Have I got a treat for you!! I’ve been a huge fan of Casey Klahn’s work for some time now so I’m thrilled to have Casey here to guest blog about his new still life series. I’ve been watching him post fabulous painting after fabulous painting of these still life images on various Facebook art groups and I became curious – What was his inspiration? What’s driving him to create so many? What motivates him to keep going?
Born in 1958, Casey Klahn is an American artist whose “abstracted style and use of color embrace the expression of his personal idea.” He is a well loved art instructor and he also writes a blog: TheColorist.blogspot.com
Casey, take it away!!
Hi, Gail! Thanks for asking me to guest blog at How to Pastel and to talk about my floral series. I’m making a series of 100 still life or floral images, and trying my hardest to make each one different from the last, and to make each one a fully realized artwork.
Making florals was on my mind for a couple of years, but I never imagined the direction these would take. They have become an important part of my body of work, now. I don’t know much about flowers, and as an example my wife will put flowers on the dining table, and it will be a week before I even know they are there. I’ll say, “how did those get here?”
A great deal of my impetus in these paintings is my admiration for the art of Henri Matisse, the French giant of Modern art. I saw 2 major exhibitions in 2014 of his work and am reading everything I can get my hands on about his life and art. Those were: 30 plus paintings and sculptures in St Petersburg, Russia, and The Cut-Outs in New York City. Let me tell you that seeing the art is the secret trick – much more important than reading about or just seeing stuff online!
I blogged about my trip to see Matisse in Russia last August at TheColorist.blogspot.com. Noteworthy works included the 2 monumental paintings, Jazz and Music. Also, my personal favorite was Portrait of The Artist’s Wife, 1913. I remarked to myself that the few still life works I saw there were not masterworks, but they were works by a master artist. That gave me some wiggle room in my own approach to my paintings. Who cares if each one is a smash hit? The idea is to paint much! You are expressing your ideas and, to me, your feelings. You might be surprised at what comes out. Certainly, these florals I’ve been doing are my surprise.
More secrets from Matisse. Matisse pays as much attention to the negative space in a still life as he does to the objects in the painting. Further, he wants the overall construction of the painting to be supported. My article is worth the read because I went all the way to Russia (during wartime!) only to see Matisse, and some very strange things happened. He revealed 3 guiding principles for his paintings to me. They are: passion, color, and (French word) insouciance. He feels intensely, colors boldly, and could not care less what you think about his works!
So, when I came home from Europe, I had this big floral that I was working on and I was at an impasse. I had started it from a set-up of irises in my studio, 2 months earlier. As I went back to it, informed by new inspiration, I quickly finished what has now become a very important work for me.
For me, each new artwork should say something different. Creativity is about bringing the new thing about. Why retell what another has already covered? How boring is that? So, as a result of this philosophy, I decided to use this series of a hundred paintings to express this somewhat formal idea. New each time; same subject matter. See how the content becomes more ideal, and less particular?
Plus, there’s the challenge that I enjoy so much.
I am thrilled when I see some problems in a piece, because I have a direction for the next one. Attempting to fix the last one! However, I try to set up a different arrangement and make the “fix” about some formal quality of painting.
After that first larger work, I continued with the genre and soon had done, I think it was, 20. I thought to myself if I had made 20 that fast that I could eventually finish a hundred. The challenge, of course, gets harder with every 10 or so works because they must differ! Whether I’ve achieved that or not, I don’t completely know for sure, but that is still the idea I’m after.
At the time of this writing, I believe there are about 70 still life paintings completed.
I still don’t know much about botany, but at least now I am able to see the flowers put in front of me!
Thanks so much Casey!!
Aren’t those paintings something?? They invigorate my creative impulse and move my soul. I wish we could have had all 70 here. Check out Casey’s blog at TheColorist.blogspot.com to see the rest of the series – those completed and those still to come. Also, see them at the Pastel Society of America Facebook group page.
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!
Until next time,
PS. Casey Klahn has a terrific video where he talks about and shows his painting process and where you can see more of his remarkable work.
PPS. I chose a floral by Casey Klahn for my first (September) Pastel Gems blog. Go see it here.
I have this pastel. It was painted on location and then worked on in the studio. I wrote a blog about it (click here to read it). It received some wonderful comments. But I’ve never been completely happy with the pastel. I feel it’s an overworked pastel and just not the way I want it to look.
Since it’s been worked on so much, I decided to rework it into something else and capture the process for this blog. Although doing this was a risk, especially knowing a few people really liked the piece, I was ready to plunge in. I figured no matter what happened, since I was unhappy with the pastel as it was, whatever happened next was just fine. I may end up with a wonderful new piece or I may end up with a mess. If a mess, I can always wash the whole thing clean! And if a new piece, then yay!
Here’s the original overworked pastel:
First off, I gently wipe the pastel with a paper towel to soften all the edges and blur the image.
Now where do I take it? Do I make it abstract? One thing’s for sure, I’m done working on the landscape that’s there. I’ve reworked it so much that I feel like it’s dead. But there’s still an interesting pattern of light and dark that I can work with. I’ll also look to see if there’s any other visible form, for example, figurative, or I’ll turn it on its side and see if there’s another landscape possibility.
Now what? I decide to choose a limited palette from the colours used in the original. I pick the yellow and a blue as the primary colours. I add magenta and a cool red. Then I began to add the chosen colours to the outlined shapes.
Hmmm, interesting I think. I continue.
I wonder about drips and add water along one edge. But I discover that drips don’t happen that easily in pastels. (You can see there’s a bit of darkness along the right hand side. That’s wet pastels.) I feel that how I’ve been working, hatching the pastel, has begun to look too much the same. Pretty, I think, and I don’t want pretty. I also feel the big swooping shape takes you right out of the picture. So I decide to introduce long lines across the whole picture plane to stop that movement as well as to add some discomfort to the prettiness. Will it work?
Stepping back, I think I’ve added more interest to the piece. But there’s still work to be done.
I begin to see light filtering through slats of wood or metal. Like the elevated train platform in Chicago or the Eiffel Tower. With this idea in mind, I continue on. I decide to break up some of the large dark shapes further.
And here it is in black and white:
The images above follow the vertical format of the original piece. Let’s see what happens when we look at it horizontally:
I don’t know if it was a good idea to follow the light pattern that was there originally but that’s what I did and this is what I ended up doing and how the piece progressed.
I’ll need to sit with the painting and see what happens, to decide whether I’ll need to go further, stop, or let go of the whole thing again. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts about what I did!!
Wishing you a splendid 2015. Let’s see what wonderful things we can create and discover in pastel together!!
PS. On my mind while working on this pastel was the 7th January shooting of 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo. Although this painting doesn’t reference it directly, the awful event was in my subconscious for sure.
To see an amazing outpouring in cartoons by cartoonists from around the world, click here.
PPS. It feels good to be back in the studio. I’ve been working at completing the Pastel Painting En Plein Air online videos (done) and I’m now beginning to choose a place to store the videos online, decide on and set up a portal for access, and determine a method for purchasing. All computer stuff i.e. NOT in the studio!
On this last day of 2014, I’m delighted to present my totally subjective pastel choices for December. As always, soooooooo difficult to choose. I sifted through all my choices seen throughout December over and over again, weeding one here, one there, until I had about 15 left. And then I was at the point when I didn’t think I could narrow my choices down any further.
But I promised.
So I looked and looked and then looked some more and finally, I ended up with the 10 pastel choices that make my heartbeat quicken when I look at them.
Which one of the the 10 pastel choices does that for you??
I’m drawn to this moody and deceptively simple pastel. It seems so unusual for a bouquet of flowers, coloured as it is with greys and blacks. I love that Anita has chosen to work in such muted colours. There is so little indicated in this evocative and illusive work and yet, we easily read a vase with flowers. Click here to see more of Anita’s work.
Here we have the drama of sunlight streaming into a room, illuminating certain parts while some areas remain in deep shadow. I love the feeling, the energy conveyed by the pastel marks, the colours. Makes me want to rise and shine! I couldn’t find a website for Bela Tarcsay but you can see more of his work by clicking here.
I think this is an amazingly powerful portrait. I love the directness of pastel application, the expressive use of line, the intensity in the eyes, the sculptural form, the tension revealed. Wonderful! There’s something about it that makes me think of the German Expressionist artists like Otto Dix. I couldn’t find a website for Hamidreza Razavi, but you can see more work on his facebook profile.
There’s something about both the abstract design of this painting as well as the cafe setting that keeps pulling me back to it. There’s also the contrast between stillness and movement. No figures are shown yet their presence is hinted at in the car and by the chair in the foreground that looks as if it’s just been pushed away from the table. There’s also the dramatic contrast between light and dark, between colour and neutrals, between soft and hard edges. Apparently another artist without his own website, you can read Motti Shoval’s CV and see a few more pieces here. And you can find a link to his facebook page there.
I had three pastels by Posa Ede to choose from! In the end I went with this painting, first because I love the bright colours used although it’s a night scene, the feeling of mist and wet streets with scurrying people, and the way the light is used in different ways – various buildings lit up from without and within- and second, because it’s a city we may visit in May. (My honey Cam and I are going to choose a city in Europe, one where we haven’t been, and stay for three weeks. We’ll both be working – he writing, me painting. Budapest is on the short list.) I love the combination of both the side of the pastel and the tip, ie. painting and drawing. I want to step into the painting and walk towards the light! See more of his work here.
When I saw this pastel on the Pastel of America Facebook page, I was stopped in my tracks. Powerful, bold, unafraid, direct. I think of master artists like Lucian Freud (his later work) and Kathe Kollwitz when I look at this piece. Who is this woman? What is going on with her? Go check out more of Cameron’s work here!
From the colourful expressionism of Hampton’s work, we go to the muted delicacy of this nude by Ellen Eagle. Legs together, we are presented with a completely different picture. Here there is contemplation and an ethereal quality. And yet, there is still emotion, of sorrow? of pain? There is something about this piece that reminds me of the work of Pierre-Paul Prud’hon. Go see more of Ellen’s work at her newly designed website!
I love the exuberant mark-making Don Gardi brings to this piece. There’s energy and such fabulous colour. I feel excited just looking at it! It reminds me a lot of the work of Joan Mitchell, an artist I admire greatly. (Read a blog I wrote about her work here.) This pastel makes me happy to be alive Check out more of Don’s work at his website.
I can feel the coolness of the snow in the shadows and reach for those areas still lit by the setting (or is it rising?) sun. Haven’t you experienced that quality of light in nature? I love the contrast between the limited palette of reds and blues and between large areas of colour and expressive line. I also enjoy the effect Tom creates with a textured surface (marks created by brush strokes?). Check out more of Tom’s work here.
I kept thinking that this painting was going to have to go, but, in the end, it ended up as one of my 10 pastel choices. There’s a powerful simplicity to it that haunts me. That intense light through the doorway, something mystical is happening. What is this place? The whole thing has an iconic feel about it. See more of Karen’s work here.
I’d love to hear what you think of my pastel choices for December!
And so endeth 2014.
Wishing you a most joyful, a most adventurous, a most peaceful, a most healthy, a most successful, a most exciting, a most fulfilling 2015!
From my heart, thank you for joining me on these pastel journeys. See you next year!!
Talking about a low key painting seems appropriate at this, the darkest time of the year (in the northern hemisphere anyway!). So what is a low key painting? It’s one in which most of the colours are predominantly dark in value and often subdued (i.e. not bright colours).
I’ve just uploaded a video of me demoing a low key painting. Have a look:
You can see my set up below. I must have changed my angle when I began to paint though; I didn’t see any secondary highlights in the shadow side of the bowl like the ones you can see here.
A couple of months ago, I did a video on high key painting. Check it out on my blog here. You can see how completely different the painting looks from this one!!
Wow, it’s almost Christmas Day! Wishing you a very special holiday surrounded by love and laughter. I’m so looking forward to spending the next few days with my Mum and Dad, my brother and his family, and my honey.
With warmth and huge thanks,
PS. Because of the time of the year, you may want to watch me painting a branch of holly
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.
Yes, doing the pastel demo at Opus was really a great experience for me!!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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!
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).
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.)
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!)
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,
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.
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).
Starting at the beginning….
Here are a few close-ups of the finished pastel:
And here are the Great American pastels I used:
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,
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!
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 ….
Then go check out this amazing art installation!!
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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….
PS. Happy Halloween!!
Check out these adorable children’s pastels of pumpkins!
When I first started blogging on www.gailsibley.com, I wrote a post about an artist I had recently discovered – Joan Eardley (1921-1963). I was blown away by her work and still am. Recently I borrowed a book on the artist via interlibrary loan. I could only keep the book for two weeks and I knew pretty quickly that really, I needed my own copy. So I treated myself! The book, Joan Eardley by Christopher Andreae, has arrived and now I want to share with you some of Joan Eardley’s powerful pastels reproduced in the book.
Born in Sussex in 1921 to an English father and a Scottish mother, Joan spent her childhood in England but lived most of the remainder of her life in Scotland after the family moved there to escape the bombing in London in WWII. (Her father had taken his life earlier; he never got over being gassed in the trenches during the First World War.) In 1940, Joan enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA).
After her successful studies (she won a prize for her one and only self-portrait), war work with a boat builder, further studies at GSA followed by a trip to Italy on a travelling scholarship, Joan set up a studio in the tenement area of Glasgow in 1949. There she painted the local children. It was her drawings and paintings of these slum children that brought her recognition initially even though it is the work of wind and sea from her Catterline studio for she is most well-known. Below are a few of the pastels she created of the tenement kids she came to know.
Eardley continued to paint children throughout her life (which was sadly cut short by cancer in 1963 when she was only 42 years old). In a BBC interview in January 1963, she said, “…the [children] that I want to paint I try to get them to stay still but it’s not really possible to get a child to stay very still –mostly I just watch them moving about, and do the best I can.” (pg19-20)
You can see her sympathy for these children of poverty. Yet there’s certainly no sentimentality evident. She paints them as she sees them, all grubby and yet with the charm of children.
You can feel the individuality of these children – they aren’t just a ‘type’. The more I look at this work, the more I feel that.
I like what Andreae says about these portraits: “…the Glasgow slum children. They are portraits not caricatures. She had too much rapport with them for such distortion. And direct, daily experience of them meant she knew them well and painted them in their world….They were..impoverished tenement children, and Joan studied and explored their community and their place in it with great concentration and poignancy. Nor for the most part, did she let sentimentalism sift sugar over her understanding of these kids. She knowingly celebrated the vibrant character of their burstingly energetic existence. She portrayed them with a kind of fond and tough sense of reality.” (p.127)
And just to situate where these kids lived and where Eardley worked:
When I started this post, I was going to also include images of Eardley’s pastels of Catterline landscapes but I think I will leave those for another time.
What do you think of Eardley’s portrayals of the Glasgow slum children? Are you as taken with the directness and energetic interpretation in pastel as I am?
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Until next time, keep pastelling!
PS. The FABULOUS book I reference:
To buy in Canada click on image: