Pastel Demo At Opus A Marvellous Experience!

Opus Art Store Pastel Demo

Wow, did I ever have a fun day on Sunday doing my pastel demo!! I can’t believe I’m saying that what with a bit of anxiety days before around the whole thing – what was I going to paint? how nervous would I be? how would it turn out?

I got there in plenty of time to set up, do a thumbnail sketch, and then get the initial charcoal sketch done on the Wallis paper I was using. Then I was ready. And suddenly, it was 11am, the store was open and there were about 20 people flowing into the chairs. I was surprised to see only a couple of people I knew. (With luck, I may have a few new subscribers to this blog :-))

I spoke a bit about pastel choices and the benefit of using a limited palette, about types of paper, and then I got into the demo. I really tried to make a point of verbalizing what was going on in my head as well as what I was doing on paper, rather than just drift into the ‘zone’ and work. It seemed to go pretty well! I was lucky to have an appreciative and encouraging audience who appeared to enjoy the pastel demo and find it useful. I’m glad that, in the end, I chose a subject I had painted before and also that I did a simple set up.

I don’t have progression steps but I do have a photo of the setup, my thumbnail sketch, the pastels I used from my limited palette of Schminke, and the demo at the end. (Kicking myself that I didn’t get a shot of the area with everyone in it!) The two hours flew by and of course I lost track of time so near the end, I needed to get to the highlights before I would normally indulge myself with this treat.

Take a look.

 

Pastel demo set up of two peppers and garlic cloves

Pastel demo set up of two peppers and garlic cloves. The photograph removes so much of the subtleties and colour shifts you can see in life!

 

Thumbnail sketch in pencil for pastel demo

Thumbnail sketch in pencil for the pastel demo. You can see the three main value areas of dark cast shadow, lightest value where the light hits the peppers and garlic cloves, and middle value for most of the rest.

 

The pastel demo at the end of about 1 1/2 hours of working and lots of talking between!

The pastel demo at the end of about 1 1/2 hours of working and lots of talking between! The piece is definitely not complete but that’s as far as I got in the allotted time. One thing I found was that the Wallis paper had a different texture from what I’m used to. It’s fine but was a surprise as I worked. The texture almost shows through more like watercolour paper. There’s so much more I wanted to do – work on the orange pepper, darken the clove in the cast shadow, work a bit more on the background cloth. Ah well.

 

 

The eleven Schminke pastels I used for the pastel demo, looking rather dirty

The eleven Schminke pastels I used, looking rather dirty.

 

The small set of Schminke pastels from which I pulled my pastels for this pastel demo

The set of Schminke pastels from which I chose my pastels

Yes, doing the pastel demo at Opus was really a great experience for me!!

 

Featured Artist!

I am honoured to be chosen as the feature artist for December on the Pastel Artists Canada Facebook Page. Check it out here!

 

That’s it for this time. Love hearing from you!!

 

For now,

~ Gail

 

Pastel Gems – November’s Choices

The Pastel Gems

It’s the end of November already and it’s time for another gathering of pastels that have wowed me over the past month. Extremely hard choices again this month especially with everyone posting their pieces accepted into the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Online show. (The show will available for viewing in December at this website.) Over and over the possibilities I went. Always hard to make the cuts but as I said back in September when I started this monthly feature, I’m keeping it to ten pastel gems only!

Okay, let’s go take a look.

 

A pastel gem - Andrew McDermott, Life drawing 30 min pose, pastel on kraft paper, approx 18 x 24 in

Andrew McDermott, Life drawing 30 min pose, pastel on kraft paper, approx 18 x 24 in

I only came across this masterful 30 minute pastel a couple of days ago. I love the deceptive simplicity of it. Look at the way Andy uses the warmth of the paper contrasted with that cool violet. Known more for his colourful landscape pastels than figure work, I’m delighted to see Andy’s beautiful life drawings that he posts from time to time on the Federation of Canadian Artists’ Facebook page. (Andy also happens to be President of the FCA.) To see more of Andy’s work, click here.

 

A pastel gem - Christine Obers, "Commissioned Portrait of Stephen Olmstead," Nupastel, Unison and pencils on Art Spectrum Colourfix paper, 10 x 8 in

Christine Obers, “Commissioned Portrait of Stephen Olmstead,” Nupastel, Unison and pencils on Art Spectrum Colourfix paper, 10 x 8 in

I was blown away by this sensitive and detailed portrait. I feel as if I could reach out and feel this man’s skin. One of the things I love is the reflected light on the shadowed side of the face which appears to have been created by leaving the warmth of the paper coming through. There is so much to appreciate about this portrait. I like the vignetting and Christine explained on her Facebook page why she decided on that look: “Aside from an aesthetic reason there is another reason I chose to do the portrait this way. The man in the portrait’s life was cut short in a cycling accident. His life was unfinished. This was a commission I did for his family.”

I have to say I was torn between this piece and a pastel Christine did of a sleeping dog called, “Sweet Dreams.” You can see that pastel and others on her website.

 

 

A pastel gem - Carlos Frey, "Portrait 1," Blue Earth pastels on Canson Mi-Tientes, 12 x 9

Carlos Frey, “Portrait 1,” Blue Earth pastels on Canson Mi-Tientes, 12 x 9 in

Powerful portrait! Did you notice that Carlos used only a limited palette of maybe seven colours plus the colour of the paper to express so much? The application of pastel is gutsy and straighforward, just getting down blocks of colour in a very strong understanding of value range. I will direct you to Carlos’s website here but I have to say that I was surprised to find a different look to his work there. If you check out his work on his Facebook profile, you’ll find work more similar to this one. Here, Carlos used pastels from the 21-colour Portrait and Figure Sampler set. His first time using Blue Earth pastels (I myself have never used this brand), this was his verdict: “My initial impression….VERY favourable.” Now I’m very curious!

 

 

A pastel gem - Anna Wainright, "Weather Change," pastel, 12 x 16 in

Anna Wainright, “Weather Change,” pastel, 12 x 16 in

An evocative painting of that certain quality of a day in winter, with cloud and shadow and sunlight peeking through. Imagine deciding to paint this scene. Really, there’s nothing there except road and bush in shadow, and a cloudy sky, but it’s the quality of light that evidently was the attraction and the message. Lovely. What’s really surprising is that I believe I read that Anna painted this from her imagination! If that’s the case, she certainly has considerable experience painting this kind of snow scene. I love how she’s caught the way snow clumps in a bush of many branches. The longer I look at this painting, the more I am reminded of the light in the paintings of Dutch landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael (c.1629-1682). You can see more of Anna’s evocative work here.

 

 

A pastel gem - James Kasperek, "Winter Hillside," Sennelier pastels on black Richeson Unison sanded paper, 11 x 16 in

James Kasperek, “Winter Hillside,” Sennelier pastels on black Richeson Unison sanded paper, 11 x 16 in

Here’s another winter scene where dark and light values are dominant yet because of their extremes, we have a totally different feeling from Anna’s painting! I love the drama of the dark trees against the lightness of the snow. I also appreciate the saturation of colour throughout even though it’s mainly a ‘black and white’ picture. And look at that vigorous application of pastel! Yum! Check out more of James’s work here.

 

 

A pastel gem - Jeri Greenberg, "Dusk on the Dune," pastel on UArt400 paper, 7 x 11 in

Jeri Greenberg, “Dusk on the Dune,” pastel on UArt400 paper, 7 x 11 in

Dusk: a time of lessening light but not yet dark, a time of little shadow and little highlights and that means a smaller value range. Look how effectively Jeri has used purple over green to present the greying of colour that happens at that time of day. Her painting also shows how the simplest subject – a tree and space of land and sky – can create a painting that stops you in your tracks. Go see more of her work by clicking here.

 

 

A pastel gem - Christine Debrosky, "To The Clearing," pastel, 12 x 12 in

Christine Debrosky, “To The Clearing,” pastel, 12 x 12 in

I love the cool/warm feeling of this painting. Going from the value extremes of James’s piece and from the darker quality of Jeri’s end-of day-pastel, we see here a painting where the value range is small and hovers in the middle of the value scale. Even so, you can see, with deft attention to choice of colour, temperature, texture, and design, how beautiful small and subtle shifts in value can be in a painting. Christine’s painting begs the question: what will I find in the clearing? Light for sure and a mystical experience perhaps? See more of Christine’s work here.

 

 

A pastel gem - Lyn Asselta, "The Beach Ramp," pastel on Canson Touch paper, 12 x 12 in

Lyn Asselta, “The Beach Ramp,” pastel on Canson Touch paper, 12 x 12 in

And now we go from the cool shade of Christine’s painting to being out in the blazing sunshine. What impressed me most about Lyn’s pastel was her ability to take seemingly inconsequential details – part of a house, some  signs, a hill, a road, some bush – and make a beautiful and mysterious painting of them. Where is this place? Where is the road leading to? Why is there a barrier? What do the signs say? So many questions and so much story-making material. The title, of course, gives us a clue, but without it, the possibilities are endless. Check out more of Lyn’s work here.

 

 

A pastel gem - Lynn Harris Morgan, "Heaven and Earth," pastel on UArt 800 paper, 18 x 24 in

Lynn Harris Morgan, “Heaven and Earth,” pastel on UArt 800 paper, 18 x 24 in

I love the colours in Lynn’s pastel. I love how she takes the landscape and goes beyond it, abstracting it. Or should I say, she has taken abstract forms and seen and enhanced an emerging landscape. So is this an abstract or a landscape? Go check out more of Lynn’s work on her website.

 

 

A pastel gem - Rita Kirkman, "Wake Up Call," pastel, 7 x 5 in

Rita Kirkman, “Wake Up Call,” pastel, 7 x 5 in

This rooster reminds me so much of the cocky roosters I see when I visit Mexico. This pastel absolutely caught my eye! Look at all those colours captured in those fleshy wattles, in the interior of the beak, in the glint of the rooster’s eye. Wonderful!! Can’t you just hear him crowing?? Many of you will know Rita’s pastels of farm animals – rabbits, chickens, cows, goats, donkeys. You can see them and more of her work here.

 

 

I’d love to hear what you think of these pastel gems. As difficult as it is to make the choices for these blogs, I so enjoy bringing you my totally subjective and personal selections. It blows me away when I see the variety and expertise in pastels out there. Thanks to all of you for sharing your talents with us.

 

A reminder about my upcoming demo

Next Sunday, 7th December, I will be at the Opus Art store in Victoria from 11am to 1pm demoing a colourful still life in pastels. You will need to register if you’d like to attend. Click here to do so.

 

As always, lovely to have you along for the ride.

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. 3 December 2014. I’ve just heard that Christine Obers won first prize in Pastel Artists Canada online exhibition. It was for her piece, “Sweet Dreams.” I deliberated for ages as to which piece to include in my pastel gems and eventually I chose the portrait. BUT since Christine won for the other piece, I have decided to include it here. Yay!

 

 

After the Bath – Edgar Degas’ Pastels of Women Drying Themselves

In the shower the other morning, I was pondering what I could write about in my next blog post. And then as I grabbed my big fluffy towel, it came to me – I’d find images by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) of women after the bath, drying themselves. Surprisingly, I realized I hadn’t yet written about Degas’ pastels on this blog. Time to rectify that! (You can read a blog I wrote about some of Degas’ work on my gailsibley.com blog by clicking here.)

Do you have any idea how many paintings (pastel and oil) Degas painted around this topic?? Plenty! And you can find so many of these images online. What I found though was that much of the information was incomplete – no size, no location. It took me some time to weed through them – I only wanted to present to you work that I found on museum websites with the full information on each piece. All the images here were taken from those websites as I suspect they show the most accurate colour.

After 1875, Degas began to use pastel frequently, even using the medium for finished pieces. In May 1886, at the Eighth (and last) Impressionist Exhibition, Degas exhibited a series of several pastels of nude women involved in bathing – washing, after the bath drying themselves, and combing their hair. They were the talk of the exhibition with some viewers criticizing the ungainly and awkward poses while others commented on the honesty of the depictions and Degas’ use of colour. Certainly, they weren’t idealized pictures of women but rather, images of the modern woman going about her daily ablutions.

Degas continued with this interest in using pastels through the 1890s and into the 1900s. By then, his eyesight had begun to fail and the work became more abstracted and more about the formal elements of painting. The women are less individualized and more a collection of line, colour, texture, and form.

Let’s take a look at some of his pastels of women after the bath, drying themselves (earliest to latest).

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman Drying Herself After the Bath," 1876-77, pastel over monotype on paper, 18 x 23 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

1. Edgar Degas, “Woman Drying Herself After the Bath,” 1876-77, pastel over monotype on paper, 18 x 23 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California (This is as large of an image I could capture from the website.)

Eventually purchased by Claude Monet, this piece shows a figure and surrounding room. The woman and her towel cast a shadow on the bed and this is balanced out by the white petticoat with its highlights and shadows on the right. All the accoutrements of bathing and after the bath are visible – the shallow tub with sponge, the basin and pitcher, and various perfume bottles. The woman is completely at ease looking at herself in the mirror. The open door with its dark rectangle suggests the possible entry of someone, perhaps a client. The figure forms the central pivot around which a picture full of diagonals and parts of objects (the bed and petticoat) swirl. Don’t you love the red slippers? (This painting was painted over a monotype. Degas made a first monotype and then printed a second one over which he created this painting.)

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman in a Tub," c.1883, pastel on paper, 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in, Tate Gallery, London

2. Edgar Degas, “Woman in a Tub,” c.1883, pastel on paper, 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in, Tate Gallery, London

A woman kneels in the tub, drying herself. What looks like a dressing gown lies on the nearby sofa. Like the pastel above, a door is open behind her. We have no sense of this woman’s social class or if she works as a prostitute. She could be any woman at her toilette. Degas’ rendering of the soft glowing skin with its subtle colours and shadows is exquisite. The angle of the head, face hidden in shadow, hair coiled on top, is so beautifully drawn as is the rest of the body. I particularly love the reflected light on her right thigh near her knee. The woman is calm and intent on what she is doing, oblivious of being watched.

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Toilet of a Woman," 1884, pastel on mounted brown paper, 19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

3. Edgar Degas, “Toilet of a Woman,” 1884, pastel on mounted brown paper, 19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Another earlier piece, this pastel feels full of movement with the blur of the towel in motion as a woman dries off. Another brown sofa with towel or dressing gown over it, it supports a kneeling woman, head down and face hidden. I find this piece has a tension in it unlike the pastel above – it comes from the action of the towel and the awkward precariousness of the figure on the sofa. My favourite parts are her feet, right over left, balancing the body, and also the floral wallpaper :-)

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman at Her Toilette drying her left foot," 1886, pastel on cardboard, 21 3/8 x 20 5/8 in,Musee d'Orsay, Paris

4. Edgar Degas, “Woman at Her Toilette drying her left foot,” 1886, pastel on cardboard, 21 3/8 x 20 5/8 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

This pastel was one of the suite of nudes shown at the Eighth Impressionist Exhibition. Hard to believe that the critics could have found this beautiful nude to be ugly. In the quiet of her room, this young woman, hair loose, carefully dries her foot while sitting on a chair covered with her dressing gown. She is in her own world, totally oblivious of being watched by us through the open door. This side view is a difficult one to give form to and Degas has done a refined and elegant job of it.

 

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman Drying Her Foot," 1885-86, pastel on buff wove paper, affixed to pulpboard, 19 3/4 x 21 1/4 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

5. Edgar Degas, “Woman Drying Her Foot,” 1885-86, pastel on buff wove paper, affixed to pulpboard, 19 3/4 x 21 1/4 in, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This pastel may well have been in the Eighth Impressionist Exhibition as well. Here we have the full bathtub being used to prop the bather’s foot as she dries it. Is this the same auburn-haired model as in the above paintings? It appears Degas blended areas of the pastel (her centre back, the bathtub, her right leg) as well as leaving areas of hatched lines. There seems to be a strange confusion in the area around the right hand drying the foot – do you see what I mean?

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After The Bath, Woman Drying Herself," c.1884-1886, reworked between 1890 and 1900, pastel on wove paper, 16 x 12 5/8 in, Musee d'Art Moderne Andre Malraux, Le Havre

6. Edgar Degas, “After The Bath, Woman Drying Herself,” c.1884-1886, reworked between 1890 and 1900, pastel on wove paper, 16 x 12 5/8 in, Musee d’Art Moderne Andre Malraux, Le Havre

This is a curious piece, with soft and polished parts where the texture of the paper is hardly visible, and other parts where the texture of the paper is clearly evident (at the top). There is none of the hatching or cross-hatching we associate with Degas’ work. There is a fold in the paper near the top which Degas did nothing to hide. This woman sits on a sofa, reaching up to dry the back of her neck. You can see the bathtub barely shown in the background top left.

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After The Bath," c.1890-93 (dated in error by another hand:1885), pastel on tracing paper mounted on cardboard, 26 x 20 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

7. Edgar Degas, “After The Bath,” c.1890-93 (dated in error by another hand:1885), pastel on tracing paper mounted on cardboard, 26 x 20 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

Like the pastel above (and below), this woman dries the back of her neck. Degas was obviously fascinated by this everyday pose as a woman goes about drying herself after the bath. The gesture creates a tension in the back which allows for more evidence of the forms beneath the skin. Face hidden, the woman is completely anonymous especially when compared to the earlier work. The focus is on the woman’s back, so much so that it’s difficult to tell what happens with the rest of the body, for instance, how do her legs fit into the picture? She appears to be seated and surrounded by colourful clothing perhaps from which she will choose. This pastel has a more abstract feeling with intense colour and various pastel textures. Notice it was created on tracing paper. Click on the link to the museum above and go to ‘See all Paintings’ to read more. (For some reason, I was unable to directly link the image above to the one on the Museum’s website.)

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself," c1890-5, pastel on wove paper laid on millboard, 40 6/8 x 38 3/8 in, National Gallery, London,

8. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself,” c1890-5, pastel on wove paper laid on millboard, 40 6/8 x 38 3/8 in, National Gallery, London

This pastel is large, almost double the size of the one above. Degas seems to have begun the piece as another close-up view of a woman’s back as she dries her neck. In the end though, he extended the composition, adding more paper to the top and bottom of the composition. One of the parts of this painting that stand out for me is the pink pastel hatched over the gray areas of her back. Delightful!

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath, Woman With a Towel," c. 1893-97, pastel on blue-gray wove paper, 27 7/8 x 22 9/16 in, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachussetts

9. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath, Woman With a Towel,” c. 1893-97, pastel on blue-gray wove paper, 27 7/8 x 22 9/16 in, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachussetts

This piece really begins to show the more vigorous stroke of Degas’ later years as his eyesight continued to fail. Curiously, the towel seems to be gathered along one edge almost suggesting a piece of clothing that she is slipping on. Yet the bathtub stands in front of this woman and she appears to be drying off. Again I am in awe of the subtle variations of form in her back that Degas has managed to achieve. A close look shows hatching going every which way and lost and found edges to create the illusion of skin. Marvellous!

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath - Woman Drying Herself," c.1895, pastel on paper, 26 5/8 x 22 3/4 in, Courtauld Institute, London

10. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath – Woman Drying Herself,” c.1895, pastel on paper, 26 5/8 x 22 3/4 in, Courtauld Institute, London

All those different textures! Skin, towel, tub, upholstered chair, carpet, wallpaper. It’s fascinating that Degas chose to parallel the edge of the bathtub with the woman’s left arm rather than say, hide it with the arm. An interruption is made by the awkward movement of the right arm drying her left side. It appears that Degas may have added another piece of paper along the bottom. Can you see the dividing line? (There is no mention of it in the Courtauld Institute notes.) I love the redrawing of the right knee and perhaps there is also a change in the left (raised) hand. Oh to get a close look at these pastels in the flesh so to speak!

 

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath," c. 1896-98, pastel on paper, 26 x 24 in, E.G. Buehrle Collection, Zurich

11. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath,” c. 1896-98, pastel on paper (two strips) mounted on cardboard, 26 x 24 in, E.G. Buehrle Collection, Zurich

Definitely a later piece, Degas focused fully on the woman’s back and surrounding cloth. What looks like the bathtub is shown at the lower left of the picture. Look at that wondrous hatching of different colours, for example her lower back – greens, reds, pinks, blues! Such confidence of pastel application!

 

Edgar Degas, "After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Nape," 1898, pastel on wove paper mounted on cardboard, 24 1.2 x 25 5/8 in, Musee d'Orsay, Paris

12. Edgar Degas, “After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Nape,” 1898, pastel on wove paper mounted on cardboard, 24 1.2 x 25 5/8 in, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Compared to the images above and below this one, this pastel looks positively refined and delicate. I am surprised it’s dated so late! The woman sits on the edge of the bathtub and dries her neck. This time, her hair is caught up in a pnoeytail rather than loose or in a bun. I rather like the panels of different colour behind her – they form an abstracted background as it’s difficult to make out what each represents. They almost look like curtains from the ruffling at the top. And what’s that dark shape to the right? The skirt of a woman come to help her? (There are other paintings by Degas of woman being helped by another – click here to see an example – but these were beyond the scope of this post!)

 

Edgar Degas, "Woman Drying Her Hair," c.1905, pastel on paper, 28 1/8 x 24 3/4 in, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena, California

13. Edgar Degas, “Woman Drying Her Hair,” c.1905, pastel on paper, 28 1/8 x 24 3/4 in, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

From around 1905, this vigorously painted pastel shows the decline of Degas’ eyesight. He uses the female form to create a montage of movement and colour. When I first looked at this painting, I couldn’t make out where and how her limbs worked. Finally I saw it – the limb that at first looked like a badly attached right arm is actually her left leg resting on the sofa while her right arm is mostly covered by the towel. I think it’s the conglomeration of limbs and right breast with little differentiation that create the confusion. You can see that Degas is no longer attempting an accurate drawing but instead appears to be reacting to the movement and colour he sees.

 

I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I did putting it together. I’d love to know which is your favourite piece (I have numbered them) and why.

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Regarding whether or not Degas was an Impressionist or a Realist I have taken this info from the Metropolitan Museum’s website

“Edgar Degas seems never to have reconciled himself to the label of “Impressionist,” preferring to call himself a “Realist” or “Independent.” Nevertheless, he was one of the group’s founders, an organizer of its exhibitions, and one of its most important core members. Like the Impressionists, he sought to capture fleeting moments in the flow of modern life, yet he showed little interest in painting plein air landscapes, favoring scenes in theaters and cafés illuminated by artificial light, which he used to clarify the contours of his figures, adhering to his Academic training.”

Degas exhibited in seven of the eight Impressionist exhibitions, missing only the seventh. Click here to read more about each of the exhibitions.

 

 

 

Painting dried roses – step-by-step

Pastel of Dried Roses

My plan for this post was to show a step-by-step progression of my pastel of dried roses in a vase. The roses were a gift from my honey for my birthday in August but it wasn’t until well into September that I painted them. They were beautiful when fresh and still beautiful once they had dried.

When it came time to put this blog post together I realized that, silly me, I had only videoed the process ie I’d taken no stills. I also hadn’t taken a photo of the set-up. Argh. Since I had my heart set on sharing this pastel and since I couldn’t think of an alternative, I decided to go through the videos and take a few screen shots. This I did. The only thing is, because the camera isn’t facing the pastel straight on, the photos are slightly skewed and not as clear as I’d like them to be. Nevertheless, I think you’ll get the picture.

First off, here’s the final piece (taken with my camera not the camcorder).

 

Gail Sibley, "Still Beautiful," pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in - a pastel of dried roses in a vase

Gail Sibley, “Still Beautiful,” pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in.

Starting at the beginning….

1. Thumbnail of dried roses done with biro, 3 x 1 1/2 in. Pretty sketchy but still showing areas of three values.

1. Thumbnail of dried roses done with biro, 3 x 1 1/2 in. Pretty sketchy but still showing areas of three values.

 

2. Charcoal sketch complete of the dried roses in the vase.

2. Charcoal sketch completed of the dried roses in the vase.

 

3. Beginning to apply pastel

3. Beginning to apply pastel. Massing in the main shapes.

 

4. First layer of pastel lightly applied and then rubbed with a paper towel to create an 'underpainting'. This way, I get rid of a lot of the white of the paper.

4. First layer of pastel lightly applied and then rubbed with a paper towel to create an ‘underpainting’. This way, I get rid of a lot of the white of the paper.

 

5. Beginning to re-state the original pastel colours - creating a more saturated base to work over. You can see this particularly in the flowers and leaves of the dried roses.

5. Beginning to re-state the original pastel colours – creating a more saturated base to work over. You can see this particularly in the flowers and leaves of the dried roses.

 

6. Starting to add more pastel and delineate the shapes, particularly the flower heads.

6. Starting to add more pastel and delineate the shapes, particularly the flower heads.

 

7. Beginning to describe the leaves and the spaces between.

7. Beginning to describe the leaves and the spaces between.

 

8. Background worked on, dried roses evident (flower heads, leaves, stems), vase made visible. Close to finishing.

8. Background worked on, dried roses evident (flower heads, leaves, stems), vase made visible. Close to finishing.

 

Gail Sibley, "Still Beautiful," pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in - a pastel of dried roses in a vase

Gail Sibley, “Still Beautiful,” pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. Available unframed $825

 

Here are a few close-ups of the finished pastel:

Gail Sibley, "Still Beautiful," pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in - detail of dried roses

Gail Sibley, “Still Beautiful,” pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in – detail of the pink roses and leaves. Pretty much life size

 

Gail Sibley, "Still Beautiful," pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in - detail #2. Pretty much life size dried roses

Gail Sibley, “Still Beautiful,” pastel on Wallis paper, 17 1/2 x 9 1/4 in – detail of the red dried roses. Pretty much life size

 

And here are the Great American pastels I used:

Great American pastels right after finishing.

Great American pastels right after finishing.

Great American pastels I used but now all cleaned up. Anyone notice anything??

Great American pastels I used but now all cleaned up. Anyone notice anything?? – Have a look at the previous image

Hope that was helpful. I’d love to hear any feedback!

 

Demo at Opus!!

I also wanted to tell you about a demo I am doing in December. It’s going to be at Opus Art Supplies here in Victoria on Sunday 7th December, 11am-1pm. It’s called “Colourful Still Life in Pastel” and I’ll be demoing a small pastel with a limited palette using Schminke’s box set of 20 pastels. Click here to learn more.

I’m prrrreeeetttty excited to be doing this. It’s my first time demoing with Opus. It’s free but you’ll need to register in advance by calling them at 250 386 8133 or going into the store.

 

And thaaaaaaat’s it for this time. Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend.

Until next week,

~ Gail

 

PS. If you looked closely at both photos showing the pastels I used, you will have noticed I forgot to include the darkest pastel in my cleaned up photo. Mea culpe.

PPS. Here’s a photo of the roses in my bedroom when they were fresh!

Fresh roses rather than dried roses!

Fresh roses!

PPPS. The Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago – 9 November 1989!! Do you remember when that happened? I do. I also remember when I was in Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie 32 years ago, looking over at the grim buildings in East Germany and imagining the people walking on the other side of the wall. Wow – what a change when the wall came down. I can hardly believe it’s been 25 years ….

The Berlin Wall comesdown http://youtu.be/zmRPP2WXX0U

Click to watch

Then go check out this amazing art installation!!

 

Pastel Gems: October’s Round-Up!

At the end of last month, I posted the first of these ‘pastel gems’ blogs. It was a very informal, totally personal selection of pastel gems that came across my computer screen through the month of September. It was so well received, I’ve decided to make it a monthly feature.

Last time I said I would keep my choices to only 10. Was I crazy???? That’s waaaaaaay too difficult! But yeah, I know, I promised.

One of the difficult things in choosing was liking pieces by artists already featured last month. Well, they had to go first. (Maybe in a couple of months I’ll permit myself to post their beautiful work again.) Others didn’t have complete information so I edited those out too (as much as I hated to do so). Then I looked and whittled, looked and whittled. Terrible to have to make these kind of choices. No envy of jurors that’s for sure (I’ve only had the pleasure of being a juror twice). So from 35 plus, here are my 10 pastel gems for this month. Like I say, purely subjective. My own delight really but I do hope you will come away with some awe and pleasure.

 

Let’s take a look.

 

Arlene Richman, Quick Study, pastel on BFK with pastel ground, 11 x 11 in

Arlene G. Richman, Quick study, pastel on prepared BFK Rives paper, 11 x 11 in

I love the simplicity, the colour combinations, and the design elements of this study. Arlene does these quick studies when she needs to keep the creative juices flowing. She started them because  she “was up against a wall vis a vis a more serious piece and … just needed to keep going and painting….. I start with a mark – either a color shape or a directional line or two – or both. Then the rest of the painting is an exercise in solving the problem I presented to myself. I usually feel viscerally whether a color or line is correct.” To see more of her work, click here.

 

 

Linda Dessaint, "The Secret Spot," pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

Linda Dessaint, “The Secret Spot,” pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

There’s such an immediacy and vibrancy about this pastel! It looks as if it’s done on location but I don’t know this for sure. Happily for Linda, it recently won the Terry Ludwig award at the Pastel Society of New Hampshire‘s National Juried Show (hanging until 30 November). Check out her other pastels on her website.

 

 

Ginger M. Urick, "Blue on Black #2," pastel, 19 x 19 in

Ginger M. Urick, “Blue on Black #2,” pastel, 19 x 19 in

Completely different from Linda’s pastel above (which makes me think ‘glorious day’), Ginger’s piece is moody and evocative of the power of nature. I’m in awe of her technique and ability to capture this moment in the sky. I couldn’t find a website for Ginger but found her Artist Facebook Page instead. I hope you’ll head on over and Like it!

 

 

Aline Ordman, New Mexico workshop demo, Terry Ludwig pastels on Colourfix paper, 9 x 12 in

Aline Ordman, New Mexico workshop demo, Terry Ludwig pastels on Colourfix paper, 9 x 12 in

Another glorious example of painting en plein air. Aline’s colour always astonishes me. And look at the simplicity – so much said with so little. Head on over to her website to see more of her fabulous work!!

 

 

Bonnie Paruch, "Algoma Shadows," pastel on sanded paper, 14 x 18 in

Bonnie Paruch, “Algoma Shadows,” pastel on sanded paper, 14 x 18 in

I love that Bonnie could make such a beautiful and bold painting out of this ordinary subject matter. Evidently so did the judges at the September Bold Brush competition who awarded her an Outstanding Pastel award. This painting is one of seven completed for a group invitational show at the Charles Allis Art Museum. The show runs until 11 January 2015. Check out more of Bonnie’s work here.

 

 Supapong Yuneyong, Portrait, pastel, 17 x 12 in

 Supapong Yuneyong, Portrait, pastel, 17 x 12 in

I was rather taken with the vigorous nature of this portrait and the way the artist captured this man’s personality. I could find neither a website or a Facebook Artist Page for Supapong Yuneyong but he is on facebook. Click here to see his page and learn a bit more about him.

 

 

Gisele Hurtaud, "Le Chapeau de Marjolaine," pastel on pastelcard, 13 x 13 in

Gisele Hurtaud, “Le Chapeau de Marjolaine,” pastel on pastelcard, 13 x 13 in

I found this portrait delightful – the smile about to crack open, the glance away, the smooth skin contrasted with the wooly hat, the curl of hair escaping, the warm pastel in her cheek and the background. To see more of Gisele’s work, check out her website.

 

 

Daggi Wallace, "Emergence," pastel, 28 x 13 inDaggi Wallace, “Emergence,” pastel, 28 x 13 in

Daggi does some amazing portrait and figurative work. This month, this was the pastel that caught my attention – the incredible realism of the head (with the water reflections above the eyes and the drips of water) contrasted with the abstract quality of water that still appears perfectly real in the whole. You can see part of Daggi’s painting process here. How does she get such detail???? Check out more of Daggi’s work on her website.

 

 

Leo Loomie, "The Red Booth," pastel on ersta paper on foamcore, 20 x 16 in

Leo Loomie, “The Red Booth,” pastel on ersta paper on foamcore, 20 x 16 in

I love the feel of this pastel – I could walk in and sit down and then be mesmerized with all the reflected goings-on as I listen to the juke box. This pastel is part of a body of work Leo is creating called the Americana series. There are some fabulous pieces and it was difficult to choose which to include. Unable to find a website for Leo, I did find his Artist Page on Facebook – click here and go Like his Page :-)

 

 

Diane Rudnick Mann, "Silverware in Glass," pastel, 26 x 21 in

Diane Rudnick Mann, “Silverware in Glass,” pastel, 26 x 21 in

I had two of Diane’s pastels to choose from. I decided to go with this one since the other, “8 or 9 Glass Bowls,” (which just won First Place in Still Life category in the 2015 Pastel Journal 100 Competition!!) is on the front page of her website. Go check it out! I think this pastel is equally amazing. Not only am I stunned by what she was able to do with a handful of silver utensils , I am intrigued by the velvety blackness of the background. How did she achieve this??

 

So there are my ten pastel gems for October. Difficult choices!! But some pretty awesome work don’t you think?

I’d loooooove to hear from you!!

Off to drool over this work some more….

~ Gail

 

PS. Happy Halloween!!

Check out these adorable children’s pastels of pumpkins!

 

Joan Eardley – Her Pastels Of Glasgow Tenement Kids

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.

 

Joan Eardley, "Boy Leaning Against a Wall," c.1955-59, pastel on paper, 6 3/4 x 4 1/4 in, Private Collection. One of the earliest pastels I could find.

Joan Eardley, “Boy Leaning Against a Wall,” c.1955-59, pastel on paper, 6 3/4 x 4 1/4 in, Private Collection. One of the earliest pastels of the children I could find.

 

Joan Eardley, "Little Glasgow Girl," c.1958, pastel, 18 7/8 x 13 3/4 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Little Glasgow Girl,” c.1958, pastel, 18 7/8 x 13 3/4 in, Private Collection

 

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)

 

Joan Eardley, "Little Girl and Comic," c.1958-62, pastel, 6 7/8 x 6 5/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Little Girl and Comic,” c.1958-62, pastel, 6 7/8 x 6 5/8 in, Private Collection. I love the way the child’s right hand is barely indicated. I can just imagine Eardley trying to capture a moving target!!

 

Local children in Joan Eardley's Townhead studio, Glasgow. Photo by Audrey Walker, Dumfriesshire Educational Trust, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries

Local children in Joan Eardley’s Townhead studio, Glasgow. Dumfriesshire Educational Trust, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries. (I have seen the photo credited to both Eardley herself and to Audrey Walker so I am not sure who took it.) I can hardly imagine having kids roaming about in my studio! You can see Eardley’s primary easel in the background.

 

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.

 

Joan Eardley, "Two Children (Boys)," c.1959-62, pastel on sandpaper, 11 5/8 x 9 5/8 in, Lillie Art Gallery, East Dunbartonshire Council

Joan Eardley, “Two Children (Boys),” c.1959-62, pastel on sandpaper, 11 5/8 x 9 5/8 in, Lillie Art Gallery, East Dunbartonshire Council. Apparently Joan’s favourite models in Townhead were the Samson children and these boys may have been two of the twelve or so offspring.

 

Joan Eardley, "Girl with a Baby," c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Girl with a Baby,” c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in, Private Collection

 

Joan Eardley, "Sleeping Child," c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 8 5/8 x 10 3/4 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Sleeping Child,” c.1962, pastel on sandpaper, 8 5/8 x 10 3/4 in, Private Collection. Asleep but still moving probably!

 

 

Photo of Joan Eardley drawing a child. Photo by Audrey Walker

Joan Eardley drawing a child. Photo by Audrey Walker. I love love this photo. It really gives the sense of Eardley attempting to capture the vitality of this child who seems to be having a marvellous time! It also exudes warmth and connection between Eardley and the child. You can imagine she had this relationship with all the kids she was capturing in her artwork.

 

Joan Eardley, "Wee Boy with a Green Cardigan," c.1961-63, pastel, 11 3/8 x 8 7/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Wee Boy with a Green Cardigan,” c.1961-63, pastel, 11 3/8 x 8 7/8 in, Private Collection

 

Joan Eardley, "Girl in Orange Jumper," c.1961-62, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 8 7/8 x 5 5/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Girl in Orange Jumper,” c.1961-62, Charcoal and pastel on paper, 8 7/8 x 5 5/8 in, Private Collection

 

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)

 

Photo of Joan Eardley in her Townhead studio. Photo Audrey Walker

Photo of Joan Eardley in her Townhead studio. Photo Audrey Walker. I love this photo of Eardley surrounded by many of her pastels of the Glasgow kids. You can also see an oil painting to her right. As an aside, quite the studio don’t you think?? I won’t complain about mine!

 

And just to situate where these kids lived and where Eardley worked:

 

Joan Eardley, "Glasgow Tenement and Back Court," c.1959-62, pastel on glasspaper (sandpaper), 8 7/8 x 10 5/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Glasgow Tenement and Back Court,” c.1959-62, pastel on glasspaper (sandpaper), 8 7/8 x 10 5/8 in, Private Collection

 

Joan Eardley, "A Glasgow Tenement," c.1959-62, pastel, 7 7/8 x 9 7/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “A Glasgow Tenement,” c.1959-62, pastel, 7 7/8 x 9 7/8 in, Private Collection

 

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.

 

To see more wonderful photographs of Joan Eardley, at work and in her milieu, click here then open the pdf. Also, to see a large selection of Eardley’s oil paintings, click here.

 

Photo by Joan Eardley of kids looking out a window. Can you see it as source material in two of the paintings on the National Galleries website?

Photo by Joan Eardley of kids looking out a window. Can you see it as source material for two of the paintings on the National Galleries website?

 

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!

~ Gail

 

PS. The FABULOUS book I reference:

To buy in Canada click on image:

To buy in USA and international, click on image:

High Key Painting – What IS That??

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.

Daisies in a Vase - the set-up

Daisies in a Vase – the set-up

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.

 

Thumbnail of two daisies in a vase

Pencil thumbnail of two daisies in a vase – remember, it’s only about 1.5 x 1.5 inches!

 

And here is the set of Schminke pastels I chose from:

Schminke pastels - all the pastels I didn't use - the darks and the ones in mid-value and light value

Schminke pastels – all the pastels I DIDN’T use – the darks and the ones in mid-value and light value

(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:

Gail Sibley, "Two Daisies in a Vase," pastel, 5.5 x 5.5 in. An example of a high key painting

Gail Sibley, “Two Daisies in a Vase,” pastel, 5.5 x 5.5 in. An example of a high key painting

Gail Sibley, "Two Daisies in a Vase," pastel, 5.5 x 5.5 inches - in black and white

Gail Sibley, “Two Daisies in a Vase,” pastel, 5.5 x 5.5 inches – in black and white

 

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.

 

Value Scale from 1-10. I've circled the values that can be used in a high key painting.

Value Scale from 1-10. I’ve circled the values that can be used in a high key painting. (I have linked the image to the blog where I found the scale. I’ve added my own annotation regarding high key values.)

 

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 :-)

~ Gail

 

Pastel Gems: A Monthly Round-Up

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. 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!
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. This pastel recently won an award. Click here to read more.
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.

 

Jude Tolar, "Wildflowers Dance," pastel on Ampersand pastelbord, 11 x 14 in
Jude Tolar, “Wildflowers Dance,” pastel on Ampersand pastelbord, 11 x 14 in. I love the simplicity of this pastel. It reminds me of one of Childe Hassam’s pastels seen in my previous blog. To see more of Jude’s work, click here.

 

Jacob Aguiar, "Untitled," pastel on UArt 500 paper, 12 x 16 in
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
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
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
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
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
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.

 

 

Janet A Cook, "Thread of Flight," pastel, 40 x 43 in
Janet A Cook, “Thread of Flight,” pastel, 40 x 43 in. The figure is so beautifully rendered and sits so well in this magical piece. I am in awe of Janet’s work! To see more, click here. This painting won an award in the Pastel Society of America’s 42nd Annual exhibition.

 

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,

~ Gail

Childe Hassam, American Impressionist and master pastellist

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.

Childe Hassam, "Au Grand Prix de Paris," 1887, pastel and pencil on tan board, 15 15/16 x 12 1/2 in, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Childe Hassam, “Au Grand Prix de Paris,” 1887, pastel and pencil on tan board, 15 15/16 x 12 1/2 in, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

 

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, "A New York Blizzard," 1890, pastel on gray paper, 13 3/4 x 9 1/2 in, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Childe, “A New York Blizzard,” 1890, pastel on gray paper, 13 3/4 x 9 1/2 in, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

 

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.

Childe Hassam, "Poppies, Isles of Shoals," 1890, pastel on paper, 7 1/4 x 13 3/4 in, Private Collection

Childe Hassam, “Poppies, Isles of Shoals,” 1890, pastel on paper, 7 1/4 x 13 3/4 in, Private Collection

Childe Hassam, "Poppies, Isles of Shoals," 1891, pastel on paper, 9 3/4 x 12 1/4 in, Private collection

Childe Hassam, “Poppies, Isles of Shoals,” 1891, pastel on paper, 9 3/4 x 12 1/4 in, Private collection (As a side note, this is about the size of paper I work on when on location.)

 

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.

Childe Hassam, "Summertime," 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection

Childe Hassam, “Summertime,” 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection

 

Childe Hassam, "Summertime," 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection - detail

Childe Hassam, “Summertime,” 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection – detail

Childe Hassam, "Summertime," 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection - detail

Childe Hassam, “Summertime,” 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection – detail

 

Childe Hassam, "Summertime," 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection - detail

Childe Hassam, “Summertime,” 1891, pastel on paper, 20 x 24 in, Private collection – detail. In the dress, you can see the remains of the original drawing.

 

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, "The Evening Star," 1891, pastel on tan paper, 20 x 24 in, Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, Connecticut

Childe Hassam, “The Evening Star,” 1891, pastel on tan paper, 20 x 24 in, Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, Connecticut

 

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,

~ Gail

 

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