This is a quickie as I’m almost out the door as I write this! We are off to join my Mum and Dad on an Alaska cruise with siblings and their spouses – eight couples in all. It should be a heap of fun!!! And no internet – how great is that?? Well, mostly great but I’ll have to wean myself…
Before I left however, I wanted to tell you about an upcoming workshop. I am super excited about it as it really relates to the work I am doing now. It will take place on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada 27-28 September at ArtSpring. As it will be in the Guild room, there will only be room for 6 participants. The price is $225. The focus will be working in pastel but you’re welcome to bring other media. (I will have a supply list when you register.)
Moving Towards Abstraction – a two-day workshop in pastels
Do you feel a pull to make your work more abstracted?
Are you feeling like you are in a rut with your paintings?
Are you searching for a way to move your work forward?
Are you interested in the creative process, in the journey?
Do you ever feel like you want to go beyond, deeper into, the representational pastel work you are doing now?
Then come to this workshop! We will take old work you are unhappy with and push it towards abstraction. We’ll also do plenty of exercises to unleash the intuitive part of you and create work from scratch.
But abstraction isn’t just about splashing on the pastel. It’s about looking at what you have created with an artistic eye, taking into account how the composition works, how the colours work, how the textures work, how the edges work, how the shapes work, how the values work. Is the whole unified with a path through it? Are the principles of dominance and repetition followed? Does it evoke a mood? Does it evoke an emotion? Does it say something to the viewer? Does it say something to you? These are some of the questions we will explore in this two-day workshop.
We’ll also begin to look carefully at the world and be inspired by seemingly innocuous objects, patterns, and arrangements. All these will feed into your creative soul and re-emerge from your creative hand, moving towards abstraction.
So come prepared to have fun, take risks, and blow caution to the wind!
How does that sound???
Plein air painting in pastels video
I am making progress on my videos on plein air painting. Since I still haven’t done the voiceover and I will be away for a week, this is YOUR opportunity to tell me what you want to know about plein air painting in pastels. Anyone who gives input on this topic will be entered into a draw for a free copy when it comes out!!! So come on, tell me all your frustrations, ask all your questions. When I get back I will be focused on getting it finished. So don’t delay!!
By the way, when you respond, I won’t reply right away because I will be away from internet (you see? it’s gonna be hard for me!!).
That’s it! I’ll talk to you when I get back.
PS. Please feel free to share this information with anyone who you think might benefit from it
I don’t know about you but my pastels get miiiiighty dirty when I use them. Whether you wear gloves or not, every time you pick up a pastel, you transfer particles from the pastel you previously held to the new one. And so the pastels get dirtier and dirtier. Ugh I say. So, cleaning soft pastels – what’s the best way?
When I was starting out in pastels, the recommended way of cleaning soft pastels was to put all the dirty pastels into a container that held some kind of gritty substance such as cornmeal (the most commonly suggested), rice flour (softer than cornmeal), rice (cleaner than either cornmeal or flour), semolina (I never tried that one) or fine sand (didn’t try that either).
Doug Dawson’s nifty idea of creating a wire sieve that fits inside the container certainly made it easier to remove the pastels from the container. I made one that was similar and carried it on location with a plastic gold panning dish (bought in Sacramento years ago when I took a workshop with Doug) into which I would pour the cleaned pastels. (See photos below.) Well, I just found all of that too tedious, time-consuming, messy and generally a pain in the derriere!
I needed an alternative!!!
Click the photo below to find out what it is
The pastels you see in the video were the ones I used in my pastelling glass bottles demo. Click here to see it.
So??? Did you figure it out before the video?? Do you use this method? It works so well for me for all the reasons I express in the video.
How are you cleaning soft pastels? I’d love to know what method you use. So drop me a reply and I’ll add the comment to the blog post. And feel free to comment below the video on YouTube. I LOVE getting feedback!!
Until next time,
I have been back and forth to Salt Spring Island over the past few weeks, visiting my Mum and Dad and painting on location. It’s been so wonderful getting back to plein air painting. The weather has been superb – warm enough not to need a sweater but not so hot as to be uncomfortable. Just perfect!
I thought it’s about time I started sharing what I’ve been up to. So here’s the progression of a pastel I did in Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island. (This was the one time I went out alone so you’ll have to wait for another blog post to catch sight of my parents at work!)
Let’s take a boo.
There is really nothing like painting on location!!
Here’s a quote about painting on location that I think is so true.
Feel free to Pin it if you agree!
You can see some of Charles Muench’s work by clicking here.
Painting on Location – upcoming video and contest!
On another topic, as you may have noticed in my Summer Newsletter, I’m working on a video about painting on location that will be for sale. I would love your input as to what information you would like to see included. What are your questions, your hesitations, about pastelling en plein air? Please let me know in the next few days as I am hoping to finish the voiceover and editing next week. Anyone who offers some input will be included in a draw for a free copy when I release it!! So come on, ask away!
Thanks for being here. You know I’d love to hear your comments about this post!
Until next time,
I’m happy to tell you that I’ve posted another pastel demo video on YouTube. Yay! This time, it’s about how to paint glass. Have a look and let me know what you think!
To begin, I did a small thumbnail sketch to sort out my three main values and to decide if the composition worked. I think it does.
I totally forgot to take a photo of the set-up in colour but I did take one in black and white. As I look at this photo, it seems much more extreme in the value range than what I saw when I painted it. Notably, the dark paper seems a lot darker than it was in life.
When you are painting glass (or anything!!), look look look!! And take the time to see. See the shapes created, try and divide the whole into three values, and take time.
Here are the pastels I used.
And here is the final pastel:
I’d love to hear from you. Don’t be shy, tell me what you think – good, bad, ugly! Do you have questions? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time,
Back in April of this year, Don Gardi posted a portrait on the Pastel of America Facebook site – “Girl in a Black Hat” by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Not only was this a stunning pastel but it was by an artist I was only vaguely familiar with. I was so impressed with the portrait I thought I’d share a close look at it with you. Here’s the portrait:
Stunning isn’t it?! The combination of energetic marks and the delicate work in the face took my breath away. It has a very contemporary feel to it yet was done in 1890!
Boldini was born in Italy but after studying in various countries in Europe, he made his home in Paris. He is most known for his portraits of elegant and beautiful women, becoming the foremost portrait artist in Paris in the 1890s. In 1933, he was dubbed the “Master of Swish” in a Time magazine article.
Okay, back to the “Girl in a Black Hat.”
I couldn’t find any information about the painting other than the basic facts regarding medium and size. Who is this young woman? Was the pastel produced in preparation for a full scale painting? I’d sure love to know! In 1890, Boldini painted two portraits of John Singer Sargent who was living at the time in London. This would suggest that Boldini was in England when he produced the “Girl in the Black Hat” so perhaps the young woman is an ‘english rose.’
Well that’s it for now. I’d love to hear what you think about the portrait. Are there things you’d like to point out that I haven’t? I encourage you to do so!
Until next time,
PS. Fearful of the Nazis, a young woman fled her Parisian apartment, locking it up and apparently never returning. In 2010, the executors of a will discovered the existence of the apartment and had it opened. In it, they found many artworks and most importantly, an unknown painting by Boldini. To read more, click here and here. You will note some conflicting dates: the date Marthe de Florian fled Paris and the date the painting was created. I have taken the date of the painting as 1888 when Marthe de Florian was 24 years old. Apparently, she and Boldini were lovers (which might explain the rather sensuous quality of the painting!) And yes, Boldini would have been 46 years old.
Here’s the painting they found. It will certainly give you an idea of Boldini’s style – such lush and vigorous brushstrokes!
I am finally getting back to a normal-ish life and schedule after the madness of two shows (‘Emergence’ and ‘Caught Red Handed’) back to back. They went well and it was wonderful to work towards them and produce so much new and exciting work but things like regular blogging kinda took a back seat! But I am getting back into the swing of things.
Today I made a new pastel painting tip video about how I break pastels when I acquire a new box. I have been asked by students how and why I do it. This video will answer that question! My main message? Be not afraid!!
Of course if you have a box of half sticks, there’s no need to do any breaking (although you might like to do so anyway). I should also say that usually, I’ll sort the box into values first, then do the breaking, but for this video, I wanted to start with the brand new box.
I usually don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to technical things so I do what produces the fastest result. You can, for instance, score the pastel with your finger prior to making the break.
Doing it this way, you may get a cleaner break. But not always and not with every brand of pastel. It also takes longer and since I’m usually in a hurry and I’m never sure of the result, I generally just get in there and make the break the way I show you on the video.
So, experiment. The main thing is to gulp, and break those pastels!
I’d love to know what you thought of the video and my pastel painting tip. Please reply to this email or alternatively, you can always leave a comment under the video on YouTube.
My next video will be a new demo so look out for that in the next month or so. I haven’t quite decided what to do yet so if you have any brilliant thoughts about that, be sure to let me know!!
I always love hearing from you so drop me a line sometime
Until next time,
I’m back again after all the craziness of getting two shows up within two weeks of each other - Emergence in the middle of May, Caught Red Handed at the end. Wow! And coming up, an open studio (Fernwood Art Stroll) this weekend. After that, it will be life as normal, well, sort of!
A couple of people were curious about the process I followed in the Blurred Boundaries pastel used on the Emergence exhibition invitation so I thought that would be a great idea for a blog.
First, the invitation:
The pastel is titled “Inscribed” and it’s #5 in the Blurred Boundaries series. (To read my blogs on the first three in the series, click here for #1, here for #2, and here for #3.) Another time I’ll write a post of #4. For now, let’s get started.
Now you have the whole journey; well almost – you didn’t hear the gnashing of teeth or the cussing, or the wild music, or see me sitting staring at the pastel, waiting to figure out what to do next, or my energetic mark making, but I’m hoping you can feel the whole experience in the piece.
You know I’d love to hear from you!! Tell me what was most surprising about this whole process.
Until next time
I have been ultra busy preparing for my show opening this Friday and so my blog writing has slipped a wee bit. (Okay, that was an understatement!) Rather than let even more time pass by I thought I’d write a quick and dirty one. (If you want to know where that phrase came from like I did, click here.)
Have you seen the current International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) show?? This 24th Juried Exhibition can be seen at the Vose Galleries in Boston until 21st June. If you are in the neighbourhood, you can be sure it will be worth the visit!
I thought we could all have a look at the accepted entries and the winners and then ask you to choose your favourite and tell us why you made your choice. I’ll start. First, go and look at the IAPS exhibition by clicking here.
Okay, here’s my first choice.
I love this painting. Let me count the reasons why.
First off, it’s a wonderful portrait!
We see a boy concentrating as he makes his mark on….a transparent surface, glass perhaps. This surface is absolutely there and I am in awe at my belief. I know this painting is a two dimensional surface and yet I can’t help but believe I am looking up through glass at this young artist at work. Okay, so that’s two things.
Another thing I love is how my eyes track around the painting. I am pulled in by the boy’s eyes but instead of staying there (which can easily happen especially here with his intense concentration), I look where he is looking, i.e. his eyes direct me to my next stop – the red mark being created by his hand. From there I see green scribbles against the lighter reddish background. I follow them to the left where bright coloured marks contrast with the boy’s black shirt. These lead me up to his arm where I find a spiralled blue rose which lands me on the hair of his head and the faint halo created by light behind. And then I’m back at his eyes. An exciting journey through the piece.
The background feels as if its been thought out not just an accident or an after-thought (which is the way it appears in some work I’ve seen!). The balance between the light parts and the dark, and their placement in the whole seem perfect.
This young man, I have the feeling I really want to meet him. I want to know what he’s thinking about as he draws. I want to know what he wants to be when he grows up. I want to know him.
Now the thing that gets me the most is Christine’s daring and courage. Okay, so imagine. You’ve created this beautiful portrait but to capture what’s going on, you have to scribble all over it! Are you still imagining?? You have to choose different coloured pastels and make random marks all over your beautiful piece. Now that takes guts! And confidence. And sheer will and determination. So I figure, the title, Determined, could also refer to the Christine as much as her subject.
And just because, here’s a second choice.
Here we find a different kind of drama, one of nature. I feel it, I can see it, I can smell it, I can taste it. I love the even value of the whole piece with only a few specks of dark in the line of trees and a wee bit of light from that minuscule piece of light escaping from behind the clouds and reflected in the water below. This is almost an abstract painting!
Just for curiosity, I’ve included both paintings in a black and white version so you can see the difference between the two in terms of value. Christine’s painting runs the full gamut between dark and light while Carol’s is almost only one value. And they both work magnificently.
There are so many more beautiful paintings I want to comment on but I’m going to stick to these two. I would so love to hear about your favourite painting. (And it can be from any of the entries.) Just give the name of the artist and title and a sentence or two (or more!) why you like the piece. Come on, I’d LOVE to hear from you. You can always just reply to this email if it’s easier and I will post your answer.
I look forward to hearing from you!!
Have you ever had the experience of a painting that was done before you knew it? Well, this painting was finished before I had a clue. I couldn’t think of what more to do – should I add colour, should I add more detail, should I…what? It happened so quickly that I couldn’t believe it was actually finished. I put it away then I’d pull it out from time to time, have a look, couldn’t think of what else to do, then put it away again. This happened a number of times.
One day it was an ‘out’ day for the pastel. Artist friends Shirlee, Susan and Donna were visiting and when they saw the piece sitting there on the shelf, they expressed great appreciation for it. “Don’t touch it!!” Wow. Okay then.
So I took it in to my framer along with all the other pieces for my Gallery 8 show (opening 16 May). Elma happens to work for one of my other galleries, Peninsula Gallery, and she and the gallery owners LOVED it. Well it was then that I really believed it was done!! Funny how sometimes you need to hear the judgement of others before you can decide.
So without further ado, here’s the painting:
And now, a quick review of the process (I have very few photos as it went along so quickly!).
Do you always know when a painting is finished? Write and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for sharing this time with me.
I’ll leave you with this great quote by Harley Brown. Feel free to Pin It!!
In one of my earliest blogs on this website, I wrote about my surprise at discovering that Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) worked in pastels from time to time. (Click here to read that post.) Since it’s the Easter weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to share three of Delacroix’s pastels of the crucifixion.
The first pastel is a vigorous sketch after Rubens’s painting, Christ on the Cross or Coup de Lance (Pierced with a Lance). Let’s look at Rubens’s painting and then Delacroix’s copy.
When I look at this sketch, I see Delacroix’s intention as capturing the positioning of figures as well as setting down colours. The greenish colour he uses for Christ’s body seems to me to suggest Delacroix used a colour at hand to show Rubens had used a lighter, greener colouring for Christ than he had used for the thieves.
Delacroix’s painting of the same subject in1846 (seven years later), shows the influence of Rubens’s work. Delacroix leaves out the thieves and many other figures, focusing on the figure of Christ, already pierced by the lance (not in view here). Interestingly the red standard in the background echo the lance and the cape of the rider in Rubens’s painting.
Now let’s look at the other two pastels.
The first was done in 1847, after the painting above was completed, suggesting that rather than being a study for the painting is was done afterwards. In his book, Delacroix’s Pastels, the writer Lee Johnson suggests that the pastel was made for an admirer of the painting (shown at the 1847 Salon). This person may have been Haro, the first owner of the piece, who was Delacroix’s supplier of art materials.
Much is the same between the drawing and the painting except that now there are no figures but the solitary Christ. There is certainly less drama, less of the light figure against the dark background but still there is an echo of the feeling in the pastel with a darkening of clouds over the distant hills where the sun rises. The warm paper gives a gentle warm underflow to the whole.
I have added three close-up so we can get a better look at the pastel application:
It appears that much of the pastel in the sky was blended/smudged (you can make out what looks like finger marks in the middle detail!). This was probably true of areas of the body over which hatched lines were applied.
Let’s have a look at the other pastel:
Now we have Christ facing the other direction (west, away from the rising sun) accompanied by a serpent, traditionally a symbol of evil leading to the original sin, the reason for which Christ died. The sunlight is seen rising from behind a craggier landscape than previously and there is less sky shown. Wind is suggested by the position of the material covering Christ’s lower torso. There is an incredible feeling of loneliness in the vastness of the desolate and unwelcoming landscape.
The whole thing looks more subtle and softer than the earlier pastel, with more experience behind it. It’s a smaller drawing and so less detail was possible. (It’s difficult to make out the hand on the right – is that due to the size of paper or perhaps an accidental smudge? The fingers look like they may have been outstretched originally.) Nevertheless, his knowledge and confidence with the figure and with the pastels is certainly clear!
Again, let’s look at some closeups:
Delacroix did paint another Christ on the Cross around this time and this drawing has been related to it. There really doesn’t seem to be that much similarity though. I certainly could make a list of all the dissimilarities!! What do you think?
I hope you enjoyed this review of a couple of Delacroix’s pastels. Another time, I’ll show you some of his studies of skies which are fabulous.
Until then, let me know what you learnt from this blog post
PS. Here’s the book I mentioned above, Delacroix’s Pastels by Lee Johnson, in case you want to add it to your collection