On The Bright Side 9 x 12 pastel

On The Bright Side
9 x 12 pastel

It’s been too long since I’ve posted. I’ve been going through an experimental stage, trying new ways of doing things. When you’re experimenting, you don’t want everyone to see your flubs and failures. Sort of like a writer whose first draft needs lots of editing, or a movie scene that requires lots of takes.  It’s all a process and I find the best way to grow is to just try new things.

Here’s a recent painting that you can see my progression.

I started with a pencil drawing on UArt 400 paper.

James Burgess reference pencil

Then a watercolor wash, just for the helluvit.

James Burgess reference watercolor

Not being an expert in watercolor, it was too light and washed out…too much water.  Lost the drawing but I’ll redo.

James Burgess reference wc w- pencil

Ok, I need more of a structured underpainting. No big deal, I thought. I’ll just add pastel and do an additional underpainting with a rubbing alcohol wash. Now I have a strong foundation to build upon.

On the Bright side underpainting

On the Bright side underpainting with additional pastel

On The Bright Side 9 x 12 pastel

On The Bright Side- finished painting
9 x 12 pastel


Here, I’m working on a red sheet of Art Spectrum sanded paper. This is the very first time I’ve tried this surface and it takes a little getting used to. The idea is to let all that deep rich red peak through to add that extra richness of depth.  Can’t do my normal underpainting on this surface so I’ll just get on with it. A quick pencil sketch and big broad strokes. Just keep it simple and minimal, I told myself… and DON”T overwork it. I’ve never done a painting with the dominant color of red, but that’s where the experimenting comes into play. I love asking the question, “What would happen if ?…..”

On Fire (1)

On Fire 9 x 12 pastel


Here’s my set up. I have my reference photo on my iPad. I print it out in black and white (so I can see the values better) and also in color.  I do my value study in pencil to help me simplify my shapes.
Gateway set up

easel set up


Gateway final

Gateway 9 x 12 pastel

Another piece done on a red Art Spectrum paper. I like the red showing through and the textural quality.

Meandering 9 x 12 pastel

Meandering 9 x 12 pastel

Here’s a piece (Meandering) that I wish I had stopped working on 2 hours before I got to this point. It just got overworked….yikes, I should have known better. Sometimes you just over dicker with it, adding too much detail. Less is more but it is so easy to cross that line and not stop. Adding more doesn’t necessarily mean better and it’s easy to lose the initial intention.  I have 2 options, wipe down some of the areas and redo or just do another one, working more with simple masses and lots less detail.

And now onto something different. And you thought I only did trees….heehee

When I was out plein air painting in downtown Buford, GA, down one of the side streets, I took lots of photos. Thought I’d do a studio piece using a 16 x 20 gray Ampersand Pastebord (that’s how they spell it). I haven’t finished it yet. Not sure what my next step will be so I am putting it aside and ponder it for a bit.  Will post when done.


buford buildings 4 buford buildings 3


As you can see, experimentation is a big part of my painting process. Using different surfaces and underpainting techniques helps me stretch creatively and grow. It also helps me to not get stagnant, redundant and bored. It’s a great way to play, have fun and try new things. The trick is not to let judgement and ego get in the way, for inevitably there will be lots of not-so-great paintings or really bad ones….but so what? You never know what possibilities can come through if you don’t try! The process and journey is really more important than the end result…and what a joyful process it is!

4 thoughts on “A Little Experimenting

  1. I love your creative risks and understand why you take them. You have gotten to the point in your talent, in my judgment, where anything you attempt turns out beautiful…although I know you are probably your own worst judge, as is the norm. But thanks for sharing what you did and how they turned out!

  2. How wonderfully generous of you Nancy to share the journey! Your work keeps me looking…I don’t see your bumps along the road in the finished painting. It encourages me to keep experimenting…starting with the
    posting on Facebook. Happy New Year .

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