Every now and again our plans are thrown off course and we have to adapt to the new circumstances. In April I suffered one such ‘bump in the road’, a slipped disc and I ended up in hospital. At the same time I was given the news that I need a major operation for an unrelated issue this summer so I have had to cancel all my demonstrations and events for the foreseeable future. I am sorry if any of these cancellations have affected you. I may not be accompanying David at his events either and will miss seeing old and new friends. but I hope to be back on course again by the autumn.
The pastel painting below was the last demonstration I did this year, for Llantarnam Grange Art Group in Cwmbran in March. The theme was ‘creating atmosphere’ and pastel is the ideal medium for this purpose. Softening the edges of the distant features in order to create a sense of atmosphere is relatively simple with pastel. To create this effect of clouds over the hilltops, just gently stroke some of the sky colour down over the distant hills. This pushes them into the distance.
Crickadarn, Mid Wales, Pastel by Jenny Keal
The same method was used lower down in the distant hills, softening the green colour of the lower slopes into the blue/grey. This softness is emphasized by making the edges of the focal point sharper and the tones darker. All these techniques help to create the illusion of recession in a painting.
You can see this technique and many others, demonstrated in live action on my DVD, Painting with Pastels, available in our online shop.
I hope you find time to get out in the countryside this summer to paint and sketch and store up subjects for the coming winter months. Nature has a way of invigorating and at the same time restoring tranquility in our busy lives.
I love sketching, in fact I love sketching more than painting. There is nothing like the feeling of being outside, hopefully in pleasant weather, capturing an old buildings or lovely landscape in your sketchbook.
Sketch of old cottage in Stockland, Devon, by Jenny Keal
Many of the sketches I make will never become paintings as most of them I do just for the pure pleasure of it, but every sketch I do teaches me something, sharpens my observation and improves my painting and drawing skills.
Sketching in watercolour is not as difficult as you might imagine, and there is a sense of liberation about painting a watercolour in a sketchbook that is absent when working on a sheet of expensive watercolour paper in the studio. You do not have to worry if it goes wrong as it is ‘just a sketch’ . You can slosh the paint around and so often I prefer the looseness of the sketch to the carefully considered finished painting, whether it is in watercolour or pastel.
Typical Exmoor scenery, (photo)
Lynmouth Devon (photo)
If you would like to experience this sense of liberation you could join me in Lynmouth, Devon from 20th to 23rd May this year. We will be sketching in watercolour out of doors, and then turning these sketches into pastel paintings in the studio. You don’t have to use pastel of course, you can use whatever medium you prefer. The main emphasis will be on capturing the marvellous Devon scenery, pretty cottages, tumbling streams, woodland and even the coast.
One of the benefits of watercolour sketching is that it definitely improves your studio watercolours.
I’ve been asked many times how I get the fine speckles of colour in my paintings so I am going to let you into the secret. I lay the painting flat on a table and using the edge of a palette knife I scrape flakes of pastel on the surface where I want to create the effect of small leaves, seed heads in a field or sea spray on rocks etc. I than press the flakes into the painting with the flat of the palette knife. If there are some stray flakes which you do not want, you simply don’t press them in and they will either fall off when you place the painting in a vertical position or you can blow them away.
Step 2. Press the flakes into the surface of the painting with the flat of the palette knife where you want them to stick. Blow away any unwanted flecks.
Step 1. Lay the painting horizontal on a table and using the edge of a palette knife, scrape flakes of pastel from a pastel stick on to the surface of the painting where you want to create fine specks of colour.
This technique is most effective if you use contrasting tones and colour.
It is almost impossible to achieve these fine marks with a dotting technique and the random effect is particularly pleasing. However, I will issue one word of warning. This technique is addictive and it is easy to get carried away using it all over the place and then the effect is spoiled.This technique is described in my book Painting with Pastels
and demonstrated on my DVD
of the same name. Or you can buy both at a Special Offer Price of £20.
Autumn in the Clydach Gorge by Jenny Keal
Although I work in watercolour, I do some painting in other mediums, one of which is pastel. I have neglected it for many years and keep promising myself to do some more, especially when I see what Jenny is producing these days. If you find watercolour difficult, or maybe you are in a rut at the moment, why not try pastels? They make a wonderful change, and you can always return to watercolour later. Many artists find pastel painting so much easier, but some don’t like the dust and mess on their fingers.
Jenny has excellent ways of managing pastel dust and the mess on your fingers, and she is only too willing to show you her methods. She has superb techniques for creating areas of tranquil water with reflections and sparkling highlights. On the right you see one of her paintings of the Clydach Gorge with reflections in deep water. Pastel, with its rich colours, is excellent for autumnal scenes, which can at times be tricky in watercolour, especially when you want to juxtapose light yellow or orange foliage against a darker background. The medium is also much more forgiving – you can alter features fairly easily compared to watercolour. Pastel is also great for fading away the more distant features, as you can see here.
One of my favourite subjects is rocks, and I’ve just seen Jenny’s latest works on rocks, and they certainly have the WOW! factor. Check out Jenny’s blog where she gives free tips, but if you’d really like to give pastels a try why not enroll for her course in Lynmouth from 20th to 23rd May, when she’ll be showing students how to paint the stunning coast and countryside of North Devon?