Pastel Plein Air Dust…

Another trip to Montana in mid July to just do some photography and paint “en plein air”…

My son and family came to WA for a wedding the first part of July and Chris’s schedule required him to return to  MT afterhis week of vacation while his family stayed another.  So he and I loaded his car with pastels, paper, hats, insect repellent, etc. – all things to occupy me in my quest to paint MT.  We spent the first 3 days in Billings – where I used to live – visiting with friends in the evenings, but spending the days scouting the area for places to set up an easel and paint and take reference photos for future use.   It was hot and dry til late afternoon when the thunder clouds rolled in, which meant you had best be under cover with the pastels all tucked away.

So I got a few paintings done.  Southern Montana had more than it’s share of rain this spring and a lot of snow melt which caused some major flooding through several areas.  One such spot showed the water still standing in some fields…the object of this painting…

I have been using some of the Pastelmat paper for paintings and liking how it takes the pigment and the colors of the paper.  I chose a neutral color and sketched in the basic layout with a piece of charcoal.  Beginning with some basic sky, I get that color on the paper, then working down to the distant landscape.   There is some hint of rain showers in the distance, so I want to convey that in the painting.  Less is more when painting such an impression…you don’t want a huge amount of pigment to  fill the tooth of the paper.  A note about this paper…it is quite “velvety” in feel, and it will hold a good amount of pigment, workable fix for texture…but you don’t want to use a heavy hand and fill the tooth up immediately!  Once the distant landscape and sky details are completed I continue my painting, adding the tree line and while I am painting the background trees, I add some of that color into the lower part of the  painting for reflections that will be established in the water.

     And with water and reflections…again, keeping a minimal amount of pigment on paper adds to the “look” of the water.  A gentle stroke with the side of a soft pastel stick gives the water a nice, soft look with some of the background peeking through the water’s surface.

The pastels…I used a mixture of Unison, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig and some Diane Townsend.  Great darks in the Ludwigs…good texture with the Townsends…often for the shimmery last stroke for some special detail, Sennelier 463 and 179 for my base for trees to create depth…

As a note about this paper…I bought a pad of the paper for traveling and doing plein air painting in the field…1) because of the ease of transport and the size; 2) because it is inter-leafed with a protective sheet of Glassine or some other type of paper that aids in storage during travel.  One thing I have found is this paper says it is 9×12 inches; it is a little shy of that…so that can cause a problem if one is trying to put that painting directly into a plein air frame without matting…I use a lot of the stock Plein Air frames sold by Jerry’s Artarama and have not had a problem with other pre-cut paper…so something to keep in mind when you go to frame the work when using this particular paper.  I do love the feel of it, however and it does come in other larger sizes, which I love.

So enjoy some painting time out in the field…and try some of the great papers available now…I love the Pastelmat!

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

2 responses to “Pastel Plein Air Dust…

  • Deb Townsend

    Wonderful to see your WIP! Gorgeous as usual! I love PastelMat too.


  • bonnie griffith

    Deb…I really like Pastelmat. I have also heard good things about UArt which is the “new” Ersta. Also am going to try a larger sheet of the Suede finish from Art Spectrum. It has a nice feel to it, so am anxious to try it. I did a quick little painting on a sample and liked it.
    Wish you lived close so we could paint together!


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