Madrone Madness #4

Soft Pastel 10 x 14 on Mi-Teintes Touch

Yep, I am at again. I want you all to know that I painted this madrone in my nightgown! I am a devoted painter or perhaps crazy? The photo above doesn’t quite show the redness of the tree, the salmon color on the ground is perhaps a few shades brighter. The darks didn’t come out as dark as they should. The yellow and gold in the leaves are not quite brilliant enough in this photo but at least you get the idea. I tried my best to marry up the photo to my painting, it was difficult in this painting for some reason.

Having not painted en plein air in pastel for a while, I resented having my hands getting dirty, how did I ever get used to this problem when I first started? I am an aggressive painter and I had forgotten to go light with my softer pastels, I learned the hard way. I had one crumbled right in my fingertips. Lesson learned. I might go back and give my sky holes a lighter blue, they don’t show up well enough to read as sky.

close-up #1


close-up 2


I had an absolute blast and the process of creating a painting and decision making was no different between watercolor or pastel. That was a surprise for me. I have worked with both mediums in the past but the fact that I haven’t painted in pastel for over a couple months, I was able to decipher this difference.

Another realization that came to me after I had posted and looking at my painting, I feel that I over-worked it and the plein air looseness and freshness has been lost. I have recognized this before in some of my paintings and I would call it “boring or ho-hum” and the fact came to me that I was detecting a painting that has been over-worked. I never connected the two before and I think that now that I have recognized the fine line, I can head off this tendency to over-work. Of course it might be other factors that will make a painting ho-hum but in this case my painting has been over-cooked.

I feel the reason I take a painting too far is that I am trying to work out the problems; either the values are off or I am thinking that I am not depicting it like I see it or want it. Working it until I get there can be a trap. I have worked something until I got what I wanted and I have been able to do this without over-doing it. It can be done and it is achievable, it takes being sensitive to knowing when I am over stepping this fine line into being over-worked. Something that I will be more aware of and be working on. It is a never ending, learning task being an artist.

My learning points:

  • I hate Mi-Teintes Touch…not enough of a gritty surface for my personal taste. I am aggressive and it was too mediocre in receiving the pastel. I fought my paper.
  • Mid-tones are so important in building up your values, it is the foundation of your painting. I always seem to go dark and then concentrate on the lights. Not sure how to alleviate this lack of seeing and putting in my mid-tones. It is a work in progress learning this.
  • Even though I painted in my gown, I will not do naked, no thank you.
  • In order to depict details such as leaves, this can be done in a impressionistic grouping, convey it simply and bring in only necessary detail to convey the motif as needed.
  • Watch the fine line between good enough and too much, there is always next time, keeping it fresh and lively is key for plein air.

35 thoughts on “Madrone Madness #4

  1. I think you blue skies are fine, Margaret. I can imagine it was a very different “feel” to go back to pastels after all the watercolors you’ve done. The result is beautiful. I really like the colorful leaves, and the tree’s trunk is magnificent.

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  2. I don’t see it as overworked at all. I think it’s lovely. I believe that people think they’re over-working a picture in part because of the availability and currency of term. If we had no terminology for this idea, would it be such a bug-a-boo? The only real sense in which any picture is over worked occurs if and when the picture needs alteration but cannot be worked further (the alterations cannot be made) because of some technical reason.

    Let’s say that you wanted to adjust the tones, but the paper was so densely packed with pigment that you just couldn’t get any more pigment to stick over subsequent tones blended with prior layers so that the needed change just couldn’t be made. In that case, maybe I’d agree that something had truly been over-worked — because of the loss of the possibility of changing something that clearly needed to be changed. In that sense “over-worked” means that the artist went past a kind of beautiful sketchiness but too far toward a more elaborate technique which the materials themselves wouldn’t support. Does that make sense?

    As long as a picture can be corrected, it’s not “over” worked. And if it’s wonderful as it is, then it’s wonderful.

    But that’s not the case here at all. The painting as it appears is really delightful and fresh and vibrant.

    Bravo on the nightgown! When the inspiration strikes, go for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you for your comments….I think I like a painting to capture a essence, a “just turning” feel…having a beyond the essence of a scene. I find that I want more in the way of capturing or imparting a spiritual quality. I wonder if in my mind over-worked is when I am depicting what I see and not quite reaching beyond what I do see. 🙂 mind boggling, I know. I understand what you are saying. Actually you are helping me a lot because now I am truly getting to the bones of the matter. Though this particular paper was getting slick and it is because of the paper itself. I will have to reassess what it is that I feel is over-worked in this. Perhaps it was because I felt like I was turning my wheels and was not quite reaching that “beyond” factor that I was hoping for?
      And yes, strike when the iron is hot! I didn’t want to fuss with getting dressed, I was afraid that I couldn’t get out there fast enough to capture that light! The Perfect Lighting! 🙂

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  3. “get any more pigment to stick over subsequent tones blended with prior layers” — that’s certainly muddled. I’ll blame my computer. All I’m drinking in water. There’s an idea in there somewhere ….

    Have you ever thought about using gloves? I wear exam gloves when I use pastel or oil paint, even with oil pastel. It began back when I wore contact lenses because I was meticulous about keeping my hands clean since I was putting lenses in my eyes …. After I gave up contact lenses the habit was stuck. I don’t even notice I’m wearing gloves except in hot weather.

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  4. I’ve learned to give in to my overworkedness and make it not be a problem or frustrating and just see where it takes me. I feel it’s just part of the journey. Don’t beat yourself up too hard about that – this looks lush and vibrant!

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  5. the foliage is divine! loving the colors you have used thru the piece M! they did come thru nice and vibrant. so, whats next…naked at the river? lol ahem, anyway… you’re right about wc and pastels.
    the thought processes, the same. the key 2 differences might be laying on the Light last (with pastels) and the unrivalled ability of Pastels to blend and blur the edges appropriately in the background and the middleground.
    we all use terms slightly different too. overworked, has harsher… critical vibes. but, ‘fiddling’ or monkeying, or even, “not yet resolved” 🙂 are more Positive. you know, which of these I vote for! hehehe

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    1. lol I vote for “not yet resolved”! I always ready to hop on the Positive Train! I think why I go for the lights because I feel that I need to get it set up with my “punchline” early in the game (sorry for all the quotation marks, I love to emphasize). Of course also the darks but in the meantime I forgot to work equally hard on my mid tones, poor mid tones lol A juggling act for certain! There are a few spots on the Yuba that are favorites with the nudists around here….but I’ll pass, thank you. 🙂

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      1. that is hilarious! rudie-nudies at the river….
        I’d bet, that seeing as you’re so versed in pastels and going gung ho for darks early, and lights last, that is a difficult one to change around when you are doing watercolors! a juggling act indeed 🙂

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      2. exactly! I have the problem of not setting my darks dark enough and then I don’t want to forget my light because that is my drug and then in the meantime, I forget those awesome mid-tones…..somewhat of a bad habit that I have gotten into to!

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  6. I think this is a great painting. I love the warm red of the trunk coming through. I think the greatest success story – and very inspiring to me – is your own practical assessment and take away points.
    I think you also have to know that in my experience painting a close up of a tree is much more difficult than it seems. You did a great job here.
    There is for me always a tendency to start painting individual leaves instead of rendering the broad masses in the right color and value. Carlson says to seperate light and shadow and never start putting too many light spots in the shadow areas such that the shadow area is broken up and confused with the mass in light. I found as soon as I started painting leaves instead of masses, I broke this rule.
    Back in South Africa was a beautiful Eucalyptus tree that had a gorgeous white, warm trunk that I wanted so much to paint, but I always failed because of those darn individual leaves!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ah! I started to do that with this tree and I then felt the confusion and I had to reassess my approach. I tried to limit the light spots but it was so hard because the light was so beautiful and brilliant and yellow/orange all over the place. I had to hold back and use some common sense dealing with such an undertaking. I have a tendency to paint close-up and personal. Vistas are so difficult for me…..I love the Eucalyptus tree, there is a grove of them within 20 miles of me and every time I pass it, I feel compelled to stop and ask the owner of the property if I can paint them. I just might do that. Is that John Fabian Carlson?

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  7. Margaret, not sure which I enjoy more, your paintings or your writing! I just love that you rushed out when the light was just right in your nightgown to paint. I can just see this image, almost like it’s coming out of a Victorian drama. Nice to see a pastel from you, you are so gifted with them, and your work is always lovely. So glad you shared a part of your journey with us, I have such a sweet visual of you painting in your nightgown now and I just love it. I’m not sure what novel you should slip into, but just thinking about it makes me smile. Thank you. 💜

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