Monday, February 9, 2015

Colourful Cherries in pastel

Colourful Cherries 
5" x 7"
Terry Ludwig pastels on Uart 400 sanded pastel paper
Photo reference by sirbonetta on WetCanvas 

This month's Pastel Spotlight Challenge on is themed on the color Red. I liked most of the references but the one that really sang to me was a bowl of cherries with these three off to the side on a white table. I left out the bowl and painted them larger than life in a very tight crop.

I used the four stage Colourist method as I've done before with Colourful Lemons and Colourful Bananas months ago. Once again the painting sings in person, the cherries shine with color and the whole piece has a lot of richness. Gradating the background eliminated the boredom of a plain white flat surface and also flattened it out, though the shapes of the shadows did that too. 

Shadows are nuanced with reflected color. The white surface reflects up on the shiny surfaces of the cherries along with some out of sight object to the far left that broke the reflection. The corner of the table is visible in those reflections. I loved the way they shaded and the nuances of the leaf. Some texturing strokes created lovely details and veining by accident so I kept all that and didn't do anything more to it after Stage 3. Even the stems came out well and the last bright highlights went on over what was probably 8 or 9 layers of very soft pastels.

I did use an alcohol underpainting for the bright first layer just as I did in yesterday's landscape and love that effect too. These super soft Ludwig pastels wear down faster than my medium-soft pastels but give a lovely glow and they do go on so opaque that I can get away with bright near-whites over dark near-black colors! 

I spent all day at this one, it was four different sessions each about two hours. So this would have been a full day's work in itself despite the small size. So worth it though when I look at the results!

To learn the Colourist method I recommend Capturing Radiant Light & Color in Pastels and Oils by Susan Sarback, who was my teacher's teacher. Charlotte Herczfeld aka Colorix taught me this method in "Exploring Soft Pastels: Still Life the Colourful Way" on WetCanvas starting November 2009 and it's changed how I look at color, how I organize my pastels, how many I need to paint anything I want to and everything about how I paint in any medium. That's how intense it was for changing my view of color. I finally understood things in color theory that never made sense before and didn't connect with my painting experience thanks to her course. It's free if you join WetCanvas, anyone who reads through and does the exercises will get help from those of us who took it when she was posting it every day.

Susan Sarback studied with Henry Hensche, and the Cape Cod School did a lot of this sort of work in oil painting. The method's a bit different in oils but the color principles are the same. The main thing in oils is to leave a white area around the color masses and not do edges till late in the process so they don't get muddied if they're supposed to be hard.


  1. Beautiful... could just pick them up !!!!

  2. Beautiful piece! Love the richness of color, as well as the variety.

    1. Wow, thank you! They're growing on me too, on my wall even more brilliant than the photo!