When I first started blogging on www.gailsibley.com, I wrote a post about an artist I had recently discovered – Joan Eardley (1921-1963). I was blown away by her work and still am. Recently I borrowed a book on the artist via interlibrary loan. I could only keep the book for two weeks and I knew pretty quickly that really, I needed my own copy. So I treated myself! The book, Joan Eardley by Christopher Andreae, has arrived and now I want to share with you some of Joan Eardley’s powerful pastels reproduced in the book.
Born in Sussex in 1921 to an English father and a Scottish mother, Joan spent her childhood in England but lived most of the remainder of her life in Scotland after the family moved there to escape the bombing in London in WWII. (Her father had taken his life earlier; he never got over being gassed in the trenches during the First World War.) In 1940, Joan enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA).
After her successful studies (she won a prize for her one and only self-portrait), war work with a boat builder, further studies at GSA followed by a trip to Italy on a travelling scholarship, Joan set up a studio in the tenement area of Glasgow in 1949. There she painted the local children. It was her drawings and paintings of these slum children that brought her recognition initially even though it is the work of wind and sea from her Catterline studio for she is most well-known. Below are a few of the pastels she created of the tenement kids she came to know.
Eardley continued to paint children throughout her life (which was sadly cut short by cancer in 1963 when she was only 42 years old). In a BBC interview in January 1963, she said, “…the [children] that I want to paint I try to get them to stay still but it’s not really possible to get a child to stay very still –mostly I just watch them moving about, and do the best I can.” (pg19-20)
You can see her sympathy for these children of poverty. Yet there’s certainly no sentimentality evident. She paints them as she sees them, all grubby and yet with the charm of children.
You can feel the individuality of these children – they aren’t just a ‘type’. The more I look at this work, the more I feel that.
I like what Andreae says about these portraits: “…the Glasgow slum children. They are portraits not caricatures. She had too much rapport with them for such distortion. And direct, daily experience of them meant she knew them well and painted them in their world….They were..impoverished tenement children, and Joan studied and explored their community and their place in it with great concentration and poignancy. Nor for the most part, did she let sentimentalism sift sugar over her understanding of these kids. She knowingly celebrated the vibrant character of their burstingly energetic existence. She portrayed them with a kind of fond and tough sense of reality.” (p.127)
And just to situate where these kids lived and where Eardley worked:
When I started this post, I was going to also include images of Eardley’s pastels of Catterline landscapes but I think I will leave those for another time.
What do you think of Eardley’s portrayals of the Glasgow slum children? Are you as taken with the directness and energetic interpretation in pastel as I am?
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Until next time, keep pastelling!
PS. The FABULOUS book I reference:
To buy in Canada click on image:
I’ve just uploaded a video about high key painting and what it means. Have a look and let me know what you think.
Here’s the set up I was painting. You can see the beige paper behind the daisies that I reference in the video.
If you squint, you can see that the shadow at the centre of the right hand daisy is pretty dark. I decided to take license and make it lighter than it shows in the photo. In this way, I kept the painting high key.
Here is my thumbnail of the set-up. It’s not the clearest job dividing the work into three values (parts of the background look too dark) but doing a thumbnail allows me a chance to become familiar with the subject so when I come to paint it, I have a better understanding both of it and how I want to portray it.
And here is the set of Schminke pastels I chose from:
(I have sorted this box of Schminke pastels into values. For help sorting a box of pastels into values, click here to see my video.)
And the final painting:
High key paintings are ones that feel airy and light. Often the light source washes out the scene and there are very few deep shadows. The subjects can be white or light-coloured themselves – eggs, a snow-covered landscape (with no dark trees), puffy white clouds, a white-sand beach for example.
The main thing is that the values are in the lighter part of the scale.
How are you feeling about your understanding of a high key painting? Have you made a high key painting? If so, why not send it in and I will post it on a future blog showing various high key paintings!
All for now
I got thinking the other day (oh yeah!). While cruising around the web, I see so many inspiring, delightful, surprising, beautiful pastels done by artists working today. So, my plan is, at the end of each month, to share a few of the pastel gems that caught my eye. There will be many to choose from but I promise to keep the selection to 10 and under. That’s gonna be difficult I know!
So let’s get cracking! Remember to keep an eye on the sizes of these pastel gems.
- Bruce A Gomez, “Punto Amada,” plein air pastel on Arches 140lb CP w/c paper, 8 x 10 in. I can feel the cool of the shade and see the sparkle of sun glinting on the water. Bruce says he sands the tooth of the paper down using 80 grit sandpaper until it feels like suede. It apparently holds the pastel beautifully! Click here to see more work.
- Barbara Newton, “Fond Memories,” pastel, 7.5 x 7.5 in. Small and magical! This pastel recently won an award. Click here to read more.
- Jacob Aguiar, “Untitled,” pastel on UArt 500 paper, 12 x 16 in. Aren’t these trees lovely? I wanted to put a link to Jacob’s website but I couldn’t find one…I guess because he works full-time as a naturopathic doctor! Really?? Wow that’s all I can say. You can find him on Facebook.
- Tony Allain, “Towards Cable Bay,” pastel on sanded paper, 18 x 18 in. I admire the way Tony puts down a stroke so confidently and then leaves it alone. His colours and compositions are always so powerful. Click here to go to Tony’s website.
- Casey Klahn, “The French Moderists,” pastel, oil bar and graphite on 100% rag paper, 11 x 9 in. I love this piece. I’m not sure why. There’s something about the colour, the texture, the content, that keeps me looking. It reminds me of still life paintings by Giorgio Morandi. Click here to see more about this painting.
- Catherine Meeks, “Sunlight and Shower,” pastel on pastelboard, 16 x 10 in. I am delighted by the colour, lightness, and abstract quality of this pastel. Click here to go to Catherine’s blog.
- Ruth Mann, “Girl in Pink,” pastel on Fisher 400, 16 x 12 in. Look at all those colours in there!! To see more of Ruth’s work, click here.
- Joni Beinborn, “Bertha,” pastel on pastelmat, 26 x 19 in. I have to say I am generally not a big fan of animal art but this blew me away! To see more of Joni’s equine work, click here.
So that’s the first edition of my blogs on pastel gems found on my internet travels. What did you think of the pastels? What do you think of this monthly sharing? Helpful? Valuable?
Please let me know by commenting on this blog. (To do this, click on the title of the blog which will take you to the post on my website. Scroll to the bottom of the blog post and write your comment there. Then you’ll need to “Verify your real existence” by following the Captcha instructions. Once you’ve done that, remember to click the Post Comment button!! Whew! OR you can reply directly to me and I’ll manually post the comment to the blog for you.)
Until next time,
A couple of days ago, I was flipping through a book I have on the American Impressionist Childe Hassam, Childe Hassam: Impressionist, when the pages opened to a couple of delightful floral pastels. I’m not sure about you, but I only vaguely knew he had done some pastel work. So I thought I’d share a few pieces with you.
Born outside of Boston, Childe Hassam (1859 – 1935) made a successful early life for himself as an illustrator. In 1883, he made a trip to Europe but it wasn’t until he spent three years in France (1886-1889) that he came under the influence of French Impressionism.
“Au Grand Prix de Paris,” was done while in France. Rather than focus on the jockeys and their horses (as Degas did), Hassam instead shows us the spectators at the horse racing event. You can see how much he has absorbed the style of Impressionism. It reminds me both of the work of Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. This pastel is one of the earliest he created with this medium. Evidently it suited him well as he would become a major pastellist in America after his return there in 1889. His work was exhibited in the fourth and final show of the Society of Painters in Pastel held in New York in 1890.
Hassam became well known for his paintings of the urban life of New York where he lived on his return to America. Here’s a stunningly modern looking pastel of life in the big city. Interestingly, although the setting is a snow blizzard, the dark figure has not been obliterated by the white of the flying snow. Instead, Hassam seemed more interested in the design he could make with the dark figures cut out against the light coloured background.The tan paper and the yellow of the gas lamp give a warmth to what would generally be a very cold scene. This pastel is one of my favourites! You can read more about it on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s website.
Childe Hassam and his wife would summer throughout New England. One of the places they would travel to was Appledore, an island among the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Appledore House, run by writer Celia Thaxter, was a summer resort with studios available for the artists who became part of her informal salon. (A side note, apparently it was Thaxter who suggested to Childe around 1883 that he drop his first name Frederick to become known by his Byronic middle name Childe.)
The next two pastels were done at Appledore in the garden Thaxter kept. In the 1890 pastel, with so few lines, Hassam gives us the feeling of poppies blowing in a breeze. Look at how much he uses the colour of the paper as part of his piece.
In the other pastel, we can feel the crispness of a summer day. With so little to indicate it we know we are sitting in a garden of intentional wildness planted close to the sea.
Another pastel done during the summer, not at Appledore but somewhere in New England, is “Summertime.” In parts, there is a single layer of pastel, in other areas, you can see where Hassam added a second layer to create an effect. Examples of this are in the verge on the lower left side where he has combined blue and yellow pastel to create a brighter green, and in the lawn and trees behind where he has added a layer of light blue to push that part of the scene into the background, giving it aerial perspective. You can see this more easily in the details below.
In this painting (much larger than the other two), you can see Hassam’s deftness with pastels. Look at how with a few vigorous strokes he gives us the images of a variety of flowers and a young girl crouching possibly to pick a flower. When you look at the work close-up, it becomes a mishmash of coloured lines; pull back and you have a very clear picture. Remarkable.
Okay, one more. I think the following pastel is stunning in its simplicity and abstract quality. It’s not a small piece either – it’s the same size as “Summertime” above. With vigorous hatching, Hassam gives us an animated yet calm scene of a single star as it appears at twilight or the ‘blue hour’. Again, Hassam has used the colour of the paper to warm this evocative scene.
While researching this post, I came across a wonderful description of this pastel in a short review of Hassam’s work at Blakeslee Gallery written in the American Athenaeum, Vol 3-No4, 15 December 1891. I have included a bit more than the description as it not only lavishes praise on Hassam but also gives a taste of the writing of the period!
“…To call attention to the works of this gifted young man [Hassam was 32] is but to do him justice. He has that quality in his art which commands the attention and respect of discerning men, and which, in spite of certain affectations, which are undoubtedly natural to the dashing development of such a rapid talent, show him to be an artist very much above the standard of the self-opinionated school which has undertaken to regulate everything artistic in America…
…In the pastels, however, the artist gives us something entirely superior to his other work….There is a night-piece at sea – a mere haze of palpitant gray-blue in which sea and sky are scarcely to be differentiated, and whose only point of light is a flashing evening star, which is, really, one of the finest effects of art I ever saw. It is so close to Nature, and so finely in sympathy with her, that it might make an altar-piece in her honour. The power and luminosity and vital spirit of this simple piece takes the life out of half the other pictures in the gallery….” The author is unknown but possibly it is the journal’s editor and proprietor, Alfred Trumble.
Childe Hassam (pronounced HASS-am) certainly followed his own credo (stated in 1892) about art, that ”the man who will go down to posterity is the man who paints his own time and the scenes of every-day life around him.”
Let me know what you think of Hassam’s pastels. I’d love to hear from you!!
Until next time,
So much for getting this post out by the end of August! What can I say – the summertime craziness has discombobulated me.
The Alaska cruise with my family was lovely (bar getting bitten by some insect which blew up my foot into an ugly puff ball). It was so wonderful to get together with my siblings, their mates, and my parents. Sad when it was over. But then we had the pleasure of my sister and her partner visiting for a fun couple of days. Now, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things.
Right, what’s on tap today. Well I thought I’d share the progression of a plein air painting of trees that I have just entered into the Sidney Fine Art Show (fingers crossed).
My Mum, Dad and I went out painting in July. Unusual for us, this was an afternoon outing (rather than a morning one). Since we would start losing light, we didn’t want to spend a whole heap of time looking for a spot so we settled on parking at the Long Harbour ferry terminal. There was water, trees, and buildings to choose from. Even so, I had a hard time committing to a scene. And then I turned around and saw this:
This painting was unusual for me. For one thing, there aren’t many layers. And for another, it painted itself like an abstract. I was in wonder at the end of the hour and a half. How did that happen??
Which reminds me to remind you that I am offering a pastel workshop, “Moving Towards Abstraction,” on Salt Spring Island on the last September weekend. You can read more about it here. Please tell anyone you know who may be interested!
I do hope the progression of my plein air painting of trees was helpful. Did I leave something out? Let me know!!
Until next time,
PS. I know it’s not a pastel painting but I could not NOT tell you my good news!! I was awarded the GRAND PRIZE for “Perchance To Fly” in the Federation of Canadian Artist’s show Painting On The Edge – an open international juried show. This prestigious exhibition is difficult to get into and I was thrilled to have accomplished that but to win the top prize?? Unbelievable, unimaginable, unthinkable. But here it is, I won!!
This is a quickie as I’m almost out the door as I write this! We are off to join my Mum and Dad on an Alaska cruise with siblings and their spouses – eight couples in all. It should be a heap of fun!!! And no internet – how great is that?? Well, mostly great but I’ll have to wean myself…
Before I left however, I wanted to tell you about an upcoming workshop. I am super excited about it as it really relates to the work I am doing now. It will take place on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada 27-28 September at ArtSpring. As it will be in the Guild room, there will only be room for 6 participants. The price is $225. The focus will be working in pastel but you’re welcome to bring other media. (I will have a supply list when you register.)
Moving Towards Abstraction – a two-day workshop in pastels
Do you feel a pull to make your work more abstracted?
Are you feeling like you are in a rut with your paintings?
Are you searching for a way to move your work forward?
Are you interested in the creative process, in the journey?
Do you ever feel like you want to go beyond, deeper into, the representational pastel work you are doing now?
Then come to this workshop! We will take old work you are unhappy with and push it towards abstraction. We’ll also do plenty of exercises to unleash the intuitive part of you and create work from scratch.
But abstraction isn’t just about splashing on the pastel. It’s about looking at what you have created with an artistic eye, taking into account how the composition works, how the colours work, how the textures work, how the edges work, how the shapes work, how the values work. Is the whole unified with a path through it? Are the principles of dominance and repetition followed? Does it evoke a mood? Does it evoke an emotion? Does it say something to the viewer? Does it say something to you? These are some of the questions we will explore in this two-day workshop.
We’ll also begin to look carefully at the world and be inspired by seemingly innocuous objects, patterns, and arrangements. All these will feed into your creative soul and re-emerge from your creative hand, moving towards abstraction.
So come prepared to have fun, take risks, and blow caution to the wind!
How does that sound???
Plein air painting in pastels video
I am making progress on my videos on plein air painting. Since I still haven’t done the voiceover and I will be away for a week, this is YOUR opportunity to tell me what you want to know about plein air painting in pastels. Anyone who gives input on this topic will be entered into a draw for a free copy when it comes out!!! So come on, tell me all your frustrations, ask all your questions. When I get back I will be focused on getting it finished. So don’t delay!!
By the way, when you respond, I won’t reply right away because I will be away from internet (you see? it’s gonna be hard for me!!).
That’s it! I’ll talk to you when I get back.
PS. Please feel free to share this information with anyone who you think might benefit from it
I don’t know about you but my pastels get miiiiighty dirty when I use them. Whether you wear gloves or not, every time you pick up a pastel, you transfer particles from the pastel you previously held to the new one. And so the pastels get dirtier and dirtier. Ugh I say. So, cleaning soft pastels – what’s the best way?
When I was starting out in pastels, the recommended way of cleaning soft pastels was to put all the dirty pastels into a container that held some kind of gritty substance such as cornmeal (the most commonly suggested), rice flour (softer than cornmeal), rice (cleaner than either cornmeal or flour), semolina (I never tried that one) or fine sand (didn’t try that either).
Doug Dawson’s nifty idea of creating a wire sieve that fits inside the container certainly made it easier to remove the pastels from the container. I made one that was similar and carried it on location with a plastic gold panning dish (bought in Sacramento years ago when I took a workshop with Doug) into which I would pour the cleaned pastels. (See photos below.) Well, I just found all of that too tedious, time-consuming, messy and generally a pain in the derriere!
I needed an alternative!!!
Click the photo below to find out what it is
The pastels you see in the video were the ones I used in my pastelling glass bottles demo. Click here to see it.
So??? Did you figure it out before the video?? Do you use this method? It works so well for me for all the reasons I express in the video.
How are you cleaning soft pastels? I’d love to know what method you use. So drop me a reply and I’ll add the comment to the blog post. And feel free to comment below the video on YouTube. I LOVE getting feedback!!
Until next time,
I have been back and forth to Salt Spring Island over the past few weeks, visiting my Mum and Dad and painting on location. It’s been so wonderful getting back to plein air painting. The weather has been superb – warm enough not to need a sweater but not so hot as to be uncomfortable. Just perfect!
I thought it’s about time I started sharing what I’ve been up to. So here’s the progression of a pastel I did in Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island. (This was the one time I went out alone so you’ll have to wait for another blog post to catch sight of my parents at work!)
Let’s take a boo.
There is really nothing like painting on location!!
Here’s a quote about painting on location that I think is so true.
Feel free to Pin it if you agree!
You can see some of Charles Muench’s work by clicking here.
Painting on Location – upcoming video and contest!
On another topic, as you may have noticed in my Summer Newsletter, I’m working on a video about painting on location that will be for sale. I would love your input as to what information you would like to see included. What are your questions, your hesitations, about pastelling en plein air? Please let me know in the next few days as I am hoping to finish the voiceover and editing next week. Anyone who offers some input will be included in a draw for a free copy when I release it!! So come on, ask away!
Thanks for being here. You know I’d love to hear your comments about this post!
Until next time,
I’m happy to tell you that I’ve posted another pastel demo video on YouTube. Yay! This time, it’s about how to paint glass. Have a look and let me know what you think!
To begin, I did a small thumbnail sketch to sort out my three main values and to decide if the composition worked. I think it does.
I totally forgot to take a photo of the set-up in colour but I did take one in black and white. As I look at this photo, it seems much more extreme in the value range than what I saw when I painted it. Notably, the dark paper seems a lot darker than it was in life.
When you are painting glass (or anything!!), look look look!! And take the time to see. See the shapes created, try and divide the whole into three values, and take time.
Here are the pastels I used.
And here is the final pastel:
I’d love to hear from you. Don’t be shy, tell me what you think – good, bad, ugly! Do you have questions? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time,
Back in April of this year, Don Gardi posted a portrait on the Pastel of America Facebook site – “Girl in a Black Hat” by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Not only was this a stunning pastel but it was by an artist I was only vaguely familiar with. I was so impressed with the portrait I thought I’d share a close look at it with you. Here’s the portrait:
Stunning isn’t it?! The combination of energetic marks and the delicate work in the face took my breath away. It has a very contemporary feel to it yet was done in 1890!
Boldini was born in Italy but after studying in various countries in Europe, he made his home in Paris. He is most known for his portraits of elegant and beautiful women, becoming the foremost portrait artist in Paris in the 1890s. In 1933, he was dubbed the “Master of Swish” in a Time magazine article.
Okay, back to the “Girl in a Black Hat.”
I couldn’t find any information about the painting other than the basic facts regarding medium and size. Who is this young woman? Was the pastel produced in preparation for a full scale painting? I’d sure love to know! In 1890, Boldini painted two portraits of John Singer Sargent who was living at the time in London. This would suggest that Boldini was in England when he produced the “Girl in the Black Hat” so perhaps the young woman is an ‘english rose.’
Well that’s it for now. I’d love to hear what you think about the portrait. Are there things you’d like to point out that I haven’t? I encourage you to do so!
Until next time,
PS. Fearful of the Nazis, a young woman fled her Parisian apartment, locking it up and apparently never returning. In 2010, the executors of a will discovered the existence of the apartment and had it opened. In it, they found many artworks and most importantly, an unknown painting by Boldini. To read more, click here and here. You will note some conflicting dates: the date Marthe de Florian fled Paris and the date the painting was created. I have taken the date of the painting as 1888 when Marthe de Florian was 24 years old. Apparently, she and Boldini were lovers (which might explain the rather sensuous quality of the painting!) And yes, Boldini would have been 46 years old.
Here’s the painting they found. It will certainly give you an idea of Boldini’s style – such lush and vigorous brushstrokes!