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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Check out this interview with Lyn Diefenbach: