Author Archives: Gail

When Plans Go Sideways…..

When plans go sideways, what to do? You write a blog post about it.

I had a plan. Really I did. And it was a good one. Shoot video, edit, upload to YouTube, and write a post. No problem right? Wrong! I shot the videos alright but the problem came when I tried to upload them to my computer. I got this message: “Unreadable File.” Really? Really? I’ve uploaded from this camcorder many times so what was the problem now?

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Plein Air Pastel Of Big Rideau Lake

I’m home from my wonderful trip to Ontario where Cam and I visited various family members. Kicking myself for not taking more photos! However, I did have time to do one pastel en plein air 🙂 It’s one that I did of a beautiful view of Big Rideau Lake from Cam’s Mum’s porch. The weather was changeable, rotating from heavy cloud and grey skies to blue sky with white clouds. Ahhhh the unpredictable delights of painting on location!

 

The Plein Air Progress

Here’s the view through the screen. (Yes, I was cheating a bit sitting inside a screened porch but I still consider it a plein air piece!)

The view I painted en plein air

The view I painted. Lots of blues and greens!

1. The Thumbnail prior to pastelling en plein air

1. The Thumbnail. I was especially attracted to the darkly encircled view of the brightly lit trees in the middle ground.

2. The charcoal drawing on Wallis paper in prep for the plein air painting

2. The charcoal drawing on Wallis paper

3. The first layers on - light, middle and dark values as seen en plein air

3. The first layers on – light, middle and dark values. You can see that I’m ‘reading’ the middle ground trees and the water as the same value.

 

4. Adding more pastel in the plein air piece

4. Adding more pastel. You can see the water and middle ground trees emerging as different shapes now.

5. The above in black and white. You can see that I need to darken the left side quite a bit to evoke the same feeling captured in the thumbnail!

5. The above in black and white. You can see that I need to darken the left side quite a bit to evoke the same feeling captured in the thumbnail!

6. Beginning to define the shapes of trees and negative space of the lake in this plein air pastel

6. Beginning to define the shapes of trees and negative space of the lake

7. Almost there. Greens added to the foreground trees. The gray clouds disappeared and were replaced by white ones and I could even see blue sky so those went in. And the various tree trunks of the middle ground trees finally added.

7. Almost there. Greens added to the foreground trees. The gray clouds disappeared and were replaced by white ones and I could even see blue sky so that went in too. The various tree trunks of the middle ground trees were finally added.

8. Let's have a look at the plein air pastel as it stands in black and white. A much closer feeling of looking at the light from the darkness. Just a few more tweaks..

8. Let’s have a look at the pastel as it stands in black and white. A much closer feeling of looking at the light from the darkness. Just a few more tweaks..

9. Gail Sibley, View From Sherwoods, pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in.   Small tweaks made and I called it quits. I may still need to look at it in the studio but for now, this plein air pastel is finished!

9. Gail Sibley, ‘View From Sherwoods,’ pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in. Small tweaks made and I called it quits. CAD$575 unframed




 

 

10. Here are the Sennelier pastels I used for this plein air pastel. The sticks to the left of the charcoal were tried but hardly used. I introduced another green into the small starter set I use. I just couldn't resist that dark olive green. I'll need to replace that blue that's in three small pieces - that's all I have left of that colour!

10. Here are the Sennelier pastels I used. The sticks to the left of the charcoal were tried but hardly used. I introduced another green into the small starter set I use. I just couldn’t resist that dark olive green. Hmmmm, I’ll need to remember to replace that blue that’s in three small pieces – that’s all I have left of that particular colour!

 

I was so happy to have done any work en plein air while away. It would have been nice to have done more but since the main reason for our trip was family visiting, I put all my focus and energy into doing just that! And I’m ever so glad as I had an amazing time first with my sister and her partner, then with Cam’s family (I have now met them all!), and finally with my cousin Alex and her partner. All very special times.

 

Look forward to hearing from you. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think of my newest plein air work.

~ Gail

 

 

Donna Yeager – How Going Back To Art School Changed Everything

At the beginning of June while at the IAPS Convention, I met Donna Yeager. In conversation, she began to tell me about her experience of going back to art school and how it had affected her work. I asked her if she’d like to saw a few words about that experience on camera for my YouTube interviews. She accepted but we found when she began to speak, she had so much more to say. It occured to me that the video could become the basis for a guest blog.

Donna also wrote up an account of her artistic journey to date and you’ll find that, along with the video interview and images that illustrate her words, below.

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Demos At IAPS In The Schminke Pastels Booth

At the beginning of June, as you know, I was at the wonderful bi-annual International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention. I was fortunate to be asked to demo twice using Schminke pastels at their booth.

What to paint? Well, if you know me, you know I prefer working from life, so the first demo was a no-brainer – I’d do a still life set up. And if you’ve been following my YouTube videos you know I’m a big promoter of using quality pastels in a limited palette. (This is to help show beginners that they only need to start with a small selection of pastels which means they can afford to purchase good quality rather than mediocre pastels!)

And what did I decide to do for my demo the following day? Well, wait and see!

Let’s have a look at the first demo.

Set up for Schminke pastels demo

The set-up. I wanted to include a full value range from dark to light as well as different types of items. My viewpoint changed slightly from this photo as I stepped to the easel.

Gary, the Schminke rep, asked me to use the small set of Schminke pastels that I'd used in my earlier videos. Well that put a wrench in the works! So few pastels to choose from!

Gary, the Schminke rep, asked me to use the small set of Schminke pastels that I’d used in my earlier videos. Well that put a wrench in the works! So few pastels to choose from – only 11!

Schminke pastels in black and white photo. This easily shows you the value range available!

Schminke pastels in black and white photo. This easily shows you the value range available. Two lights, one very dark, one fairly dark, and the rest midtones (the brown and one of the reds are missing.)

Thumbnail for demo using Schminke pastels

Hmmmm…my thumbnail except as you can see, I forgot (how??) to add values! Nevertheless, it helped me see how the items were placed and made it easier for me to sketch the set up on paper.

Drawing in vine charcoal and first layer of Schminke pastels on

Drawing in vine charcoal and first layer of pastels on. Usually, I block in the three main values – light, middle and dark. Here I worked differently in that I only had two lights to work with. So instead, I began by putting in shapes of colour over which I would layer my lights (and darks and mid-values). The red and the blue are the darks and will eventually become darks and mid-values, the orange mid-tone will eventually become a light value, and the yellow will remain a light value.

 

Beginning to build the layers with Schminke pastels

Beginning to build the layers. It’s tough going working in colours that aren’t the correct values. (They will eventually be layered over to create the appropriate value.) All this is made even more tricky with the broken focus that comes with demoing. Good practice!

 

Beginning to shift values to correct range using Schminke pastels

Beginning to shift values to correct range. Bit bizarre isn’t it?!

 

The image above in black and white. This really shows you where the values stand. I wanted to point out a small value lesson. Looking at this image, you really can't tell the difference between the orange and the colour of the paper! Cool huh?

The image above in black and white. This really shows you where the values stand. I wanted to point out a small value lesson. Looking at this image, you really can’t tell the difference between the orange and the colour of the paper! Cool huh? I can see I need to darken the mug a whole lot more.

 

More Schminke pastels applied

More pastel applied

 

The final piece. Schminke pastels on Pastel Premier paper med fine 320 grit Italian Clay

Photographed on my return home in daylight on a cloudy day, the colours look a bit bluer than they actually are. Schminke pastels on Pastel Premier paper med fine 320 grit, Italian Clay

 

With the black and white version, you can see how things have changed!

With the black and white version, you can see how things have changed!

 

One down, one more to go.

I decided that since I had recently begun offering a workshop called “Reality to Abstract,” I’d have my second piece use the first demo as a base from which to go abstract. And even though Gary was kind enough to offer me the use of a larger set, I decided to stick with the smaller set to see what would happen.

Here goes!

 

First Schminke pastels down with little care. Can you see the main items of pear, mug, and tea bags?

First colours down with little care. I just went for it! Can you see the main items of pear, mug, and tea bags?

 

Now what? I just trusted my intuition, believing the process would take me somewhere. I just let go and applied Schminke pastels, watching where my hand and heart took me.

Now what? I just trusted my intuition, believing the process would take me somewhere. I just let go and watched where my hand and heart took me.

 

This is it so far. (The demo was a bit shorter as it was soon time to pack the booth away.) Crazy huh? Gail Sibley, "Untitled as yet," Schminke pastels on UArt ? grit, ?

I began to think about the formal qualities of composition, value, line, shapes, edge etc. I added colours according to what I felt the painting needed.

 

For interest sake, here it is in black and white so you can see how the values are arranged. (Sorry about the shadow top right.)

For interest’s sake, here it is in black and white so you can see how the values are arranged. (Sorry about the shadow top right.)

 

This is how the piece finished up. Crazy huh? (The demo was a bit shorter as it was soon time to pack the booth away.) I need to decide how much more work to do on it if any. Schminke pastels on UArt 320, 12 x 18 in

This is how the piece finished up. Crazy huh?  (The demo was a bit shorter as it was soon time to pack the booth away.) I need to decide how much more work to do on it if any. Schminke pastels on UArt 320 paper, 12 x 18 in

 

And here's me at work on the first demo using Schminke pastels

And here I am at work on the first demo. You can see  part of the set up I was working from. I’m using an easel borrowed from Dakota Pastels. Kicking myself for not buying it. It would have been perfect for my upcoming trip to Budapest! Argh.

 

I enjoyed trying out new papers and can certainly recommend them both – UArt 320 and Pastel Premier 320 Italian Clay. They both took the layering of soft pastel very well. And of course I loved using the Schminke pastels!

Look forward to hearing what you think about these pieces! So please leave a comment 🙂

Until next week,

~ Gail

 

June’s Remarkable Pastels!

Oh. My. Gosh. I can hardly believe we are already in July and it’s time for the roundup of the pastels I’ve enjoyed through the month of June. Once again, culling the 55 collected pastels down to 10 choices was incredibly difficult. It’s always when I get down to about 15 that I look and ponder, look and ponder. It takes ages to make those final choices. I actually hate having to make the chop but I still think 10 is a good number to present to you. So here are this month’s remarkable pastels!

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Adrian Frankel Giuliani, "Jami Swimming II," pastel, 22 x 27 in

Adrian Frankel Giuliani, “Jami Swimming II,” pastel, 22 x 27 in

I’ve always loved this pastel by Adrian Frankel Giuliani. I can hear the sounds of the swimming pool underneath the water and the bubbles just beginning to break free from those bulbous cheeks. I can feel the flow of water as this child moves vigorously by me. I inhale ‘swimming pool’ aroma and recall my own childhood full of exuberance and blissful innocence. I also love the thickness and energy of the pastel marks in this high-key, slightly abstracted, large piece.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Glen Maxion, "Last Day of Summer," pastel, 25 x 19 in

Glen Maxion, “Last Day of Summer,” pastel, 25 x 19 in

I was totally charmed by this pastel done by Glen Maxion. Like Adrian’s piece, I can feel the experience of being there – the sound of the waves and the cries of the figures jumping in the waves, the taste of the salt, the slight breeze that sends a shiver over wet skin. One girl looks out perhaps at the figures or maybe beyond while the other appears to examine the action of the water over the sand at their feet. What’s amazing to me is a closer look at the painting suggests the paper is Canson even though at first glance, the pastel looks thickly applied and layered. Another memory of childhood and the joys of summer at the beach.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Nancy Feinman Nowak, "Right at the Corner," plein air pastel, 9 x 12 in

Nancy Feinman Nowak, “Right at the Corner,” plein air pastel, 9 x 12 in

This pastel by Nancy Feinman Nowak stopped me in my tracks when I came across it. Simple simple simple yet absolutely captivating. I love the taking of something so seemingly insignificant – the side of a fairly ordinary house in light – and making it into something worth stopping for. Certainly this is what Nancy has done in this painting. Look at all those grayed colours that when combined make for what feels like a colourful painting. There’s such confidence in the strokes, the range of values, and in the colour choices.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Kathy Falla Howard, "Senora de la Luz (The Lady of Light)," plein air pastel, 8 x 10 in

Kathy Falla Howard, “Senora de la Luz (The Lady of Light),” plein air pastel, 8 x 10 in

Another plein air piece, this one by Kathy Falla Howard (done during the Santa Fe Plein Air Festival) gives me a sense of calm and peace. This simple backlit church sits solidly on the paper surrounded by a mountain and sky backdrop, trees and shrubbery on either side, and the sunlit cemetery with flower-marked graves in the foreground. Such simplicity of vision gives a feeling of times past and speaks to the importance to the community of this small church built in 1880.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Barry Monohon, "Evening Field With Rapidly Changing Light - Brownvillius," pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in

Barry Monohon, “Evening Field With Rapidly Changing Light – Brownvillius,” pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in

There’s something about this piece by Barry Monohon I just love. It’s so simple yet vibrates with colour and texture. There is a feeling of the magnificence and the vitality of nature that comes through. You may not think so at first viewing, but there’s depth – just look at the piece from far away and you’ll see the field glowing beyond the trees. You’ll also notice the warmly coloured textured ground in front and the cool dark shade beneath the sunlit trees.There’s no obvious centre of interest yet my eye travels around the whole, never stuck in one place, moved around by the mark-making itself. Is there something European about it? Perhaps it reminds me of the work of the Impressionists.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Jeff Ventola, "Breach," pastel, 8 x 10 in

Jeff Ventola, “Breach,” pastel, 8 x 10 in

Okay, without looking at the caption, how large do you think Jeff Ventola‘s painting is? Come on, ‘fess up! Did you consider that it was so small? I didn’t. I was sure that it was a huge painting! I think that phenomenon comes from the vastness of landscape suggested. Yet another painting of a simple subject in nature, this one brings together the sound of rolling thunder in the distance, the smell of imminent rain or perhaps of the earth after the rain has fallen, the glory of being alive. It feels like a metaphor for life – its ups and downs, its clear skies and menacing clouds, its ever-changing cycle. I love the way Jeff has coloured the small slice of water, reflecting the colours above. And I need to add that apparently Jeff withdrew from painting for 10 months after receiving some vituperative remarks. Well I, for one, am glad he’s back on the painting horse!

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Bre Crowell, "Dancing Til Dawn," pastel, 20 x 24 in

Bre Crowell, “Dancing Til Dawn,” pastel, 20 x 24 in

Similar in composition to Jeff’s work, this one is completely different. I love the energy and directness of this abstract painting by Bre Crowell. The pastel marks feel intuitive as they range in squiggles, meanderings, and slashes across the paper. The title helps me see a figure whirling and turning, dancing like no one’s watching. For me, for some reason, it brings to mind fairytales of dancing princesses and also the character of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady when she sings, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night.’ Funny what can come up when you view a painting! Isn’t that part of the joy?

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Ron Monsma, "Marked," pastel on illlustration board, 16 x 20 in

Ron Monsma, “Marked,” pastel on illustration board, 16 x 20 in

I’ve always enjoyed Ron Monsma‘s figurative paintings but for some reason, it’s this non-figurative piece that made it into this monthly collection. There’s always much to think about when you view Ron’s work and this one is no exception. What does it mean? What clue does the title give us? Why are these objects combined and what does the combination tell us? There’s the solidity of brick and wood creating a structure on and around which something of nature – a nest but one with an egg-shaped hole in it, and an egg, pierced by a nail yet unbroken – reside. All all starkly visible against a brooding sky. For me, the painting says something about the relationship between humankind’s construction and the damage it does to wildlife. Am I way off base? Ron paints the objects in a realistic way yet the content of the painting is more surreal than real and asks more questions than it answers. What’s your take on this painting?

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Neil Condron, "Self Portrait," pastel, 19 3/4 x 22 in (50 x 56 cm)

Neil Condron, “Self Portrait,” pastel, 19 3/4 x 22 in (50 x 56 cm)

Speaking of questions, what about Neil Condron‘s pondering self portrait? There’s nothing held back as Neil looks at himself and records what he sees – a middle aged artist complete with wrinkles, bumps and all, the face of a life lived yet one that may be pondering the past? or the present? or perhaps the future? The vignetting effect at the bottom of the painting reminds us that we aren’t looking at an actual face. Instead, we’re looking at pastel marks on paper posing as a face. I rather like that prompt.

 

 

June's Remarkable Pastels: Jz Xu, "Red Box," pastel on paper, 12 x 19 in

Jz Xu, “Red Box,” pastel on paper, 12 x 19 in

Lastly we come to Jz Xu‘s pastel – a mostly blue painting with a splash of red. You’d think the eye would be caught, trapped almost, by that square of red near the centre of the painting and although it captures our attention initially, our eyes instead, move around the picture taking in the interesting details of pillows and blankets on a bed, items on the windowsill, the landscape beyond framed by the blinds and window frame. We do come back to the box and wonder about its significance but rather than stop there, on that nondescript though bright square, we move on. Quite the feat, persuading our attention to be diverted from that mysterious red box. There’s a wonderful directness in the pastel marks with only a few strokes representing folds in the sheet and light between the blinds.

 

And that’s it for this month’s roundup. Remarkable pastels all!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, opinions so leave me a reply. I look forward to hearing from you!!

 

A quick aside, I was delighted to see so many of my monthly choices show up at this year’s IAPS Pastel World Exhibition with some winning prizes. A pleasant confirmation.

 

Until next week when I’ll have some of my own work for you to consider,

~ Gail

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!)

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IAPS – A Whale Of A Time!

Settling back into real life after a fabulous time at the 2015 International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What to tell you about it??

Well, for the first time, I was totally on the Vendor side of the Convention – I didn’t register as a participant (for one, it sold out so quickly – which is fantastic!) so I didn’t sign up for any demos.

IAPS: My official vendor badge!

My official vendor badge!

I got to serve and play in the Candy Store both at the Holbein booth and at the Schminke booth. At each place, I was greeted by many of my subscribers who shared how much they love this blog. Wow – talk about walking on air!!! Makes all this effort oh so worth it. I’m kicking myself for not getting photos of me with these encouraging folk.

I also didn’t get photos with myself cozying up to the big whigs and my pastel heroes. Why I didn’t do that I can’t tell you – I just never thought of it at the time. Argh. I’ll do better in 2017! The connecting with old friends and making new ones is a huge part of the joy at IAPS. Here are a few photos in the trade show:

IAPS - Working (and playing!) at the Trade Show

IAPS – Working (and playing!) at the Trade Show. From top right down: Doug Hopper (Holbein head honcho), my friend and artist Stephanie Birdsall, and me; Me and Marla Baggetta who I was lucky enough to chat with over a long lunch; Me and my ‘boss’ Gary at the Schminke booth; Stef, her friend Alex Barlett who I was so happy to get to know, and Urania Tarbet Christy – founder of IAPS; Stef, Terry Ludwig (the man himself!) and me; and finally Doug Hopper in the Holbein booth.

 

One of the really fun things at IAPS was the Paint-Around with Stan Sperlak, Tony Allain, Terri Ford, Alain J. Picard, and Marla Baggetta – what a hoot. Each artist starts a painting then every 10 minutes, the painting moves on one person until it comes back to the originator. I only saw the end of the event but could, on entering, feel the fun and frantic energy in the room.

When not demoing over at the Schminke booth in pastels, I was playing around in acrylic (heavy body and the new fluid paint), Acryla Gouache, and water soluble pastels at the Holbein booth, showing off how fabulous the products are. This while Stef showed off her skills in pastel at the Holbein booth.

IAPS - Paint Around participants, My playful paint experiments, Stef pastelling at the Holbein booth

Paint Around participants; my playful paint experiments; and Stef pastelling at the Holbein booth

Then there was the IAPS exhibition itself that I managed to dash into a couple of times (but regrettably missed the walk-around with Duane Wakeham). So many wonderful pictures!! Happy to see many that have been featured in my monthly round-up!

It wasn’t all work. The first day I got there (Tuesday 2 June), I managed to get in the pool. The outside temperature was so warm. What a treat. Ahhhhhhhhhh. AND, to top it all off, that night there was a full moon. Sigh.

IAPS- Enjoying life in Albuquerque!

Enjoying life! Me at the pool; view from the bedroom of the town of Albuquerque under the full moon; gorgeous flowers near the pool

Here are some of the other cool things that happened:

 

– I danced like crazy Thursday night with Stef as my partner then persuaded Schminke’s Gary to have a dance, and eventually got a whole heap of gals up to dance to Artisan Art Store’s own Ron Whitmore’s band

– I recorded about 10 short video interviews (which I will be posting in the next few days) thanks to the generosity of the artists who participated

– I enjoyed the keynote talk at the Saturday banquet by Esther Bell (Curator in Charge, European Paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco) about the effect of the French Revolution on the way pastels were used in later decades. It’s only now that the full force and styles of pastels is being revived

– I ate and drank very well thanks in huge part to Holbein’s Doug Hopper and to other kind souls around

– I caught up with my friend Stephanie Birdsall – a lot can happen in two years!

– I had wonderful conversations with so many fabulous artists like Duane Wakeham, Jimmy Wright, Sandra Burshell, Bill Creevy, and Marla Baggetta. I only wish I could have found the time to do more socializing (for example, Sally Strand and I totally missed getting together – I don’t know how that happened!).

– I did two demos in the Schminke booth and was generously provided with UArt and Pastel Premier papers to try out. I loved them! Not so much worry now about the unavailability of Wallis paper. I will show you the demo progress of the pieces in my next blog.

– On Sunday 7th June, after connecting with various folk in the morning, I made my way to the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History just around the corner. (I got caught in an unusual 2-min downpour getting there. Crazy! I was pretty wet by the time I found the entrance.) I’ll share some of the work I saw in a blog for gailsibley.com. In the meantime, here’s a few images to keep you going.

 

And that’s about it!

Being at the IAPS Convention really was a time of joy – hanging out with people who love pastels as much as I do in beautiful and warm New Mexico. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Really, I’m not Rita!

IAPS-The twins: Rita Kirkman and me!

At IAPS, I met Rita Kirkman. Everyone thought I was her! I wonder why…..

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