Colored and dark papers can save you precious time and give you amazing effects. When I paint/draw/teach plein air I try to nail the impression in under an hour, it is a race against the planet moving. As the sun slowly moves across the landscape you will see new cast shadows, new lights, after 3 hours they all cancel each other out leaving you with muck. So in keeping the time short using the dark paper can be a huge advantage.
The idea is the paper is your dark areas, sketch in the composition and leave the darkest part alone. From there you focus on bringing out the light, driving towards the light, with the last touches happening in the last few minutes before your hour is up! This approach works wonderfully and it feels magical while doing it.
One of the reasons why leaving the paper alone as darks works is because shadows are the absence of light. The darks don’t need details or labor, leaving them alone creates a atmosphere of mystery that is a perfect foil for all the lights you will be drawing. Save time, effort, and create magic by leaving lots of paper alone. Enjoy!
Below are my pastel landscapes all in under an hour. Take note of the dark areas are just paper.
One of the most important lessons I teach in my workshops is to find the shadows first. It is almost a guarantee that if you find interesting shadows then the rest of your drawing or painting will work!
The hard part is that looking for shadows (cast, core shadows of the thing, and areas of dark) is counter intuitive, most people look for the color and a beautiful thing. Trust me, without the shadows it is a lot of work with little to show for it. In my pastels below you will probably notice the light and color, but what set up each one were the blocks of shadows.
The process starts with a dark paper, compose with any dark medium color playing special attention to main shadow areas. In cases with shadows of a yellow or white building, I lighten the shadow, but only one or two tones up from the paper. The rest is a lot of fun, leaving the shadow areas alone, then focus on the light and color areas, adding light by subtle gradations until I finish with the brightest light.
Study Pastel Plein Air with Michael Newberry in France
Join us in the Fall of 2020 for an great pastel workshop visiting sites of outstanding beauty and history guided and hosted by the knowledgeable, kind, thoughtful, and local expert Mathieu Brousses, and taught by internationally acclaimed artist me, Michael Newberry. Comfortable living situation, with all meals either prepared by a French local, picnic, and local bistros.
“Mathieu in addition to being so creative, gracious and generous as a host, is just a great human being full of patience and wisdom. His knowledge of French culture and our various venues ensured that each day was filled with delight.” Dan Zimmerman, participant in the 2019 Provence Art Workshop.
For Fall 2020 we plan to use Luberon as our hub. Here are samples of our possible itineraries:
Our host Mathieu Brousses
Some pics from last month’s workshop in Provence, May 2019.
About our teacher Michael Newberry
I taught several plein air painting and pastel workshops in NY, Mexico, Greece, Santa Monica, Italy, and France. And I formally taught Life Drawing, Composition, and Painting at the prestigious Otis College of Art and Design. When I am not teaching you will find me painting in my cabin studio under the monumental granite outcrop of Tahquitz Rock in Idyllwild, California, accompanied by my studio assistant doggy, Frida. More info on my extensive bio here.
Dan Zimmerman’s reflections on our 2019 workshop:
I was a bit nervous about the workshop, very similar to coming back to school after summer vacation, wondering if I had forgotten everything I had learned the previous term. I just knew, even before going on the trip, that I would be with like minded people passionate about art. I loved the fact that the other students, Susan and Luxman, were both as convinced as I was of the talent and teaching ability of our instructor! Our accommodations were good, and my memory foam mattress was so very comfortable! I think I would have rather stayed on a ground floor, but the stairs were ok :) I think our cook Agnes’ daily dinners were such a wonderful part of the whole experience.
The teaching was a good balance between being flexible and relaxed, and focused, hard work! What I mean by that was I feel we all really applied ourselves and tried to learn as much as we could from each situation. Because of our small class size, we each received lots of attention and this was really invaluable. After my initial success that first day, my confidence level went way up and I was able to enjoy the whole experience.
I thought all the sites we visited were just superb. We certainly adjusted things well when “le mistrail’ blew so hard, and it lead to one of my most treasured drawings, the fruit basket ‘still life’.
Yes, several lessons learned: 1. Look for the shadows, drive towards the light, 2. Make your corners interesting in composing a picture, 3. If you share the ‘perfect picture’, there’s no need to search for another “perfect” shot. 4. The feedback of my peers was a very enriching experience.
Yes, I highly recommend this workshop!
If you are interested in attending please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org or Mathieu at email@example.com and we can plan accordingly and make a spectacular and meaningful experience happen.