In one of my earliest blogs on this website, I wrote about my surprise at discovering that Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) worked in pastels from time to time. (Click here to read that post.) Since it’s the Easter weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to share three of Delacroix’s pastels of the crucifixion.
The first pastel is a vigorous sketch after Rubens’s painting, Christ on the Cross or Coup de Lance (Pierced with a Lance). Let’s look at Rubens’s painting and then Delacroix’s copy.
When I look at this sketch, I see Delacroix’s intention as capturing the positioning of figures as well as setting down colours. The greenish colour he uses for Christ’s body seems to me to suggest Delacroix used a colour at hand to show Rubens had used a lighter, greener colouring for Christ than he had used for the thieves.
Delacroix’s painting of the same subject in1846 (seven years later), shows the influence of Rubens’s work. Delacroix leaves out the thieves and many other figures, focusing on the figure of Christ, already pierced by the lance (not in view here). Interestingly the red standard in the background echo the lance and the cape of the rider in Rubens’s painting.
Now let’s look at the other two pastels.
The first was done in 1847, after the painting above was completed, suggesting that rather than being a study for the painting is was done afterwards. In his book, Delacroix’s Pastels, the writer Lee Johnson suggests that the pastel was made for an admirer of the painting (shown at the 1847 Salon). This person may have been Haro, the first owner of the piece, who was Delacroix’s supplier of art materials.
Much is the same between the drawing and the painting except that now there are no figures but the solitary Christ. There is certainly less drama, less of the light figure against the dark background but still there is an echo of the feeling in the pastel with a darkening of clouds over the distant hills where the sun rises. The warm paper gives a gentle warm underflow to the whole.
I have added three close-up so we can get a better look at the pastel application:
It appears that much of the pastel in the sky was blended/smudged (you can make out what looks like finger marks in the middle detail!). This was probably true of areas of the body over which hatched lines were applied.
Let’s have a look at the other pastel:
Now we have Christ facing the other direction (west, away from the rising sun) accompanied by a serpent, traditionally a symbol of evil leading to the original sin, the reason for which Christ died. The sunlight is seen rising from behind a craggier landscape than previously and there is less sky shown. Wind is suggested by the position of the material covering Christ’s lower torso. There is an incredible feeling of loneliness in the vastness of the desolate and unwelcoming landscape.
The whole thing looks more subtle and softer than the earlier pastel, with more experience behind it. It’s a smaller drawing and so less detail was possible. (It’s difficult to make out the hand on the right – is that due to the size of paper or perhaps an accidental smudge? The fingers look like they may have been outstretched originally.) Nevertheless, his knowledge and confidence with the figure and with the pastels is certainly clear!
Again, let’s look at some closeups:
Delacroix did paint another Christ on the Cross around this time and this drawing has been related to it. There really doesn’t seem to be that much similarity though. I certainly could make a list of all the dissimilarities!! What do you think?
I hope you enjoyed this review of a couple of Delacroix’s pastels. Another time, I’ll show you some of his studies of skies which are fabulous.
Until then, let me know what you learnt from this blog post
PS. Here’s the book I mentioned above, Delacroix’s Pastels by Lee Johnson, in case you want to add it to your collection
Whoo hoo!!! I have taken all my new pastels in to be framed for my solo show which opens 16th May 2014 at Gallery 8 on Salt Spring Island. Let me share a piece, an abstract pastel, that will be in the show.
I have been working on a series of pastels called ‘Vertical Landscapes’. As the title suggests, they are all vertical rather than the more expected and traditional horizontal format of a landscape painting. They range from fairly realistic through to more abstract (click here to see the fairly abstract pastel Landscape Tapestry and here to read about The Ginkgo Tree). The one I will show you here started off with nothing in mind, just colour! And interestingly, the colour choices for this piece came from the few Terry Ludwig pastels that I own.
I love the colours and feel of Terry’s pastels but knowing they would be difficult to obtain in my home town of Victoria, BC (not to mention that I have a whole heap of other pastels anyway!), I have held firm and not bought any at the bi-annual IAPS convention, well, mostly held firm. All of these pastels were gifts, and mostly from Terry himself, generous soul that he is. And so I am happy to have created this painting using only his pastels!!
Here’s a look at the sequence of my abstract pastel:
So where to go from here? The Landscape Tapestry abstract pastel has a high horizon so what about a low one? I rotated it and had a look.
For me this abstract pastel gives me the feeling of driving through the forest in the rain. What do you see? What do you feel? What’s your story about what’s going on? I’d love to hear!
Please share this blog if you think someone else would enjoy it.
Thanks for spending your time with me
PS. Off to Salt Spring Island tonight to see Gallery 8′s Symbolically 8 show. Of course I am curious about how my painting will be received. It’s not a pastel but if you are curious, you can read about it here.
Yay, I just released a new pastel demo on YouTube. A lot of people have asked me about how I see colour? Well this video tells you a little bit about just that.
Here’s the thumbnail I did before the pastel. You can see it’s divided up into three values. As long as you understand values, you really can go crazy with colour. Just make sure your colour corresponds to the value that you want to reproduce.
Here’s the set up of pears in life (well in a photograph of the pears in life – gets complicated!).
And here’s the same set up in black and white so you can see the values:
Here’s the initial drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper:
I didn’t show the full range of pastels in the video, just the outside of the box and later, the 11 pastels used. So here’s the whole collection of pastels:
I don’t usually use Holbein pastels for a whole piece but I’m rather pleased with the way this one turned out! And here it is:
It’s amazing, as children we use colour intuitively and we are completely happy with the results. As we get older and ‘wiser’ we may be influenced by those who surround us (parents, teachers, friends) who with good intentions, direct us to a different choice of colours, one that more ‘realistically’ matches the outside world. They are safe colours, predictable and bearing a recognizable resemblance to the subject being painted. But there comes a time when we want more, we want to give expression to some inner calling of colour. We are bored and we want to break out of the rut we are in. And this is where learning to see colour comes in.
With practice, you can see colour. I find that some days I can ‘see’ colour better than others so beware of days like that and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Keep an eye out for that unexpected colour that just punches out at you when you least expect it. You know, when you turn to look at something and before your brain kicks in to recognize what you’ve just seen, you see that pure violet patch on the street. (When your mind figures it out, you’ll find the colour simmers down into a grey sort of asphalt colour.)
Rather than think of the rules and colour theory as you paint, just look. Sit and look until some colour emerges and put it down on the paper. It’s exciting stuff!!!
Let me know how you make out seeing colour in your next piece okay? I do want to hear from you! Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post – I attached them all to the blog. You can see them, and my responses, by clicking here to go to the post.
Until next time,
PS. Speaking of seeing colour, do you know Harry Chapin’s song “Flowers Are Red”? It’s such a sad one….and it’s all about seeing colour!!! Click on the image to hear it.
In February, I had the pleasure of being in La Manzanilla, Mexico for a week of tango workshops (yay!) followed by a week of relaxing and painting (more yay!). The paintings were done mostly en plein air and over the next few weeks, I’ll share two or three of those pieces.
The one I’m going to show you this time was an experiment. As many of you know, I generally paint with a limited palette. I decided to try using my very small set of Schminke pastels – only 11 colours to choose from so, in this case, the choice of pastels was severely limited. Eek!
I can’t decide whether the pastel is finished and if it isn’t, should I just keep working on it with the Schminke limited selection or should I bring in some other colours. At the end of this post, I’d like you to help me out with your thoughts.
So let’s take a look. (These photos were taken on site with my iPhone so, sorry, they aren’t the greatest.)
Once home in Canada, I am wondering if a cropped version of the plein air piece will work better. What do you think?
So that’s it. It was a delightful day to be out painting. I sat under a coconut tree and listened to the waves and the chatter of birds and people as they passed by. Nothing beats being outside, en plein air, working on a piece of art. When you look at your work weeks later, you re-live the scene and everything that you experienced. Wonderful.
Okay, time to get your feedback. Is it finished and if not, what suggestions? I also need a title….
I do look forward hearing from you!!
Until next time,
PS. Here’s the scene I painted
Okay, fess up. Did you know that the French Symbolist Odilon Redon (1840-1916) painted portraits? I didn’t realize this until I came across his Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine in the Metropolitan Museum collection.
We’ll take a look at it but first, take a glance at a couple of beautiful pastels which I think you’ll agree, are representative of his more well-known subject matter of florals and paintings with a rather more mysterious and symbolic quality.
Now let’s have a look at the portrait in question:
Here are a list of things I find remarkable about this portrait:
- the luminosity of the yellow dress
- the way the floral arrangement starts out as ‘real’, emerging from a vase, and then morphing into an imaginary bower of flowers that decorate the picture and create an arch over the subject, highlighting her
- the translucency of the fabric Madame Fontaine embroiders
- the depiction of the lace on the dress (both at the collar and at the end of the sleeve), it’s softness, it’s transparent quality
- the range of pastel layers, from a single application of pastel to a heavy coating and all of it working together
- the gentle contemplative expression on her face
- the indistinct sewing hand which suggests its movement
- the dark richness of her hair and the soft quality of the atmosphere around her head
Let’s take a closer look at the details:
I am reminded, looking at these few pastels, of Redon’s amazing use of colour, the saturation he achieved and his combinations of colours. The first part of his artistic life was all about black and white – primarily charcoals and lithography – and all of a sudden in his fifties (1890s) he moved into using luminous colour both in pastels and oils. Quite the change!
To see how his work developed over the years, check out this fabulous interactive … I don’t know what you call it! – at the MOMA. To see it click here and go to All Works.
I’d love to know what you think of this portrait and also about Redon’s pastels in general. Remember, you can always comment by sending a reply to me and I will attach it to the blog.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me,
PS. You know I can’t help myself.. here’s another portrait by Redon:
PPS. Madame Fontaine has painted by other artists. Here is an example by Vuillard painted a couple of years later. (Yes I know it’s not a pastel but it’s worth seeing isn’t it?!)
Sometimes finishing a pastel is the hardest part! When is a painting done? That’s a big, tough-to-answer question! Sometimes you just know, other times you aren’t so sure.
When I was working on the pastel “The Ginkgo Tree,” I came to a place where I thought the piece was nearing completion.
I sat with it for awhile knowing it wasn’t quite finished but wondering what I needed to do next. And then, one day as I was looking out my studio window at the ginkgo tree that had inspired this piece, the wind gusted and a shower of gold leapt from the tree. I realized this was the finishing touch I needed! So I added in those leaves. I also made a few other changes which I have marked below. Before you scroll all the way down, look at the finished piece just below and see if you can spot all the changes. Did you get them all? Did you find ones I left out?
Here are the changes:
1a&b. I thought the roof edges were too harsh against the sky so I softened them slightly. In 1a, I added more blue to the sky (I felt it needed some gradation) and then I ‘brushed’ some of that blue colour into the roof. In 1b, I ‘brushed’ the roof colour into the sky.
2. I added more broken blue areas into the lower left side – I felt it needed more interest.
3. I introduced the same blue used in #2 on the lower right side too.
4. I decided I wanted to show the edge of the roofline so I added more sky to delineate that edge.
5. I felt the foliage was too thick so I further broke up the foliage by adding background colour in among the leaves.
6. I worked more on the trunk trying to give the feeling of bark.
That’s it I think.
So when you’re pondering your pastel, trying to decided whether or not is is finished, I suggest you stay open to the possibilities that may arise. You never know what can happen!
Please let me know if this post was useful. What did you learn? What was missing? Do you have problems finishing a pastel? And if so, what are those problems? To comment, just click on the title of the post above and that will take you to my website where you can comment or, simply reply to this email and let me know that I can attach your comment to the blog and I’ll do just that. (Google search loves lots of comments!!)
As always, I look forward to hearing from you!
PS. You can see more of the evolution of the pastel over at my gailsibley.com website. Click here to see it. In it, I mention the influence of Wolf Kahn. Here’s an example of his work:
Gorgeous isn’t it??? One day I’ll do a blog on his work.
It’s about time I published a new video with a pastel painting tip. So here it is! I talk about how to sort a new box of pastels (a small starter kit) into values. The main thing you need to do this is SQUINT!!
So without further ado, here’s the video:
Please give me some feedback. Was the video helpful? Was it clear? And what other videos would you like to see? My goal is to make a whole heap of short videos on all aspects of doing pastels.
Have a great weekend! I am off to Salt Spring Island for an overnight with my good friend Sandy. It’ll be dinner, some single malt whisky with dark chocolate, then a movie. Perfect!
PS. Remember that since there is no comment button in your email, if you would like to share a comment (which I hope you do!), please reply to this email and I’ll attach it for you OR click on the title of the blog which will take you to the website. Once there, click on Leave a reply, and post your reply. Thanks!!
So I just couldn’t let this day go by without posting a video to thank you for all your words of support and encouragement. They, and you, mean the world to me!!
And so, today, I thought, why not quickly pastel a heart full of all the joys, the anguish, the complexity, the different shades and colour of love. The video is without sound as I wanted you just to see my intuitive process without me describing what I’m doing (cos really, I don’t know!). I figure you can choose some music to accompany your watching. I had no preconceived idea of what the final piece would look like, only that I was inspired by the shape of a heart. It was just down and dirty and away I go!!
The pastel took me about 16 minutes and is speeded up x 4 (rather than the usual x 8 on my pastel demos) which gives you time to see my actions.
I’m using Schminke’s starter set plus a gorgeous pink from Mount Vision Pastels. I’m working on Richeson’s Unison Premium Pastel Surface. I had so much fun, layering, layering, and seeing what would happen if I did this or that. Total freedom, well, except for the camera recording but I always knew I could throw out the whole thing if it just didn’t work!
With regard to colours, I was inspired by those used in a painting by Joan Mitchell (I’ll show you at the end of the blog).
Click on the image below to see the video
It’s unlisted so it won’t appear on my channel (at the moment anyway – depends on the response!) but the link can be shared and I’m fine with that if you are inclined to do so.
Here are the pastels I used:
The final pastel:
And here’s the colour inspiration:
Whew, made it under the wire. Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
Please let me know what you think of this crazy experiment of mine
Until next time,
Oh my gosh, I forgot to tell you I was off to La Manzanilla, Mexico for a couple of weeks for a week of tango intensive and also a week of semi-vacation (it’s kind of a working holiday). It takes a wee bit of time to settle in and get an internet connection hence the delay in finishing this post and sending it out to you.
Nevertheless, here I am with a step-by-step progression of a pastel painting I did for my gallery in Grand Cayman of a country road in Jamaica. I worked from a photo (an old one!) and here’s the result.
Please let me know if you have any questions or any comments about the process above. I look forward to hearing from you!!
As to commenting….
I am using the wonderful Mad Mimi to capture my blog feeds and distribute them to you. One downside is that you won’t find a Comment button. So, if you have something to share, or a question to ask, either reply to this email and I’ll post your comment for you (easy peasy) OR click on the title of the blog which will take you to the website. Once there, click on Leave a reply, and Bob’s your uncle! (That’s a strange saying isn’t it? So I looked it up. Click here if you want to know more. Totally unrelated to pastels!!)
Okay, I’m off to bed. All these days of tango classes are exhausting!
Thanks for being here with me,
The Pastel Demo Video
I’m really happy to tell you that I now have another video up on YouTube. Have a look at the video then let me know what you think. In it, I talk a bit about using negative space. Was it helpful? Did you understand what I meant? Leave me a comment here or in the comment box on YouTube. I’d appreciate your feedback.
Here are a few other pictures you might be interested in:
The Contest Winners!!
In my last post, I promised you the list of winners for my contest (the one I ran to encourage subscribers). I decided that since the response was so great, that I’d draw three winners instead of just one. I also thought to be fair to those who had already found their way to my blog, that I would draw one winner from that list. I am happy to say everyone received their first choice.
1. Betty A. Atteberry from Florida, USA
2. Irene McKinley from Washington, USA
3. Jon Wilks from England
4. Laura Gabel from Florida, USA
(If you are wondering what this is all about, you can click here to read about it )
I’ll talk to you soon!