Yay! It’s time for another pastel round-up. Apologies for the delay. I was in Ontario last week teaching at the ICAN Pastel Conference (fabulous experience and students!!) and also visiting my sister and her family. Then, on my return home, I headed straight into a five-day workshop which just ended today. I pulled this blog post together over a series of evenings and here it is finally! I started with 81 choices and, as always, was distressed about cutting down the list to only 10! Let’s have a look at May’s marvellous pastels.
Exuberant – that’s the word that comes to mind when I look at this pastel by Tom Weinkle. There’s a feeling of direct response to the scene both in the energetic mark-making and the colours. The two palms erupt like fireworks against cloud-filled sky. The predominantly cool colour palette of blues and greens (in sky, clouds, trees and buildings) are balanced by an injection of small amounts of warm yellows and reds and hints of pink. The grey clouds create a neutral canvas for the colours to sing against. This is a portrait of nature in an urban setting – where the ever changing life of plants and sky play out against the solidity of manmade structures. I love the way, in contradiction to what we might expect, the sky is painted in over the clouds. To see more of Weinkle’s work, check his website.
This painting vibrates with life. Nature in all her glory, shimmers. For me this painting is about the life we don’t see in nature. Nature is all around us but we don’t look deeply enough to see the energy that it exudes. The whole wood glows and we are led toward the area of light that is so bright it blinds us to what is beyond. Is this a place to find answers to questions? Is it a place to begin to see ourselves more clearly? There’s much about this painting that reminds me of the work of Paul Cezanne – the colours, the overall design, the application of medium. It’s a painting of greens with very little use of the colour green! To see more of Gallo’s work (she is known for her digital work), click here.
The previous painting brought to mind nature spirits. This one, painted in Mt Rainer National Park, presents more of a sense of a specific place. Yet there’s a feeling of magic and faery. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the knights of KIng Arthur coming across the hill or perhaps elven folk popping into the scene. If my upbringing had been a First Nation one, I could imagine figures from that mythology emerge. The greens, the softness and dampness of the wood after the rain, the smell of earth and moss, the dripping from trees – all contribute to the feeling of earthliness. And yet there is also the feeling of otherworldliness. Indeed, a sacred place. Go here to see more of St John’s work.
From the cool of the forest we travel to the warmth of the desert. We are presented with a complex arrangement of cliff ormations flooded with intense New Mexico light. Although Brooke uses a broad colour array of warm and cool and saturated and muted colours to depict both shadow and lit areas, she sets the whole palette on a simple underlying pattern of three strips of geological formation – sky, cliffs, and rising land. This fundamental design helps to ground the intricacy and detail of the landscape. Dark trees help to break up and add depth to the otherwise stark and flattened foreground. Our eyes travel easily around the piece, along the soft curves of the clouds that echo the shape of the land, over to the sentinels of rock on the right, then swoop down the scree led by the dark daubs, to finally arrive at the sunlit rocks on the left from where we can explore the cliffs. Note that all this takes place in a pastel just a little larger than a paperback book! See more of Brooke’s work here.
We go now to Joseph Gregor’s tender portrait of his aunt. We look into the direct gaze of this woman. Experience and the weariness of life are evident but so is a sense of a life fully lived. Still, an expression of worry veils her face. Does she worry what life will bring her nephew and later generations? The beautifully rendered folds of soft aging flesh, the life affirming rosy colour contrasted with the sallowness of yellow, the clear grey eyes, the hatching of pastel over painterly side strokes seen in the hair and skin, the attention to the pattern on the dress fabric and the jewelled necklace, the chopped unruly hair, all reveal a likeness created with love and honouring for this woman. I’m sure if this picture could speak, she’d have much wisdom to offer us. To see more of Gregor’s work, have a look at here. (I was unable to locate a website.)
Here we have the ingredients for tea making but for me, this painting by Adrian Frankel Giuliani is all about the joy of the painting process and using the medium of pastels in that process. It’s about the application of marks to create colour notes; to create various textures of cloth, of liquid, of ceramic, of metal, of glass, of fibre; to create the feeling of lightness and heaviness, of dimension, of time and space, of abstraction and reality; to create an emotion that is attached to the ritual of teatime and and the delight that it brings. It’s about the physicality of pastel as it’s transferred through the hand to paper. It’s about the artist’s direct and perhaps intuitive response to what’s there in front of her as well as to the idea of tea. The colours are mostly muted but in their energy I sense colour. As a lover of pentimenti and seeing the original underdrawing (the artist’s original transference of an idea), I’m enchanted by the visible preparatory lines in this piece. See more of Giuliani’s work on her website.
I’ve recently been enjoying many of Bob Richey Jr.’s paintings with their expressive directness but it’s this one I chose for May’s marvellous pastels collection. Why this one? Primarily because of the emotional discomfort and tension I feel while looking at it. I also enjoy the abstract design of dark and light rectangular shapes across the surface of the paper. But let’s get back to my emotional response. Here we have a brightly lit alleyway. All should be safe but for some reason, despite all the rich colours, in the starkness of illumination, I feel anxiety rising. It’s as if the overly bright lighting signifies a lurking danger. It’s a place I’d rather not be. I’m fascinated that I have this reaction and am thus drawn to and repelled by the painting at the same time. The place is empty of life except for the ladder which reminds me of stories that end unhappily for example Romeo and Juliet. Human life is also indicated by the lit window on the far left, the only place of possible welcoming and warmth – or is it? You can see more of Richey Jr.’s work here.
In contrast to Richey Jr.’s painting we come to this much larger one by Christine Ivers which for me, brings forth a feeling of peace and calm. The stillness reveals that time of night when most are asleep. I can hear the crackle of frost as the evening sinks into cold and quiet. The painting feels much lighter than it actually is. Squint and it dissolves into a mostly dark painting. Ivers’s adeptness with values and temperature gives us a painting of night illuminated by warmth and in this way safety is suggested – there’s nothing to be afraid of here. Ives utilizes black paper beautifully to create a deep darkness. She also prepares the paper to create a textured surface for the pastel. This seemingly random roughness adds another dimension and life to the painting that otherwise may have a flatness to its darkness. I love the mystery that’s enhanced by the thickly branched bush that obscures what’s lit in the glowing lights beyond it and the car. Check Ivers’s website for more night scenes.
Here we have a painting with a similar complementary palette of dark blue and muted orange to the one above. I was both taken and confounded by this pastel. What was I to make of this painting of a beautifully depicted young woman turned toward the dark? Her wings look battered and ruffled, hardly air worthy, and a single feather has come loose and falls. The speckles of white make me think of stardust and the potential for life. We think of angels as beings of light yet this figure hides in the darkness. Is this young lass a metaphor for the earth and her despair or does she represent young women in the flush of womanhood who consider suicide rather endure the anguish of hopelessness in their lives? Or is this simply a young woman grieving for something lost? What do you think? See more of Nelle Blanche’s work here. (I was unable to find a website for Blanche.)
This is a painting I’d like to see in the real. It seems so much larger than it is, seems expansive. The rigidity of a rectangle is torn and squeezed giving me the impression of order disturbed. Darkness is visible through the hole and around the upper and left edges but the main area of the painting is luminous and warm. Sanford has built up transparent layers of colour and texture. Her exploration of the effects of combining pastel, gesso, and gel medium and her surrendering to process has resulted in this piece that excites and elicits questions in this viewer. The title of the painting comes into play as I ponder the painting. Reckoning – in this a reckoning faced by the artist or is the image informing me of my own reckoning, my own balancing and judgement? I keep looking and seeing more. I oscillate between wanting to probe and scrutinize each small part and then stepping back to view the entire painting as a whole. To see more of Sanford’s work, click here.
And so that’s it! What do you think about May’s marvellous pastels? Do any of them resonate emotionally for you? I’d love to hear from you so I encourage you to leave a comment on the blog.
Until next time (which will be sooner than later!),