Montana Trail of Pastel Dust…


The dust has settled – for a moment – that is.  After spending a great week in Miles City with stops in Lewistown and Billings on either end of the trip, we are back in eastern WA with a bunch of great photos for reference and some great memories of a time spent with family and friends and getting quite a bit of art completed.
The Quick Draw photos are included in this blog. I can’t say enough good about that event.  It is well organized, efficient and most of all the people who work hard to make this a highlight of the weekend are some of the nicest, friendliest people around.  The artist posts were set up at various points in the Park by the water tower which offered some good shade for the artists.  Big old trees also provided good spots for shade.  The art was auctioned from the flatbed trailer where the iron “cowboy quick draw figure” stood.
The view of the hills is out in the Strawberry Hills area – a recreation area that Chris and his buddies ride their mountain bikes through.  It’s beautiful in a rugged way with lots of cliffs, rocks, steel hills and trails with really interesting strata in the land. It varies from a light tan to red to some black in the soil.  The roads are interesting.  I took my pastels out there and set up and painted for a while.  I only started getting a little nervous when Chris and Les were still out hiking around when the dark stormy clouds started rolling up over the hills from the northeast.  These roads are not anywhere near considered “all-weather”!  As it turned out, the clouds were merely a great show of drama and color for me because not hardly a drop of rain happened.  This was a good thing!  It’s a bit of a hike back to MC!!!
I had thought that I might get some more of the series of 100 finished on the trip, but that didn’t happen.  I was having too much fun hanging out with Michelle, Chris and Sam!!  So this week the series should continue!
A bit about the quick draw techniques…One doesn’t go to a quick draw event without a solid plan for your piece of work.  Completing a piece in 30 minutes or even an hour takes good planning and some dry runs of drawing or painting the subject.  I did change my mind a couple of days before on the subject matter basically because I was fighting with the details of the initial idea.  That can’t happen.  I knew I needed to change my plan and be confident with my subject and materials.
I chose, and then isolated the pastels that I would need to complete the painting so there would be no hunting through a hundred or more colors or the right sticks.   I decided to paint it on a black primed paper…allowing the black to work for me in depth.  I typically don’t like solid black so tinted the water area of the image with a very dark blue and under painted the trees with a purple – overlaying the yellows and oranges of the fall leaves.  The purple added depth as well…why?  Because of the play of the opposite colors on the color wheel – the yellows and purple working their magic.   I chose my type of pastels carefully…using ones in the trees specifically that had a lot of grit which would allow more layers to be added…the Diane Townsend Terrages as well as some light spritz of workable fixative to assist with tooth in the paper and get a good layered look.  The colored paper made the painting go faster because I did not have to add much depth color.  Then the biggest thing…know when to stop painting! (and not the timer telling you when to stop!)  I also did not use a reference photo…sometimes I can get too “pinched” – too detailed when I use a perfect photo…I have heard other artists say the same thing…it is like it the painting is wanting to be the replica of the photo in minute detail.  So with events like this, know your subject, know you can create what you want in the time frame allowed, pick your colors before hand, have your set up ready before the start and this will give you the confidence to create something great!  So with that said….happy painting!
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About bonnie griffith

I am a landscape artist who works in pastels, oils and acrylics. My work focuses on representational studies of the western US. I am basically self taught with lots of workshops and studies with several landscape artists such as Bruce Haughey and Clark Elster. I live in southwestern Idaho, am a native Montanan with a strong connection to the land. I spend as much time as I can in MT painting as well other parts of the northwest. I appreciate getting out in the field and working plein air because there is nothing like completing a painting in the true light of day and visually not being compromised by the use of a photo. In my work, my goal is to produce a piece of work that draws the viewer into the painting and challenges them to explore the scene; get a sense of the time of day, the temperature, the light or lack of. If I have gotten that viewer to step out of their reality and into that painting and enjoy it, then my work was accomplished as I wished. View all posts by bonnie griffith

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