Working My Way Forward Step by Step

Philip Koch, Two Islands Mt. Desert: Green, pastel, 5 x 10",

Phililp Koch, Two Islands Mt. Desert, vine charcoal,
7 x 14", 2009

Long day today and I still need to do some drawing, so this will be brief. Wanted to show you one of the things I'm working on right now. Above is a new studio color study I'm doing based on the charcoal drawing below it that I drew on location up on Mt. Desert Island in Maine last week. It is one of several pastels I'm doing experimenting with different color combinations for the sky, water, etc.

One thing I find helpful is to do the initial color explorations on a slightly smaller scale than the original charcoal drawings. I can work faster in the pastels that way and am more likely to try out color combinations that are new to me. If the color versions were any bigger, I'm get caught up in trying to get them "right" the first time. One can die from an excess of caution. Keeping them small short circuits this tendency, preventing me from having enough room to do more than just the major planes of color. Instead I usually do two or three different versions and then decide which is my favorite. If I like it enough I'll then go ahead and try an oil version, usually also at a very small scale.

Pastel is funny- it can give you amazing delicacy one day and the threaten you with harsh color chords the next. For me doing multiple studies in color is a life saver. For years I painted strictly in oil and found a whole number of favorite pigment combinations that I used over and over again. It was good, but there's always the danger of relying too heavily on the moves you've rehearsed before. Pastel came into my practice like a bunch of young and slightly wild horses. They let me do the steering, but not without wandering off the trail a bit. That's just want I want from them.


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