Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hidden Depths

"Hidden Depths"  (pastel, 16x16 inches)

Here's what will be my second entry to the New Braunfels Art League June show "Water, Water Everywhere." I prepped this and yesterday's painting at the same time last week.

I treated my recent bout of artistic boredom with an "I-don't-have-anything-to-loose-except-more-boredom" attitude and left all deliberate thought processes at the door. I chose a couple of highly complex images only because water and reflections have always fascinated me, and instead of asking myself "How in the heck am I ever going to paint these?" I didn't think much at all except for "Ok, what size? I've got these frames, so 16x16 it is!"

Then I jumped right in with a very loose and fast underpainting using the only acrylics I happened to have on my shelf (see yesterday's post) and a glazing of a warm toned pumice gel...

I worked a bit with pastel on this one at the Texas State Arts & Crafts Fair last weekend, but didn't much like what was happening, so back at my studio I washed all that in with some mineral spirits and 'added' it to the underpainting.

Then I started over with the dry pastel. I thought maybe the best way to deal with the double-layer of focus in this painting (surface and depth) would be to put in the surface objects first (leaves and rocks) to get them in place, before adding too much to the underwater reflections.

 But I did sort of work on tones of the reflections as I put in the stuff on the surface.
 I really did try not to think too much, and to just react to the image, and let the colors and objects lay into the painting depending on the patterns already present in the underpainting.
 When I finally felt I had enough solidity to add the little water-lights around the floating leaves, the depth really started to 'pop'!
 Lastly I worked on brightening up the sky,
..and adjusting the tones and directions of the tree branches so that they would hold up a bit better realistically.
Then I stopped because it was enough!

Thanks for watching! Tell me what you think, and show a friend!


  1. Rita, love your water paintings! Thanks for sharing your process.

  2. Thank you so much Rita for showing this demo. I really want to try this. You make it look so easy though and I know it's not. You are my pastel idol!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your process. I love these scenes but have been unable to pull them off. This is so inspiring and so beautifully done.

  4. Thank you C.Dingman! The trick is to not to 'expect' anything. Pick a scene that you love and that your brain can really get lost in, and then jump right into it. You truely do have nothing to loose. If you use pastel primer on gatorboard, and it doesn't work out, you can wash it all off and re-prime the board. And sometimes failed paintings open new doors; My first cow painting was done over a failed octopus (... don't ask! It looked great as a photo but if failed miserably as a painting. lol)

  5. You have achieved a beautiful separation between the floaters and the reflection, Rita! A great painting! Loved your sharing the progression. Thanks!

  6. What a wonderful painting Rita. A lot of thinking and preparation going into it, thank you for sharing this very interesting piece.

  7. Rita, may I ask what kind of gadget you are using to hold your photo reference ?

  8. Rita, may I ask what kind of a gadget you are using to hold up your photo reference ?

  9. Hi Steinunn, that is an iPad. I have a cover/case for it that hinges at the top, so i can 'hang' it over the top of my board. I'm addicted. it's the next best thing to working right off the computer monitor - the light in the image is so much better than a printed photo. Only thing I don't like is it doesn't work too well outdoors (like at art fairs) because of too much daylight makes the image on screen hard to see.

  10. Was looking up Irene Kirkman,I have early 70s paintings,she did ,and saw your name.Thought maybe related, on back of canvas one says,still life-fruit.Burn Ct. Indianopolis. That she is deceased,1981.Your art is breath taking and I hope I havent over stepped by asking. Thank you,Victoria