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Three Fireworks Paintings

Today it seems fitting to give a go at painting fireworks three ways. I decided to try pastels – both chalk and oil. I wasn’t thrilled with the results, so I went with what I’m most comfortable with – acrylics. These three fireworks paintings seem appropriate today.

Fireworks in Chalk Pastels

I used a reference photo of the fireworks display in Bayview, Idaho with the permission of the photographer, not that mine really looks like his! I have done some pastel painting before, but usually with some guidance. I did this on my own.

I used Mi-Tentes Pastel paper, Gallery brand pastels, and Carb Othello pastel pencils.

Supplies used for soft pastel painting

I first laid in a basic sketch using the pastel pencils. Since the background is fairly dark, I went ahead and laid in the darks – possibly a mistake. I blended with my fingers and a blending brush. Keep wipes handy during this process to try and keep your fingers clean.

Initial sketch for soft patel painting

I then laid in the firework colors, but they tended to get muddy with the dark color beneath. I’m not quite sure what the right approach should be to keep the colors more vibrant, but here is the final result.  

Final soft pastels painting, one of three fireworks paintings.

Fireworks with Oil Pastels

I was attempting to recreate a process I remember using in grade school where you apply colors beneath and then paint the paper black and scrape it away to reveal the colors beneath. I think I had a faulty memory of how to do this.

Supplies used for oil pastel fireworks painting.

I started with canvas paper. I thought I learned something from my previous attempt, so I kept the dark color away from the center for the initial application. I tried to blend with my finger, but I wasn’t happy with it blended.

Initial color lay-in for oil pastel painting

I remembered you can use solvent with oil pastels, and I just happened to have some handy as I was simultaneously working on an oil painting. It did help the blending process. I let it dry, and then came back with a dark color over the center. Hmmm….

Oil pastel colors blended with solvent

I tried scraping the black away with a stylus but didn’t like the result.

First draft of oil pastel fireworks painting

I then used my fingernail with better results. Still not happy, though. I applied some quick strokes of color and smeared the background with a wipe to get a lighter appearance.

Final oil pastels painting, one of three fireworks paintings.

Fireworks Painting with Acrylics

I started with a black piece of a frame backing. I decided to gesso it using black gesso. It buckled a bit, but I was able to dry it relatively flat.

I started in with the mountain shape and the sky. Not too bad so far? Then I went full bore ahead with the fireworks. The colors still aren’t as vibrant as I’d like even after going in and adding highlights with Posca pens.

Final acrylics painting, one of three fireworks paintings.

Lessons Learned

These little paintings were all done in under a couple hours on Independence Day morning. It only seemed fitting. Lessons learned:  1) some things take more time than you think, especially with an unfamiliar medium; 2) working with black and brights can be tricky; 3) this is not a failure, it’s a learning experience.

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