Many years ago when I was studying pastels, trying to figure them out, I learned to work dark to light and hard to soft. What this means is that I worked with dark to light colors, and “hard” pastels, (pastels with more binder) to softer pastels, (pastels with less binder). And for a time, I also play with complimentary color underpaintings. And the public seemed to love them. People would commission me to do work for them. But yet, when I would present my work to them, the first thing they would comment on is how much they hated that color – the color I used for the underpainting. It was amazing to me that they never saw that horrible color in my other pieces. I then gave up on the complimentary underpainting idea.
Over the past several years, I wondered what had happened to me. When did I start making green trees “green?” For one thing, even though I love summer, everything being green is not all that inspiring. Strange? Maybe. But my goal has never really been to capture the colors before me. For this piece, I decided to go back to my complimentary color underpainting. And Wow! I love it! The colors pop and the scene feels warm and sunny. Now this wasn’t a rule to be broken, but it became a rule for me because of the response of a few people.
I also found myself breaking the dark to light rule. I focused on the mid-tones and highlights first, and I didn’t go quite so dark with my underpainting. Another rule that I picked up from a well known pastelist is that one should not let the underpainting show through. I decided to do it anyway. And I noticed that the person who said this, has decided to break that very same rule as well. What does this mean? Why have rules? I think the rules help us to not be overwhelmed with all that we could do with our work. Rules give us a sense of order. Rules make it work. But, as we work, ideas, and what-if questions pop into our heads. They must be explored. Were they good rules to begin with? Surely at the time they were. But as we grow, the rules change. And this must be a sign of maturity. I just wish I had advice for the rules we create when people lead us down the wrong road. Maybe they are nothing more than a detour that we eventually work through.
I ended up sharing my work on Facebook. Gail from How to Pastel included this piece, with all of it’s broken rules, in her monthly top ten picks for June. By the way, it is a very nice site. Check it out.
See Gail’s picks for June here.
Thanks Gail! I am honored.