Delacroix’s Pastels – how he portrayed the Crucifixion

 

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.

de Lance or Christ on the Cross," 1619-20, oil on panel, 168.89 x 122.44 in (about 14'1" x 10'2"), Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, The Netherlands

Peter Paul Rubens, “Coup de Lance or Christ on the Cross,” 1619-20, oil on panel, 168.89 x 122.44 in (about 14’1″ x 10’2″), Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, The Netherlands

 

Eugene Delacroix, "Sketch after Ruben's painting, "Coup de Lance," c.1839, pastel, 12 5/8 x 12 1/2 in, Musee du Louvre, Paris

Eugene Delacroix, “Sketch after Rubens’s painting, ‘Coup de Lance’,” c.1839, pastel, 12 5/8 x 12 1/2 in, Musee du Louvre, Paris

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.

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," 1846, oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 25 1/4 in, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” 1846, oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 25 1/4 in, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA

 

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.

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," 1847, pastel, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” 1847, pastel on a warm-coloured paper, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt

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:

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," 1847, pastel, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt - detail

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” 1847, pastel, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt – detail

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," 1847, pastel, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt - detail

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” 1847, pastel, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt – detail

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," 1847, pastel, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt - detail

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” 1847, pastel, 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection, Frankfurt – detail

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:

Eugene Delacroix. Chist on the Cross," c 1853-56, pastel, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” c 1853-56, pastel on grey-blue paper, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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:

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," c 1853-56, pastel, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa - detail

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” c 1853-56, pastel, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa – detail

 

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," c 1853-56, pastel, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa - detail

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” c 1853-56, pastel, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa – detail

 

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," c 1853-56, pastel, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa - detail

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” c 1853-56, pastel, 9 3/4 x 6 11/16 in, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa – detail

 

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?

Eugene Delacroix, "Christ on the Cross," 1853, oil on canvas, 29 x 23 1/2 in, National Gallery, London

Eugene Delacroix, “Christ on the Cross,” 1853, oil on canvas, 29 x 23 1/2 in, National Gallery, London

 

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 :-)

~ Gail

 

PS. While researching this blog, I came across a paper suggesting the painting by Rubens may instead be by his assistant, young Anthony van Dyck. To read more, click here

PS. Here’s the book I mentioned above, Delacroix’s Pastels by Lee Johnson, in case you want to add it to your collection :-)

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A completely abstract pastel and how I got there!

 

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!!

 

1. The Terry Ludwig pastels I used

1. The Terry Ludwig pastels I used (and all that I have).  Isn’t that heart adorable?? I cheated a bit because I didn’t have a warm colour except the dark claret pastel so I snuck in a pink Great American…. Terry has some amazing pink/fushia/magenta colours. Unfortunately, I don’t own any :-(

 

Here’s a look at the sequence of my abstract pastel:

2. First step - get some pastel down on the mounted Wallis paper!

2. First step – get some pastel down on the mounted Wallis paper!

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.

3. I rotated the start to see what I could see. I decided as much as I wanted to try a low horizon (even doing sketches of possibilities), in the end, I preferred it the other way around.

3. I rotate the start to see what I could see. I decide as much as I want to try a low horizon (even doing sketches of possibilities), in the end, I prefer it the other way around.

4. Taking more pastel, I began layering and also covering the entire surface. I began to sense the movement in the piece

4. Taking more pastel, I begin layering and also covering the entire surface. I want to retain the feeling of movement in the piece.

5. Have a look at it in black and white. I decided I need to introduce more value contrast. You'll see this happens in the next stage.

5. Have a look at it in black and white. I decide I need to introduce more value contrast. You’ll see this happens in the next stage.

6. I have the sense of a road going off into the horizon so I exaggerate that in the sweep of the pastel stroke. I also add more dark and light values (see the black and white below).

6. I have the sense of a road going off into the horizon so I exaggerate that in the sweep of the pastel stroke. I also add more dark and light values (see the black and white below). I begin to feel that I need to stop the movement right off the paper hence the calligraphic squiggles at the bottom.

7. You can more easily see the wider range of values from dark to light in this black and white photo of the pastel.

7. You can more easily see the wider range of values from dark to light in this black and white photo of the pastel.

8. I decide to straighten up the curving strokes, retain the curve in the road but creat the road itself with vertical strokes. I realize I also need to solidify and simplify the whole before I can say it's finished.

8. I decide to straighten up the curving strokes, retain the curve in the road (let’s just call it a road for now) but create the road itself with vertical strokes. I realize I also need to solidify and simplify the whole before I can say it’s finished.

9. The pastel is finished! I simplified all the squiggles at the bottom and also brought in some darks to keep the eye wandering around the piece (and not out over the edge!).

9. I continue to emphasize the vertical strokes. I simplify all the squiggles at the bottom and also bring in some darks to keep the eye wandering around the piece (and not out over the edge!). The abstract pastel is finished! Love love love those Terry Ludwig pastels. I now ‘get’ why everyone raves about them!

 

 

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 :-)

~ Gail

 

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.

Eyes Wide Open – All About Seeing Colour!

 

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.

 

Quick thumbnail (1.5 x 1.5 in) to set up design and values

1. Quick thumbnail (1.5 x 1.5 in) to set up design and values

 

Here’s the set up of pears in life (well in a photograph of the pears in life – gets complicated!).

 

The three pears waiting to be painted.

2. The three pears waiting to be painted.

 

And here’s the same set up in black and white so you can see the values:

 

The pears shown in black and white

3. The pears shown in black and white

 

Here’s the initial drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper:

 

Wallis paper with a watercolour wash and the charcoal outline of pears. Notice that I changed the stem on the pear on the left so as to fit it into the square format!

4. Wallis paper with a watercolour wash and the charcoal outline of pears. Notice that I changed the stem on the pear on the left so as to fit it into the square format!

 

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:

 

Stephanie Birdsall’s collection of Holbein pastels

5. Stephanie Birdsall’s collection of Holbein 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:

 

Gail Sibley, “Three Pears,” pastel on paper, 5.5 x 5.5 in

6. Gail Sibley, “Three Pears,” pastel on paper, 5.5 x 5.5 in

 

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,

~ Gail

 

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.

 

Harry Chapin singing "Flowers are Red"

 

 

Plein air pastelling in Mexico with a mucho limited palette

 

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!

 

The set of 11 Schminke pastels

The set of 11 Schminke pastels

 

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.)

1. The beginnings of my plein air piece - the charcoal indication on Wallis paper of the beach scene

1. The beginnings of my plein air pastel – the charcoal indication on 9 x 12 in Wallis paper of the beach scene

 

2. Getting some colour down. Remember, I have so few colours to choose from.

2. Getting some colour down. Remember, I have very few colours to choose from!

 

3. Okay, now I have the paper covered, now what??? At this point, I am seriously wondering whether I can do this! Shall I just give up the plein air experiment?

3. Okay, I have the paper covered, now what??? At this point, I am seriously wondering whether I can do this. Shall I continue or just throw in the towel on this plein air experiment right now? As you can see, I decided to continue.

 

4. Started layering. You can see me bringing white into the sky. What else can a girl do to lighten it up??

4. I’ve started layering. You can see me bringing white into the sky. What else can a girl do to lighten it up??

 

5. So I got white all over the sky then it was too light, tooooo white, so layering over blue. I did this a couple of times with a bit of gnashing of teeth. Argh.

5. I covered the blue in the sky with white then it was too light, tooooo white, so layered over some more blue pastel. I did this a couple of times with a bit of gnashing of teeth. Argh.

 

6. Getting close to the end. The sky a bit of a disappointment but with my limited choice i.e. white and yellow are the only light options, that's what I have.

6. Getting close to the end. The sky is a bit of a disappointment but with my limited choice (i.e. white and yellow are the only light options), that’s what I have.

 

7. Before leaving my painting spot, I decided that because there is such an expanse of sky that I could lesson it by stretching a couple of palm fronds into the picture. I also reinserted a hill in the background. By now I'm hungry and I go in search of some victuals :-)

7. Before leaving my plein air painting spot, I decide that because there is such an expanse of sky that I could lessen it by stretching a couple of palm fronds across the sky. I also reinsert a hill in the background. By now I’m hungry and ready to go off in search of some victuals.

 

Once home in Canada, I am wondering if a cropped version of the plein air piece will work better. What do you think?

 

8. The cropped version.

8. The cropped version.

 

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,

~ Gail

PS. Here’s the scene I painted

Photo of beach at La Manzanilla at midday

Beach at La Manzanilla at midday

Odilon Redon…a portrait painter??

 

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.

 

Odilon Redon, " Bouquet of Flowers," c. 1905, pastel on paper, 31 5/8 x 25 1/4 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Odilon Redon, ” Bouquet of Flowers,” c. 1905, pastel on paper, 31 5/8 x 25 1/4 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Odilon Redon, "Standing Veiled Woman," nd, pastel and graphite on paper, 19.37 x 15.75 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Odilon Redon, “Standing Veiled Woman,” nd, pastel and graphite on paper, 19.37 x 15.75 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

 

Now let’s have a look at the portrait in question:

Odilon Redon, "Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine," 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Odilon Redon, “Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine,” 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

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:

 

Odilon Redon, "Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine," 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York - detail of arm

Odilon Redon, “Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine,” 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – detail.  Here you can see the sewing hand and how little there is to indicate it. And can’t you feel the substantiality of the other hand holding the hoop? And look at the lace especially at the elbow (you can see Madame Fontaine’s arm beneath the fabric) and the shoulder where the yellow of the dress glows through. And the fabric she’s embroidering, look at the way the weave seems to be coming apart at the lower left. Such details caught by Redon!

 

Odilon Redon, "Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine," 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York - detail

Odilon Redon, “Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine,” 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – detail.  In this close-up you can see many kinds of pastel application – the very light touch to the left of the picture, the much heavier hand around the head creating a soft, dense quality, the even parallel hatching of pastel on the face with subtle colour changes in those strokes, the dense application and texture in the hair (you can even see what looks like a barrette holding her hair in place), and the more ‘jerky’ application of pastel on the collar.

 

Odilon Redon, "Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine," 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York - detail

Odilon Redon, “Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine,” 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – detail. This image shows the relationship of Madame Fontaine to the vase behind her. Here the vase and flowers bursting forth look real, as if they are perfectly natural. (Mind you those green ‘flowers’ look rather mysterious!) It’s difficult to discern the actual pattern of the black areas on the vase but they appear to be decorative elements. Now compare this image with the next…

 

Odilon Redon, "Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine," 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York - detail

Odilon Redon, “Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine,” 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – detail. You can see how the flowers move from a realistic interpretation to one that becomes imaginative and dreamy, perhaps symbolically referring to the inner life of the subject – her beauty, her calm, her quiet intention. You can also see in the top left corner, Redon’s signature as well as the inscription which reads, ‘fait a St.. -Georges-de-Didonne / Septembre 1901.’ The Redons were staying at this seaside resort on the southwest coast of France and were visited by the Fontaines. 

 

Odilon Redon, "Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine," 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York - detail

Odilon Redon, “Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine,” 1901, pastel on paper, 28.5 x 22.5 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – detail. One more close-up to show Redon’s pastel application. The shadowed area under the embroidery hoop is a rather light application of dark pastel while the dress is a build up of yellows ending with the brightest and lightest yellow being cross-hatched over top. And look at the parallel lines to the right darkening the space between Madame Fontaine and the vase.

 

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,

~ Gail

 

PS. You know I can’t help myself.. here’s another portrait by Redon:

Odilon Redon, "Violette Heymann," 1910, pastel on paper, 28 5/16 x 36 3/16 in, Cleveland Museum of Art. Talk about colour! And the imaginary bower of flowers has reached a level of no doubt!

Odilon Redon, “Violette Heymann,” 1910, pastel on paper, 28 5/16 x 36 3/16 in, Cleveland Museum of Art. Talk about colour! And the imaginary bower of flowers has been elevated to prime importance! And look at the application of pastel, with paper completely untouched on the left compared to the heavy application of pastel around the head of the figure – there’s no sign of paper here. 

 

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?!)

 

Edouard Vuillard, "Madame Arthur Fontaine in a Pink Shawl," 1903, gouache and oil on cardboard mounted on cardboard, 19 3/4 x 17 1/4 in,The Art Institute of Chicago

Edouard Vuillard, “Madame Arthur Fontaine in a Pink Shawl,” 1903, gouache and oil on cardboard mounted on cardboard, 19 3/4 x 17 1/4 in,The Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finishing a pastel – a look at “The Ginkgo Tree”

 

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.

 

The pastel "A Gingko Tree" almost finished

Almost finished!

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?

 

Gail Sibley, "The Gingko Tree," pastel, 18 x 12 in

Gail Sibley, “The Ginkgo Tree,” pastel, 18 x 12 in

 

Here are the changes:

"The Gingko Tree" and how I finished the pastel

Finishing a pastel – showing you the changes I made

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!

~ Gail

 

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:

Wolf Kahn, "Dancing Trees," 1997, pastel on paper, 22 x 30 in, Marianne Friedland Gallery

Wolf Kahn, “Dancing Trees,” 1997, pastel on paper, 22 x 30 in, Marianne Friedland Gallery

Gorgeous isn’t it??? One day I’ll do a blog on his work.

 

How to sort a new box of soft pastels into values

 

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:

Gail Sibley's video shows you how to quickly sort your new box of pastels into values, something that's sooooo worth doing!

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!

Talk soon,

Gail

 

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!!

 

A Heart for You on This Valentine’s Day!

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:

Schminke pastels used

Schminke pastels used plus one pink Mount Vision

 

The final pastel:

Gail Sibley, "A Valentine's Day Heart," pastel on paper, 8 x 10 in

Gail Sibley, “With Love” pastel on paper, 8 x 10 in

 

And here’s the colour inspiration:

Joan Mitchell, " Gently," 1982, oil on canvas, 22.5 x 18 in, Private collection

Joan Mitchell, ” Gently,” 1982, oil on canvas, 22.5 x 18 in, Private collection

 

Whew, made it under the wire. Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Please let me know what you think of this crazy experiment of mine :-D

 

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

 

 

 

A country road in Jamaica painted in pastel

 

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.

 

1. Here's the initial sketch in charcoal on La Carte paper. You can see the photo I am working from attached to the board

1. Here’s the initial sketch in charcoal on La Carte paper. You can see the photo I’m working from attached to the board. The tree is magnificent!

 

2. The first layer of values. I decided to use really warm colours as the paper was cool as was the scene.

2. The first layer of values. I decided to use really warm colours as both the paper and the overcast scene were cool.

 

3. Another layer added. I am still just blocking in the shapes.

3. Another layer and more colour added. I am still just blocking in the shapes.

 

4. Here I am defining the tree branches a bit more and also solidifying the buildings

4. Here I am defining the tree branches a bit more and also solidifying the buildings.

 

5. Further defined the tree, added the walking figure, and also the buildings in the background.

5. Here I further defined the tree (by carving it out using the sky), added the walking figure, and also the buildings in the background.

 

6. Gail Sibley, "Over One Hundred," pastel on La Carte, 9 x 12 in. The tweaks at the end included making a clearer line between the sky and trees in the background, and adding a couple of directional lines on the road.

6. Gail Sibley, “Over One Hundred Years- a tree in Jamaica,” pastel on La Carte, 9 x 12 in. The tweaks at the end of this pastel painting included making a clearer line between the sky and trees in the background, and adding a couple of directional lines on the road.

 

7. Here is the Schminke pastel set from which I chose my pastels for this piece

7. Here is the Schminke pastel set from which I chose my pastels for this piece.

 

8. And here are the pastels I actually used, 13 in all.

8. And here are the pastels I actually used, 13 in all.

 

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,

~ Gail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new pastel demo video! Holly and Negative Space

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:

Holly - subject of the video

Here’s the holly sitting on the shelf

The initial charcoal sketch of the holly

The initial charcoal sketch of the holly

 

Gail Sibley, "A Sprig of Holly," pastel on paper, 6 x 6 in

Gail Sibley, “A Sprig of Holly,” pastel on paper, 6 x 6 in

 

The line-up of the Great American soft pastels used

The line-up of the Great American soft pastels used

 

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!

~ Gail