In a previous blog post I showed you how to make a pastel painting panel. In this post I am going to demonstrate how to frame the panel without using a matt board. Usually the matt board was used to protect the pastel painting from touching the glass. We still use glass, but I think that getting rid of the matt board saves costs, time and makes the pastel painting look better. The pastel painting can now be displayed equally with the oil paintings.
Often during a project or after completion of a challenging oil painting an artist can feel a little burnt out. It seems strange to say this, but painting is work too. Good work, but like anything one does for a time there is a need for a break. I find that doing quick studies with no fixed idea on the outcome helps me to unwind. The spontaneous approach gets the passion going again.
My medium of choice for these interludes is watercolour and pastel. Charcoal is also great for bold gestures. A quick watercolour study either as a completed work or as an underpainting to pastels makes for a great exercise. The process gets you doing without over thinking. There is the joyful feeling of bold strokes and swooping brushwork that energises you. No pressure - just good fun.
As so often happens with this approach I enjoy the experience so much that the end result usually ends up framed on my studio wall. It reminds me to loosen up and enjoy the process. It helps not to be attached to the end result too much.
Try this approach when you feel tired or lacking in inspiration from your day job. It is guaranteed to give you more energy and freedom from distractions that deplete you. That is the power of spontaneous creativity.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was an artist ahead of his time. By a long way. Looking at his paintings one is tempted to say that he was an impressionist yet his work predated the impressionists. Turner took his own path and shocked the established artists with his extraordinary use of colour.
Turner's use of colour Is both expressive and romantic, but not in the classical sense. He used colour in a way that would leave the viewer enthralled, moved and even shocked. Never indifferent. No doubt Turner did inspire impressionist painters who noted that Turner painted atmosphere and not simply objects. The air became the subject and this was a trait followed by many impressionist painters.
Take the above painting, The Slave Ship, for an example. The painting depicts a true event where slaves are thrown overboard a ship. Nature seems to be appalled by the deed. The red sky, tumult in the sea and the approaching typhoon all add up to a dramatic scene. The ship and the people are very small compared to the environment. Clearly Turner felt that mankind's actions were an affront to nature.
Look out for the new movie Mr Turner launching this month. This should be a fascinating film showing us the life of artists in the 19th century.
I still recall parts of my high school art lesson on Paul Cezanne. Especially the bit where Cezanne was preoccupied with reducing nature to three shapes: the cone, the sphere and the rectangle. I could not see the point of it at the time. Why not paint what was there? Only much later did it dawn on me that Cezanne was doing exactly that. Except Cezanne was able to see past the distractions and details. Everything was in fact a shape falling within those three elements.
It may seem trite today, but not if you want to paint with understanding. To understand that nature and by extension, paintings of nature can be simplified into basic shapes is to unlock the secret to painting nature. Leave the details for the mind to fill in. After all our minds are constantly looking for work.
We must marvel at Cezanne's breakthrough and tenacity to follow this idea. Fortunately he was a stubborn fellow. It took guts to produce paintings like the one above. Imagine this scene in reality. What a mess of details and distractions. What to paint? Cezanne showed us the question remains: What do you leave out? Everything but the shapes!
A strange thing often happens when an artist or collector enters the framing shop with a piece of art for framing. The customer has an image in mind of how the art should look. This image is all too often dashed by the quote for the framing job. Sadly the customer will opt for something more modest that fits the budget. Very often this tiny regret will grow over time. What could have been a focal piece has been diminished due to finances and this hurts.
I have had this happen to me many times until eventually I decided to look at doing my own framing. After a series of fortunate events this idea came to reality. For better or worse I can now decide on what works for my art. Take the above pastel painting for example. By deciding on the look I wanted and the place where I envisaged it would be displayed together with the painting itself, I came up with a clean contemporary frame.
Costs of framing keeps increasing, but if you can purchase a painting already framed you are saving already. Usually the framing costs are added in at a wholesale price when purchasing from an artist and this may apply to your gallery too.
So keep framing in mind when shopping for art and when choosing a frame go for the one that moves you. Never settle for less only to regret it later.
Good paper is essential for pastel painting. The paper can be expensive though so try some experimenting watercolor paper. Use the best quality you can find. Nothing under 300gms and the paper must have some tooth to hold the pastel layers.
The thing is that paper on its own is difficult to look after when painting outdoors. Pastel smudges easily so transporting your masterpiece can be tricky. Then there is framing. The pastel cannot touch the glass which would usually mean that it must be framed with a matt board. This raises framing costs. There is also the thought that it would be nice to have your pastel painting looking similar to your oil painting.
The solution is to make a pastel painting panel by sticking the paper onto a panel. I use 3mm MDF. I suggest stretching watercolor paper first. Once dried stick it onto the panel as described in the video below. Tone the paper with watercolor as you wish and use the panel as you would regular painting panels.
The panel fits into a wet painting carrier so it is safe when transporting. The panel can be framed without a matt board too. What about the glass I hear you say? Simply use a small plastic spacer on the edge of the glass so that the panel does not touch the glass. I use tiny adhesive silicone widgets that you can get a hardware stores. These widgets are normally used to glue under heavy items that may scratch table tops.
The main thing is to make your pastel painting easier and give you the opportunity to use pastel en plein air. The framing benefit also improves the impact that your pastel painting deserves.
It helps to know why you are creating something. Simple as that sounds I believe that being an artist is not just about mastering technique. You become an artist when you understand why you are creating something. Why the subject speaks to you. Then you can go ahead and develop that story.
It is OK not to know these answers when you are learning your trade. Ask the question nevertheless and let you unconscious mind chew on the answer. In fact this applies at all stages. Keep asking why.
The little study above is an example. There is a surfer at our local beach who arrives each day (it seems) with several Border Collies. While the old surfer goes out to do his thing the dogs roam free to explore the beach. It is a good life I reckon. I started this painting intending to paint the surfer and one of his dogs. Then I realised that I found the dogs to be the reason I was interested in the painting. The dogs were the story. So out went the surfer and the dog remained. Simple.