Artist Joseph Mancuso explores California with Pastelbord™ from Ampersand
Autumn in California is a colorful time of transition that provided the inspiration for “An Owens Valley Autumn”. If I see something like this that sparks an idea for a painting, I prefer to quickly record the idea and completely work out the composition in a pencil drawing on paper before I begin. For this painting, I selected a large grey Pastelbord™ made by Ampersand Art Supply. I prefer this board because of its surface and durability. It can absorb wet applications and many layers of pastel. I use a grey board because it is neutral in value and it helps me to judge color and values more accurately.
(Step 1) My first step was to draw a rough sketch on the board using my finished drawing as a guide. I use a light valued pastel pencil or hard pastel in this step because I want the sketch to disappear as I lay down my subsequent pastel layers. Once my line drawing was complete and all the large shapes were placed, I began my second step.
(Step 2) I began blocking in color using a hard pastel, working from background to foreground. I was equally concerned with putting down color and establishing values at this point, so I tried to keep the colors fairly neutral in preparation for the subsequent steps.
(Step 3) The next step involved a combination of blocking in color and applying alcohol washes. The Pastelbord is ideal for this stage because it accepts pastels perfectly, allowing me to use dry and wet layering techniques simultaneously. I used an alcohol wash to develop the larger shapes. I prefer rubbing alcohol because it dries fast and I can paint quickly without waiting. This is a wonderful part of the process because some interesting transparent and opaque effects can occur depending upon how much I load the brush with alcohol. I normally use a #6 or #8 flat watercolor brush for this process. During this stage, I can be looser and more spontaneous with my strokes while maintaining control to achieve the results I want.
(Step 4) My fourth step began once I was satisfied with the under-painting and when most of the larger shapes were covered. I then layered soft pastels on top of the alcohol washes from Step 3. I added the finishing details by alternating between the dry soft pastels and alcohol washes to complete the painting.
(Step 5) The fifth and final step was the slowest part of the process. I stepped back from the painting to view it from a distance. I also used a mirror to look at the painting to see if it worked in reverse. This technique helped me to check the composition, color, edges and value with a fresh perspective. After close inspection, I added in any final highlights and smoothed various edges using the softest of pastels. When I feel that I am nearly finished with a painting, I always ask myself, “Is this the visual representation of the feeling I want to convey?” If the answer is yes, then the painting is complete. Then, it is time to begin working on the next piece and the process begins again.
About the Artist: California-based artist Joseph Mancuso is widely published and exhibited. He is also a signature member of the Pastel Society of America. For more information about the artist and to see more of his artwork, please visit http://www.mancusofineart.com/.