Our Guest Bloger for June is Susan Kuznitsky. Her nostalgic painting Star of the Show will develop right before your eyes. Watch how this talented pastelist brings a memory to life. See more of her work at her at http://susankuznitsky.com All photos and images are the property of Susan Kztnitsky and may not be used without permission from the artist. www.susankuznitsky.com

This painting was definitely a labor of love It was a 35 mm slide from the archives of my family history that I had made into a JPG. I am the oldest of four girls, and we all took dance lessons in the home of a woman in the Chicago suburban neighborhood where I grew up. The lessons culminated at the end of each school year with a big extravagant dance recital. Lots of tutus and tap shoes! The darling little girl in the middle is my youngest sister. She was always the ‘Star of the Show.’ I just had to paint this.

Step 1

I used a 400 grit sanded paper cut to 24 x 15. I used my pastel pencils to draw out the dancers and began to indicate the darks. This is the stage (no pun intended) where I can work out my composition which went through changes as you will see in later steps. 

Step 2

I used hard and soft pastels to lay in local color and simplify values and shapes. I tend to use mostly hard pastels  at this stage. Soft pastels can be used but pay attention the amount of pressure used so as not to over fill the tooth of the paper. 

Step 3

Next, I applied denatured alcohol on a brush to moisten the pastel starting with the lighter colors. This ’sets’ the color onto the paper creating a strong base upon which to start building up layers of color. The drawing gets a bit lost during this part of the process so I used my pencils again at this point to redraw. Obviously this is a very complex subject with all the hands, arms and legs. I began getting more detail in the middle figure (my sister Penny) with the intention of working from the center of interest out.

Step 4

Next, I began adding more detail to the  girls on either side of Penny and added the reflections which are very much part of the overall composition. 

Step 5

As the painting developed, I felt there were too many arms and legs distracting from my center of interest. I removed the areas circled in red. The wonder of this technique is how forgiving and flexible it is. I took a stiff little scrub brush to brush out what I didn’t want. The result created a stronger composition. 

Final Steps

The finished painting. More layering and blending done alternating with my pastel pencils and hard and soft pastels to create the level of finish that makes me happy. I am actually inthe black leotard behind the girl in the all white tutu. So fun to travel down memory lane of my childhood to a much more innocent time. And I still love to dance!

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