Tag Archives: Portrait

Pastel Marvels – Have A Look At My March Choices!

 

Hello hello,

Once again it’s the end of the month and so it’s time for my personal and totally subjective selection of 10 pastel marvels for March. I’ve chosen these 10 from the many I have come across over the last 31 days. As always, I’ve had a difficult time choosing my self-imposed 10 choices. I started with 53 pastels, made a fairly easy whittle down to 27, and then the work began! Once I got it down to 13, I flipped through the images over and over, took a break, and did the same thing again. I had to make the cuts though and now have 10. There’s so much fabulous work out there and that makes it ever so difficult to choose!

The pieces here are ones that made me look again and again. They may not be by well-known artists but I believe they deserve to be here. That’s my own personal take of course!

I have to say that I have sort of, um, cheated (is that the correct word?) and not included in my long list, pastels posted in the last couple of days as accepted entries into the IAPS show. I already had a stack of wonderful pastels and adding those to the mix would have done me in! Those pastel marvels will just have to wait until April.

Okay, let’s look at the pastel marvels line-up for this month:

 

pastel marvels: Bun Hui Ang, "Self Portrait," pastel, 21 5/8 x 14 5/8 in

Bun Hui Ang, “Self Portrait,” pastel, 21 5/8 x 14 5/8 in

I love the directness of the gaze in this self-portrait. Having just worked on one recently, I know that intense look – it’s the look of deep self-scrutiny in the mirror! There is the sense of the softness of the pastel but it’s also combined with the linear quality of pastel often seen in Degas’ pastels. The simplicity of colour in shirt and background focus all our attention on the face and the character of this person. There is muted light – I feel this was painted in an interior room with a single light source. Who is this man? What is on his mind? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a website or anything for Bun Hui Ang except his Facebook profile. I suggest you go there to see more work.

 

 

pastel marvels: Lyn Diefenbach, "The Traveller (Self Portrait)," pastel on paper, 22 x 15 in

Lyn Diefenbach, “The Traveller (Self Portrait),” pastel on paper, 22 x 15 in

Lyn is most well-known for her incredible portraits of flowers and I actually had one of these paintings on my short list but I just fell for her self-portrait. (Click here to see more of Lyn’s pastels including her dazzling florals.) Unlike the self-portrait by Bun Hui Ang (which is almost exactly the same size), in this one we see the face lit by the sunlight and surrounded by an amazing array of fabrics and textures of various clothing. You might think it would all get a bit distracting but inevitably, we are drawn back to her luminous eyes as they look away from us, perhaps viewing the passing landscape. It brings up questions – where is this woman going? why is she dressed so warmly if she’s inside a travelling compartment? The story becomes an integral part of the pastel.

 

 

pastel marvel: Orit Reuben," Jenny in a Purple Dress," pastel, 18 x 12 in

Orit Reuben,” Jenny in a Purple Dress,” pastel, 18 x 12 in

If you know me, you know that I was drawn to this piece not only because it’s a figure but because of its colour and the vigorous and direct mark-making. There’s not a lot of fussing in this pastel, the stroke is applied and left as is. This piece is a great example for showing the concept that if you know values, you can play with colour! I like the way the paper (Wallis Belgian Mist perhaps?) has been left bare. Go see more of Orit’s work here.

 

[tweet “If you understand value, you can go wild with colour!”]

 

 

pastel marvels: September McGee, "Remembering," pastel on colourfix panel, 16 x 12 in

September McGee, “Remembering,” pastel on colourfix panel, 16 x 12 in

Another woman dressed in purple, this pastel gives us a different style of mark-making. Whereas the previous pastel was all about using the side of the pastel in various directions, this one is much about vertical marks made with the tip of the pastel. The skin, sofa, and pillow edging, all get the same basic colour treatment yet are readable for what they are. In some of my own work, I have been working with blurring the edges between subject and background and you can see this is also going on here successfully. I have to say I was very taken with the limpid eyes and the beautifully executed hand on the right of the painting. To see more of September’s work, click here.

 

 

pastel marvel: Ann Caldwell Kelly, "Lantern Light," pastel, 24 x 30 in

Ann Caldwell Kelly, “Lantern Light,” pastel, 24 x 30 in

Speaking of taken, I fell in love with this abstract piece. I am mesmorized by the warm glowing colours, by the pattern, and by the movement through the piece from light to dark. I love the play between geometric and organic shapes. And then there are those surprising ribbon-like blue bands that move from top to bottom. The pastel wouldn’t be the same without them. You can bring your own interpretation to the piece as I feel the title gives nothing away. Are you looking at reflections or are you looking through plant leaves to an indistinct view of buildings beyond? I keep looking and I keep seeing. Go see more of Ann’s work on her website.

 

 

pastel marvels: Pascale Peterlongo, "Lacalognes," pastel, 19 3/4 x 19 3/4 in

Pascale Peterlongo, “Lacalognes,” pastel, 19 3/4 x 19 3/4

This evocative pastel feels the total opposite to Ann’s piece above. Here my eye is soothed by the calm and the light. Yet all is not peaceful. Thunder may be heard in the distance as the trees are illuminated against a dark and potentially rainy sky. The piece is almost abstracted with minimal indication of details – we see sky, water, trees and possibly a few houses of light sparking along a line that cuts through the picture about a third from the bottom. I had many more landscapes in my March possibilities but this is the one that spoke most to me emotionally. See more of Pascale’s dreamy work on his website. The text is in french but the language of his art is universal.

 

 

pastel marvels: Jen Evenhus, "Show Girls," pastel on UArt paper, 12 x 9 in

Jen Evenhus, “Show Girls,” pastel on UArt paper, 12 x 9 in

I have been wanting to include one of Jen’s pastels for a while now and happily, this pastel made it onto my list. Jen is a master of colour and of the use of negative painting. You can see she thinks about shape rather than objects. All shapes intersect each other whether subject or background – all are equally important. This pastel basically uses two complimentary colours with the addition of a warm white and a warm dark. The paper beneath creates a third warming colour. I also love the energetic marks that are applied every which way – bam bam and they are on! This piece exudes vitality. See more of Jen’s work here.

 

 

pastel marvels: Jerry Boyd, "Viewing The Sargents," pastel, 12 x 24 in

Jerry Boyd, “Viewing The Sargents,” pastel, 12 x 24 in

This may be familiar as it is currently the banner for the Pastel Society of America Facebook group. The artist Jerry Boyd is the featured artist this month. And even though it has been seen by many, I just had to include it. I love its style, its colour, its format, its composition. And I’m a sucker for the work of John Singer Sargent! (Have a read of my blog about his fall from grace!) As a museum and art gallery goer, I am often entertained by the viewers themselves and find much there to capture. Jerry has done this masterfully here, giving us both a narrative and a beautiful painting. Don’t you just love all the colour in the plain old walls and the wood floor?! Jerry had quite the career in billboard painting but you will find little of that info as I was unable to locate a website of his work. Visit him on Facebook.

 

 

pastel marvels: Pirkko Makela-Haapalinna, "Memories," underpainting with inks, Sennelier and Terry Ludwig pastels on light grey PastelMat, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 in

Pirkko Makela-Haapalinna, “Memories,” underpainting with inks, Sennelier and Terry Ludwig pastels on light grey PastelMat, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 in

And now for something completely different! This abstract pastel gives us much to chew on. Obviously the iconic shape of house/home is front and centre but what is happening? The house is often seen as a feminine symbol and a place of sanctuary. This house is without a roof which can mean something less than happy in a literal sense but often the roof represents the head and our controlling aspect so in this case perhaps we have a spiritually open heart. There also is a feeling of roots and I could read this as nature taking over manmade objects. Just a few thoughts tossed out at you. 🙂 Needless to say, I was intrigued by this piece and delighted that it was created in pastels over an ink suggestion. You can see more of Pirkko’s work here.

 

 

pastel marvels: Anna Bardzka Spychala, "Self Portrait," pastel, 11 3/4  x 7 7/8 in

Anna Bardzka Spychala, “Self Portrait,” pastel, 11 3/4 x 7 7/8 in

And finally, because this post has a preponderance of portraits I thought I’d add one more to give them 50% of the weight. I am continually drawn back to this face that stares back at me. Like the piece above, although it has a literal subject – here, the face – there seems to be so much more available for us to interpret. The colour split between blue and yellow, cool and warm, helps us along in this direction, as does the expressive mark-making. You can feel the hand of the artist moving, gesturing over the paper. This is a face that asks us to look, and look again more deeply. See more Anna’s work here.

 

And that’s all she wrote!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these pastel marvels. Did any of them stand out for you? Were you surprised by any of my inclusions? Feel free to let me know! Go on, leave a comment 🙂

 

Here’s to pastels!!

 

~ Gail

 

PS. To read more about how this monthly blog came about, click here.

 

 

Giovanni Boldini – “Girl In A Black Hat”

 

Back in April of this year, Don Gardi posted a portrait on the Pastel of America Facebook site – “Girl in a Black Hat” by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931). Not only was this a stunning pastel but it was by an artist I was only vaguely familiar with. I was so impressed with the portrait I thought I’d share a close look at it with you. Here’s the portrait:

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl In A Black Hat," 1890, pastel on paper, 23 1/4 x 13 in (59 x 33 cm), Private Collection

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl In A Black Hat,” 1890, pastel on paper, 23 1/4 x 13 in (59 x 33 cm), Private Collection

 

Stunning isn’t it?! The combination of energetic marks and the delicate work in the face took my breath away. It has a very contemporary feel to it yet was done in 1890! And have you noticed how much black pastel he used?!

Boldini was born in Italy but after studying in various countries in Europe, he made his home in Paris. He is most known for his portraits of elegant and beautiful women, becoming the foremost portrait artist in Paris in the 1890s. In 1933, he was dubbed the “Master of Swish” in a Time magazine article.

Okay, back to the “Girl in a Black Hat.”

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail. This is a fabulous example of an artist using negative space to carve out the contour of the object. Look at how Boldini used the light blue pastel to create the contour of the black hat. He applied it thickly over the turquoise colour below.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail. This is a fabulous example of an artist using negative space to carve out the contour of the object. Look at how Boldini used the light blue pastel to create the contour of the black hat. He applied it thickly over the turquoise colour beneath.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of ear. One of the most difficult transitions in a portrait is that between skin and the hair on the head. Look at how Boldini first indicated the hair then softened the transition by pulling the white of the skin over the pony where hair meets skin. You can also see that he indicates the top of the ear where previously it appears the hair covered the top of the ear.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of ear. One of the most difficult transitions in a portrait is that between skin and the hair on the head. Look at how Boldini first indicated the hair then softened the transition by pulling the white of the skin over the place where hair meets skin. You can also see that he indicated the top of the ear where previously it appears the hair covered the top of the ear.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the material that held the hat on the head. With just a few strokes in a purply pastel, Boldini indicates the material that wishes around the neck to hold the hat in place. This material appears to cascade in front as seen in the next image.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the material that held the hat on the head. With just a few strokes in a light purply pastel, Boldini indicated the material that wrapped around the neck to hold the hat in place. This material appears to cascade down as seen in the next image.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of material. Although it's unclear whether this material is part of the hat (I believe it is) or the dress, you can reach out and touch its translucency!

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of material. Although it’s unclear whether this material is part of the hat (I believe it is) or the dress, you can reach out and touch its translucency. Boldin delicately inscribed the pale purple pastel like a veil over the black to give us the sense of the fabric.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the girl's hair and eyes. How easily Boldini creates the  red hair of his model. I love the way a few dark lines represent wisps on the right side and a few lines of burnt orange reveal the escaping strands over her eyes. And those eyes! Beautifully and confidently depicted.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the girl’s hair and eyes. How easily Boldini created the red hair of his model. I love the way a few dark lines represent wisps on the right side and a few lines of burnt orange reveal the escaping strands over her eyes. And those eyes! Beautifully and confidently depicted.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of mouth, chin and neck. Look at the way Boldini applies the same light purple pastel used in the highlights of the dark fabric to the neck and to the left side of the face, revealing light reflecting on the face from the dark material of her dress.

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of mouth, chin and neck. Look at the way Boldini applied the same light purple pastel to the neck and to the left side of the face as he used in the highlights of the dark fabric. On her cheek, it reveals the light reflecting on the face from the dark material of her dress.

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail of the girl's shoulder. The shoulder barely suggested by a contour line and the folds of the dress coming from her underarm. There is a straight line cutting across near the top of the shoulder. Why is it there? Does it indicate where Boldini thought the pastel might be cropped?

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail of the girl’s shoulder. The shoulder barely suggested by a contour line and the folds of the dress coming from her underarm. There is a straight line cutting across near the top of the shoulder. Why is it there? Does it indicate where Boldini thought the pastel might be cropped?

 

Giovanni Boldini, "Girl in a Black Hat" - detail. Here we can compare the delicacy of the face with the vigorous strokes of the background. These hatchings gives the whole painting a strength it may not have had with a more gentle handling. The robust lines also give the girl a sense of vitality and assurance. What do you think?

Giovanni Boldini, “Girl in a Black Hat” – detail. Here we can compare the delicacy of the face with the vigorous strokes of the background. These hatchings gives the whole painting a strength it may not have had with a more gentle handling. The robust lines also give the girl a sense of vitality and assurance. What do you think?

 

I couldn’t find any information about the painting other than the basic facts regarding medium and size. Who is this young woman? Was the pastel produced in preparation for a full scale painting? I’d sure love to know! In 1890, Boldini painted two portraits of John Singer Sargent who was living at the time in London. This would suggest that Boldini was in England when he produced the “Girl in the Black Hat” so perhaps the young woman is an ‘english rose.’

Well that’s it for now. I’d love to hear what you think about the portrait. Are there things you’d like to point out that I haven’t? I encourage you to do so!

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Fearful of the Nazis, a young woman fled her Parisian apartment, locking it up and apparently never returning. In 2010, the executors of a will discovered the existence of the apartment and had it opened. In it, they found many artworks and most importantly, an unknown painting by Boldini. To read more, click here and here. You will note some conflicting dates: the date Marthe de Florian fled Paris and the date the painting was created. I have taken the date of the painting as 1888 when Marthe de Florian was 24 years old. Apparently, she and Boldini were lovers (which might explain the rather sensuous quality of the painting!) And yes, Boldini would have been 46 years old.

Here’s the painting they found. It will certainly give you an idea of Boldini’s style – such lush and vigorous brushstrokes!

Giovanni Boldini, "Portrait of Marthe de Florian, 1888, oil on canvas, size unknown, Private Collection

Giovanni Boldini, “Portrait of Marthe de Florian, 1888?, oil on canvas, size unknown, Private Collection. The darker area at the bottom of the painting and the placement of Boldini’s signature suggest to me that the painting was originally cropped under his name, cropped by wrapping the canvas around the stretcher bars rather than being cut. As with the “Girl in a Black Hat,” I was unable to find much info on this painting, not even where it was auctioned.