Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Painting with chalk pastels

I have recently completed a series of painted chalk art and although this is not a new art technique, I have not seen my method taught anywhere, and so I thought it would be interesting to share. 

I begin with a loose pencil drawing of the entire image so I don't have to think about where shapes and colours are going to be placed.  I begin in the upper left corner, applying a rough layer of chalk over a small area.  I then smooth the chalk with a paper stump so I am not trying to work uneven areas of pigment.

I next apply a wet brush as if I was "polishing" the surface, smoothing and blending colours and areas in a spontaneous way.

As each area gets added to the last, the water seems to fix the chalk so the painting surface becomes stabilized as I work across the image.

I discovered this way of painting because chalk pastels are sticks of pure pigment and I figured pigment and water mix, right?  What I didn't know were some of the ways of working that this technique would require.

I create detail, not by adding in but by lifting out.  Even when dry the chalk will lift off with subsequent water applications so light areas are pulled from the already dark surfaces.  This is the technique that created the water flowing over rocks.

It is possible to add in white and other light colours, just the opposite of my watercolour training when white areas must be left as the original paper.

Since I love detail, it was a hard lesson for me to grasp that less is more.  Minimal gestures seem to read as a more complex surface because the texture the chalk creates is already complex. 

It is hard for me to just stop.  Yet this is perhaps the most demanding working requirement using this technique of painted chalk.  Areas can be worked and re-worked two or three times and then watch out!  The paper surface begins to degrade and the delicate relationship between color and texture is lost.

This finished piece titled Naming it makes it so has a complexity and liveliness that really captures my interest.  But then I took the title to heart and turned the image over, and a whole different world emerged.  Art is like that.


More about the other four paintings featured here in a future blog.  This series, titled 5 Conversations with Water, will soon appear on my website and as prints in my Etsy webstore.