UART Tip #29: “Passing Fancy” with Nancie King Mertz

This painting was inspired by 3 photos I took in NYC after my husband and I stepped onto the tram platform near the East River. I work from 4×6 photos if I’m not painting en Plein Air, and this design has elements from each of those 3 photos.

As always, I begin with a vine charcoal “tick-mark-map” to determine layout and perspective. My map is simply quick directional lines to create the design, rather than a “drawing”–I want to get started!! Immediately I swipe in the darks with the side of a pastel stick or with the new Richeson dark squares. When out in the field or doing demos, I always use denatured alcohol to wash-in the darks with a #6 Richeson fan brush, and I consider it my full-size Notan. However, when in my studio very recently, I have been experimenting by spraying that first layer with Spectrafix to connect the darks using the fan brush, before layering mid to light values on the dried surface.

Clouds need practice and I find pastels with their layering ability to be a wonderful medium to building them. Now that the Spectrafix is dry, I can begin layering color over the darks. I find UART grade 400 is such a durable paper for my methods, and I dry-mount it using archival tissue onto Gatorboard or 8-ply rag board to prevent curling or warping when the wet alcohol or Spectrafix is introduced. To avoid smearing as I work on larger pieces in my studio, my tendency is to work top-to-bottom, developing the painting in that sequence.

Adding more definition, pigment, and “cleaning-up” as I move down the surface in Step 3

Getting closer to completion in Step 4 as I refine the bikers and develop the street signs. I continue to layer color to create better color relationships and push the values.

In the final, 5th step, I touch up the darks, add the street tiles and breathe a sign of relief: I’m happy with it!

Nancie King Mertz, PSA-MP, CPP-MP, IAPS-EP

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