As my final composition for the Pastel Unit, I created a piece based on a photograph which consisted a kayak in a lake in the foreground, and some rocks and a forest in the background. Of course being a completely new field for me to work with, at first I had some troubles trying to understand the mechanics of pastels. In order to attain a better understanding of it, I gathered some information by researching about pastels and how pastel artists use various techniques to create a wonderful piece. However I realised that in order to master the ways of the pastel, I would have to know exactly what it is to start off. Results of the researching has taught me that there are two main types of pastels – oil and soft. Soft pastels were ‘chalk-like’ sticks that were composed out of powdered pigments held together with an aqueous gum binder. Oil pastels on the other hand, had more resemblance to a wax crayon and were made pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder.
While I experimented with both pastels, I felt that the oil pastels had a more buttery feeling and created a thicker impression, whereas the soft pastels with light and left softer marks on to the paper. Yet I preferred soft pastels over the oil pastels because of how it blended the colours more naturally and it created a more colourful appearance – in my opinion. Unfortunately I soon learned that by only applying one layer of soft pastel and smoothing it out with a finger, it erases the textures and details, and ruins the whole drawing by making it appear more blurry. What this taught me was that not all parts of the drawing had to be smudged to blend the colours in. Instead, it would be wiser to layer the colours from dark to light to create a stronger impression and by applying more colours it creates a brighter atmosphere, making the whole piece look more lively with colour. Also I discovered from my research and experimenting that by using the sides/edges of the pastel, it creates finer details especially in the trees, for instance, to produce an impression that the trees were real, as if you can reach out and touch them. What made this impression possible was also in the way I used the edges of the pastel. In order to make the trees look life-like, I applied short strokes/ticks to express the leafs sprouting from the branches, scumbling to represent the vivid flowers, and curves to illustrate the shape of the rocks. These techniques have helped me greatly to convey the naturalness of the scenery to the audience/viewer as if they were part of the scene as one.
During his or her journey throughout a drawing, an artist is bound to meet a few obstacles that would make them stop and figure out what the problem is. It’s safe to say that in my case, I’ve encountered quite a few problems whilst I drew my piece. My first problem hit me as soon as I finished drawing the kayak. While I was planning out my layout with a light-beige pastel it did not occur to me that my drawing may of been a little of scale. Since I found the middle of my photograph and the paper, naturally I just drew the objects according to how it was laid out in the photo. Of course, after I finished my boat I realised that several things were off. For starters, the tip of the boat was extremely pointed compared to the photograph. Secondly, the kayak was positioned to be mostly on the shore. In my drawing, however, the kayak is mainly placed in the lake. This threw off the rest of the proportions – such as the rocks. But seeing that this was a summative project, I improvised like any other artist would do, and added more rocks to balance out the rest of the drawing. I also changed parts of the layout of the trees to blend in with the other parts of the piece. Another problem I stumbled upon was something that frankly bothered me quite a lot. After a week later or so when we have our next art class, I often find that the colours on my drawing faded away, sometimes even smudged, thus making my piece look fainter than before. This could be happen because of how I stored my work with the other’s on a shelf, leaving them to hastily pull out the bunch of drawings when the next class comes, thus smudging mine in the process. However there is also a possibility that my work had lost some colour due to the cover of paper I kept on top of my drawing. Since I always used that cover, the colour eventually became fainter as the cover absorbed it from my drawing. To fix this problem, I layered over the kayak and the water again in hopes of recovering the colour I lost, and I threw away my old cover in exchange of a new one – something I should of done previously.
If it was one thing I struggled to draw, it was the water. Upon observing the pastel work from previous grades and mine, I noticed that the water was something mostly everyone included in their drawing. Even more, it was something that most people drew beautifully. What made the water appear extraordinary was the reflections and highlights, the texture/waves, the value and tones in the water made it look natural. In order to achieve a satisfactory outcome of the water I turned to Mr. Curkovic who advised that I should layer the lighter colours, which would be the orange and yellow reflecting from the boat, and then blend it in with the darker colours such as the greens, browns, and etc. He also taught me to first, pick out all of the colours that have some resemblance to orange, yellow, green, and brown to see if I can utilize those colours to create strong impressions of the values in the water. Creating the waves was also a hard thing to do. I tried layering the white/gray highlights with the dark green water in an attempt to recreate the ripples seen in the picture, but alas I failed in doing so by smoothing the pastel marks to blend with the water. To improve the waves, I simply stopped the smudging and instead layered the colours on top of each other, thus creating a somewhat satisfying lake.
Although there are many areas where I would improve, I believe that my piece has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses. In opinion my strengths would include, the trees (leafs), the shore/gravel, and parts of the boat. I believe my trees were one of my few strengths because of how I used short strokes and layered colours to capture the image of the trees. If you notice especially on the left of the forest, one can observe the different colours and textures applied to this tree. To create the trees, I first plan out a faint outline with a green pastel (preferably the same green pastel in which I will use later on for the leafs), and then light sketch parts of the tree with short strokes. Then I use a dark blue pastel to over lap the previously drawn sketch to create shadows, which becomes clearer later on. By applying the dark blue pastel, I can then collect other green pastels of different tones and begin to layer them one by one to create a three-dimensional perspective. Once I finish adding all the greens, I would then apply faint yellow strokes on the tips of the leafs to illustrate where the sun is shining from. I also kept note to often change the direction of my leafs, as not all leafs face the same way. While I was working on my pastel work, I came across a different field of art that requires colours and similar mechanics of a pencil, otherwise known as colour pencils. I across this field because of a drawing, in which the artist used colour pencils to compose a beautiful piece of art. This particular drawing inspired me to use colour pencils. Of course at first, I had no idea how to use the pencils so I began researching on how to draw with colour pencils, watching videos of colour pencil artists drawing, tutorials, drawings made by colour pencils, and etc. Bit by bit, I began to understand the ways of the colour pencil and decided to see if I can apply the knowledge I attained from google, on to actual paper. Surprisingly, the result was not that bad. Now even if this little story had nothing to do with the reflection I’m currently writing about, the knowledge I achieved from all that research actually helped me quite a lot whilst I worked on my pastel project. By researching and practicing on coloured pencils, I learned how to mix different colours (even if they are colours you normally wouldn’t use) to create more natural-looking objects, such as the rocks. The rocks are a great example of this because of the variety of colours I used to make them appear more edgier. Before this project, I would of thought that rocks are only blobs composed out of grays, blues, and white. But by using my knowledge of pastels and coloured pencils, I can now look at a picture of a rock and point of at least ten different colours that can be used to express the rocks.
One of my main weaknesses in this piece would be the rocks and how it contrasted with the gravel, distribution of the entire layout, and the water. When I first drew the rocks, they appeared more heavily applied and darker, which made them stand out. But by adding the gravel, the rocks seem to appear lighter and in some parts, the rocks seem to blend too much with the sand that it looks like it is part of the shore. Another weakness of mine was the balance of the entire composition. This was particularly evident in the forest where one side had more trees and brighter colours, it made the right half of the forest appear darker than it really is, there by drawing more attention to half of the forest and creating a somewhat unbalanced piece.
Looking back to where I first used soft pastel, I can guarantee that I have improved over the course of this unit. Especially the various uses and techniques of soft pastels, is something that will become useful to me in future projects. But unfortunately as time passes, I will probably forget some of the knowledge I gained from the unit. That is why in order to remember the techniques and improve furthermore, I should every now and then use soft pastels to create drawings, watch tutorials to see if I can then improve my skills, and make notes on whenever I finish a piece or find a drawing that inspires so that I can compare and contrast it with my art to find errors where I can improve. Most importantly, however, I want to improve even more on my uses of colours and textures of soft pastels, so if I have to work with pastels again, I would have a broader knowledge and skills to apply.