Fuzzy Edges and the Group Mass Design

Pastel, 6×8, available $60 Large Mass Composition Design

I stumbled across a thumbnail graphite notan as I was looking for something to do my daily painting exercise on a sanded 6×8. I loved the blurry edges that graphite notans gave me and I decided to try and capture the vagaries of those soft edges as I used my pastels.

Thumbnail 2×3 inch drawing in graphite from my sketchbook.

I first went to my stack of color collection cards — see the blog from October 3, 2018 to see how and why I collect these cards.

Then I roughed in the darks and lights, simulating the notan graphite sketch the best I could with the dark violets, greens, and pinks from my color card collection. I made the edges even softer by using a closed foam square to blend the darks and lights — some people use a section of water-pipe insulation for this. Only after roughing in the image did I start to recognize the design. The notan had enough balance that I intuitively knew it felt right, but being able to see the large mass design in the darks, and the cross in the highlights, that it became reassuring this design was on track.

Blocking in basic shapes of the cross and large mass composition with basic values. This is before the edges are blurred with a closed foam scrubber.

Lastly, I began ever so lightly dragging harmonious colors over the darks and lights to create the illusion of form. My mark making became more distinct for the light green of the trees and the light on the horizon and water.

What I learned

  • blending the lights and darks with a foam pad is essential for me to not have sharp edges
  • I forced myself not to use lines until the last step for highlights
  • Semi-hard pastels allow me to blend harmonious colors as I add them
  • Edgar Payne would be proud that I intuitively found balance rather than starting with a design and forced the composition to fit the Cross or Large Mass design

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