Jo Knoblock Castillo has always had an interest in art and working with her hands. Whether it was cooking, sewing or making gifts, she was happy to be “doing”. While living in Bolivia, she finally rediscovered her love of painting. Her interest is in landscapes and paintings that have connections to her life.
Jo works in most media, but has discovered she really enjoys the special luminosity of pastels. They are tactile, immediate and long lasting. Other than smudging if touched (they should be framed under glass), they are very durable. The colors are clear and vibrant. “I enjoy painting from life and use my own reference photos just as a reminder of shape or lighting,” says the artist.
Winters find Jo and Gene, her husband, living in Bastrop, Texas. It is near family and offers a mild climate and plenty of golf courses and opportunities to paint. Jo looks forward to plein air painting in New Mexico each summer. “It is a challenge to set up an easel and paint a scene in just a couple of hours,” Jo says, “The light is very fleeting and you have to get down large sections of light and dark very quickly to establish your painting. Weather doesn’t always cooperate and uninvited visitors like mosquitos or snakes are not uncommon.”
Please take a moment to visit Jo’s websites to learn more about her and to view more of her work:
“City Of Rocks”
My equipment for plein air:
1. A carrying bag I bought at Academy Sports for about $10.00. In it I put:
- A box with two trays, (A box that originally held Rembrandt pastels) I filled those foam lined trays with an assortment of pastels, in color, value and hardness. (Rembrandts, Daler-Rowney, Art Spectrum, and others)
- A set of Unison darks
- Watercolors and water
- Paper towels
- Liquid gloves
- Handy wipes
3. Surface for my painting. I tape the board or paper to foam core and cover with another piece of form core taped on one edge to make a folder. I just fold it back, paint and then close it and tape or clip it closed to avoid smearing in travel.
4. A lightweight folding easel and table for the pastels. (Sometimes I use a French easel and use the drawer as a partial table.)
5. A small folding stool
6. Sunscreen, hat, bug repellent
7. Snacks, water, etc.
When possible I use the tailgate of my pickup as my table. I recommend being as comfortable as possible when you are out. This puts you in a better mood to paint and make the session enjoyable.
I ventured to the City of Rocks State Park, near Silver City, New Mexico, for a plein air painting session. I knew I would find a picnic table in the shade so I did not need my table. I usually work standing up so that I can step back and evaluate my work as I go. I painted sitting down this session, knowing I would get up to take photos, allowing me to “step back” occasionally.
I found a table in the shade and set up my equipment. I took some photos and picked out my subject, using the camera to crop the view with good composition and light.
When the composition and light is not so obvious, I do several value sketches in the sketchbook. This time I sketched right on the board. (I used a Richeson’s Unison Gator Foam Pastel Surface in white. A new surface for me. When I took the first photograph, I noticed a fault in the board, with a little blending, that disappeared. That happens with shipping and storing and you have to be very careful if you are doing a portrait or some very detailed work to check the surface. For landscapes it usually can be covered up)
The next step was to add an under painting with watercolor. I sometimes use the complementary color to add sparkle to show through the pastels. In this case I chose to use basically the colors themselves to cover the white surface. I put in the darks and basic design.
I then worked on the sky. I put in the sky first in a landscape to keep it fresh and clear. I used several different blues to give depth and life. It is lighter near the horizon because of the atmosphere. I blended a little with my fingers and a Nupastel, but did not blend the final layer. There was a sprinkling of clouds so I added some with a pale gray, lavender and blue and made the white part with a very light yellow-white. That looks brighter against the blue of the sky and more lively than pure white.
Sky and start laying in rocks
I started laying in the pastels on the rocks with a base color similar to the colors I was seeing. Mauve and cream colors in the light area with some blue-gray and purple for the shadows in the rough rock. For the shadow side of the rocks I used similar shades with more blue and a very dark red that is toward a dark brown.
I scumbled (dragging one color lightly over the other) the colors on with a light touch for an assortment of colors. There was a little green moss on the largest of the rocks adding interest. I rarely use pure browns, typical earth colors or black. This is a personal choice.
End of plein air session
I can always add the bright highlights with the softest pastels on my return to the studio, using the very soft Sennelier and Ludwig pastels for the finished product.
City of Rocks Finished