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:
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.
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.
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!”]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
PS. To read more about how this monthly blog came about, click here.