Texture and More Texture: Pastel Painting Close

Get an exclusive up-close look into the making beautiful pastel paintings in this excerpt . For a complete Q&A with the artist, plus a step-by-step pastel demonstration.

The following “Close-Up” column gives you insider knowledge.

I plied the canvas with Golden acrylic modeling paste; I wanted the surface to resemble an old plaster wall. Then I primed the surface with two coats of Golden acrylic gesso. Throughout Roses in a Jar (oil, 56×44), smooth texture plays against rough texture.

Originally entitled Roses on Earth, this picture’s predominant tone was burnt umber. I reshaped the composition when I painted over it.

A. To create the salmon-colored backdrop, I used a large, viscous amount of Vasari Classic artists’ oil. The paint was thick and stiff enough to retain the marks of the bristle bright brush.

B. The roses, painted with subtle changes of value, are a mixture of both smooth (B) and heavily impastoed forms (C). Though I frequently use small fan brushes, I use them in concert with other brushes.

D. I pulled the salmon wall down in rapid brushstrokes from top to bottom, leaving a shallow band of umber as a shelf the jar can rest on.

E. Here an area of the umber ground is left exposed. Shaped into a leaf, the form creates a positive shape carved with paint from a negative ground.

F. On the jar’s right side, the exposed umber ground becomes a thick (bottom) to thin (top) line of tension, pushing the jar away from the wall.

G. Taking a cue from Morandi and Matisse (who learned it from Cézanne), I made sure the space between table and wall was not defined by a straight edge. A series of uneven lines, created by butting together the wall and table in a jigsaw of planes, defines the vertical and horizontal planes.

H. The left side of the jar is rendered in warm values set against the cooler value of the pink wall, whereas the right side of the jar is painted in cool values set against the warmer tones of the pink wall.