I often go through phases where I just want to copy work by an artist I admire. I very much admire Degas, and recently bought a catalogue of an exhibition of his nudes held in Boston a few years ago. They are astonishing. I’ve been exploring them in pencil. The more I look, the more I am amazed.
I’ve started working on repairing my poor headless girl. I knew drastic measures were needed, or I would simply redraw all of the errors. So I copied some of Degas’ techniques, on the basis that no one has ever done pastels better than him. I traced the photograph of the girls head off my tablet, and then transferred this to the painting with a yellow transfer paper (yes, Degas used photographs and tracings. Many of his best pictures are actually on teaching paper, with masses of fixative spray on them to keep everything in place. If it’s good enough for him, it’s more than good enough for me.)
This resulted in a much smaller head than I had originally drawn. You can still see a shadow of that above her. Now I am working pastel over it. It needs to be fixed, not so much to protect it as to give a tooth for the pastel to grip on. She isn’t finished, but it’s not far off. I want her to look much more abstract than I drew before. Nearly there at last.
I have produced another Degas-esque pastel, this time based on one of my own drawings. This is one of my favourite life sketches, which I have based another painting on. I am sure that I will use her again. It is interesting to work from an old drawing, rather than from a live model. Trying to get an exact rendition goes out the window. What you concentrate on is trying to make her look real, rather than “like her”.
The vertical line technique still works well. I have bought a box of 30 half stick Rembrandt pastels. These work well as they are slightly hard. Really soft pastel loses the individual lines too quickly. The limited range of colour is not a problem, as you can make almost any shade you want by laying on lines of additional colour. I still find orange especially useful.
I’m pleased with the result. The lines give the colour life and they stop you trying too hard for detail. I have curved them in places to follow the body, and I think this could be done more.The paper is a rough, mid-brown pastel card. I think a more contrasting colour might be a good idea. But I like her