After Pixie I wanted to take another stab at doing a deck. Having been to Mexico and loving the Day of the Dead I thought it would be fun to try this.I love the look of pastels and have always wanted to play with them so I bought a set at the local art supply shop along with some construction paper. I think I spent about $10 on the set. This was to give me an idea as to if I could do this before I got REAL pastels because I really have NEVER used them or drawn much freehand before. I felt that this style would work because it is whimsical and provided I could come up with a basic style I would be fine.Now for those that have no clue what pastels are here is a brief rundown. There are two kinds of pastels soft and oil. Oil pastels are adult crayons. They have deep colors with thick, bright colors. Soft pastels are very much like REALLY colorful chalk that has a rich, dense line. They are almost like watercolors you can draw with. You want to use a paper that ‘has teeth’ to it because the texture of the paper is what gives the image it’s depth. Construction paper is a type that that will do this. Another great thing about using soft pastels is that they are amazing to use on colored backgrounds. If I was to use pencils or paints on say an orange piece of paper it would be very hard to not get the orange to show through, but the pastels are so opaque as to be able to blot out all color under them. After about 20 min of playing with them I was hooked. The only real issue I was having was that they really are pieces of chalk. They make big broad strokes. I wanted to work on a size I could scan into my computer so that gave me at most 11×14 and it was WAY to small to be working with the size lines that the regular soft pastel chalk would make. Enter now into the day the soft pastel pencil.
At the local art supply store (which is only a 5 min drive up the road..dangerous.) they have the these chalk pencils. Soft pastel chalk pencils…that you can sharpen. Well they are an absolute horror to sharpen because the tips are very soft and ALWAYS are breaking. I have 4 different sharpeners in order to get these things sharpened, and they always need to be sharpened. But these gave me the ability to work on an 8×11 piece of paper. Ahh paper. So construction paper is nice to practice on but really flimsy and..well..dull compared to what is out there. So a quick look around the art supply store and I found the section of very colorful pastel papers. These are in the 8×11 size I was looking for and come in about 30 colors. I was looking for the bright colors I remembered from the time I spent in Mexico so I came up with a palate of about 8-9 colors that would serve as the backgrounds. Because I knew that allot of the picture would be white because of the skeletons the way to assure color was through the use of colorful backgrounds. Also while there I picked up a finishing spray. Anyone that has ever used chalk before knows that it smears. This is both good and bad with the pastels. Good because it allows for amazing blending like on the Tower and Key cards but bad to try and store them with out them getting all smudged. I’ve read that you could use plain old hair spray to ‘set’ the pastels but some people said that over time they got yellowing and not wanting to have to redo these I opted for the pump bottle of fixative spray.
So with supplies in hand and a hot pot of good tea, I start out with an idea in mind. I’ll draw this out on plain white paper and sometimes use a shape maker to get the basic size of things. Since I really have not the best perspective skills I’ve opted to stay away from that as much as I can (hence the complete redo on The House). Knowing what I can and can’t do I work with the strength of what I can to come up with the image. Then I use my pencil drawing as reference on the colored paper.
It takes about 8-10 hours to complete a card once the image is penciled out. Sometimes more sometimes less. The Snake for instance took about 5 hours to complete once I had it drawn out. The House was almost 12 hours. That’s not including the time it takes to figure out the card itself. That can be several hours to a few days while an image comes to life. The Crossroads was a card that was a horror for me to do because I needed to get depth and that dreaded perspective. So the candle height was key and that took almost a week for me to get right. Once they are done. I spray them with fixative. Scan them into the computer and store them in-between sheets of newsprint paper out of the way.
The workspace is hard to keep clean with all the dust but it’s such a fun project to work on.