IAPS Interviews: Christine Swann, "Art Critic," pastel, 20 x 28 in

IAPS Interviews – Questions Answered!

I managed to persuade 10 artists at the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention to say a few words on video in answer to one question. This post will include half the IAPS interviews, the next, the rest. (One interview went way over the one-to-three minute mark and the story was so fascinating that I thought, hey, this would make a great guest blog so look for that next month!)

Along with the IAPS interviews, I have included two pastel examples by each artist. A few of the artists attached words along with the images they sent and these are included in the captions below each painting.


First up is Sandra Burshell who is well known for her luminous interiors. Most notably, she won the IAPS Prix de Pastel (the highest honour ) in the 18th IAPS Juried Show. Now take a look at these beauties! I feel as if I’m in the scene, bathed in the atmosphere and light.

IAPS Interview: Sandra Burshell, "Streaming Light (Fairtrade Cafe)," pastel, 19 x 17 in

Sandra Burshell, “Streaming Light (Fairtrade Cafe),” pastel, 19 x 17 in.  “The sunlight coming into this coffeehouse  in the early morning created such wonderful abstract shapes!”


IAPS Interviews: Sandra Burshell, "Bathed In Light," pastel, 11x 8 in

Sandra Burshell, “Bathed In Light,” pastel, 11 x 8 in. “Working on location, the light filtering in from the windows that afternoon just filled the whole room with a gentle warmth!”


I asked Sandra about why she paints Interiors, or Roomscapes as she calls them:




Next we have my lovely friend Stephanie Birdsall. She has become well known for her intricate and delicate as well as bold and direct florals.  Here are a couple of her delightful floral pastels. I could just put my hand in and pick up the blossoms!

IAPS Interviews: Stephanie Birdsall, "Soft Light," pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in

Stephanie Birdsall, “Soft Light,” pastel on paper, 9 x 12 in


IAPS Interviews: Stephanie Birdsall, "Southern Magnolias," pastel, 9 x 12 in

Stephanie Birdsall, “Southern Magnolias,” pastel, 9 x 12 in


Given that Stephanie’s expertise lies with painting flowers, I asked her if she had a couple of tips to share:




This year’s IAPS Prix de Pastel (the highest award) winner was Christine Swann. And just by the way, Christine won the Gold Award at the 22nd Juried Exhibition at the 2013 IAPS Convention. And if that wasn’t enough, she also won the Maggie Price award at the 24th Juried IAPS Exhibition. (I wrote about the pastel last year. You can read about it here.)

Rather than show you Christine’s winning piece (I’ll put a link to the IAPS website when they have the show available online and you’ll be able to see it there), I thought it would be interesting to view two pieces I hadn’t seen before. Christine’s work is all about the story they tell beyond the surface content.

IAPS Interviews: Christine Swann, "Half-Cocked," pastel, 40 x 30 in

Christine Swann, “Half-Cocked,” pastel, 40 x 30 in. “This painting is more than a woman holding a rooster while on the phone. Even though that image is intriguing, the painting is really a tribute to my very busy friend who decided to raise exotic chickens from eggs in her basement. Her daughters loved animals and she wanted to give them the experience of seeing an egg hatch. Now, her neighbors thought she was a bit crazy, since she lived in a non- farming, suburban neighborhood. But she did it anyway. To me, this image represents a strong woman bold enough to go against the “norms” of society and do something outside the ordinary for her kids.”


IAPS Interviews: Christine Swann, "Art Critic," pastel, 20 x 28 in

Christine Swann, “Art Critic,” pastel, 20 x 28 in. “This piece is about the girl standing on the boys’ artwork. For me,  how I am trying to convey an idea is more important than what I actually paint.  I think when people criticize our work, it is like they are actually standing on or destroying what we create.  I wanted her feet to feel rude and defiant – very much “in his face.”  He, luckily, is blissfully unaware of her insult, and is fully engaged in what he is doing anyhow. I wish that kind of focus to every artist that has encountered a demeaning critic.”


I asked Christine about the most important element in her paintings:




Arlene Richman does stunning abstracts. She’s won many awards for them including numerous ones in the Pastel Journal’s Pastel 100 annual competition. Arlene has also been a guest blogger here at HowToPastel and you can read her article here. Let’s have a look at the two pieces she sent:

IAPS Interviews: Arlene Richman, "Tropical Depression," pastel, 21 x 21 in

Arlene Richman, “Tropical Depression,” pastel, 21 x 21 in. “I was interested in putting black and gold together. I put the black skeleton of the painting down first, then the gold/yellow. The rest grew up around the two colors. I had no idea where the painting would go, nor what colors would work until I put them in and assessed the result. Lines get laid down when I feel they’re needed. Often they’re black, sometimes I need color in the lines.”


IAPS interviews: Arlene Richman, "Mars," pastel, 11 x 11 in

Arlene Richman, “Mars,” pastel, 11 x 11 in. I started with the horizon line very high on the paper. I knew I wanted to work with neutrals, so I put in the pale sky and found the right neutral pink for the foreground. After that, the black defined the space for me and I was driven to punctuate with the high chroma pastels. In other words, after the horizon line went onto the paper, the compositional problem was presented and I chose to solve it by balancing color.


You can hear how Arlene starts these marvelous pastels:




And finally for this post we come to the work of Duane Wakeham. I’m always awed by how deceptively simple they look – so clear in their intention.  When you look closely at Duane’s work, you see shapes. The abstract underpinnings of his work help to make our experience of them that much more (unconsciously) satisfying. And although the colours, when you look closely at them, may be stretched away from what we might think we see, the paintings seem to reflect reality perfectly. Often, there are such subtle shifts in colour and temperature and values that unless you observe the pieces closely, you won’t notice them. Duane sent me four options: I had the dickens of a time picking two! Here they are:


IAPS interviews: Duane Wakeham, "August Evening, McKerricher," pastel, 19 x 29 in

Duane Wakeham, “August Evening, McKerricher,” pastel, 19 x 29 in


IAPS interviews: Duane Wakeham, "Summer Evening, Russian River, Study," pastel, 9 x 12 in

Duane Wakeham, “Summer Evening, Russian River, Study,” pastel, 9 x 12 in


You get the feeling when looking at Duane’s work that in each painting, every part of it has been considered. Listen to what Duane has to say about how he builds a painting:




And that’s it until next time when I’ll bring you the other four IAPS interviews. I also want to thank these artists for sharing their time and expertise with us. They are all such darn lovely people!


Let me know what you learnt from watching the videos. Yes, you. Go on, leave a comment!

Until next week,

~ Gail


PS. And if you know me, I just can’t stop. I realized I hadn’t chosen one of Duane’s warm glowing landscapes and since this is my blog and you know, I can break my own rules, here’s another Wakeham pastel.


IAPS interviews: Duane Wakeham, "Spring Hillside, Petaluma," pastel, 19 x 29 in

Duane Wakeham, “Spring Hillside, Petaluma,” pastel, 19 x 29 in

18 thoughts on “IAPS Interviews – Questions Answered!

    1. Becky

      I loved this! Arlene Richman has been a favorite of mine for a while, and loved hearing her approach! And discovered a new love, Duane Wakeham! Love his work and hearing about how he approaches his paintings as shapes! Thanks!

  1. Gailen Lovett

    Wonderful to see Sandra Burshell was one of your choices for an interview. She is such a sweet person and very willing to share her knowledge of pastel. I get to visit with her at our DPS membership and Biennial National shows. Her use of color is always a draw for me but it is her portrayal of light that grabs me and makes me walk across a room to her work.
    Duane Wakeham, in his quiet way, made me think about an important point in the painting process. Before adding color, make sure the bones are correct because once you’re into the work you are reluctant to give it up.

      1. Gail Post author

        Kathryn, thanks so much for your enthusiastic confirmation of what I am doing. Makes it all worthwhile!!
        And yes, it is fun putting faces (and personalities) to art isn’t it?

  2. Sandy

    You are truly amazing to introduce me to the artist and at the same time show me their works. As usual it’s all new to me and outstanding Thanks S.


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