I’m back from four amazing days at IAPS!! This pastel conference connects and reconnects you with wonderful people who are all passionate about pastels. It also inspires you through demos, workshops, and the exhibition of amazing work from around the world. It’s also a place to stock up on pastel supplies at the ‘candy store’ where you can converse directly with the vendors – offering feedback, finding out about new products, getting the best deals you’ll probably find. While there, I had the opportunity to demo with Sennelier pastels at the Savoir Faire booth. I thought I’d share the progression and results of this demo with you.
Recently I was asked to share how I create greys in my pastel paintings. Rather than write an email in reply, I made a video on painting gorgeous greys in soft pastel as I thought my answer would benefit many pastel artists.
Take a look!
I couldn’t decide what to paint for my next video demo until I saw a big beautiful eggplant (aubergine) in the market calling out to be painted! So I created a video on the complexities of painting an eggplant. Have a look.
Occasionally I get asked the question: Do you ever use soft pastels on black paper? And the answer is: Well no, I don’t. Mind you, when I first started in pastels over 20 years ago, I worked on a dark green mat board. So I have worked with pastels on dark paper, just not black paper. But once I discovered sanded paper, ie Wallis paper which came in the warm mid-value colour known as Belgian mist that I used at first, it was bye-bye dark paper!
When thinking about what I could do a new pastel demo for YouTube on, I recalled the question about pastels on black paper and here you have the result. I’m using pastels from Mount Vision’s workshop set of 50 pastels on Schminke’s Sansfix pastel card.
I have done a few pastel demo videos now, all of them on toned Wallis paper. A question I’ve been asked is, Why don’t you use white paper? and What would the pastel painting look like on white paper?
I have taken these questions to heart and decided to do a demo on white paper even though it’s not my usual surface colour. In the demo, I use, for the first time, Terry Ludwig’s set of 14 Best Loved Basics – the company’s uber starter kit. When I first looked at these, I was surprised and a little bit anxious, if I’m truthful, because there wasn’t the usual saturated colour selection I’m used to, for instance, no bright yellow, orange, or green. But I was up for a challenge! Here’s the result.
So let’s have a closer look. First the set-up:
Next the thumbnail.
So let’s look at a few progression pieces:
The combination of the softness of the Terry Ludwig pastels and the sanded texture of the Wallis paper allowed layers to be built up thus eliminating most of the white specks of paper showing through. Where you can see them, I rather like the sparkle that the white paper brings, for instance in the shadow side of the bowl.
Here are the photos of the Terry Ludwig set:
I love the name of this set of pastels – Best Loved. It doesn’t have the name “starter box/kit” or anything like that. Instead, it appeals to our emotions. And this is typical of the way Terry works. For instance, while at IAPS conferences, I have received free samples. (You can see a whole piece I did from this selection of IAPS samples by clicking here.) Terry (and team) also posts artwork by others created with his pastels on the company’s Facebook Page. It’s through this generosity that we not only come to love his pastels but also the man himself.
I was curious as to how this selection of pastels came about – how were the colours chosen? I put the question to Marie Ludwig, President of the Terry Ludwig Pastels. Here’s what she had to say: “The Maggie Price Best Loved Basics, a set of 60 pastels, is the set we most often suggest to new pastel artists just getting started with the medium. We became aware this set would be a price stretch for those new artists and decided to create a small set geared toward them. Terry selected the 14 pastel colors and values he believed would be most useful for the new pastelist.” So there you have it! A fabulous beginner set for sure.
Limitations, counter-intuitively perhaps, enable you to grow as an artist. A limited colour selection, working with colours not usually in your palette, these things will lead to creativity and progress. I leave you with this quote (substitute the word ‘artist’ for ‘writer’):
That’s it folks! Tell me, do you use white paper? If so, why? I’d love to know how you use the white paper. Let’s get a discussion going!
Until next time,
PS. I recently did a pastel self-portrait using the same set of 14 Best Loved Basics. Watch for that coming soon!!
I have this pastel. It was painted on location and then worked on in the studio. I wrote a blog about it (click here to read it). It received some wonderful comments. But I’ve never been completely happy with the pastel. I feel it’s an overworked pastel and just not the way I want it to look.
Since it’s been worked on so much, I decided to rework it into something else and capture the process for this blog. Although doing this was a risk, especially knowing a few people really liked the piece, I was ready to plunge in. I figured no matter what happened, since I was unhappy with the pastel as it was, whatever happened next was just fine. I may end up with a wonderful new piece or I may end up with a mess. If a mess, I can always wash the whole thing clean! And if a new piece, then yay!
Here’s the original overworked pastel:
First off, I gently wipe the pastel with a paper towel to soften all the edges and blur the image.
Now where do I take it? Do I make it abstract? One thing’s for sure, I’m done working on the landscape that’s there. I’ve reworked it so much that I feel like it’s dead. But there’s still an interesting pattern of light and dark that I can work with. I’ll also look to see if there’s any other visible form, for example, figurative, or I’ll turn it on its side and see if there’s another landscape possibility.
Now what? I decide to choose a limited palette from the colours used in the original. I pick the yellow and a blue as the primary colours. I add magenta and a cool red. Then I began to add the chosen colours to the outlined shapes.
Hmmm, interesting I think. I continue.
I wonder about drips and add water along one edge. But I discover that drips don’t happen that easily in pastels. (You can see there’s a bit of darkness along the right hand side. That’s wet pastels.) I feel that how I’ve been working, hatching the pastel, has begun to look too much the same. Pretty, I think, and I don’t want pretty. I also feel the big swooping shape takes you right out of the picture. So I decide to introduce long lines across the whole picture plane to stop that movement as well as to add some discomfort to the prettiness. Will it work?
Stepping back, I think I’ve added more interest to the piece. But there’s still work to be done.
I begin to see light filtering through slats of wood or metal. Like the elevated train platform in Chicago or the Eiffel Tower. With this idea in mind, I continue on. I decide to break up some of the large dark shapes further.
And here it is in black and white:
The images above follow the vertical format of the original piece. Let’s see what happens when we look at it horizontally:
I don’t know if it was a good idea to follow the light pattern that was there originally but that’s what I did and this is what I ended up doing and how the piece progressed.
I’ll need to sit with the painting and see what happens, to decide whether I’ll need to go further, stop, or let go of the whole thing again. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts about what I did!!
Wishing you a splendid 2015. Let’s see what wonderful things we can create and discover in pastel together!!
PS. On my mind while working on this pastel was the 7th January shooting of 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo. Although this painting doesn’t reference it directly, the awful event was in my subconscious for sure.
To see an amazing outpouring in cartoons by cartoonists from around the world, click here.
[tweet “”Death shadows us. Live fully!!” ~ Gail Sibley”]
PPS. It feels good to be back in the studio. I’ve been working at completing the Pastel Painting En Plein Air online videos (done) and I’m now beginning to choose a place to store the videos online, decide on and set up a portal for access, and determine a method for purchasing. All computer stuff i.e. NOT in the studio!
Talking about a low key painting seems appropriate at this, the darkest time of the year (in the northern hemisphere anyway!). So what is a low key painting? It’s one in which most of the colours are predominantly dark in value and often subdued (i.e. not bright colours).
I’ve just uploaded a video of me demoing a low key painting. Have a look:
You can see my set up below. I must have changed my angle when I began to paint though; I didn’t see any secondary highlights in the shadow side of the bowl like the ones you can see here.
A couple of months ago, I did a video on high key painting. Check it out on my blog here. You can see how completely different the painting looks from this one!!
Wow, it’s almost Christmas Day! Wishing you a very special holiday surrounded by love and laughter. I’m so looking forward to spending the next few days with my Mum and Dad, my brother and his family, and my honey.
With warmth and huge thanks,
PS. Because of the time of the year, you may want to watch me painting a branch of holly 🙂
Opus Art Store Pastel Demo
Wow, did I ever have a fun day on Sunday doing my pastel demo!! I can’t believe I’m saying that what with a bit of anxiety days before around the whole thing – what was I going to paint? how nervous would I be? how would it turn out?
I got there in plenty of time to set up, do a thumbnail sketch, and then get the initial charcoal sketch done on the Wallis paper I was using. Then I was ready. And suddenly, it was 11am, the store was open and there were about 20 people flowing into the chairs. I was surprised to see only a couple of people I knew. (With luck, I may have a few new subscribers to this blog :-))
I spoke a bit about pastel choices and the benefit of using a limited palette, about types of paper, and then I got into the demo. I really tried to make a point of verbalizing what was going on in my head as well as what I was doing on paper, rather than just drift into the ‘zone’ and work. It seemed to go pretty well! I was lucky to have an appreciative and encouraging audience who appeared to enjoy the pastel demo and find it useful. I’m glad that, in the end, I chose a subject I had painted before and also that I did a simple set up.
I don’t have progression steps but I do have a photo of the setup, my thumbnail sketch, the pastels I used from my limited palette of Schminke, and the demo at the end. (Kicking myself that I didn’t get a shot of the area with everyone in it!) The two hours flew by and of course I lost track of time so near the end, I needed to get to the highlights before I would normally indulge myself with this treat.
Take a look.
Yes, doing the pastel demo at Opus was really a great experience for me!!
I am honoured to be chosen as the feature artist for December on the Pastel Artists Canada Facebook Page. Check it out here!
That’s it for this time. Love hearing from you!!
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,
Yay, I just released a new pastel demo on YouTube. A lot of people have asked me about how I see colour? Well this video tells you a little bit about just that.
Here’s the thumbnail I did before the pastel. You can see it’s divided up into three values. As long as you understand values, you really can go crazy with colour. Just make sure your colour corresponds to the value that you want to reproduce.
Here’s the set up of pears in life (well in a photograph of the pears in life – gets complicated!).
And here’s the same set up in black and white so you can see the values:
Here’s the initial drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper:
I didn’t show the full range of pastels in the video, just the outside of the box and later, the 11 pastels used. So here’s the whole collection of pastels:
I don’t usually use Holbein pastels for a whole piece but I’m rather pleased with the way this one turned out! And here it is:
It’s amazing, as children we use colour intuitively and we are completely happy with the results. As we get older and ‘wiser’ we may be influenced by those who surround us (parents, teachers, friends) who with good intentions, direct us to a different choice of colours, one that more ‘realistically’ matches the outside world. They are safe colours, predictable and bearing a recognizable resemblance to the subject being painted. But there comes a time when we want more, we want to give expression to some inner calling of colour. We are bored and we want to break out of the rut we are in. And this is where learning to see colour comes in.
With practice, you can see colour. I find that some days I can ‘see’ colour better than others so beware of days like that and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Keep an eye out for that unexpected colour that just punches out at you when you least expect it. You know, when you turn to look at something and before your brain kicks in to recognize what you’ve just seen, you see that pure violet patch on the street. (When your mind figures it out, you’ll find the colour simmers down into a grey sort of asphalt colour.)
Rather than think of the rules and colour theory as you paint, just look. Sit and look until some colour emerges and put it down on the paper. It’s exciting stuff!!!
Let me know how you make out seeing colour in your next piece okay? I do want to hear from you! Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post – I attached them all to the blog. You can see them, and my responses, by clicking here to go to the post.
Until next time,
PS. Speaking of seeing colour, do you know Harry Chapin’s song “Flowers Are Red”? It’s such a sad one….and it’s all about seeing colour!!! Click on the image to hear it.