Lyn Diefenbach, "Counterpoint," Sept 2017, Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 24 x 24 in. Available.

Lyn Diefenbach – Revealing The Complexity Of The Natural World

I met Lyn Diefenbach at this year’s IAPS convention. I had featured her self-portrait in one of my monthly roundups and admired the detailed complexity of her work for some time so I looked forward to meeting her. And you know what? She’s as delightful in person as you could hope! She’s also a great storyteller and she had me laughing much of the time!

After creating a short interview video with her (see the end of this post), I knew she would have much to say to you so asked her to be a guest blogger. And yay – she said yes!!

Here’s a teaser in case you don’t know her work.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Life’s Little Complexities," March 2016, Pastel on Ampersand Pasteboard, 18 x 18 in. Sold.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Life’s Little Complexities,” March 2016, Pastel on Ampersand Pasteboard, 18 x 18 in. Sold. Irresistible beauty.

 

Before I hand you over, here’s a wee bit about Lyn.

 

Lyn Diefenbach Bio

Lyn Diefenbach – IAPS(MC), PSA (signature), Pastel Society of Australia (MP), International Guild of Realism – is a multi-award winning Australian artist whose work covers a myriad of subject matter, with her florals in particular receiving accolades across the world. Her work has been featured in numerous books and magazines and television. Lyn’s ability to communicate her ideas and enthuse students sees her teaching both across Australia and internationally. You can see more of her work here.

 

And now here’s Lyn!

 

Lyn Diefenbach – Beyond Florals

I picked up my first stick of pastel some 28 years ago and became instantly besotted by their immediacy and spontaneity. Up until that point I had been a very successful landscape painter using oils only. I literally woke up one morning and decided that I was no longer inspired by the way I was painting and needed to expand my horizons. I’ve been on a voyage of discovery and learning ever since and one which I truly hope will be for the rest of my life.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Like a Circle, Like a Spiral," Dec 2016, Pastel on Fisher 400, 12.75 x 15.5 in. Sold.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Like a Circle, Like a Spiral,” December 2016, Pastel on Fisher 400, 12 3/4 x 15 1/2 in. Sold. A trip to Lyme Regis in the UK were fossils are abundant was the starting point for inspiration for this painting.

 

My first set of pastels was a set of 60 half sticks of Rembrandt and at that time the paper available was Canson Mi-Teintes. Hmmm! Needless to say, my first attempts left a little to be desired and at the end of week one, I returned to the art supply shop. There I discovered the joys of Daler-Rowney which (then) were delightfully thin sticks with a good range of colours. I also discovered that by padding my backing board with a number of other Canson sheets that I could build up a greater depth of pastel on the surface.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Stirling Castle Guide," April 2016, Pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes, 22 x 15 in. Sold. A brief demonstration that successfully captured the character.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Stirling Castle Guide,” April 2016, Pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes, 22 x 15 in. Sold. A brief demonstration that successfully captured the character.

 

The years progressed and so too the Pastel World. Art spectrum produced its sanded Colourfix surfaces which opened up a whole new world of possibilities and I now felt that I could really “paint” with pastels. I began teaching internationally and attended my first IAPS convention in 2005.  My horizons were expanded exponentially and the types of pastels and surfaces in my kit expanded as well. My favourite surfaces currently are Fisher 400, Ampersand Pastelbord, and UART 600, whilst my pastel collection includes Girault, Holbein, Sennelier, Great American Artworks, Unison, Rembrandt, ArtSpectrum, Henri Roche, Terry Ludwig, and Richeson.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Colour and Light," May 2017, Pastel on Fisher 400, 9 x 17 in, A two hour demonstration to show the importance of reading value relationships correctly while using heightened colour. Available.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Colour and Light,” May 2017, Pastel on Fisher 400, 17 x 19 in. Available. A two hour demonstration to show the importance of reading value relationships correctly while using heightened colour.

 

My genre also expanded. I still paint landscapes in both oil and pastel but I rediscovered my love of the portraiture and figurative genres. Florals came quite by accident but seem to have taken centre stage as far as recognition in the art world goes. My very first floral was a 3 ft x 3 ft oil of frangipani done for my hairdresser who was redecorating her salon. I enjoyed it so much that I did another, this time a 6 ft x 3ft oil of irises. The response to them was so great that a new direction was set. I didn’t however attempt to paint florals in pastel for quite a few years as I didn’t believe that I could achieve the same luminosity in pastel as I could with my oils. With the arrival of white Kitty Wallis paper on the scene my thinking was redirected and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Cascading Glory," July 2016, Pastel on Fisher 400, 24 x 16 in. Available. Beginning with purple underpainting definitely helped to achieve this work.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Cascading Glory,” July 2016, Pastel on Fisher 400, 24 x 16 in. Available. Beginning with purple underpainting definitely helped to achieve this work.

 

I still clearly remember my first pass of pastel across the white surface of Kitty Wallis and the sheer shimmer of colour that it produced, and also the intense excitement that I felt. It was the white that stimulated my thinking in the direction of watercolours where the white paper lends luminosity to the overall look and a freshness to the colour.

Starting with a white surface has its drawbacks however. You have to work so much harder to cover the surface in that every value and every nuance of colour has to be included just so that you don’t have irritating flecks of white still visible.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Radiant Poise," Dec 2015, Pastel on UART 600, 17 x 13 in. Available. his portrait started as an experiment of underpainting with extremely bright colours. I used reds and oranges which I then had to bring under control. I was in a quandary as to what to do with the background. Somewhere in the source photo I found a scrap of cloth with zebra stripes in its design, Aha! I thought.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Radiant Poise,” Dec 2015, Pastel on UART 600, 17 x 13 in. Available. his portrait started as an experiment of underpainting with extremely bright colours. I used reds and oranges which I then had to bring under control. I was in a quandary as to what to do with the background. Somewhere in the source photo I found a scrap of cloth with zebra stripes in its design, Aha! I thought.

 

When I’m approaching a particularly complex subject I sometimes stain the paper with a mid value of a colour that is found throughout the composition. This is done by applying a thin layer of pastel colour and then gently pushing it into the surface with an artists’ odourless solvent using a soft brush. I use this method when the subject is particularly complex. “Cascading Glory” and “Upon Reflection” were achieved with this method.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Upon Reflection," Oct 2016, Pastel on Fisher 400, 19 x 27 in. Sold. I’m captivated by reflections wherever they turn up.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Upon Reflection,” Oct 2016, Pastel on Fisher 400, 19 x 27 in. Sold. I’m captivated by reflections wherever they turn up.

 

Recently, I’ve been adding a new twist to my florals. Rather than presenting them in their natural environment, I’ve been enjoying a juxtaposition of cut flowers against some sort of textural background. (See “In The Light Of History”.)  I’m afraid I get incredibly excited by complexity. I rise to the challenge of unravelling what I am looking at and then putting all of the elements back together to give a heightened sense of reality. I know that some would debate the artistic merits of this and perhaps this is a subject for another blog. My mission is to draw attention to the mind-boggling complexity of the natural world and in doing so, reflect honour to its creator.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "In the Light of History," Jan 2017, Pastel on Fisher 400, 24 x 18 in. Sold. Various trips across France and the UK gave me inspiration to include mediaeval tapestries as a backdrop for still life.

Lyn Diefenbach, “In the Light of History,” Jan 2017, Pastel on Fisher 400, 24 x 18 in. Sold. Various trips across France and the UK gave me inspiration to include mediaeval tapestries as a backdrop for still life.

 

The inspiration for my latest painting, “Counterpoint,” came from a trip to Western Australia. I stayed with an artist friend who in a former life had been a florist and who created this spectacular bouquet of roses and banksia leaves for her mother-in-law. With permission, I grabbed it and put it outside on her mosaic table. The counterpoints of full blooms against serrated leaves against the round pot against angular mosaics sent me into raptures. I further heightened these elements by climbing on a chair and taking a bird’s eye view (amongst others) with my camera.

When I got home and looked at my reference it left a little to be desired (see reference photo). With a couple of right angled pieces of paper I played around with rotating the image and settled on a composition that suited my purposes better. The change of aspect meant that when I came to drawing it up I had to add further mosaics and move the pot slightly to the left so that it looked believable.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Counterpoint," Sept 2017, Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 24 x 24 in. Available.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Counterpoint,” Sept 2017, Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 24 x 24 in. Available.

Lyn Diefenbach, "Counterpoint" reference photo.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Counterpoint” reference photo.

 

When I’m drawing something this complex I use the grid method to upscale. This gives me bite-sized pieces of information with which to work and each square is its own landscape of abstract shapes. This method allows me to get down complexity very rapidly and accurately.

I then select colours and values that are appropriate for each area and work my way basically from whatever is behind to whatever is in front considering also what kind of edge I will leave at the juncture of each shape. It’s not speed painting and certainly is very different to the way I work when en plein air.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Last Light," Feb 2016, Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 18 x 30 in. Sold. Colour and action – what could be better?

Lyn Diefenbach, “Last Light,” Feb 2016, Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 18 x 30 in. Sold. Colour and action – what could be better?

 

Colour recognition is a huge part of my floral practice. Very rarely do I use just one colour in an area because our world rarely presents just one. The look is made up of a number of colour elements. I identify whether the colour is leaning towards a red, a blue or a yellow and then what type of red, blue or yellow is it?  Further is it a fully saturated bright colour or is it a subdued or greyed down colour which means that it has an element of all three. Dimensionality is created by considering the relationship of values and edges.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Bush Tango," March 2017, Pastel on Fisher 400, 13 1/2 x 19 in. Sold. These complicated eucalypt flowers can be simplified by first making a general form of colour and then using different values to describe the tendrils.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Bush Tango,” March 2017, Pastel on Fisher 400, 13 1/2 x 19 in. Sold. These complicated eucalypt flowers can be simplified by first making a general form of colour and then using different values to describe the tendrils.

 

I blend using my fingers when appropriate and this certainly helps to produce the kind of finish that I am wanting to achieve for my florals. Blending can be achieved by colour over colour and stroke over stroke and I can further sculpt the form by using my finger. Blending is not a mindless activity. It needs to be a sensitive, sculptural action that doesn’t obliterate those beautiful crystals of colour.

I’m on a mission. It’s a continual journey of discovery that leaves me breathless but filled with joy and anticipation. What’s more, it is a joy to share, and one to light the creative spark in others.

 

Lyn Diefenbach, "Sweet Communion," May 2009, Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 18 x 18 in. Sold. The white Ampersand Pastelbord lent itself beautifully to achieving the soft transition of colours. Dew drops are always fun to include and are more about what you leave out than what you put in.

Lyn Diefenbach, “Sweet Communion,” May 2009, Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord, 18 x 18 in. Sold. The white Ampersand Pastelbord lent itself beautifully to achieving the soft transition of colours. Dew drops are always fun to include and are more about what you leave out than what you put in.

 

 

*****

 

Wow – a huge thank you to Lyn Diefenbach for sharing her pastel journey with us. We would so love to hear from you so please leave a comment. 🙂

 

That’s it for now!

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

Check out this interview with Lyn Diefenbach:

 

31 thoughts on “Lyn Diefenbach – Revealing The Complexity Of The Natural World

  1. Bill Truslove

    I have known Lyn for many years, having been a fellow member of the Pastel Society of Australia. I attended several very exciting week long work shops on North Kepple Island, Queensland, with her and at Mudgee, New South Wales. We have , over the years, become very good friends. She has stayed with my wife and I and we have stayed at her house at Yepoon. She is a magnificent painter and deserves the accolades she is now receiving. I have one of her works which she gave us as a gift.

    Reply
  2. Ingrid Mueller

    I am humbled by her amazing ability to create such beautiful paintings. I’m wondering if she ever uses pastel pencils for some of the detail?

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Ingrid, I agree! They are quite something aren’t they!?
      As to pastel pencils, I don’t know. I can guess but since I don’t know, I’ll let Lyn answer your question.

      Reply
    2. Lyn Diefenbach

      Hi Ingrid,
      Thanks for your question. On the whole I don’t use pastel pencils but if one were the right colour I would. You can always do extremely fine work with soft pastels simply by finding an edge and not pressing too heavily.

      Reply
  3. Michele Ashby

    Hi Gail
    Thank you firstly for featuring Lyn’s beautiful paintings as well as her story detailing her interesting journey! I particularly love her sign off paragraph where Lyn’s continued enthusiasm shines through – she is a great inspiration!!

    Reply
  4. Nancy Malard

    Just one word–breathtaking. To quote Ingrid above, , I am humbled.
    Gail, in a recent comment I mentioned Fabienne Verdier and her experience in China, doing just one line–one single brush stroke–for a whole year. You said you wondered how she felt and evolved over that year. Well she wrote a book on it that has been translated into English–THE DRAGON’S BRUSH. Available on Amazon.
    Cheers
    Nancy

    Reply
  5. Val

    I am very new to pastel and fell in love with their bold colours and the texture of them in my hand.
    I first became aware of Lyn via a video by colour in your life. I was gobsmacked! After watching Lyn’s lesson, during which I experienced several AHA! moments, I was totally captivated. She is a brilliant artist who I hope will not mind my sharing her video with all of you. It truly is one not to be missed!
    Pardon my exuberance, but I truly find pastels so exciting!!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVTGSCXsaNY

    Cheers, Val
    ps….. Thank you so much Gail for sharing your exciting encounter.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing this video Val which shows Lyn’s work, offers some great tips, and also gives you a taste of Lyn’s lovely personality! And Val, exuberance always welcome!!

      Reply
  6. Donna Finley

    Her work is extraordinary! It inspires me to continue to improve, working more diligently on my marks, edges and value changes.
    Such ability to capture beauty humbles me. Thanks you for inviting her to give us insights to how she achieves such wonderful images. An artist friend of mine judges paintings by saying to herself “Could I live with this?”
    I could live with each of the paintings highlighted here.

    Reply
  7. Diane

    I am curious what fans of the Wallis paper are finding to use now that it is no longer available. Recently i called Kitty Wallis to order what is the last batch of paper. It is a different color than what has been the standby- a reddish sienna, not the versital white. I have been working on smaller pieces figuring out this new ground color for my work. I’ve worked on Pastel Premier, the ground has sometimes been inconsistantly applied, Art Spectrum on watercolor paper (I think I like this one) and Uart which is not on archival paper. What are other pastelists doing with this loss of such a wonderful ground? Seems a worthy conversation to consider.

    Thank you for sharing Lyns beautiful Work.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Glad you enjoyed Lyn’s work. Well you can see the supports Lyn uses. I think many of us have struggled to find good replacements for Wallis paper. I am really enjoying Pastel Premier paper though, like you, I have run into a few inconsistency problems. I think they may have the technique resolved though. I do like the different grades of UART. I also like Sennelier LaCarte (just don’t get water anywhere near it!). I haven’t had too much experience with Art Spectrum but did find when I used it that it ‘ate’ the pastel. Perhaps others will chime in here.

      Reply
    2. Lyn Diefenbach

      Hi Diane. I’m sadly almost to the end of my stash of Wallis paper but I have discovered Fisher 400 which to my mind is as close as I’ve experienced thus far. It was unavailable for a little while but I think that it is back in circulation now.

      Reply
  8. Sharon Haney

    I have always admired Lyn’s work and at the 2014 IAPS convention I saw one of her pieces in person and was gobsmacked! She was gracious enough to be one of the Pastel Society of Southeast Texas’ jurors for their 2017 Art of The Pastel show and I am constantly on the lookout for one of her workshops to be within driving distance of me. Now residing in far west Texas I hope I have the chance to take a workshop with her as I adore her florals and know I will learn barrels of new techniques from her. Thank you so much for this guest blog.

    Reply
  9. Ruth Burley

    She is an awesome talent!!! The detail is incredible, and I was wondering the same thing about whether she uses pastel pencils or just sharp edges of the soft pastels. Jaw dropping paintings!!!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      You got that right Ruth! Regarding the use of pencils, going by her answer above, sounds like Lyn uses the sharp edges of pastels for the detail.

      Reply
  10. Barbara Huber

    Hi Gail! I hope I am getting this email to you. I consider myself “email challenged’, but I’m hoping for the best!! Thank you so much for all your encouragement , your wonderful teachings,and for sharing other artists. I have been working with pastels for 8 yrs. now, and grow to love them more and more each day. I’ve been trying my hand at all subjects and continue to enjoy variety. —– I also have the question whether Lyn ever uses pastel pencils for detail work.(?) Also does she use a fixative spray during her work or on the finished product? As I have progressed I am now using the pastel sticks more often than pencils. BUT, does anyone know how to sharpen pastel pencils without losing half the pencil?!!! What a frustration!!! —- I so enjoy hearing from you! Thanx again. Warmest regards. Barbara

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks for popping in Barbara and for your exuberance! Lyn answered the pastel pencil question above and I will let her answer your question around using fixative.
      I hope someone has an answer for you around sharpening pastel pencils as I rarely use them. I have found in the past that sharpening them with a knife has worked.

      Reply
    2. Lyn Diefenbach

      Hi Barbara. So glad that you to hear your enthusiasm for Pastel. I don’t use fixative at all for a number of reasons . 1. It darkens and dulls the work 2. It can still be smudged 3. It doesn’t stop the pastel dust from falling off, it just falls off in bigger bits. Pressing the pastel into the surface with a cover sheet of glassine and a stack of books (or something similar) achieves what the fixative is supposed to do without the negative results. I’ve even been known to put mine through a press, again with the protective sheet of glassine. I do know however (from my time spent with Daniel Greene) that sometimes an artist might use fixative to deliberately darken a passage of work and then tweak the brights and lights. Also, if the tooth of the paper is filled or damaged then the use of fixative can give a new surface to work on although this is limited.
      A sharp Exacto blade is good for sharpening pastel pencils and sandpaper to get a fine point. Some of the pencils just want to keep on breaking which probably means that they have been dropped somewhere along the way.
      Hope that this all helps. Happy painting.

      Reply
  11. Janette Meetze

    Lyn’s work is stunning and her advice speaks directly to me at this point in my journey with Pastels. Thank you Lyn and thank you Gail for introducing me to an amazing artist.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Janette I am delighted to have introduced you to this fine and oh-so-lovely artist!! Glad Lyn’s words and work struck a chord with you.

      Reply

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