July’s Pastel Picks

It’s time to share my pastel picks for July. As always, a difficult decision to choose just ten pastels but here they be. They’re chosen from the many delightful pastels I came across over the last month.

 

Elaine Despins, "Probing Gaze," pastel, 18 x 17 in

Elaine Despins, “Probing Gaze,” pastel, 18 x 17 in

I was blown away when I came across this pastel by Elaine Despins. There’s so much I love about it – the figure’s expression, the colour of the background, the deceptive simplicity of the pose, the accuracy of the drawing, the subtle shifts in values and temperatures of the skin, the daring use of black clothing, the amazing depiction of the hands, the capturing of personality and pose. See more of Elaine’s work here.

 

 

Pastel picks: Gail Piazza, "Charles," pastel, 16 x 14 in

Gail Piazza, “Charles,” pastel, 16 x 14 in

Not only do I appreciate how Gail Piazza has captured the sense of this boy, I’m also delighted by the monochromatic colouring of this piece with the paper itself being used as an important element of the whole. I enjoy the simply yet so effectively shaded face with all the contours revealed in a minimal way. Also, look at the fine hatching in contrast to the more thickly applied stroke. And don’t you just love the red accents on the nose and lips? In the course of locating Gail’s website, I discovered that she is an illustrator of children’s books :-)

 

 

pastel picks: Sylvia Laks, "Marriage Arranged," pastel on Canson, 15 3/4 x 9 7/16 in  (40 x 24 cm)

Sylvia Laks, “Marriage Arranged,” pastel on Canson, 15 3/4 x 9 7/16 in (40 x 24 cm)

I like the close cropping of this pastel by Sylvia Laks. It, along with the contrast between the warmth of this woman’s skin and the cool colour of her clothing, make sure we focus on her face. We create a story based on what little we see, a story that is coloured by our own cultural background and bias. The painting compels us to ask questions, for instance: Is this woman upset? Or does she instead exhibit curiosity? What are her thoughts, her feelings? The subject is an individual and yet, almost iconically, she represents all women who are in the same situation. You can see more of Sylvia’s work here – you’ll be surprised when you get there :-)

 

 

pastel picks: Leoni Duff, "Thoughts in Gold," pastel on primed gator board (black primer), 23 7/8 x 18 1/8 in (60 x 46 cm)

Leoni Duff, “Thoughts in Gold,” pastel on primed gator board (black primer), 23 7/8 x 18 1/8 in (60 x 46 cm)

Drawn to the contemplative pose of this woman, I enjoy the way her smooth flawless pale face sits in contrast to the colourful and vigorous marks surrounding her. Leoni Duff’s skill at combining the perfectly rendered face with the more impressionistic interpretation of the clothing and background gives me great pleasure. Check out Leoni’s website for more of her work.

 

 

pastel picks: Terri Ford, "Dune Shadows," pastel, 12 x 16 in,

Terri Ford, “Dune Shadows,” pastel, 12 x 16 in,

We now move to the landscape with this deceptively simple demo piece by Terri Ford. The subject is a fairly nondescript patch of land yet Terri, with her skill in composition, value, and colour, has created a pastel that excites and moves me. She effectively and masterfully moves our eyes easily around the whole. She’s unafraid to apply the pastel thickly and directly, with confidence and vigour yet with consideration.  Click here to see more of Terri’s work.

 

 

pastel picks: Jorge Gomez, "The Mediterranean Sea," soft pastel on Canson, 8.3 x 11.7 in

Jorge Gomez, “The Mediterranean Sea,” soft pastel on Canson, 8.3 x 11.7 in

Look at this pastel by Jorge Gomez close-up and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an abstract. Step back and you see water that moves over hidden rocks and splashes against the outcropping. I’m fascinated by this dichotomy between what is evident from afar and what disappears and becomes much less representational at close quarters. Jorge manages to achieve an almost magical feeling with this piece. There is also that lovely feeling of imagining jumping into cool water on a hot day. Check out his facebook page for more.

 

 

pastel picks: Michele Wells, "Magic Hour," pastel, 12 x 12 in

Michele Wells, “Magic Hour,” pastel, 12 x 12 in

A mostly monochromatic painting in saturated blues, Michele Wells uses the pinkish accents judiciously, just enough to create that warmth that remains in the sky at the horizon and tinges the clouds after the sun has set. We are drawn deeply into the far distance only to be swept outwards, back to where we stand, as our eyes follow the clouds up and out. Such a beautiful impression of an elusive time of day. See more of Michele’s work here.

 

 

pastel picks: Suzanne M. Payne, "Sun Setting," pastel, 12 x 16 in

Suzanne M. Payne, “Sun Setting,” pastel, 12 x 16 in

A similar time of day as Michele’s pastel yet Suzanne captures a totally different cloud effect. Rather than being swept into and then out of the painting, this time we stand still as we witness the majesty of the effects left by the setting sun and feel the peace settling in at the end of the day. There is a beautiful texturing of the water as the remaining light glints off it. I enjoy the quiet simplicity of this piece. Check out Suzanne’s website for more of her work.

 

 

pastel paicks: Linee Baird, "Saint Raphael," pastel on black Spectrum paper, 8 x 10 in

Linee Baird, “Saint Raphael,” pastel on black Spectrum paper, 8 x 10 in

I love that time of day when the sun has set but the sky is not yet fully dark and still, it’s dark enough for lights to be needed. This painting by Linee Baird certainly captures that time of day. The pastel balances out the blues of day end with the warmth of the glowing lights. The vibrancy of this southern French city at night is fully conveyed as is the dampness in the air found in a seaside metropolis. I love the expressive energy of this painting. See more of Linee’s work here.

 

 

pastel picks: Neva Rossi, "Venice Violin," pastel, 12 x 9 in

Neva Rossi, “Venice Violin,” pastel, 12 x 9 in

And for a complete change of pace, we have this piece by Neva Rossi. I was totally charmed by this painting – by its bright combination of colours, by the impressionistic rendering of this man engrossed in playing his stringed instrument, by the feeling it evoked in me. See more of Neva’s work by clicking here.

 

So what are your thoughts about this month’s pastel picks? I’d love you to leave a comment – please let me know what you think!

 

Thanks for being here with me on this pastel journey,

~ Gail

 

Plein Air Pastel Of Big Rideau Lake

I’m home from my wonderful trip to Ontario where Cam and I visited various family members. Kicking myself for not taking more photos! However, I did have time to do one pastel en plein air :-) It’s one that I did of a beautiful view of Big Rideau Lake from Cam’s Mum’s porch. The weather was changeable, rotating from heavy cloud and grey skies to blue sky with white clouds. Ahhhh the unpredictable delights of painting on location!

 

The Plein Air Progress

Here’s the view through the screen. (Yes, I was cheating a bit sitting inside a screened porch but I still consider it a plein air piece!)

The view I painted en plein air

The view I painted. Lots of blues and greens!

1. The Thumbnail prior to pastelling en plein air

1. The Thumbnail. I was especially attracted to the darkly encircled view of the brightly lit trees in the middle ground.

2. The charcoal drawing on Wallis paper in prep for the plein air painting

2. The charcoal drawing on Wallis paper

3. The first layers on - light, middle and dark values as seen en plein air

3. The first layers on – light, middle and dark values. You can see that I’m ‘reading’ the middle ground trees and the water as the same value.

 

4. Adding more pastel in the plein air piece

4. Adding more pastel. You can see the water and middle ground trees emerging as different shapes now.

5. The above in black and white. You can see that I need to darken the left side quite a bit to evoke the same feeling captured in the thumbnail!

5. The above in black and white. You can see that I need to darken the left side quite a bit to evoke the same feeling captured in the thumbnail!

6. Beginning to define the shapes of trees and negative space of the lake in this plein air pastel

6. Beginning to define the shapes of trees and negative space of the lake

7. Almost there. Greens added to the foreground trees. The gray clouds disappeared and were replaced by white ones and I could even see blue sky so those went in. And the various tree trunks of the middle ground trees finally added.

7. Almost there. Greens added to the foreground trees. The gray clouds disappeared and were replaced by white ones and I could even see blue sky so that went in too. The various tree trunks of the middle ground trees were finally added.

8. Let's have a look at the plein air pastel as it stands in black and white. A much closer feeling of looking at the light from the darkness. Just a few more tweaks..

8. Let’s have a look at the pastel as it stands in black and white. A much closer feeling of looking at the light from the darkness. Just a few more tweaks..

9. Gail Sibley, View From Sherwoods, pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in.   Small tweaks made and I called it quits. I may still need to look at it in the studio but for now, this plein air pastel is finished!

9. Gail Sibley, ‘View From Sherwoods,’ pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in. Small tweaks made and I called it quits. CAD$575 unframed




 

 

10. Here are the Sennelier pastels I used for this plein air pastel. The sticks to the left of the charcoal were tried but hardly used. I introduced another green into the small starter set I use. I just couldn't resist that dark olive green. I'll need to replace that blue that's in three small pieces - that's all I have left of that colour!

10. Here are the Sennelier pastels I used. The sticks to the left of the charcoal were tried but hardly used. I introduced another green into the small starter set I use. I just couldn’t resist that dark olive green. Hmmmm, I’ll need to remember to replace that blue that’s in three small pieces – that’s all I have left of that particular colour!

 

I was so happy to have done any work en plein air while away. It would have been nice to have done more but since the main reason for our trip was family visiting, I put all my focus and energy into doing just that! And I’m ever so glad as I had an amazing time first with my sister and her partner, then with Cam’s family (I have now met them all!), and finally with my cousin Alex and her partner. All very special times.

 

Look forward to hearing from you. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think of my newest plein air work.

~ Gail

 

 

Donna Yeager – How Going Back To Art School Changed Everything

At the beginning of June while at the IAPS Convention, I met Donna Yeager. In conversation, she began to tell me about her experience of going back to art school and how it had affected her work. I asked her if she’d like to saw a few words about that experience on camera for my YouTube interviews. She accepted but we found when she began to speak, she had so much more to say. It occured to me that the video could become the basis for a guest blog.

Donna also wrote up an account of her artistic journey to date and you’ll find that, along with the video interview and images that illustrate her words, below.

 

Donna Yaeger, "Ryan," pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes paper, 17 x 12 in -  An example of Donna's that I was familiar with prior to meeting her

Donna Yeager, “Ryan,” pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes paper, 17 x 12 in – An example of Donna’s work that I was familiar with prior to meeting her.

 

Take it away Donna!

My life as an artist has had many changes throughout the years. This is not going to be a diary of my life, all “drawn” out, but a highlight of the journey.

Drawing­–I love it! Always have. I have drawn all my life. It is so natural to me. My first real art class was taught by a former New York illustrator, Harry Fredman. His claim was: “I can teach anyone how to draw.” It was a technique based on measurement but working with live models and later, just photo references. It was very formulated and I caught on fast. I could draw anyone to look just like the photo – boy could I copy.

Donna Yeager, "Katie," graphite pencil, 20 x 16 in

Donna Yeager, “Katie,” graphite pencil, 20 x 16 in

Some students were better than others but all looked like we were cut from the same cloth. Knowing exactly how my drawings and later oil portraits would look like before I even started was reassuring–at first. Later it felt unfulfilling. Where was my creativity and spontaneity? Granted, it is very important to have skills and to keep them sharp but that should not be the end all but the basis for my growth as an artist.

So, I let go of that successful formulated way of working and began studying shapes, value, light, and working in a loose suggestive manner with master painter, Phil Starke. I used big brushes and lots of oil paint. My paintings were not good. I had to think and interpret instead of relying on a formula. It was so hard to let go of my comfortable ways and successful work but I knew I had to in order to grow. I needed to be willing to look bad, to embrace the tenuous, the unknown, the big non-formula. It took a long time and never was success guaranteed. But I did begin to grasp what I was searching for.

Donna Yeager, "Fall Landscape," oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in

Donna Yeager, “Fall Landscape,” oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in

I also began doing figure drawing and in the first session, fell in love with it. My drawings were raw and not very good but it was so exciting – capturing the moment and connecting with the model. The lessons of proportions I had learned in my formulated class came forth. My eye/hand coordination grew. I could see how the figure drawing made me a better painter in all aspects.

Along the way, I began working in pastel. It was a medium to which I connected – it felt like a part of me, an extension of my hand. My first pastel painting was a home run. It was accepted in the Pastel Society of America Exhibition, the Kansas Pastel Society Exhibition, and even The Artist’s Magazine competition.

Donna Yeager, "Coming Home," pastel, 16 x 20 in

Donna Yeager, “Coming Home,” pastel, 16 x 20 in

It is still one of my favorite paintings – simple, direct, and engaging. You’d think after that I would just be knocking them out of the park. That was not the case. I equate it to a beginner bowling a perfect game the first time up. It was trial and error after that.

I stayed with the medium and eventually became skilled in it. I excelled in it rather quickly and developed a style. I have become an award winning artist and instructor.

 

Donna Yeager, "Oporto," plein air pastel on La Carte paper, 9.5 x 7.5 in

Donna Yeager, “Oporto,” plein air pastel on La Carte paper, 9.5 x 7.5 in

 

Donna Yeager, "Sunbathers," pastel on UArt paper, 14 x 21 in

Donna Yeager, “Sunbathers,” pastel on UArt paper, 14 x 21 in

 

Donna Yeager, "Danielle in Green," pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes paper, 20 x 16 in

Donna Yeager, “Danielle in Green,” pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes paper, 20 x 16 in

 

Donna Yeager, "Frayed-A Self Portrait," pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes paper, 25 x 19 in

Donna Yeager, “Frayed-A Self Portrait,” pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes paper, 25 x 19 in

 

When I moved to Kansas from Missouri, I started taking figure drawing and painting classes at the Johnson County Community College. I loved being a student. Working alongside young people was energizing and fun. I learned as much from them as the instructors. Never having a real college experience, I gave it my all.

Going to school, doing homework, teaching, painting, entering competitions, exhibiting – all this happening at once – was exhausting and exhilarating. The art department knew I was a serious artist and it showed in my work. My painting professor, John Carroll Davis, and the head of the art department, Larry Thomas, suggested I take a class called “Digital Imaging for Artists.”

I knew I was not a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination but I somewhat knew my way around a PC. So I enrolled in the class. I walked in and all the computers were Apple computers. I had never been on a Mac. I couldn’t even follow the lingo. I was lost. The professor was patient and since there were only eight students in the class, so I knew I had a chance. It was up to me to make something out of it. It was a tough class. I couldn’t “draw” my way of this.

 

Donna Yeager, "Self Portrait," Digital Image Collage - pastel painting done on Canson Mi-Tientes as bottom layer in photoshop, also includes drawings done with 6B pencil, scans of jewellery, dried flowers, ceramic statue, and single finger rosary all done in Photoshop

Donna Yeager, “Self Portrait,” Digital Image Collage – pastel painting done on Canson Mi-Tientes as bottom layer in photoshop, also includes drawings done with 6B pencil, scans of jewellery, dried flowers, ceramic statue, and single finger rosary all done in Photoshop

 

“Nothing is sticking in my head,” I said to my professor. He responded, “I know – I thought you would do much better.”

Well, that didn’t give me much encouragement, but I was determined not to quit. I heard God’s voice in my head: “I’m giving you this gift. It is free but you will have to struggle. It won’t be easy. It will be very hard. Will you take my gift? Be strong. I am with you.”

I stayed. I went to every lab, every class. I struggled through homework with deadlines. If it wasn’t for an angel named Danny Ashley who was the lab tech (and also an instructor in computer classes), I could never have made it. He tutored me, he became my friend, and he never gave up on me.

I started combining the digital with drawings and paintings. My new pieces were good. I re-enrolled in the class and kept going.

 

Donna Yeager, "Coptic Christian Mourners," photograph of families, pastel painting Finch Feast used as bottom layer in Photoshop, and coloured pencils

Donna Yeager, “Coptic Christian Mourners,” photograph of families, pastel painting Finch Feast used as bottom layer in Photoshop, and coloured pencils

Donna Yeager, "Finch Feast," pastel on Canson Mi-tientes paper, 9 x 12 in - the original pastel used in the digital collage above

Donna Yeager, “Finch Feast,” pastel on Canson Mi-Tientes paper, 9 x 12 in – the original pastel used in the digital collage above

 

Donna Yeager, "Song Of St Francis (part of a series)," photograph with golden gel medium, extra heavy molding paste,, clear gel glue, glass beads, dried grasses and flowers, silver jewellery makings, gold jewellery makings painted with orange acrylic, carefully broken burnt matches, and a tiny bit of glitter glue, on canvas, 12 x 12 in

Donna Yeager, “Song Of St Francis (part of a series),” photograph with golden gel medium, extra heavy molding paste,, clear gel glue, glass beads, dried grasses and flowers, silver jewellery makings, gold jewellery makings painted with orange acrylic, carefully broken burnt matches, and a tiny bit of glitter glue, on canvas, 12 x 12 in. “The orange pieces represent the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs from Libya. The burnt matches represent their hooded assassins and the transformed silver shapes beneath them represent previous martyrs.”

 

In the next three semesters, my work was published in three of the “Mind’s Eye” student catalogs. It was also selected to be included in the school’s calendar. The Nerman Museum purchased my abstract assignment entitled “Guardo-Sol”.

 

Donna Yeager, "Guardo-Sol," Digital Image Collage, 22 x 22 in

Donna Yeager, “Guardo-Sol,” Digital Image Collage, 22 x 22 in

 

Because of this journey I have done work I’d never dreamed of before. I think differently now. I now consider content as well as style. My composition skills have increased. And I am more creative.

I’m not sure where this new language will take me but I know that it is unique and special.

 

~~~~

 

So what do you think of Donna’s artistic adventure? Have you thought of going back to art school? Are you inspired to do so? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment!

 

Until next week,

~ Gail

 

Demos At IAPS In The Schminke Pastels Booth

At the beginning of June, as you know, I was at the wonderful bi-annual International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention. I was fortunate to be asked to demo twice using Schminke pastels at their booth.

What to paint? Well, if you know me, you know I prefer working from life, so the first demo was a no-brainer – I’d do a still life set up. And if you’ve been following my YouTube videos you know I’m a big promoter of using quality pastels in a limited palette. (This is to help show beginners that they only need to start with a small selection of pastels which means they can afford to purchase good quality rather than mediocre pastels!)

And what did I decide to do for my demo the following day? Well, wait and see!

Let’s have a look at the first demo.

Set up for Schminke pastels demo

The set-up. I wanted to include a full value range from dark to light as well as different types of items. My viewpoint changed slightly from this photo as I stepped to the easel.

Gary, the Schminke rep, asked me to use the small set of Schminke pastels that I'd used in my earlier videos. Well that put a wrench in the works! So few pastels to choose from!

Gary, the Schminke rep, asked me to use the small set of Schminke pastels that I’d used in my earlier videos. Well that put a wrench in the works! So few pastels to choose from – only 11!

Schminke pastels in black and white photo. This easily shows you the value range available!

Schminke pastels in black and white photo. This easily shows you the value range available. Two lights, one very dark, one fairly dark, and the rest midtones (the brown and one of the reds are missing.)

Thumbnail for demo using Schminke pastels

Hmmmm…my thumbnail except as you can see, I forgot (how??) to add values! Nevertheless, it helped me see how the items were placed and made it easier for me to sketch the set up on paper.

Drawing in vine charcoal and first layer of Schminke pastels on

Drawing in vine charcoal and first layer of pastels on. Usually, I block in the three main values – light, middle and dark. Here I worked differently in that I only had two lights to work with. So instead, I began by putting in shapes of colour over which I would layer my lights (and darks and mid-values). The red and the blue are the darks and will eventually become darks and mid-values, the orange mid-tone will eventually become a light value, and the yellow will remain a light value.

 

Beginning to build the layers with Schminke pastels

Beginning to build the layers. It’s tough going working in colours that aren’t the correct values. (They will eventually be layered over to create the appropriate value.) All this is made even more tricky with the broken focus that comes with demoing. Good practice!

 

Beginning to shift values to correct range using Schminke pastels

Beginning to shift values to correct range. Bit bizarre isn’t it?!

 

The image above in black and white. This really shows you where the values stand. I wanted to point out a small value lesson. Looking at this image, you really can't tell the difference between the orange and the colour of the paper! Cool huh?

The image above in black and white. This really shows you where the values stand. I wanted to point out a small value lesson. Looking at this image, you really can’t tell the difference between the orange and the colour of the paper! Cool huh? I can see I need to darken the mug a whole lot more.

 

More Schminke pastels applied

More pastel applied

 

The final piece. Schminke pastels on Pastel Premier paper med fine 320 grit Italian Clay

Photographed on my return home in daylight on a cloudy day, the colours look a bit bluer than they actually are. Schminke pastels on Pastel Premier paper med fine 320 grit, Italian Clay

 

With the black and white version, you can see how things have changed!

With the black and white version, you can see how things have changed!

 

One down, one more to go.

I decided that since I had recently begun offering a workshop called “Reality to Abstract,” I’d have my second piece use the first demo as a base from which to go abstract. And even though Gary was kind enough to offer me the use of a larger set, I decided to stick with the smaller set to see what would happen.

Here goes!

 

First Schminke pastels down with little care. Can you see the main items of pear, mug, and tea bags?

First colours down with little care. I just went for it! Can you see the main items of pear, mug, and tea bags?

 

Now what? I just trusted my intuition, believing the process would take me somewhere. I just let go and applied Schminke pastels, watching where my hand and heart took me.

Now what? I just trusted my intuition, believing the process would take me somewhere. I just let go and watched where my hand and heart took me.

 

This is it so far. (The demo was a bit shorter as it was soon time to pack the booth away.) Crazy huh? Gail Sibley, "Untitled as yet," Schminke pastels on UArt ? grit, ?

I began to think about the formal qualities of composition, value, line, shapes, edge etc. I added colours according to what I felt the painting needed.

 

For interest sake, here it is in black and white so you can see how the values are arranged. (Sorry about the shadow top right.)

For interest’s sake, here it is in black and white so you can see how the values are arranged. (Sorry about the shadow top right.)

 

This is how the piece finished up. Crazy huh? (The demo was a bit shorter as it was soon time to pack the booth away.) I need to decide how much more work to do on it if any. Schminke pastels on UArt 320, 12 x 18 in

This is how the piece finished up. Crazy huh?  (The demo was a bit shorter as it was soon time to pack the booth away.) I need to decide how much more work to do on it if any. Schminke pastels on UArt 320 paper, 12 x 18 in

 

And here's me at work on the first demo using Schminke pastels

And here I am at work on the first demo. You can see  part of the set up I was working from. I’m using an easel borrowed from Dakota Pastels. Kicking myself for not buying it. It would have been perfect for my upcoming trip to Budapest! Argh.

 

I enjoyed trying out new papers and can certainly recommend them both – UArt 320 and Pastel Premier 320 Italian Clay. They both took the layering of soft pastel very well. And of course I loved using the Schminke pastels!

Look forward to hearing what you think about these pieces! So please leave a comment :-)

Until next week,

~ Gail

 

June’s Remarkable Pastels!

Oh. My. Gosh. I can hardly believe we are already in July and it’s time for the roundup of the pastels I’ve enjoyed through the month of June. Once again, culling the 55 collected pastels down to 10 choices was incredibly difficult. It’s always when I get down to about 15 that I look and ponder, look and ponder. It takes ages to make those final choices. I actually hate having to make the chop but I still think 10 is a good number to present to you. So here are this month’s remarkable pastels!

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Adrian Frankel Giuliani, "Jami Swimming II," pastel, 22 x 27 in

Adrian Frankel Giuliani, “Jami Swimming II,” pastel, 22 x 27 in

I’ve always loved this pastel by Adrian Frankel Giuliani. I can hear the sounds of the swimming pool underneath the water and the bubbles just beginning to break free from those bulbous cheeks. I can feel the flow of water as this child moves vigorously by me. I inhale ‘swimming pool’ aroma and recall my own childhood full of exuberance and blissful innocence. I also love the thickness and energy of the pastel marks in this high-key, slightly abstracted, large piece.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Glen Maxion, "Last Day of Summer," pastel, 25 x 19 in

Glen Maxion, “Last Day of Summer,” pastel, 25 x 19 in

I was totally charmed by this pastel done by Glen Maxion. Like Adrian’s piece, I can feel the experience of being there – the sound of the waves and the cries of the figures jumping in the waves, the taste of the salt, the slight breeze that sends a shiver over wet skin. One girl looks out perhaps at the figures or maybe beyond while the other appears to examine the action of the water over the sand at their feet. What’s amazing to me is a closer look at the painting suggests the paper is Canson even though at first glance, the pastel looks thickly applied and layered. Another memory of childhood and the joys of summer at the beach.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Nancy Feinman Nowak, "Right at the Corner," plein air pastel, 9 x 12 in

Nancy Feinman Nowak, “Right at the Corner,” plein air pastel, 9 x 12 in

This pastel by Nancy Feinman Nowak stopped me in my tracks when I came across it. Simple simple simple yet absolutely captivating. I love the taking of something so seemingly insignificant – the side of a fairly ordinary house in light – and making it into something worth stopping for. Certainly this is what Nancy has done in this painting. Look at all those grayed colours that when combined make for what feels like a colourful painting. There’s such confidence in the strokes, the range of values, and in the colour choices.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Kathy Falla Howard, "Senora de la Luz (The Lady of Light)," plein air pastel, 8 x 10 in

Kathy Falla Howard, “Senora de la Luz (The Lady of Light),” plein air pastel, 8 x 10 in

Another plein air piece, this one by Kathy Falla Howard (done during the Santa Fe Plein Air Festival) gives me a sense of calm and peace. This simple backlit church sits solidly on the paper surrounded by a mountain and sky backdrop, trees and shrubbery on either side, and the sunlit cemetery with flower-marked graves in the foreground. Such simplicity of vision gives a feeling of times past and speaks to the importance to the community of this small church built in 1880.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Barry Monohon, "Evening Field With Rapidly Changing Light - Brownvillius," pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in

Barry Monohon, “Evening Field With Rapidly Changing Light – Brownvillius,” pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in

There’s something about this piece by Barry Monohon I just love. It’s so simple yet vibrates with colour and texture. There is a feeling of the magnificence and the vitality of nature that comes through. You may not think so at first viewing, but there’s depth – just look at the piece from far away and you’ll see the field glowing beyond the trees. You’ll also notice the warmly coloured textured ground in front and the cool dark shade beneath the sunlit trees.There’s no obvious centre of interest yet my eye travels around the whole, never stuck in one place, moved around by the mark-making itself. Is there something European about it? Perhaps it reminds me of the work of the Impressionists.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Jeff Ventola, "Breach," pastel, 8 x 10 in

Jeff Ventola, “Breach,” pastel, 8 x 10 in

Okay, without looking at the caption, how large do you think Jeff Ventola‘s painting is? Come on, ‘fess up! Did you consider that it was so small? I didn’t. I was sure that it was a huge painting! I think that phenomenon comes from the vastness of landscape suggested. Yet another painting of a simple subject in nature, this one brings together the sound of rolling thunder in the distance, the smell of imminent rain or perhaps of the earth after the rain has fallen, the glory of being alive. It feels like a metaphor for life – its ups and downs, its clear skies and menacing clouds, its ever-changing cycle. I love the way Jeff has coloured the small slice of water, reflecting the colours above. And I need to add that apparently Jeff withdrew from painting for 10 months after receiving some vituperative remarks. Well I, for one, am glad he’s back on the painting horse!

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Bre Crowell, "Dancing Til Dawn," pastel, 20 x 24 in

Bre Crowell, “Dancing Til Dawn,” pastel, 20 x 24 in

Similar in composition to Jeff’s work, this one is completely different. I love the energy and directness of this abstract painting by Bre Crowell. The pastel marks feel intuitive as they range in squiggles, meanderings, and slashes across the paper. The title helps me see a figure whirling and turning, dancing like no one’s watching. For me, for some reason, it brings to mind fairytales of dancing princesses and also the character of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady when she sings, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night.’ Funny what can come up when you view a painting! Isn’t that part of the joy?

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Ron Monsma, "Marked," pastel on illlustration board, 16 x 20 in

Ron Monsma, “Marked,” pastel on illustration board, 16 x 20 in

I’ve always enjoyed Ron Monsma‘s figurative paintings but for some reason, it’s this non-figurative piece that made it into this monthly collection. There’s always much to think about when you view Ron’s work and this one is no exception. What does it mean? What clue does the title give us? Why are these objects combined and what does the combination tell us? There’s the solidity of brick and wood creating a structure on and around which something of nature – a nest but one with an egg-shaped hole in it, and an egg, pierced by a nail yet unbroken – reside. All all starkly visible against a brooding sky. For me, the painting says something about the relationship between humankind’s construction and the damage it does to wildlife. Am I way off base? Ron paints the objects in a realistic way yet the content of the painting is more surreal than real and asks more questions than it answers. What’s your take on this painting?

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Neil Condron, "Self Portrait," pastel, 19 3/4 x 22 in (50 x 56 cm)

Neil Condron, “Self Portrait,” pastel, 19 3/4 x 22 in (50 x 56 cm)

Speaking of questions, what about Neil Condron‘s pondering self portrait? There’s nothing held back as Neil looks at himself and records what he sees – a middle aged artist complete with wrinkles, bumps and all, the face of a life lived yet one that may be pondering the past? or the present? or perhaps the future? The vignetting effect at the bottom of the painting reminds us that we aren’t looking at an actual face. Instead, we’re looking at pastel marks on paper posing as a face. I rather like that prompt.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Jz Xu, "Red Box," pastel on paper, 12 x 19 in

Jz Xu, “Red Box,” pastel on paper, 12 x 19 in

Lastly we come to Jz Xu‘s pastel – a mostly blue painting with a splash of red. You’d think the eye would be caught, trapped almost, by that square of red near the centre of the painting and although it captures our attention initially, our eyes instead, move around the picture taking in the interesting details of pillows and blankets on a bed, items on the windowsill, the landscape beyond framed by the blinds and window frame. We do come back to the box and wonder about its significance but rather than stop there, on that nondescript though bright square, we move on. Quite the feat, persuading our attention to be diverted from that mysterious red box. There’s a wonderful directness in the pastel marks with only a few strokes representing folds in the sheet and light between the blinds.

 

And that’s it for this month’s roundup. Remarkable pastels all!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, opinions so leave me a reply. I look forward to hearing from you!!

 

A quick aside, I was delighted to see so many of my monthly choices show up at this year’s IAPS Pastel World Exhibition with some winning prizes. A pleasant confirmation.

 

Until next week when I’ll have some of my own work for you to consider,

~ Gail

IAPS – The Landscape Interviews

In my last post, I shared the first half of the interviews I made at the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) in early June. Here is the second set – the landscape interviews I call them since they’re all related to painting the landscape. Let’s go!

 

I first discovered the work of Lyn Asselta when I presented one of her extraordinary-from-the-ordinary pastels in my November monthly roundup. She’s a master at taking something that we might not give a second thought to and making it into something that makes us look and look and wonder….like a gray day with an empty rutted road leading off into the distance accompanied by telephone poles possibly no longer in use. The paintings below are of places fairly close to Lyn’s home.

The Landscape Interviews: Lyn Asselta, "Forgotten," pastel, 13 x 21 in

Lyn Asselta, “Forgotten,” pastel, 13 x 21 in

 

the Landscape Interviews: Lyn Asselta, "Blue Morning, Crescent Beach," pastel, 20 x 20 in - this piece was in this year's IAPS show

Lyn Asselta, “Blue Morning, Crescent Beach,” pastel, 20 x 20 in – this piece was in this year’s IAPS show. What incredible light and colour!

 

I asked Lyn about how she sees beauty in mundane, everyday scenes:

 

 

Andrew McDermott is from Vancouver (nice to have a Canadian in among these interviews!). I’ve always admired his work, particularly his bold use of colour. He has a way of capturing that time of day when it’s night and lights are on but there’s still enough light in the sky to see colours. (You’ll also see his figurative work in the November pastel roundup.) Have a look:

the Landscape Interviews: Andrew McDermott, "Windy Day," pastel, 15 x 12 in

Andrew McDermott, “Windy Day,” pastel, 15 x 12 in

 

the Landscape Interviews: Andrew McDermott, "Night Reflections," pastel, 15 x 26 in

Andrew McDermott, “Night Reflections,” pastel, 15 x 26 in

 

Knowing Andrew’s penchant for colour, I asked him to give us a tip or two on how to use colour effectively:

 

 

Next we have two fabulous plein air artists.

To tell you the truth, I was unaware of Aaron Schuerr and his work until Andrew McDermott introduced me to Aaron. I looked him up online and was delighted to find fresh and light-filled plein air work. Take a look at a couple of the pieces he sent me:

the Landscape Interviews: Aaron Schuerr, "Turquoise Waters," 9 x 12 in

Aaron Schuerr, “Turquoise Waters,” 9 x 12 in (I’m pretty awed by an artist who can capture the sea on site!)

 

the Landscape Interviews: Aaron Schuerr, "Morning Aspens," pastel, 9 x 12 in

Aaron Schuerr, “Morning Aspens,” pastel, 9 x 12 in

 

Learning that Aaron was a plein painter, I asked him to tell us about why he paints on location:

 

 

Last but so very far from least, we have Richard McKinley. You’ll hear in the video below Richard’s comment about the benefit of returning to paint at the same place again and again through the years. With this in mind, he sent me three pastels created in the same location in Goleta, California over a period of ten years. You can see how the feeling and style shifts as well as the composition. The earliest comes first, the most recent, last.

the Landscape Interviews: Richard, McKinley, "Hillside Textures," pastel, 9 x 12 in

Richard, McKinley, “Hillside Textures,” pastel, 9 x 12 in

 

the Landscape Interviews: Richard McKinley, "Edge of the Bank," pastel, 12 x 16 in

Richard McKinley, “Edge of the Bank,” pastel, 12 x 16 in

 

the Landscape Interviews: Richard McKinley, "Cliffs of Golita," pastel, 12 x 18 in

Richard McKinley, “Cliffs of Golita,” pastel, 12 x 18 in (This very much reminds me of some of Whistler’s wonderful pastels.)

 

Richard writes, “When I painted the last one, I was profoundly struck by how much the scene had changed. Upon reflection, I realized I had as well. I included a couple of these painting images in my new book The Landscape Paintings of Richard McKinley in the final section titled “Old Friends”. Whenever I reconnect with one of these locations, I have the luxury of memory. It may have new wrinkles and grayer hair, just like me, but I still remember it in all of its manifestations. This provides a comfort and intimacy that allows me to be more creative.”

 

I asked Richard to tell us what he sees as the benefits of painting en plein air:

 

And that’s it for this year’s interviews (except for one which will appear in July as part of a guest blog). Wish I’d been able to do more – I certainly had many more artists lined up to interview – but that’s just the way things turned out. I have an idea in mind though, so stay tuned!

 

Speaking of painting on location, my online course Pastel Painting En Plein Air is well and truly almost ready for release….just working out some technical glitches and then I’ll let you know aaaaaall about it. Soon come!

 

Please let me know what you think of the landscape interviews. What’s the most striking thing that you learnt?

 

Until next time (when I’ll have the month end round-up of awesome pastels),

~ Gail

 

PS. If you’re interested in Richard McKinley’s new book, here it is. (It was sold out at IAPS before I could get my hands on a copy!)

And for Canadian purchasers – and check it out – it’s practically the same price as in the US! What a deal!!:

IAPS Interviews – Questions Answered!

I managed to persuade 10 artists at the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention to say a few words on video in answer to one question. This post will include half the IAPS interviews, the next, the rest. (One interview went way over the one-to-three minute mark and the story was so fascinating that I thought, hey, this would make a great guest blog so look for that next month!)

Along with the IAPS interviews, I have included two pastel examples by each artist. A few of the artists attached words along with the images they sent and these are included in the captions below each painting.

 

First up is Sandra Burshell who is well known for her luminous interiors. Most notably, she won the IAPS Prix de Pastel (the highest honour ) in the 18th IAPS Juried Show. Now take a look at these beauties! I feel as if I’m in the scene, bathed in the atmosphere and light.

IAPS Interview: Sandra Burshell, "Streaming Light (Fairtrade Cafe)," pastel, 19 x 17 in

Sandra Burshell, “Streaming Light (Fairtrade Cafe),” pastel, 19 x 17 in.  “The sunlight coming into this coffeehouse  in the early morning created such wonderful abstract shapes!”

 

IAPS Interviews: Sandra Burshell, "Bathed In Light," pastel, 11x 8 in

Sandra Burshell, “Bathed In Light,” pastel, 11 x 8 in. “Working on location, the light filtering in from the windows that afternoon just filled the whole room with a gentle warmth!”

 

I asked Sandra about why she paints Interiors, or Roomscapes as she calls them:

 

 

 

Next we have my lovely friend Stephanie Birdsall. She has become well known for her intricate and delicate as well as bold and direct florals.  Here are a couple of her delightful floral pastels. I could just put my hand in and pick up the blossoms!

IAPS Interviews: Stephanie Birdsall, "Soft Light," pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in

Stephanie Birdsall, “Soft Light,” pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in

 

IAPS Interviews: Stephanie Birdsall, "Southern Magnolias," pastel, 9 x 12 in

Stephanie Birdsall, “Southern Magnolias,” pastel, 9 x 12 in

 

Given that Stephanie’s expertise lies with painting flowers, I asked her if she had a couple of tips to share:

 

 

 

This year’s IAPS Prix de Pastel (the highest award) winner was Christine Swann. And just by the way, Christine won the Gold Award at the 22nd Juried Exhibition at the 2013 IAPS Convention. And if that wasn’t enough, she also won the Maggie Price award at the 24th Juried IAPS Exhibition. (I wrote about the pastel last year. You can read about it here.)

Rather than show you Christine’s winning piece (I’ll put a link to the IAPS website when they have the show available online and you’ll be able to see it there), I thought it would be interesting to view two pieces I hadn’t seen before. Christine’s work is all about the story they tell beyond the surface content.

IAPS Interviews: Christine Swann, "Half-Cocked," pastel, 40 x 30 in

Christine Swann, “Half-Cocked,” pastel, 40 x 30 in. “This painting is more than a woman holding a rooster while on the phone. Even though that image is intriguing, the painting is really a tribute to my very busy friend who decided to raise exotic chickens from eggs in her basement. Her daughters loved animals and she wanted to give them the experience of seeing an egg hatch. Now, her neighbors thought she was a bit crazy, since she lived in a non- farming, suburban neighborhood. But she did it anyway. To me, this image represents a strong woman bold enough to go against the “norms” of society and do something outside the ordinary for her kids.”

 

IAPS Interviews: Christine Swann, "Art Critic," pastel, 20 x 28 in

Christine Swann, “Art Critic,” pastel, 20 x 28 in. “This piece is about the girl standing on the boys’ artwork. For me,  how I am trying to convey an idea is more important than what I actually paint.  I think when people criticize our work, it is like they are actually standing on or destroying what we create.  I wanted her feet to feel rude and defiant – very much “in his face.”  He, luckily, is blissfully unaware of her insult, and is fully engaged in what he is doing anyhow. I wish that kind of focus to every artist that has encountered a demeaning critic.”

 

I asked Christine about the most important element in her paintings:

 

 

 

Arlene Richman does stunning abstracts. She’s won many awards for them including numerous ones in the Pastel Journal’s Pastel 100 annual competition. Arlene has also been a guest blogger here at HowToPastel and you can read her article here. Let’s have a look at the two pieces she sent:

IAPS Interviews: Arlene Richman, "Tropical Depression," pastel, 21 x 21 in

Arlene Richman, “Tropical Depression,” pastel, 21 x 21 in. “I was interested in putting black and gold together. I put the black skeleton of the painting down first, then the gold/yellow. The rest grew up around the two colors. I had no idea where the painting would go, nor what colors would work until I put them in and assessed the result. Lines get laid down when I feel they’re needed. Often they’re black, sometimes I need color in the lines.”

 

IAPS interviews: Arlene Richman, "Mars," pastel, 11 x 11 in

Arlene Richman, “Mars,” pastel, 11 x 11 in. I started with the horizon line very high on the paper. I knew I wanted to work with neutrals, so I put in the pale sky and found the right neutral pink for the foreground. After that, the black defined the space for me and I was driven to punctuate with the high chroma pastels. In other words, after the horizon line went onto the paper, the compositional problem was presented and I chose to solve it by balancing color.

 

You can hear how Arlene starts these marvelous pastels:

 

 

 

And finally for this post we come to the work of Duane Wakeham. I’m always awed by how deceptively simple they look – so clear in their intention.  When you look closely at Duane’s work, you see shapes. The abstract underpinnings of his work help to make our experience of them that much more (unconsciously) satisfying. And although the colours, when you look closely at them, may be stretched away from what we might think we see, the paintings seem to reflect reality perfectly. Often, there are such subtle shifts in colour and temperature and values that unless you observe the pieces closely, you won’t notice them. Duane sent me four options: I had the dickens of a time picking two! Here they are:

 

IAPS interviews: Duane Wakeham, "August Evening, McKerricher," pastel, 19 x 29 in

Duane Wakeham, “August Evening, McKerricher,” pastel, 19 x 29 in

 

IAPS interviews: Duane Wakeham, "Summer Evening, Russian River, Study," pastel, 9 x 12 in

Duane Wakeham, “Summer Evening, Russian River, Study,” pastel, 9 x 12 in

 

You get the feeling when looking at Duane’s work that in each painting, every part of it has been considered. Listen to what Duane has to say about how he builds a painting:

 

 

 

And that’s it until next time when I’ll bring you the other four IAPS interviews. I also want to thank these artists for sharing their time and expertise with us. They are all such darn lovely people!

 

Let me know what you learnt from watching the videos. Yes, you. Go on, leave a comment!

Until next week,

~ Gail

 

PS. And if you know me, I just can’t stop. I realized I hadn’t chosen one of Duane’s warm glowing landscapes and since this is my blog and you know, I can break my own rules, here’s another Wakeham pastel.

 

IAPS interviews: Duane Wakeham, "Spring Hillside, Petaluma," pastel, 19 x 29 in

Duane Wakeham, “Spring Hillside, Petaluma,” pastel, 19 x 29 in

IAPS – A Whale Of A Time!

Settling back into real life after a fabulous time at the 2015 International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What to tell you about it??

Well, for the first time, I was totally on the Vendor side of the Convention – I didn’t register as a participant (for one, it sold out so quickly – which is fantastic!) so I didn’t sign up for any demos.

IAPS: My official vendor badge!

My official vendor badge!

I got to serve and play in the Candy Store both at the Holbein booth and at the Schminke booth. At each place, I was greeted by many of my subscribers who shared how much they love this blog. Wow – talk about walking on air!!! Makes all this effort oh so worth it. I’m kicking myself for not getting photos of me with these encouraging folk.

I also didn’t get photos with myself cozying up to the big whigs and my pastel heroes. Why I didn’t do that I can’t tell you – I just never thought of it at the time. Argh. I’ll do better in 2017! The connecting with old friends and making new ones is a huge part of the joy at IAPS. Here are a few photos in the trade show:

IAPS - Working (and playing!) at the Trade Show

IAPS – Working (and playing!) at the Trade Show. From top right down: Doug Hopper (Holbein head honcho), my friend and artist Stephanie Birdsall, and me; Me and Marla Baggetta who I was lucky enough to chat with over a long lunch; Me and my ‘boss’ Gary at the Schminke booth; Stef, her friend Alex Barlett who I was so happy to get to know, and Urania Tarbet Christy – founder of IAPS; Stef, Terry Ludwig (the man himself!) and me; and finally Doug Hopper in the Holbein booth.

 

One of the really fun things at IAPS was the Paint-Around with Stan Sperlak, Tony Allain, Terri Ford, Alain J. Picard, and Marla Baggetta – what a hoot. Each artist starts a painting then every 10 minutes, the painting moves on one person until it comes back to the originator. I only saw the end of the event but could, on entering, feel the fun and frantic energy in the room.

When not demoing over at the Schminke booth in pastels, I was playing around in acrylic (heavy body and the new fluid paint), Acryla Gouache, and water soluble pastels at the Holbein booth, showing off how fabulous the products are. This while Stef showed off her skills in pastel at the Holbein booth.

IAPS - Paint Around participants, My playful paint experiments, Stef pastelling at the Holbein booth

Paint Around participants; my playful paint experiments; and Stef pastelling at the Holbein booth

Then there was the IAPS exhibition itself that I managed to dash into a couple of times (but regrettably missed the walk-around with Duane Wakeham). So many wonderful pictures!! Happy to see many that have been featured in my monthly round-up!

It wasn’t all work. The first day I got there (Tuesday 2 June), I managed to get in the pool. The outside temperature was so warm. What a treat. Ahhhhhhhhhh. AND, to top it all off, that night there was a full moon. Sigh.

IAPS- Enjoying life in Albuquerque!

Enjoying life! Me at the pool; view from the bedroom of the town of Albuquerque under the full moon; gorgeous flowers near the pool

Here are some of the other cool things that happened:

 

– I danced like crazy Thursday night with Stef as my partner then persuaded Schminke’s Gary to have a dance, and eventually got a whole heap of gals up to dance to Artisan Art Store’s own Ron Whitmore’s band

– I recorded about 10 short video interviews (which I will be posting in the next few days) thanks to the generosity of the artists who participated

– I enjoyed the keynote talk at the Saturday banquet by Esther Bell (Curator in Charge, European Paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco) about the effect of the French Revolution on the way pastels were used in later decades. It’s only now that the full force and styles of pastels is being revived

– I ate and drank very well thanks in huge part to Holbein’s Doug Hopper and to other kind souls around

– I caught up with my friend Stephanie Birdsall – a lot can happen in two years!

– I had wonderful conversations with so many fabulous artists like Duane Wakeham, Jimmy Wright, Sandra Burshell, Bill Creevy, and Marla Baggetta. I only wish I could have found the time to do more socializing (for example, Sally Strand and I totally missed getting together – I don’t know how that happened!).

– I did two demos in the Schminke booth and was generously provided with UArt and Pastel Premier papers to try out. I loved them! Not so much worry now about the unavailability of Wallis paper. I will show you the demo progress of the pieces in my next blog.

– On Sunday 7th June, after connecting with various folk in the morning, I made my way to the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History just around the corner. (I got caught in an unusual 2-min downpour getting there. Crazy! I was pretty wet by the time I found the entrance.) I’ll share some of the work I saw in a blog for gailsibley.com. In the meantime, here’s a few images to keep you going.

 

And that’s about it!

Being at the IAPS Convention really was a time of joy – hanging out with people who love pastels as much as I do in beautiful and warm New Mexico. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Really, I’m not Rita!

IAPS-The twins: Rita Kirkman and me!

At IAPS, I met Rita Kirkman. Everyone thought I was her! I wonder why…..

IMG_8374

 

May’s Fabulous Pastels

Ahhhhh…we are already at the end of May and it’s time for another monthly round-up of ten fabulous pastels I’ve encountered through the month. I started with 52 choices this time. I thought, by now I should be able to make the cut to ten pretty quickly. But it’s when I get to 19, then 15, then 13 and I go over and over and over and I think, I can’t cut anymore! But in the end I do and here they are. Once again, there’s a mix of more well known artists and not so well known.

 

May’s Fabulous Pastels

May's Fabulous pastels: Becky Harblin, "Morning Marsh," plein air pastel on sanded paper, 16 x 20 in

Becky Harblin, “Morning Marsh,” plein air pastel on sanded paper, 16 x 20 in

I kept returning to this pastel again and again. There is something in its bold simplicity and directness that speaks to me. I feel the heaviness of the air, full of the dampness of the marsh and the morning. The darkness brings with it an ominous quality. There are so many greens here to deal with and I love the many levels and differences that Becky makes. I also feel the clouds – I’ve seen them like that when they don’t come in a neat ‘cloud package’. I was unable to find a website for Becky (who apparently is a poet as well) but you can link here to her Facebook page.

 

May's Fabulous pastels: Nancie King Mertz, "Hooper-esk," plein air pastel on textured panel, 12 x 17 in

Nancie King Mertz, “Hooper-esk,” plein air pastel on textured panel, 12 x 17 in

From the dark of the marsh we come into a bright day on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. I love the way Nancie manages to make a beautiful painting out of something many of us might not look at twice. She uses the design of the whole operation to the composition’s benefit (we travel the triangular track easily through the painting) and works wonders of colour in all those areas of whites and grays. The whole is backed by a lovey pattern of greens as a foil. I’ve wanted to include one of Nancie’s pieces for sometime and so I’m happy to include this one here! Go check out more of Nancie’s work here.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Laurent Chantraine, "Nereus Beauchemin - Hardelot After Rain," pastel, 60 x 60 cm

Laurent Chantraine, “Nereus Beauchemin – Hardelot After Rain,” pastel, 60 x 60 cm (23 5/8 x 23 5/8 in)

I love the broad expanse of Laurent’s pastel. I can sense the sea as the light glints off the water. The rain has passed and the skies begin to clear. I feel as if I’ve been in this place and am now standing there again. I’m filled with the joy of nature as I look at this piece. Although pretty much monochromatic, the piece gives off the feeling of colour. You can feel the warmth of the day beginning to return through the coolness. And how incredible that it was done in pastel. Go see more of Laurent’s work on his website.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Opedun Damilola, "Harmattan," pastel, 39.5 x 60 cm (16 x 23 5/8 in)

Opedun Damilola, “Harmattan,” pastel, 39.5 x 60 cm (16 x 23 5/8 in)

I found this pastel full of mystery. It appears to be that time of day when it’s neither light nor dark, when you can still see colour but the warmth of the light spilling out is made more apparent by the cool time of day. I love the way Opedun has treated the repetitive roof tops – enough to be different but not so much that they don’t hang together as a single value entity (except for the one in the foreground that stops our eye going straight to the red roof in the distance). He’s taken a complicated scene and simplified it into its essentials. There’s also the fabulous use of negative space to carve out the windows on the right side. Opedun has created three versions of this piece. You can see them on his Facebook page (I was unable to find a website.) Opedun is another of those artists who has come so close to making the ten cut that it’s a pleasure to include him here.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Mate Sandor, "Hugging Trees," pastel, 50 x 70 cm (19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in)

Mate Sandor, “Hugging Trees,” pastel, 50 x 70 cm (19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in)

From the repetition of rooftops we go to the repetition of trees. Mate’s treatment of the many tree trunks into a unified mass is masterly. We see the mass but also feel the trees as individuals not just a bunch of tree trunks repeated in a formulaic manner. There is much movement – you can almost hear the wind blowing through the tree branches. You feel as if the trees themselves are vibrating with life. There’s a wonderful feeling of perspective as we are drawn into the woods, up the path that appears. I love the bold and direct pastel marks. And I smiled at the title! Go see more of Mate’s work here.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Mary Ellen Bitner, "Mardi Gras and Me," pastel, 20 x 16 in

Mary Ellen Bitner, “Mardi Gras and Me,” pastel, 20 x 16 in

I’ve enjoyed many of Mary Ellen’s abstract pastels over the past months. I’m a lover of Joan Mitchell’s work and I’m often reminded of her when I see Mary Ellen’s vibrant and exuberant work. In this piece I got sucked in not only by the saturated rich colours but also by the marks in black. They’re like some sort of coded message for us from an earlier time, another dimension, or even a far-off civilization. What does it all mean? For me, this gives a deeper element to the painting that keeps me coming back for more. The primary place I found Mary Ellen’s work is here but unfortunately, it doesn’t show her abstract explorations.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Marla Baggetta, "Closing Time," pastel, 12 x 9 in

Marla Baggetta, “Closing Time,” pastel, 12 x 9 in

I’ve always been a huge fan of Marla’s work and am delighted finally to include her pastel in my monthly choices. I love this piece. I’m always drawn to figures and this one certainly hooks me. The way Marla handles the light and colour in this pastel is fabulous – bright highlights (as a result of the overhead lighting) balanced by a mass of colourful darks. Everything that needs to be indicated to give us context is there but with just enough detail to make it readable, no more. There is a story here but it’s Marla’s capturing of this figure under these lighting conditions that holds me fast! Have a look at more of Marla’s work on her website.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Vianna Szabo, "Pause," Terry Ludwig pastels on UArt paper, 20 x 16 in

Vianna Szabo, “Pause,” Terry Ludwig pastels on UArt paper, 20 x 16 in

Vianna is another artist whose work I’ve admired for some time and so I’m thrilled to include this beautiful pastel of a man who pauses in his book looking, distracted by something beyond the picture. What has happened? The tension in his body is evident and I can’t help wondering what is bothering him. I’m also curious to know what book he is perusing – an art book perhaps? The hands, notoriously difficult to render, are exquisitely done. The planes of the face are so solid, the shape of the facial forms so sensitive, and all created in such a small space. You can have a look at more of Vianna’s work here.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Carol Muro, "Daughter," pastel, 12 x 8 in

Carol Muro, “Daughter,” pastel, 12 x 8 in

Speaking of sensitive, look at this beautifully painted face. Carol has captured a dreamy and thoughtful look on a young girl’s countenance. Although this may be a portrait (Carol’s daughter?), it stands for so much more for me. It’s as if it’s a symbol for young people as they look towards the future, full of possibilities. There’s a sense of calm yet unease at what it may bring. And specifically, I can’t help but wonder about what will this young person be and do as she grows to maturity? I couldn’t find a website but you can see more of Carol’s work on her Facebook page.

 

May's Fabulous Pastels: Rosemay Dahan, "Simone My Mother," pastel, 65 x 50 cm (25 1/2 x 19 3/4 in)

Rosemay Dahan, “Simone My Mother,” pastel, 65 x 50 cm (25 1/2 x 19 3/4 in)

When I first saw this pastel, I was immediately drawn to it by the intensity of the eyes. What is going on behind them? And what’s the story of this woman’s life? Rosemay’s use of green throughout (the eyes and surrounding areas, the earrings, the collar) give it a haunting quality. This woman is not just a pretty thing, nope, she has a powerful personality yet with eyes like green pools that you can sink into, there also feels like a world of compassion here too. This is a striking piece with no need to be a perfect copy of reality. The directness tells us much not only about the subject but the painter herself. Have a look at more of Rosemay’s pastels here.

 

And that’s the 10 fabulous pastels for this month!! I’d love to hear which is your favourite and why. Did you learn anything from this month’s blog? Do leave me a comment below!

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IAPS

I am off to Albuquerque and IAPS (the International Association of Pastel Societies) on Tuesday to help out at the Holbein booth, demo at the Schminke booth (Friday 9-12 and Saturday 2-5), hug and catch-up with old friends, make new friends, create interview videos, connect and network, and generally have a darn good time!

This is your last chance to tell me what’s the one question you want me to ask the artists there in my upcoming video interviews. (For example: What’s the first thing you do when you enter your studio? Or what about, How does the way you set up your studio affect the way you work? Or How do you work, on an easel or flat, and why?).

Leave them in the comment box below or send me an email at pastelandpaint@gmail.com (my travelling email address).

 

Thanks for joining me in this world of pastel!

~ Gail

 

PS. If you are interested in seeing more of my choices from the past few months, just click on “Today’s Artists” under Categories.

Frantisek Kupka – Figurative Pastels 1906-1911

Back in April, a pastel was posted by Don Gardi on the Pastel Society of America Facebook page. It was by an artist that was unknown to me – Frantisek Kupka. Once I started to dig a bit, I realized I had seen his work but it was his more abstract paintings that I was familiar with whereas what had been posted was a figure done in pastels. After commenting on the post, I received an email from artist Duane Wakeham who shared an extraordinary pastel by Kupka with me. And from these two beautiful pieces, this blog was born.

Initially I had a hard time finding pastel images online. I borrowed a book, Frantisek Kupka 1871-1957: A Retrospective published by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1975 (which I later discovered online – click here to see it). Inside, I found a number of pastels but they were mostly black and white reproductions. With that information, however, I was then able to track down many of the images online and in colour as posted by the various museums where they reside. (The Musee National d’Art Modern – Centre Pompidou has a large collection of work by Frantisek Kupka primarily due to a gift by his wife Eugenie.)

Short Bio for Frantisek Kupka Prior to 1910

Frantisek Kupka is primarily known as one of the founders of pure abstract art (along with Wassily Kandinsky, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, and Piet Mondrian). Born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1871, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Prague where he received traditional training, then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where he was influenced by Symbolism. After moving to Paris by 1896, he studied briefly at the Academie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. To earn a living, he first created satirical caricatures for newspapers and magazines and then moved on to designing posters and book illustrations.

He would have been exposed to and influenced by the avant-garde movements of the day – fauvism and cubism – but still his work remained wholly his own. In 1906, he settled in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris (where he lived until he died in 1957). His works started off representational but after reading the Futurist Manifesto published in 1909 in Le Figaro (it’s quite something!), his work began to move more towards abstraction, reflecting the idea of showing movement and also his colour theory. You can read more about Frantisek Kupka’s life here.

 

The pastels

The pastels I will share with you are from the period 1906-1911, i.e. after he moved to Puteaux up until the time he was being influenced by the Futurist writings and the notion of capturing movement in figures. You can also see how he utilizes colour expressively, beyond any ‘realistic’ associations.

 

Frantisek Kupka, "Study for l'Eau (Water) - Standing Bather," 1906-09, pastel and charcoal on paper, 18 7/8 x 11 3/8 in (48 x 29 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pomidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Study for l’Eau (Water) – Standing Bather,” 1906-09, pastel and charcoal on paper, 18 7/8 x 11 3/8 in (48 x 29 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Interestingly, this pastel includes a heavily smudged area rather than pure line to create the image.

Frantisek Kupka," Bather," 1906, pastel and charcoal on gray paper, 11 1/2 x 15 3/4 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Frantisek Kupka,” Bather,” 1906, pastel and charcoal on gray paper, 11 1/2 x 15 3/4 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Here, it’s all about line and colour

These two pastels look quite different in style – one is more naturalistic with overtones of Kupka’s illustrations for Les Erinnyes (begun in 1906), the other more decorative revealing the Art Nouveau influence with its sinuous lines. The tiny insert reveals a more realistic rendition of what is seen while the larger image studies the effect of water on the figure in a more patterned way.

The beautiful oil painting that emerged from these studies can be seen here. This was the first time Kupka had shown forms immersed and transformed in water. The idea that the natural element of water dissolved the distinct and concrete boundaries of the body appealed to Kupka as seen in this quote from his 2013 manuscript discussing the phenomenon of reflection: “What adorable tricks on the absolute limit of things.” (as quoted in Retrospective, p.107)

 

Frantisek Kupka, "Girl with a Ball," c.1908, pastel on paper, 24 1/2 x 18 3/4 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Frantisek Kupka, “Girl with a Ball,” c.1908, pastel on paper, 24 1/2 x 18 3/4 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

This pastel, Girl with a Ball, precedes the fairly naturalistic oil painting of the same subject, namely Kupka’s stepdaughter Andree. Here’s another study:

 

Frantisek Kupka, "Girl Shading Her Eyes," c.1908, pastel, 22 11/16 x 18 1/4 in, J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Frantisek Kupka, “Girl Shading Her Eyes,” c.1908, pastel, 22 11/16 x 18 1/4 in, J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Look at that wonderful exaggeration of the grass reflecting on the girl’s arm and face!

 

A series of eight drawings exist that came out of Kupka’s frustrations with being unable to describe movement of the ball and the girl in the pastel (and the painting).

Here’s one drawing where Kukpa describes both the contours and forms of the body as well as the track of the moving ball as Andree plays with it.

Frantisek Kupka, "Study for Girl with a Ball," 1908-09, pencil on paper, 10 3/4 x 7 3/8 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Frantisek Kupka, “Study for Girl with a Ball,” 1908-09, pencil on paper, 10 3/4 x 7 3/8 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In a note on the pencil drawing above, Kupka details his frustrations in the inscription on the side: “ici il n’y a que/ la dissection/ des surfaces/ la conception/ de la/ conpenetration [sic]/ atmospherique/ est a trouver/ tant qu’il y/ aura la difference/ des couleurs/ du fond et/ de la chair/ je retomberai/ dans le [sic] photo/ carte postal”. Loosely translated it means, “Here I am only dissecting surfaces. The atmospheric copenetration is yet to be found. As long as there is a distinction in colour between ground and flesh, I will fall back into the postcard photograph.” (Click here to see the translated quote and to see a much more abstracted pastel study for the painting, Amorpha.)

In the eight drawings of Andree lay the seeds for studies for the painting, Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colours, which, when it was exhibited at the 1912 Salon d’Automne in Paris, was one of the first abstract paintings ever shown publicly.

The Girl with a Ball drawings also led on a parallel track to the colourful and vibrant pastels of the Woman Cutting Flowers series. You can see in these how Kupka worked through the idea of dissecting a plane and of showing motion by using overlapping phases of movement. In these you can also see the influence of high speed photography pioneered in the 1880s.

 

Frantisek Kupka, "Woman Cutting Flowers I," 1910-11, pastel, watercolour and graphite on paper, 17 3/4 x 18 3/4 in (45 x 47.5 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Woman Cutting Flowers I,” 1909-10, pastel, watercolour and graphite on paper, 17 3/4 x 18 3/4 in (45 x 47.5 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris. (This was the painting sent to me by Duane Wakeham, the one that led me ultimately to writing this blog! Beautiful isn’t it?)

Frantisek Kupka, "Woman Cutting Flowers II," 1910-11, pastel and charcoal on paper, 18 7/8 x 19 1/2 in (48 x 49.5 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Woman Cutting Flowers II,” 1909-10, pastel and charcoal on paper, 18 7/8 x 19 1/2 in (48 x 49.5 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, "Woman Cutting Flowers III," 1909, pastel on paper, 16 5/8 x 15 3/8 in (42.3 x 39 cm),  Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Woman Cutting Flowers III,” 1909-1910, pastel on paper, 16 5/8 x 15 3/8 in (42.3 x 39 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, "Woman Cutting Flowers IV," 1909-10, pastel on gray paper, 16 1/2 x 15 3/8 in (42 x 39 cm),  Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Woman Cutting Flowers IV,” 1909-10, pastel on gray paper, 16 1/2 x 15 3/8 in (42 x 39 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris. (This is the one Don Gardi posted back in April – my first sight of a Kupka pastel!)

Frantisek Kupka, "Woman Cutting Flowers V," 1910-11, pastel on paper, 18 7/8 x 20 1/2 in (48 x 52 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Woman Cutting Flowers V,” 1909-11, pastel on paper, 18 7/8 x 20 1/2 in (48 x 52 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Apparently there may have been about 15 in this series but the whereabouts of the others are unknown. (Note: the numbers applied to each in the series is from the Retrospective Catalogue rather than the Pompidou’s website where they are all called “Woman Cutting Flowers.” It is unclear in which order they were created.)

It’s fascinating to go through the series, noting the differences and the evolution of the theme. The fourth pastel seems the most abstracted with less focus on overlapping motion; the second loses the seated figure; the fifth one shows the figures most at one with the background.

From the Retrospective Catalogue (p61): “In the last version….although the grid structure is once more visible, the figure is shattered and integrated into the surroundings space. Here Kupka achieves a unified all-over pattern in which focal image, trace or memory imprints and ambient space are fragmented, flattened and enmeshed in a single plane. Kupka wrote in his notebook of approximately the same time (1910-11): ‘When we try to remember a dream…often we only retain a skeleton of the dream images…a vague grid through which fragmented forms emerge and disappear as quickly as they came.’”

Some of these pieces bring to mind Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending Staircase #1 and #2 but those weren’t finished until 1911 and 1912. Interestingly, one of Marcel Duchamp’s brothers, Jacques Villon, was Kupka’s neighbour in Puteaux while Marcel himself lived in Neuilly-sur-Seine, another suburb of Paris.

Kupka also began making studies for a piece called Planes By Colours (‘Plans par Couleurs’). Here’s one of those studies:

FRantisek Kupka, "Study for Planes by Colours," 1909-10, pastel on paper, 22 x 17 1/8 in (56 x 45.5 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

FRantisek Kupka, “Study for Planes by Colours,” 1909-10, pastel on paper, 22 x 17 1/8 in (56 x 45.5 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Amazing colours yes? Click here to see the final oil painting.

The last pastels below lead up to the painting, Planes of Colours, Large Nude. Kupka worked on this series of reclining nudes over a few years starting in about 1904. The first I’ve included is in a private collection and so I was unable to locate a colour version of it. Nevertheless, I’ve included a black and white reproduction of it taken from the Retrospective Catalogue (p. 128) as I feel it really shows his progression from realism to something more expressive. (Sorry about the curve in the page.)

Frantisek Kupka, "Study for Planes by Colours, Large Nude," 1906-07, pastel on paper, 19 3/4 x 23 1/4 in (50 x 59 cm), Private Collection - Joseph H. Hazen

Frantisek Kupka, “Study for Planes by Colours, Large Nude,” 1906-07, pastel on paper, 19 3/4 x 23 1/4 in (50 x 59 cm), Private Collection – Joseph H. Hazen. I just love the right hand drawn again below the main figure!

Frantisek Kupka, "Study for Planes by Colours, Large Nude," 1909-10, pastel on gray paper, 17 3/4 x 22 in (45 x 56 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Study for Planes by Colours, Large Nude,” 1909-10, pastel on gray paper, 17 3/4 x 22 in (45 x 56 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Frantisek Kupka, "Study for Planes by Colours, Large Nude," 1909-10, pastel on papier, 18 7/8 x 23 5/8 in (48 x 60 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Study for Planes by Colours, Large Nude,” 1909-10, pastel on papier, 18 7/8 x 23 5/8 in (48 x 60 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

You can see how Kupka used colours (and values) to create the figure rather than volumetric shading. You can see the final oil painting by clicking here.

 

One more, just one more I promise. Although I was going to stick with figurative pieces, I wanted to include this abstract pastel as it seems to grow naturally out of the Woman Cutting Flowers series. It felt like the completion of Kupka’s process towards abstraction. I think the colour is exquisite! Here it is:

Frantisek Kupka, "Arrangement of Verticals," 1911-1913, pastel on gray paper,18 7/8 x 19 5/8 in (48 x 50 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Arrangement of Verticals,” 1911-1913, pastel on gray paper,18 7/8 x 19 5/8 in (48 x 50 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

So what do you think? Has this inspired you to work out your ideas in many iterations? I’d love to know if you have any perceptions about this work. Had you seen Frantisek Kupka’s pastels before? Were you even aware of him as an artist? Do let me know in a comment below.

One more blog post coming before I head off to IAPS 2nd of June!!

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Because I can’t help myself….

Frantisek Kupka, "Woman's Face," 1909, pastel, charcoal and ink on paper, 16 5/8 x 15 3/8 in (42.3 x 39 cm), Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Frantisek Kupka, “Woman’s Face,” 1909, pastel, charcoal and ink on paper, 16 5/8 x 15 3/8 in (42.3 x 39 cm), Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

PPS. And here’s the book I referenced: