to teach a non-credit class in pastels at Broome Community College, so until then I’m working exclusively in pastels. It’s been a while! Using pastels (essentially, dry pigment in chalk-like form) is similar in many ways to working in colored pencil — one of my current media — but VERY different in others. So soft, so smudgy… a very responsive medium, and a little loose and out-of-control, which makes it fun and full of surprises.

I’m considering this first piece an experiment. After fussing around for several days with highly-worked compositions, gessoed panels, and such avoidance-prep, yesterday I decided to go with a simple pre-toned paper (Strathmore laid charcoal paper) and a simply cropped photo, from a modeling shoot with my nieces two years ago, for source/reference.

It’s not a bad start, though I think next time around I want to start with a cadmium red base (worked into the substrate — probably paper again — and well anchored with workable fixatif), as I do in oils. The toned paper seems a little dead to me. Still, working up my chops in application techniques and color layering is proving both enjoyable and challenging.

Working title: “The Mirror.”

The Mirror - stage1
The Mirror - stage 1: taping down, gridding up, and sketching in red. Two regrets, as the work proceeds from here: using white conte pencil for the grid, and not smudging down a red background. The pastels don't cover and spread the conte as I'd hoped, and the paper color, though neutral, seems a bit dead.
The Mirror - stage 2
The Mirror - stage 2: blocking in the lights in the background, experimenting with layering "fractured" color. Love the yellows on the grey -- wishing I had a lilac color stick. Finding that the initial coat of fixatif on the sketch doesn't stop the red from migrating into adjoining color areas when it's dragged a bit.
The Mirror - stage 3
The Mirror - stage 3: found a lilac stick in my alternate pastel set! Dealing with flesh tones and reflections, layering and blending. I'd prefer to keep a fresher mark rather than blending a lot, but the lack of a lively underpainting means I have to blend to make the flesh tones glow. Not meant to be a portrait, but I need to differentiate a bit more between the two figures.

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