Tag Archives: Salt Spring Island

pastel finished? : Gail Sibley, "OverCast Day At The Beach," pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

Is This Plein Air Pastel Finished?

I think many of us artists have this problem – knowing when a painting is finished. Sometimes, without our realizing it, a painting is finished back a few steps. I know my tendency is to want to pick away, making the tiniest of tweaks. Often this can eradicate the spontaneity that was there especially when it comes to work done en plein air. We bring the piece back into the studio, study it, and then see the ‘flaws’ which we need to ‘correct’. Often these so called flaws are what bring the painting to vibrant life and ‘correcting’ them brings along a slow death. Unless we stop in time. And when is that time?

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En Plein Air: Another pondering. Even with all the lit grasses in lower part of the painting I felt the eye was still held by the house. So I softened the detailing of the siding and slightly greyed part of the yellow by glazing with light blue. Later I added the mauve to the upper portion of the wallto encourage the eye to move down. I also felt the third window kept your attention too much. I tried darkening it but in the end, decided to cover it with tree branches! After working at a few other bits and pieces, I signed it! Gail Sibley, "The Old Creamery," Schminke pastels on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

En Plein Air At The Old Creamery, Salt Spring Island

This summer on Salt Spring Island, I was fortunate to paint en plein air a few times with my Mum and Dad. I keep saying it but really, there’s nothing like painting on location for a rewarding experience, both in life and in technical and skills learning. So what did I learn this time?

Before I go on, let me tell you what attracted me to this scene. I have passed this place by car so many times and thought, I’d like to paint that! Why? Well first off, I’m a sucker for paths and roads that take us somewhere (obvious or hidden). I also love the light patterns made by trees over such paths. And I love yellow houses! This scene had all these elements in spades.

Let’s take a look at my progress. Continue reading

The Trouble with Workshops: Demoing thumbnails. Photos by P. Calvert

The Trouble With Workshops

Recently I taught a one-day workshop to 15 artists from the Salt Spring Island Painters Guild. As always when I teach, I had a marvellous time. It seemed the same was true for most of the participants going by the feedback on the evaluation forms. Having said that however, I want to talk about about the trouble with workshops.

First, a little background info. My workshops are generally geared towards beginners and in fact, it turned out that half the class had never used pastels before. As I’m often frustrated (and then so are the students!) by the low quality of the pastels brought by participants, I insisted the students come with a few GOOD pastels, which included some light, middle, and dark values, Continue reading

Plein Air Painting Of Trees…And More Trees!

 

So much for getting this post out by the end of August! What can I say – the summertime craziness has discombobulated me.

The Alaska cruise with my family was lovely (bar getting bitten by some insect which blew up my foot into an ugly puff ball). It was so wonderful to get together with my siblings, their mates, and my parents. Sad when it was over. But then we had the pleasure of my sister and her partner visiting for a fun couple of days. Now, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. 

Right, what’s on tap today. Well I thought I’d share the progression of a plein air painting of trees that I have just entered into the Sidney Fine Art Show (fingers crossed).

My Mum, Dad and I went out painting in July. Unusual for us, this was an afternoon outing (rather than a morning one). Since we would start losing light, we didn’t want to spend a whole heap of time looking for a spot so we settled on parking at the Long Harbour ferry terminal. There was water, trees, and buildings to choose from. Even so, I had a hard time committing to a scene. And then I turned around and saw this:

 

Trees and more trees near Long Harbour ferry terminal.

Trees and more trees near Long Harbour ferry terminal. I was attracted by the couple of arbutus trees and the white trunks of some other trees standing out from all the green. A challenge that’s for sure!

 

My drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper. Only the main shapes are indicated.

My drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper. Only the main shapes are indicated. (Apologies for the shadows – I couldn’t get set up completely in the shade.)

 

I've indicated the main shapes in pastel - primarily light and dark. You can see I also chose to show the temperature of the shapes - warm arbutus and light areas, cool shadow areas

I’ve indicated the main shapes in pastel – primarily light and dark. You can see I also chose to show the temperature of the shapes – warm arbutus and light areas, cool shadow areas.

 

Just after I have rubbed the whole thing with paper towel. This gives me an 'underpainting' to work on, one that has no wage of paper showing through.

Just after I have rubbed the whole thing with paper towel. This gives me an ‘underpainting’ to work on, one that has no white of paper showing through.

 

Because it was late in the day, the sun slipped behind a hill and then my strong sunlight disappeared leaving me with a very flat scene. Luckily, I had put in my values and so continued, using the underpainting as my guide.

Because it was late in the day, the sun slipped behind a hill leaving me with a very flat scene. Luckily, I had put in my values and so continued, using the ‘underpainting’ as my guide.

 

Here I have built up the forms. Much of it is lines of colour in the correct value.

Here I have built up the forms. Much of it is lines of colour in the correct value. (Again, apologies for the dappled light.)

 

Some darker areas introduced

Some darker areas of blue introduced.

 

Gail Sibley, "Trees And More Trees," pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

And here’s the finale of my plein air painting of trees…. Gail Sibley, “Trees And More Trees,” pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

 

The selection of pastels I used - all from Unison's starter kit except the one pink/mauve which is from Great American's starter box.

The selection of pastels I used – all from Unison’s starter kit except the one pink/mauve which is from Great American’s starter box.

 

My Mum and Dad painting out with me. (My Dad's down by the signpost.)

My Mum and Dad painting out with me. (My Dad’s down by the signpost.)

 

This painting was unusual for me. For one thing, there aren’t many layers. And for another, it painted itself like an abstract. I was in wonder at the end of the hour and a half. How did that happen??

 

Which reminds me to remind you that I am offering a pastel workshop, “Moving Towards Abstraction,” on Salt Spring Island on the last September weekend. You can read more about it here.  Please tell anyone you know who may be interested!

 

I do hope the progression of my plein air painting of trees was helpful. Did I leave something out? Let me know!!

 

Until next time,

~ Gail


PS. I know it’s not a pastel painting but I could not NOT tell you my good news!! I was awarded the GRAND PRIZE for “Perchance To Fly” in the Federation of Canadian Artist’s show Painting On The Edge – an open international juried show. This prestigious exhibition is difficult to get into and I was thrilled to have accomplished that but to win the top prize?? Unbelievable, unimaginable, unthinkable. But here it is, I won!!

Click here to go to the FCA’s webpage and see my work. And click here if you would like to see the painting’s progression.

Gail Sibley, "Perchance To Fly," mixed media, 16 x 16 in

Gail Sibley, “Perchance To Fly,” mixed media, 16 x 16 in

Painting on location at Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island

 

I have been back and forth to Salt Spring Island over the past few weeks, visiting my Mum and Dad and painting on location. It’s been so wonderful getting back to plein air painting. The weather has been superb – warm enough not to need a sweater but not so hot as to be uncomfortable. Just perfect!

I thought it’s about time I started sharing what I’ve been up to. So here’s the progression of a pastel I did in Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island. (This was the one time I went out alone so you’ll have to wait for another blog post to catch sight of my parents at work!)

Let’s take a boo.

 

1. Unison starter kit of pastels all ready to go! (Thumbnail sketches in the background.)

1. Great American starter kit of pastels all ready for painting on location! (Thumbnail sketches in the background.)

 

2. The scene I painted. What attracted my to paint it were those daisies contrasted against the dark background. Of course the picket fence and the delightful yellow house weren't too bad either!

2. The scene I painted. What attracted me to paint it were those daisies contrasted against the dark background. Of course the picket fence and the delightful yellow house weren’t too bad either!

 

3. I forgot to take a photo of the charcoal drawing on the white Wallis paper. Here I have applied pastel quickly in the three main areas of value.

3. I made a simple charcoal drawing on the white Wallis paper and then applied pastel in the three main areas of value.

 

4. The initial layer was rubbed gently with a paper towel to become a sort of underpainting. I have begun adding another layer of pastel.

4. The initial layer was rubbed gently with a paper towel to become a sort of underpainting. I have begun adding another layer of pastel.

 

5. I added more darks and began to delineate the fence by painting the negative space.

5. I added more darks and began to delineate the fence by painting the negative space.

 

6. Getting more into the details of the scene, particularly the leaves of the rhodo bush

6. Getting more into the details of the scene, particularly the leaves of the rhododendron.

 

7. Finally I get to the daisies! This is as far as the pastel got on location. Is it finished? I'm not sure yet. The thing is, when you are back in the studio, the temptation is to 'tidy' things up and before you know it, you've lost the vitality that comes with painting on location. When the weather becomes overcast, I'll pull it out again and have a look. In the meantime, it's as finished as it can be :-)

7. Finally I get to the daisies! This is as far as the pastel got on location. Is it finished? I’m not sure yet. The thing is, when you are back in the studio, the temptation is to ‘tidy’ things up and before you know it, you’ve lost the vitality that comes with painting on location. When the weather becomes overcast, I’ll pull it out again and have a look. In the meantime, it’s as finished as it can be 🙂
Gail Sibley, “Dowry House, Vesuvius,” pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in.

 

8. And here are the 15 Great American pastels I used

8. And here are the 15 Great American pastels I used.

 

There is really nothing like painting on location!!

 

Here’s a quote about painting on location that I think is so true.

Feel free to Pin it if you agree!

 

Charles Muench quote about painting on location

You can see some of Charles Muench’s work by clicking here.

 

Painting on Location – upcoming video and contest!

On another topic, as you may have noticed in my Summer Newsletter, I’m working on a video about painting on location that will be for sale. I would love your input as to what information you would like to see included. What are your questions, your hesitations, about pastelling en plein air? Please let me know in the next few days as I am hoping to finish the voiceover and editing next week. Anyone who offers some input will be included in a draw for a free copy when I release it!! So come on, ask away!

 

Thanks for being here. You know I’d love to hear your comments about this post!

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

 

Plein air painting on Salt Spring – A Visit to the Vineyards

A couple of weeks ago, I went to visit my Mum and Dad on Salt Spring. It had been a while since I’d spent some time with them and although I have good friends on SSI and always want to visit everyone, I decided to spend the time wholly with my parents. We planned to paint plein air and that’s what we did.

We ended up at Mistaken Identity Vineyards, a delightful place to spend part of the day pastelling en plein air. Here is the progression from first thought to final piece (finished in the studio).

The initial thumbnail sketch, 1.25 x 1.5 in - so the size in the post is way to large!!!

The initial thumbnail sketch, 1.25 x 1.5 in – so the size in the post is way to large!!!

I did a second thumbnail to redesign the composition slightly - showing more of the vineyard and less of the trees in the distance

I did a second thumbnail to redesign the composition slightly – showing more of the vineyard and less of the trees in the distance. I also played around with the angle of the row of vines and went more with the alignment in the first sketch.

 

Here's the sketchy charcoal drawing on Wallis paper.

Here’s the sketchy charcoal drawing on Wallis paper – just a bare indication of the design. You’ll notice it’s WHITE Wallis where I usually use beige or toned-with-watercolour paper (as in my demo videos). This was something I hadn’t dealt with before, certainly not en plein air.

 

The Schminke pastel selection I have to choose from. These pastels come in a beautiful wooden box. They are perfect for plein air painting!

The Schminke pastel selection I had to choose from. These pastels come in a beautiful wooden box. They are perfect for plein air painting!

 

Here comes the first colour. I applied then brushed with a paper towel, trying to cover the glaring white paper!

Here comes the first colour. I applied the pastel then brushed with a paper towel, trying to cover the glaring white paper! There was a deep shadow on the right hand side of the vines, hence the deep blue.

 

Now I pretty much have the white covered. It's time to dive in!

Now I pretty much have the white paper covered. It’s time to dive in! One of the things that attracted me to doing the scene was the light coming between the twisted stems of the grapes. Here I have begun the barest indication of them. I’ve also strengthened the far edge where the vines meet the background trees.

 

The first indications of a second layer

The first indications of a second layer

 

More pastel added. Moving along slowly, I build up layers. I am using a limited palette of Schminke pastels (as seen above) so need to create the colour I see with only a few pastels.

More pastel added. Moving along slowly, I build up layers. I am using a limited palette of Schminke pastels (as seen above) so need to create the colour I see with only a few pastels.

 

Pretty much how I left the pastel on site. By now the sun had moved around so much that the only cast shadows to be seen where right under the vines. Time to pack up and leave.

Pretty much how I left the pastel on site. By now the sun had moved around so much that the only cast shadows to be seen where right under the vines. Time to pack up and leave.

 

But that wasn’t quite the end of the story. Mistaken Identity Vineyards were holding a summer celebration that Sunday and it was just beginning to get underway. The local newspaper’s photographer, Jen MacLellan, was on hand and snapped a few shots of me pastelling en plein air.

 

And the following Wednesdaythis fine photo of me appeared in the Driftwood newspaper!

 

Gail's photo in the Driftwood Newspaper

Gail’s photo in the Driftwood Newspaper

 

So much for a quiet sneak onto Salt Spring. I hadn’t let anyone other than my parents know I was visiting and now everyone knew I’d been on the island!!! Cracked me up I’ll tell you. 🙂

Here’s a view of the vines I was painting:

 

Vines at Mistaken Identity Vineyards

Vines at Mistaken Identity Vineyards

 

And here’s the final pastel after a bit of tweaking in the studio. You can see I warmed up the backlit vines as well as the ground. I also added some mauve areas, for instance, in among the background trees.

 

Gail Sibley, "Pinot Gris," pastel, 9 x 12 in

Gail Sibley, “Pinot Gris,” pastel, 9 x 12 in.

So remember, beware of sneaking around in vineyards!

Before I leave, I wanted to let you know that I will be teaching a two-day plein air pastel workshop on Salt Spring 24-25th of August. If you are on my list of people interested in workshops, you will receive an email with more details in the next couple of days. If you are not on that list and would like more info, please let me know. And I encourage you to spread the word to anyone who might be interested! It’s open to all levels.

Thanks for spending this time with me. If you have any questions about this process or about painting en plein air, please leave a comment with your query.

Thanks so much for reading.

~ Gail