Plein Air Painting Of Trees…And More Trees!

 

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:

 

Trees and more trees near Long Harbour ferry terminal.

Trees and more trees near Long Harbour ferry terminal. I was attracted by the couple of arbutus trees and the white trunks of some other trees standing out from all the green. A challenge that’s for sure!

 

My drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper. Only the main shapes are indicated.

My drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper. Only the main shapes are indicated. (Apologies for the shadows – I couldn’t get set up completely in the shade.)

 

I've indicated the main shapes in pastel - primarily light and dark. You can see I also chose to show the temperature of the shapes - warm arbutus and light areas, cool shadow areas

I’ve indicated the main shapes in pastel – primarily light and dark. You can see I also chose to show the temperature of the shapes – warm arbutus and light areas, cool shadow areas.

 

Just after I have rubbed the whole thing with paper towel. This gives me an 'underpainting' to work on, one that has no wage of paper showing through.

Just after I have rubbed the whole thing with paper towel. This gives me an ‘underpainting’ to work on, one that has no white of paper showing through.

 

Because it was late in the day, the sun slipped behind a hill and then my strong sunlight disappeared leaving me with a very flat scene. Luckily, I had put in my values and so continued, using the underpainting as my guide.

Because it was late in the day, the sun slipped behind a hill leaving me with a very flat scene. Luckily, I had put in my values and so continued, using the ‘underpainting’ as my guide.

 

Here I have built up the forms. Much of it is lines of colour in the correct value.

Here I have built up the forms. Much of it is lines of colour in the correct value. (Again, apologies for the dappled light.)

 

Some darker areas introduced

Some darker areas of blue introduced.

 

Gail Sibley, "Trees And More Trees," pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

And here’s the finale of my plein air painting of trees…. Gail Sibley, “Trees And More Trees,” pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

 

The selection of pastels I used - all from Unison's starter kit except the one pink/mauve which is from Great American's starter box.

The selection of pastels I used – all from Unison’s starter kit except the one pink/mauve which is from Great American’s starter box.

 

My Mum and Dad painting out with me. (My Dad's down by the signpost.)

My Mum and Dad painting out with me. (My Dad’s down by the signpost.)

 

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,

~ Gail


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!!

Click here to go to the FCA’s webpage and see my work. And click here if you would like to see the painting’s progression.

Gail Sibley, "Perchance To Fly," mixed media, 16 x 16 in

Gail Sibley, “Perchance To Fly,” mixed media, 16 x 16 in

Moving Towards Abstraction – An Upcoming Workshop!

 

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.)

 

Gail Sibley, "Glimpses," pastel, 18 x 12 in, Peninsula Gallery

Gail Sibley, “Glimpses,” pastel, 18 x 12 in, Peninsula Gallery

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.

Until then,

~ Gail

PS. Please feel free to share this information with anyone who you think might benefit from it :-)

 

Cleaning Soft Pastels – Check Out My Easy Method

 

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!

 

Container with wire sieve and rice flour and pastels. This shows my version of Doug Dawson's method for cleaning soft pastels.

Container with wire sieve and rice flour. This shows my version of Doug Dawson’s method for cleaning soft pastels.

Sieve out of the container and in the gold panning dish

Sieve out of the container and in the gold panning dish

The cleaned pastels 'poured' into the gold panning dish, ready to use. But you can see, there is still the dust of the rice flour to deal with.

The cleaned pastels ‘poured’ into the gold panning dish, ready to use. But you can see, there is still the dust of the rice flour to deal with.

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,

~ Gail

 

Painting on location at Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island

 

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.

 

1. Unison starter kit of pastels all ready to go! (Thumbnail sketches in the background.)

1. Great American starter kit of pastels all ready for painting on location! (Thumbnail sketches in the background.)

 

2. The scene I painted. What attracted my to paint it were those daisies contrasted against the dark background. Of course the picket fence and the delightful yellow house weren't too bad either!

2. The scene I painted. What attracted me to paint it were those daisies contrasted against the dark background. Of course the picket fence and the delightful yellow house weren’t too bad either!

 

3. I forgot to take a photo of the charcoal drawing on the white Wallis paper. Here I have applied pastel quickly in the three main areas of value.

3. I made a simple charcoal drawing on the white Wallis paper and then applied pastel in the three main areas of value.

 

4. The initial layer was rubbed gently with a paper towel to become a sort of underpainting. I have begun adding another layer of pastel.

4. The initial layer was rubbed gently with a paper towel to become a sort of underpainting. I have begun adding another layer of pastel.

 

5. I added more darks and began to delineate the fence by painting the negative space.

5. I added more darks and began to delineate the fence by painting the negative space.

 

6. Getting more into the details of the scene, particularly the leaves of the rhodo bush

6. Getting more into the details of the scene, particularly the leaves of the rhododendron.

 

7. Finally I get to the daisies! This is as far as the pastel got on location. Is it finished? I'm not sure yet. The thing is, when you are back in the studio, the temptation is to 'tidy' things up and before you know it, you've lost the vitality that comes with painting on location. When the weather becomes overcast, I'll pull it out again and have a look. In the meantime, it's as finished as it can be :-)

7. Finally I get to the daisies! This is as far as the pastel got on location. Is it finished? I’m not sure yet. The thing is, when you are back in the studio, the temptation is to ‘tidy’ things up and before you know it, you’ve lost the vitality that comes with painting on location. When the weather becomes overcast, I’ll pull it out again and have a look. In the meantime, it’s as finished as it can be :-)
Gail Sibley, “Dowry House, Vesuvius,” pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in.

 

8. And here are the 15 Great American pastels I used

8. And here are the 15 Great American pastels I used.

 

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!

 

Charles Muench quote about painting on location

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,

~ Gail

 

 

All About How to Paint Glass Objects – a new video!

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!

 

video - how to paint glass objects

Click image to see the demo – how to paint glass

 

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.

Thumbnail of glass bottles

Thumbnail of glass bottles to confirm set-up for video on how to paint glass

 

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.

How to paint glass set-up in black and white

‘How to paint glass’ set-up in black and white

 

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.

The Unison set of pastels I chose from to make the video, how to paint glass

The Unison set of pastels I chose from to make the video, How to Paint Glass Objects. Aren’t they gorgeous???

 

And here is the final pastel:

"Two Bottles," pastel,5 .5 x 5.5 in

Gail Sibley, “Two Bottles,” pastel, 5.5 x 5.5 in

 

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,

~ Gail

 

 

Giovanni Boldini – “Girl In A Black Hat”

 

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:

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl In A Black Hat," 1890, pastel on paper, 23 1/4 x 13 in (59 x 33 cm), Private Collection

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl In A Black Hat,” 1890, pastel on paper, 23 1/4 x 13 in (59 x 33 cm), Private Collection

 

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.”

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail. This is a fabulous example of an artist using negative space to carve out the contour of the object. Look at how Boldini used the light blue pastel to create the contour of the black hat. He applied it thickly over the turquoise colour below.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail. This is a fabulous example of an artist using negative space to carve out the contour of the object. Look at how Boldini used the light blue pastel to create the contour of the black hat. He applied it thickly over the turquoise colour beneath.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of ear. One of the most difficult transitions in a portrait is that between skin and the hair on the head. Look at how Boldini first indicated the hair then softened the transition by pulling the white of the skin over the pony where hair meets skin. You can also see that he indicates the top of the ear where previously it appears the hair covered the top of the ear.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of ear. One of the most difficult transitions in a portrait is that between skin and the hair on the head. Look at how Boldini first indicated the hair then softened the transition by pulling the white of the skin over the place where hair meets skin. You can also see that he indicated the top of the ear where previously it appears the hair covered the top of the ear.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the material that held the hat on the head. With just a few strokes in a purply pastel, Boldini indicates the material that wishes around the neck to hold the hat in place. This material appears to cascade in front as seen in the next image.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the material that held the hat on the head. With just a few strokes in a light purply pastel, Boldini indicated the material that wrapped around the neck to hold the hat in place. This material appears to cascade down as seen in the next image.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of material. Although it's unclear whether this material is part of the hat (I believe it is) or the dress, you can reach out and touch its translucency!

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of material. Although it’s unclear whether this material is part of the hat (I believe it is) or the dress, you can reach out and touch its translucency. Boldin delicately inscribed the pale purple pastel like a veil over the black to give us the sense of the fabric.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the girl's hair and eyes. How easily Boldini creates the  red hair of his model. I love the way a few dark lines represent wisps on the right side and a few lines of burnt orange reveal the escaping strands over her eyes. And those eyes! Beautifully and confidently depicted.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the girl’s hair and eyes. How easily Boldini created the red hair of his model. I love the way a few dark lines represent wisps on the right side and a few lines of burnt orange reveal the escaping strands over her eyes. And those eyes! Beautifully and confidently depicted.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of mouth, chin and neck. Look at the way Boldini applies the same light purple pastel used in the highlights of the dark fabric to the neck and to the left side of the face, revealing light reflecting on the face from the dark material of her dress.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of mouth, chin and neck. Look at the way Boldini applied the same light purple pastel to the neck and to the left side of the face as he used in the highlights of the dark fabric. On her cheek, it reveals the light reflecting on the face from the dark material of her dress.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the girl's shoulder. The shoulder barely suggested by a contour line and the folds of the dress coming from her underarm. There is a straight line cutting across near the top of the shoulder. Why is it there? Does it indicate where Boldini thought the pastel might be cropped?

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the girl’s shoulder. The shoulder barely suggested by a contour line and the folds of the dress coming from her underarm. There is a straight line cutting across near the top of the shoulder. Why is it there? Does it indicate where Boldini thought the pastel might be cropped?

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail. Here we can compare the delicacy of the face with the vigorous strokes of the background. These hatchings gives the whole painting a strength it may not have had with a more gentle handling. The robust lines also give the girl a sense of vitality and assurance. What do you think?

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail. Here we can compare the delicacy of the face with the vigorous strokes of the background. These hatchings gives the whole painting a strength it may not have had with a more gentle handling. The robust lines also give the girl a sense of vitality and assurance. What do you think?

 

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,

~ Gail

 

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!

Giovanni Boldini, "Portrait of Marthe de Florian, 1888, oil on canvas, size unknown, Private Collection

Giovanni Boldini, “Portrait of Marthe de Florian, 1888?, oil on canvas, size unknown, Private Collection. The darker area at the bottom of the painting and the placement of Boldini’s signature suggest to me that the painting was originally cropped under his name, cropped by wrapping the canvas around the stretcher bars rather than being cut. As with the “Girl in a Black Hat,” I was unable to find much info on this painting, not even where it was auctioned.

 

 

New Pastel Painting Tip video – all about breaking pastels

Hiya,

I am finally getting back to a normal-ish life and schedule after the madness of two shows (‘Emergence’ and ‘Caught Red Handed’) back to back. They went well and it was wonderful to work towards them and produce so much new and exciting work but things like regular blogging kinda took a back seat! But I am getting back into the swing of things.

Today I made a new pastel painting tip video about how I break pastels when I acquire a new box. I have been asked by students how and why I do it. This video will answer that question! My main message? Be not afraid!!

Of course if you have a box of half sticks, there’s no need to do any breaking (although you might like to do so anyway). I should also say that usually, I’ll sort the box into values first, then do the breaking, but for this video, I wanted to start with the brand new box.

 

 

I usually don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to technical things so I do what produces the fastest result. You can, for instance, score the pastel with your finger prior to making the break.

Soft pastel scored prior to making the break

Soft pastel scored prior to making the break

Doing it this way, you may get a cleaner break. But not always and not with every brand of pastel. It also takes longer and since I’m usually in a hurry and I’m never sure of the result, I generally just get in there and make the break the way I show you on the video.

So, experiment. The main thing is to gulp, and break those pastels!

 

I’d love to know what you thought of the video and my pastel painting tip. Please reply to this email or alternatively, you can always leave a comment under the video on YouTube.

 

My next video will be a new demo so look out for that in the next month or so. I haven’t quite decided what to do yet so if you have any brilliant thoughts about that, be sure to let me know!!

 

I always love hearing from you so drop me a line sometime :-)

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

 

 

Blurred Boundaries #5 – a pastel progression step-by-step

 

Hellooo!!

I’m back again after all the craziness of getting two shows up within two weeks of each other - Emergence in the middle of May, Caught Red Handed at the end. Wow! And coming up, an open studio (Fernwood Art Stroll) this weekend. After that, it will be life as normal, well, sort of!

A couple of people were curious about the process I followed in the Blurred Boundaries pastel used on the Emergence exhibition invitation so I thought that would be a great idea for a blog.

First, the invitation:

Emergence show invitation showing the pastel 'Inscribed'

Emergence show invitation showing the pastel ‘Inscribed’

 

The pastel is titled “Inscribed” and it’s #5 in the Blurred Boundaries series. (To read my blogs on the first three in the series, click here for #1, here for #2, and here for #3.) Another time I’ll write a post of #4. For now, let’s get started.

 

1. Pencil thumbnail trying many different variations of value and figure position. You can see my notes on the left side talking about the dominant colour combos in previous pastels in the Blurred Boundaries series and that I wrote at the bottom, "thinking oranges." The design I chose to use was the one in the top right corner. I wrote, "walking into the light."

1. Pencil thumbnails trying many different variations of value and figure position. You can see my notes on the left side talking about the dominant colour combos in previous pastels in the Blurred Boundaries series and that I noted at the bottom, “thinking oranges.” The design I chose to use was the one in the top right corner. I wrote, “walking into the light.”

 

2. Drawing up the figure in charcoal on Wallis paper. This is the second time I have used this figure in a painting. The first time was in Blurred Boundaries #4 which is a vertical pastel. Now I have flipped the paper into a horizontal orientation. I was curious to see if I could get away with cramming the figure in with head partly chopped off and cloth hanging off the edge of the paper.

2. Drawing up the figure in charcoal on Wallis paper. This is the second time I have used this figure in a painting. The first time was in Blurred Boundaries #4 which is a vertical pastel. Now I have flipped the paper into a horizontal orientation. I was curious to see if I could get away with cramming the figure in with head partly chopped off and cloth hanging off the edge of the paper.

 

3. I decided on oranges and it's compliment of blues as the dominant colour combination. Here I start applying an initial layer of pastels. You can see I am not interested in a realistic interpretation of the figure.

3. I decided on oranges and blues as the dominant colour combination. Here I started applying an initial layer of pastels. You can see I am not interested in a realistic interpretation of the figure. I am using Mount Vision pastels.

 

4. A black and white photo of the first pastel layer. I am checking the piece against the original thumbnail. Isn't it interesting how the cloth totally disappears into the background? This is a prime example of where our perception of the brightness of the warm orange tells us that it is lighter than the more subdued, cooler blue. But not so!

4. A black and white photo of the first pastel layer. I’m checking the piece against the original thumbnail. Isn’t it interesting how the cloth totally disappears into the background? This is a prime example of where our perception of the brightness of the warm orange tells us that it is lighter than the more subdued, cooler blue. But not so!

 

5. Adding more pastel all over. Different blues on the left and lights on the right to cover the Belgian Mist paper. I also began adding the colours of blue and orange of background and cloth into the figure to connect them. You can also see the warm colour initially used on the body in the space below the outstretched arm. I've also added that same colour to the cloth along with some red to darken it.

5. Adding more pastel all over. Different blues on the left and lights on the right to cover the Belgian Mist paper. I also began adding the colours of blue and orange of background and cloth into the figure to connect them all. You can also see the warm colour initially used on the body applied to the space below the outstretched arm. I’ve also added that same colour to the cloth along with some red to darken it.

 

6. A black and white photo of the pastel as it stands. You can see that the red I added to the cloth barely darkened it.

6. A black and white photo of the pastel as it stands. You can see that the red I added to the cloth barely darkened it.

 

7. Tentatively, I bring the dark blue up to the orange cloth. I also add some red in areas of the figure.

7. Tentatively, I bring the dark blue up to the orange cloth. I also add some red in areas of the figure.

 

8. Okay, enough of being wishy washy! But you have to understand, I have no plan except for my thumbnail. I am feeling my way along but I realize I am holding back. So out came the charcoal to delineate the figure. It was too fuzzy, too unsure. I also added more colour, boldly, to the figure. Also, you can see some serious mark-making in the blue area of the piece. Yeah! Now we're talking! Can you feel/see the difference??

8. Okay, enough of being wishy washy! But you have to understand, I have no plan except for my thumbnail. I am feeling my way along but I realize I am holding back. So out came the charcoal to delineate the figure. It was too fuzzy, too unsure. I also added more colour, boldly, to the figure. Also, you can see some serious mark-making in the blue area of the piece. Yeah! Now we’re talking! Can you feel/see the difference??

 

9. Checking in with a black and white shot. You can see how much stronger the pastel looks now. Finally, the cloth is standing out from the background!

9. Checking in with a black and white shot. You can see how much stronger the pastel looks now. And finally, the cloth is standing out from the background!

 

10. Now I am cooking with gas! Clearly I am more confident about what I am doing. I am thinking at this point, "Just make the marks - you can always change by going over it if something isn't working. Don't be afraid!" I feel that the orange of the body and cloth are too disconnected from the background even with the blue introduced into the body. It's time to add orange to the background. Gulp! And yet, Wow! It works! I also brought the dark blue into the cloth.

10. Now I’m cooking with gas! Clearly I’m more confident about what I’m doing. I am thinking at this point, “Just make the marks – if something isn’t working, you can always change it. Don’t be afraid!” I feel that the orange of the body and cloth are too disconnected from the background even with the blue introduced into the body. It’s time to add orange to the background. Gulp! And yet, Wow! It works! You can see I also brought the dark blue colour into the cloth.

 

11. Black and white check-in. You can see the visual excitement the pastel marks make on the paper. It's not quite as I envisioned in my thumbnail but it works and that's all that counts.

11. Black and white check-in. You can see the visual excitement the pastel marks make on the paper. It’s not quite as I envisioned in my thumbnail but it works and that’s all that counts.

 

12. I decide I need to meld the figure with the background, as it looks too cut out. I breakup the edges and add more warm colours all over the background. I am really happy with it now! You can see where the series title, Blurred Boundaries, comes into play.

12. I decide I need to meld the figure with the background as it looks too cut out. I break up the edges and add more warm colours all over the background. I am really happy with it now! You can see where the series title, Blurred Boundaries, comes into play.

 

13. One last look at the pastel in black and white.

13. One last look at the pastel in black and white.

 

14. Gail Sibley, "Inscribed - Blurred Boundaries #5," pastel on Wallis paper, 18 x 24 in

14. A few more changes – can you see the tweaks I made? I add my signature and it’s done!
Gail Sibley, “Inscribed – Blurred Boundaries #5,” pastel on Wallis paper, 18 x 24 in

 

Now you have the whole journey; well almost – you didn’t hear the gnashing of teeth or the cussing, or the wild music, or see me sitting staring at the pastel, waiting to figure out what to do next, or my energetic mark making, but I’m hoping you can feel the whole experience in the piece.

 

You know I’d love to hear from you!! Tell me what was most surprising about this whole process.

 

Until next time :-)

~ Gail

 

My Two Favourites from the Current IAPS show!

 

I have been ultra busy preparing for my show opening this Friday and so my blog writing has slipped a wee bit. (Okay, that was an understatement!) Rather than let even more time pass by I thought I’d write a quick and dirty one. (If you want to know where that phrase came from like I did, click here.)

Have you seen the current International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) show?? This 24th Juried Exhibition can be seen at the Vose Galleries in Boston until 21st June. If you are in the neighbourhood, you can be sure it will be worth the visit!

I thought we could all have a look at the accepted entries and the winners and then ask you to choose your favourite and tell us why you made your choice. I’ll start. First, go and look at the IAPS exhibition by clicking here.

Okay, here’s my first choice. 

Christine Swann, "Determined," pastel, 18 x 14 inches, Winner of the Maggie Price Award for Excellence at the 24th IAPS Juried Exhibition

Christine Swann, “Determined,” pastel, 18 x 14 inches.  Winner of the Maggie Price Award for Excellence at the 24th IAPS Juried Exhibition

I love this painting. Let me count the reasons why.

First off, it’s a wonderful portrait!

We see a boy concentrating as he makes his mark on….a transparent surface, glass perhaps. This surface is absolutely there and I am in awe at my belief. I know this painting is a two dimensional surface and yet I can’t help but believe I am looking up through glass at this young artist at work. Okay, so that’s two things.

Another thing I love is how my eyes track around the painting. I am pulled in by the boy’s eyes but instead of staying there (which can easily happen especially here with his intense concentration), I look where he is looking, i.e. his eyes direct me to my next stop – the red mark being created by his hand. From there I see green scribbles against the lighter reddish background. I follow them to the left where bright coloured marks contrast with the boy’s black shirt. These lead me up to his arm where I find a spiralled blue rose which lands me on the hair of his head and the faint halo created by light behind. And then I’m back at his eyes. An exciting journey through the piece.

The background feels as if its been thought out not just an accident or an after-thought (which is the way it appears in some work I’ve seen!). The balance between the light parts and the dark, and their placement in the whole seem perfect.

This young man, I have the feeling I really want to meet him. I want to know what he’s thinking about as he draws. I want to know what he wants to be when he grows up. I want to know him.

Now the thing that gets me the most is Christine’s daring and courage. Okay, so imagine. You’ve created this beautiful portrait but to capture what’s going on, you have to scribble all over it! Are you still imagining?? You have to choose different coloured pastels and make random marks all over your beautiful piece. Now that takes guts! And confidence. And sheer will and determination. So I figure, the title, Determined, could also refer to the Christine as much as her subject.

 

And just because, here’s a second choice.

Carole Chisholm Garvey, "Hot August Sunset," pastel, 18.625 x 18 inches, Winner of the Gold Medal at the 24th IAPS Juried Exhibition

Carole Chisholm Garvey, “Hot August Sunset,” pastel, 18.625 x 18 inches. Winner of the Gold Medal at the 24th IAPS Juried Exhibition

Here we find a different kind of drama, one of nature. I feel it, I can see it, I can smell it, I can taste it. I love the even value of the whole piece with only a few specks of dark in the line of trees and a wee bit of light from that minuscule piece of light escaping from behind the clouds and reflected in the water below. This is almost an abstract painting!

Just for curiosity, I’ve included both paintings in a black and white version so you can see the difference between the two in terms of value. Christine’s painting runs the full gamut between dark and light while Carol’s is almost only one value. And they both work magnificently.

 

Christine Swann, "Determined," pastel, 18 x 14 inches, in black and white

Christine Swann, “Determined,” pastel, 18 x 14 inches, in black and white

Carole Chisholm Garvey, "Hot August Sunset," pastel, 18.625 x 18 inches, in black and white

Carole Chisholm Garvey, “Hot August Sunset,” pastel, 18.625 x 18 inches, in black and white

There are so many more beautiful paintings I want to comment on but I’m going to stick to these two. I would so love to hear about your favourite painting. (And it can be from any of the entries.) Just give the name of the artist and title and a sentence or two (or more!) why you like the piece. Come on, I’d LOVE to hear from you. You can always just reply to this email if it’s easier and I will post your answer.

 

I look forward to hearing from you!!

~ Gail

 

 

 

This Painting Was Finished Before I Knew It!

 

Have you ever had the experience of a painting that was done before you knew it? Well, this painting was finished before I had a clue. I couldn’t think of what more to do – should I add colour, should I add more detail, should I…what? It happened so quickly that I couldn’t believe it was actually finished. I put it away then I’d pull it out from time to time, have a look, couldn’t think of what else to do, then put it away again. This happened a number of times.

One day it was an ‘out’ day for the pastel. Artist friends Shirlee, Susan and Donna were visiting and when they saw the piece sitting there on the shelf, they expressed great appreciation for it. “Don’t touch it!!” Wow. Okay then.

So I took it in to my framer along with all the other pieces for my Gallery 8 show (opening 16 May). Elma happens to work for one of my other galleries, Peninsula Gallery, and she and the gallery owners LOVED it. Well it was then that I really believed it was done!! Funny how sometimes you need to hear the judgement of others before you can decide.

 

So without further ado, here’s the painting:

 

Gail Sibley, "Darkly, The Horizon," 18 x 12 in, pastel on Wallis paper. The painting was finished before I knew it!  If you know my colour palette, you'll know these muted colours are unusual for me. An almost pure abstract is also unusual but is definitely a path I'm on!

Gail Sibley, “Darkly, The Horizon,” 18 x 12 in, pastel on Wallis paper. If you know my colour palette, you’ll know these muted colours are unusual for me. An almost pure abstract is also unusual but is definitely a path I’m on!

 

 

And now, a quick review of the process (I have very few photos as it went along so quickly!).

 

My inspiration from a photo taken on a winter visit to my sister in Ontario. I loved the abstract bands of different whites

My inspiration – from a photo taken on a winter visit to my sister in Ontario. I loved the abstract bands of different whites

 

Thumbnail sketch showing the three main values and the composition, 2 1/2 x 1 in, pencil

Thumbnail sketch showing the three main values and the composition, 2 1/2 x 1 in, pencil

 

First layer of pastel. I decided that since it would be a fairly cool picture, that I would apply a warm layer over the entire surface to begin.

First layer of pastel. I decided that since it would be a fairly cool picture, that I would apply a warm layer over the entire surface to begin.

 

More layers of pastel added. This was the last photo I took before the one of the finished piece. Crazy huh??

More layers of pastel added. This was the last photo I took before the one of the finished piece. Crazy huh??

 

Do you always know when a painting is finished? Write and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Thanks for sharing this time with me.

~ Gail

 

I’ll leave you with this great quote by Harley Brown. Feel free to Pin It!!

Is this true for you?