Last week my wife and I found ourselves in Yellowstone National Park, then in the Tetons. Both locales were exciting, wild and invigorating, while still affording us much relaxation. Upon our return I decided I would try something new with my pastel work, I would include wildlife.
On our trip, we had the chance to visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art outside of Jackson Wyoming, which served to catalyze my interest in painting an animal. This place was great and I recommend it to any one visiting the Tetons or Yellowstone, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed myself there. The artworks were not the trivial or cute sort one often associates with animal art. These were serious paintings of beautiful landscapes.
My main pastel painting interest up to this point has been landscape. The great thing about animals, is that they almost always show up in a landscape, so I figured painting a scene with a Buffalo was a win-win. When we got home, I was eager to start, as I had recently received 6 pastel panels in the mail. I chose the photo above as my source image. I took it on our way to Old Faithful at one of the many pull offs along the road in Yellowstone.
When I paint, I try to pull out and exaggerate colors I see in the photo so the resulting painting has a pleasing level of color and tonal contrast. I find that when I try to reproduce the exact colors I see in a painting, the result is more dull and unexciting. Another thing I'll emphasize when working, especially with pastel, is the mark unique to the medium. Using pastel sticks limits the visual "vocabulary" at my disposal. The primary marking options are broad strokes with the side of the pastel and lines with the end, as in drawing. This is good, because it forces me to do more with less.
I also used Panpastels on this painting, mostly for the under-painting stage, which consisted of blocking in large areas of color, especially in the background. The foam tools used with Panpastels make a soft mark and are good for atmosphere and visually blurred or out of focus areas. I find more and more that a good painting will require the use of my Sennelier sticks and the Panpastels, each offering distinct advantages.
This painting signifies new possibilities and emphases on aspects of nature other than sky, water and earth. This was a great growth opportunity, something different and challenging. My eyes are opened wider now to the possibilities of painting.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.