Simplify, Simplify, Simplify! Working En Plein Air in Mexico

We’re back from our two-week vacation in La Manzanilla, Mexico where we danced up a storm during the first week in a tango intensive workshop and then relaxed a bit in the second which is when I managed to get some pastelling time in. This pastel is a view from the verandah of Martin’s Restaurant. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the scene until I spoke the mantra, simplify, simplify, simplify! It’s always good when you remember that you don’t have to put everything in – only include what you want to say something about. Let’s have a look at the view and the thumbnail sketch I did of it.

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Life experience in painting-for now, the final

Making Use Of Your Life Experience In Painting

I’m in La Manzanilla, Mexico. My first thought was to do a plein air piece to share with you but guess what? It was a cloudy day and without the sunlight to sparkle the scene, nothing inspired me. So what to do? I decide to make use of my life experience in the painting.

I’d been speaking to Jennifer here in La Manz. She’s recently opened a retail shop called Zingara. I asked her what the word meant. She said, “It’s Italian for gypsy, bohemian, wild thing.” Wow, I thought, that fits nicely with the Bohemian Girl series I’ve been working on in my studio (in acrylic). I had my idea.

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Rita Kirkman, "Counting Sheep," 2015, pastel, 32 x 32 in - sold

Rita Kirkman Has This To Say- It’s Not About The Animals!

I’ve known about Rita Kirkman’s work for a few years now. I can’t remember when I first came across it but I do know she’s been an active blogger for some time. I featured one of Rita’s pieces in my monthly round-up (click here to see it) and finally met her at IAPS last year. It was pretty funny because I kept being mistaken for her and so we had our photos taken together to clear up the confusion (does it??).

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Is This Plein Air Pastel Finished?

I think many of us artists have this problem – knowing when a painting is finished. Sometimes, without our realizing it, a painting is finished back a few steps. I know my tendency is to want to pick away, making the tiniest of tweaks. Often this can eradicate the spontaneity that was there especially when it comes to work done en plein air. We bring the piece back into the studio, study it, and then see the ‘flaws’ which we need to ‘correct’. Often these so called flaws are what bring the painting to vibrant life and ‘correcting’ them brings along a slow death. Unless we stop in time. And when is that time?

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Delighting in ‘The Long Gloves’ by Mary Cassatt

Big question….what post to offer just before the Christmas holidays? Something wintery? Nah, don’t need to be reminded of that at the moment. (Mind you, the Winter Solstice has just passed and we are now heading into lighter days again. Yay!!) And then I remembered a painting that I’d seen posted somewhere recently that I think is marvellous. It’s by Mary Cassatt and it’s called The Long Gloves: I’m both fascinated and also a bit puzzled by it. I thought it would be a lovely piece to share with you.

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Pirkko Mäkelä-Haapalinna – Painting The Essence Of Everyday Life

I have been following Pirkko Mäkelä-Haapalinna ever since she burst onto the Pastel Society of America’s Facebook stage. I featured her painting, “Memories,” last March in my monthly curation of work seen that month, and so I was so pleased to hear it had won 3rd prize in the abstract/non objective category of the 17th Pastel 100, the Pastel Journal’s annual competition.

Needless to say, I was delighted when Pirkko Mäkelä-Haapalinna accepted my invitation to guest blog. At this time of self-reflection at the end of the year, I thought Pirkko’s work was a perfect match for winter solstice and pondering the year past. Before I let her speak, here are a couple of pieces to whet your appetite. They are along the same symbolic and metaphorical theme as “Memories.”


Pirkko Mäkelä-Haapalinna: By the way, a psychotherapist bought the painting to her therapy room. She thought it phallic in a funny way."

Pirkko Makelä-Haapalinna, High Expectations, 2015, pastel over ink under painting, 39 1/2 x 12 5/8 in (100 x 32 cm). “The format of the paper I had at hand was not ordinary, so I wanted to play with it. The theme of a high house was suitable for that. By the way, a psychotherapist bought the painting to her therapy room. She thought it phallic in a funny way.”

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En Plein Air At The Old Creamery, Salt Spring Island

This summer on Salt Spring Island, I was fortunate to paint en plein air a few times with my Mum and Dad. I keep saying it but really, there’s nothing like painting on location for a rewarding experience, both in life and in technical and skills learning. So what did I learn this time?

Before I go on, let me tell you what attracted me to this scene. I have passed this place by car so many times and thought, I’d like to paint that! Why? Well first off, I’m a sucker for paths and roads that take us somewhere (obvious or hidden). I also love the light patterns made by trees over such paths. And I love yellow houses! This scene had all these elements in spades.

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November’s Nifty Pastels

November has ended and that means, whoo hoo!, another round-up of 10 nifty pastels I’ve chosen from the oh so many I’ve seen through the month. As always, a lot of stewing when it came down to the last 15 or so choices and this time, I even spent two days deliberating on how to get 11 selections down to 10. I had thought of slipping all 11 into the post and seeing if anyone would notice. But I didn’t – I stuck to my 10-only guns. (Okay, that’s a strange expression – curious about etymology? then click here.)

Let’s have a look at this month’s nifty pastels. Continue reading