Pastel Demo on Bark Paper – Finishing

Well, it’s been a week of cloudy, rainy weather. Remind me not to do a reflections-on-glass-in-natural-light demonstration again…unless I can figure out how to do it in under two hours on a sunny afternoon. Anyway, I finally decided not to wait for the sun to reappear. Good thing, because it still hasn’t shown up. Here are my final notes on the ordeal, I mean demonstration.

Without much light there really were no noticeable shadows being cast by anything in this still life. In fact, I didn’t notice them when I sketched the piece, so maybe they were never there. Also, I was too far along to introduce new light sources into the picture. Turning on an easel lamp or the room lights created brand new reflections, so I kept them off and finished this piece under a very low light situation.

Each bottle was unique in its ability to distort what lay beyond its glass walls, and how it reflected the light coming in through my studio windows. The long streaks of light reflected in the bottles are actually long linen curtains that can be closed over the five windows in my studio. OK, yes, I have curtains in my studio. What can I say? Having a pretty place to paint makes me happy. Anyway, my biggest struggle was getting the lightest values to show up as strongly as I felt I was seeing them. The combination of working on a light colored paper and the paper not holding a very bold amount of pigment, kept me from being able to apply my highlights as brightly as I would have liked. My solution was to darken the color of the glass bottles. The bottles actually did have a hint of color, especially the green one, so I darkened them just enough to give my highlights better visibility.

It was great fun noting the reflections of neighboring bottles and the different patterns each bottle created of the table top that extended behind the wooden tray. Notice in the finished piece at the top of this post how distorted the back edge of the tray becomes as it travels behind each bottle. I used some great little binoculars to uncover what was really going on in the reflections and distortions. I have to credit artist David Kassan for posting the info about these binoculars on his website under his Recommended Stuffs tab.


A little obsessive/compulsive? Maybe, but the Mexican Bark Paper’s lack of tooth kept me from going overboard with all the detail. Here is a close-up of the paper. It has a lot of texture, but is quite soft and so compresses under the pressure of a stroke instead of grabbing the pastel.

Beng Different, 11 x 23, pastel on Mexican Bark Paper(detail)My final conclusion about working on Mexican Bark Paper…at least for me… would be to reserve it for monochromatic or limited palette pieces. Its inability to hold more than a few layers of pastel, makes it tough to complete full color pastel works. It is advertised to be able to handle oil paint, but I would think it would need to be sealed. Perhaps a clear gesso would help it handle pastel better as well as seal it for an oil painting. I have noticed from monitoring my students’ progress on this paper that it is very beautiful for red chalk drawings.

When it’s all said and done a painting needs a name and you have to clear away everything to make room for the next work of art.  So… I named this piece Being Different. You, as the viewer, get to decide what that means and which bottle represents what it means to be different.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it. You can see a larger version of the finished piece here.

Original Photo of Pastels

I hope you are inspired to try a new surface, to struggle through a challenge and be an overcomer, or to simply pick up some pastels or a brush and paint your next work of art. Now…where are those lights?

Previous post: Painting Glass Bottles

Back to the beginning: The Setup

5 Comments on Pastel Demo on Bark Paper – Finishing

  • Diane says:
    May 11, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks for the demo. You really did a thorough job.


  • Caroline says:
    February 3, 2014 at 2:24 am

    Appreciate you sharing, great article. Awesome.


  • Wendy says:
    January 5, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Very complete and interesting WIP. I generally paint on rice paper, but not with pastels. I found your challenges – and work around – a good example of what we encounter when we push ourselves and the mediums. Bravo!


    • Brenda Hash says:
      January 10, 2014 at 9:53 am

      Wendy, Thank you for spending the time to read through the demo. I’m glad you found it interesting.


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