Pastel dust demo


So I had planned to do a post about the Higbee Gallery Show this  time…but changed my mind in favor of doing a bit of a demo with pastels. When I was in eastern Montana last fall I took a 100 mile + drive south and west of Miles City, following the Tongue River about 50 miles and then heading north on dirt roads about 40 miles to Rosebud where I got back on I-94 to Miles City.  I took a bunch of photos along the way of the river, the fields and whatever looked interesting.  Once I got on the dirt road with the warning signs posting “this road is impassable when wet”, I was following near Rosebud Creek.  There were these beautiful sandstone cliffs with a lot of pine and juniper.  I have long been impressed with Albert Handel and Richard McKinley’s  paintings of such cliffs and rocks, so I shot a bunch of photos of the area and thought that one day I would do some paintings of the rocks and brush. A side note…”road not passable when wet” is a reminder to me of living in eastern Montana and when it rains, the earth turns to gumbo…not the culinary delight – but a mud that is sort of clay like and as you walk in it; it collects on your feet until you can hardly lift your mud encased appendages.  It is really like clay…you can actually form 3D items of art with it.  My mother used to sculpt with it for fun.  You couldn’t go out and hike around until it dried; so one might as well spend some artist time and make things out of the mud! Fortunately in October there is little chance of rain and had there been a cloud in the sky, I would have turned around and retraced my tracks back to Miles City on the gravel and asphalt roads. So today I painted a second painting of the rock cliffs and shot some images as I progressed through the painting…I chose a piece of Art Spectrum paper and toned it with some reds washed with alcohol.  Once this was dry….an alcohol wash takes minimal time to dry…I roughed in the sky and tree line. Then I added more detail to the trees and basically finished them before tackling the rocks.  I used Unison, lonelier and Mungyo pastels for the trees, starting with a  dark lavender for my base, then adding some dark blue and the dark green..  Once I had the darks in, I sprayed the trees with some workable fix lightly to allow some of the tooth of the paper to come back so I could add some highlights to the tree branches. So once the trees are in I can start to work on the rocks.  Before I leave the trees, I make sure to have highlights of the branches visible and some light peeking through the branches as well.  Now I s tart with the rocks; putting in some general masses, some hints of color and definition.  A light spray of the fixative will help to create texture in the rocks, then more color and definition.   Next the  rocks get to share space with a “cow trail” that meanders down the hillside and more definition of the rocks take place and a bit of vegetation – weeds- sage, etc sprout up near rocks and trail. I like to sometimes leave some of the initial wash showing through for interesting texture and color.  The goal is to invite the viewer to think the scene  is interesting enough to want to get on that trail and hike to the top of the rims and see what’s on the other side of this ridge…and wonder where that trail goes…they almost always lead to water, to shelter or… Hope you enjoyed the “demo”….happy painting!



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

6 responses to “Pastel dust demo

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