Ohhhh it’s been awhile since I wrote a pastel painting roundup. They do take me a long time to create – compiling images, making choices, finding something interesting and intelligent to say, writing the piece for each pastel, editing, and final tweaking.
My choices for this pastel painting roundup (and all roundups) are personal as is my interpretation and analysis of each painting. They are dictated by an initial response to the piece followed by looking more closely at technical and design skills as well as the use of colour and value. These aren’t necessarily going to be award winners (although some are, and, I’m pleased to say, many later do win awards!) but I’m struck by something that makes me want to bring it your attention.
Let’s get cracking on this month’s pastel painting roundup!
When I saw this painting, I stopped in my tracks. That eye staring out at me couldn’t be ignored! Neither could I ignore the frisson of delight I felt at the various marks scratched every which way over the paper’s surface. Look closely and that’s all there is – lines scoring swaths of colour. And yet, somehow, the artist manages to convince us that we are looking at a face rather than a random collection of pastel strokes. Instead, we see eye, ear, nose, mouth, forehead, cheekbone, and chin. And this comes down to the skill of drawing; u
There’s a cool feel to this piece, not only in colour which tends towards
The painting is divided into mostly dark and light – the lit side of the face contrasts with the unlit part which disappears into the background. We cannot make out where
I was unable to locate a website to view more of Junhua Xu’s work.
This small portrait moves us emotionally. Intellect is out the window. Instead, we have a small portrait that expresses much about the sitter. We see a woman’s face – she smiles but the smile seems slightly forced as if to put on a ‘good face’. Her eyes tell us another story – one of worry whether with her personal life or the state of the world. Yet she smiles to put us at ease. This is the face of someone who is compassionate and caring, of a person full of the wisdom that comes from living life. Her hair is brushed away from her face in a casual way. She looks away from us, blue eyes slightly downcast, as if in her own thoughts.
The artist uses a muted and limited palette of creams and greyed pinks and grey to create the face. The only saturated colour is found in the background pattern. It could have been discordant but instead, lifts us and acts as a metaphor for hope. The values of the painting sit primarily in the middle range; the darks circle her face (her hair) and the lights accentuate the features of chin, nose, eye and cheekbone.
The tight crop puts all the focus on the face. The painting is about this woman’s face and all it expresses
I was unable to find a website for Martine van Es.
Another portrait! This time it’s an excuse for luscious colour, primarily rich purples and oranges accented with the third secondary colour green. This artist’s love of colour is clearly evident! She also understands how values relate to colour. Even though there’s vibrant colour throughout, there are clear areas of light, middle, and dark value shapes. Like the portrait above, this painting although saturated with colour, is mostly created with mid-value. The exceptions are the light thrown on the left side of the woman’s face and shoulder, and the darks of her hair and a small part of the background.
I want to bring your attention to this dark area of
Despite the bold use of colour, there’s something fragile and tender about this portrayal. The woman’s eyes are downcast, or perhaps even closed; we sense her vulnerability. As a viewer, I almost feel as if I’m intruding on her space and her
You can see more of Neva Rossi Smoll’s work on her website.
Another blast of colour with a similar palette to the painting above, this piece shows us a basic hotel room in a whole new light! Shapes of colour in different temperatures and value set out the pattern that has us read ‘room’; each has a purpose in navigating us around the space.
We spot the small green shape bound within the thin red lines of the doorway. These, in turn, direct us down to the three brightly coloured rectangular shapes. One is disturbed by the shape of a figure which gives us the clue we need to understand what we’re looking at – the pattern of light thrown on the floor as it comes through the hotel windows. And there we are – the viewer within the painting itself, standing by the window. Does the
The green triangle at the edge of the painting echoes the shape of the silhouette and leads us to the standing suitcase whose handle directs upward to another rectangle of yellow. And what’s this? It’s not until we come in for a closer examination that we understand what we’re looking at. What we see is a repeat of the pattern on the floor –
Once I understand the context, I can now relish the feeling I get looking at this painting. The linear scribbles revoke any peace I may have found here in the room. Instead, the texture of lines
You can see more of Gigi Horr Liverant’s work here.
From the vibrations of energy and warmth in the interior above, we come to this very muted scene outdoors in the cold of a winter afternoon. Take a breath and
Before we move, we follow the route of the track with our eyes. In the distance, thin strands of pink appear to block our way – is that a fence, or a ribbon of demarcation? The track seems to curve to the right. If that’s the case, what’s beyond the colourful barrier? From the subtle lightening of the darkness beyond, it appears a trail continues straight ahead. To answer that question, we’ll need to go closer. Sadly, the picture plane prevents us from solving this mystery and so we will have to let our imaginations take us where we want to go.
Divided equally between dark and light, if you look more carefully, you’ll see the painting is actually made up of lights (those swaths of creamy white with swipes of the palest blue that create a snowy resting place for the eye), and a dark middle value (subtle shifts of colours in the same value – greens, red-violets, purples – within a grey wall of trees beyond). The darkest areas of value take up only a small part of the work – the trunks of trees on the right and the conifers close by on the left. It’s these punctuations that insist on the illusion of depth. They also bring form and interest and along with the lines created by the track, a dynamism into what is a mostly quiet painting.
See more of Heidi Marshall’s work here.
This painting feels as if we have taken the track into the forest but here, it’s summer with the trees laden with masses of green leaves, so thick that hardly any light breaks through. What light there is at the end of the day, touches only the top of the canopy. The light lingers and we, in turn, linger, connecting with nature, opening our hearts to the heartbeat of the earth. It’s that time of day when all is closing down in preparation for the night. But take more time with the painting and you can feel the energy and chaos of growth, of life and vibrancy, in the trees themselves. I imagine the trees on tiptoe trying to catch and utilize the last of the sun’s rays.
A dark painting comprised mostly of various forms of purple – warm and cool, saturated and muted – we are nonetheless lifted emotionally by our presence in these woods and the sunlight that illuminates the treetops. Contrasting with the darks are the lights found only at the very top of the painting and also in the interrupted notes of sunlight on meadow seen through the trees.
The main stand of trees on the left is balanced by the single large tree and the smaller one behind it on the right. Between these two groups, we circle and visually poke through the undergrowth to the lit area beyond, and
Check out more of Susan M. Story’s work on her website.
And so it is that we see a result of nature’s fury. The artist records a place of destruction, one that most people would never consider a subject for a painting. But the artist’s eye sees what others cannot – the beauty in the lines, shapes, values, edges, and colours of the carnage left over from the ravages of the elements.
Primarily the colour red catches our attention. We stop to look only to find a scene of devastation. The painting is intentionally and seductively composed to encourage our movement through the piece. From upper left, we slide diagonally into the painting over the smooth surfaces of
This painting speaks to the beauty seen in the most ordinary and ugly of subjects, the way only an artist can reveal. I would also say it makes a statement: that we are fooling ourselves about our own permanence and power, that we are helpless against the force of nature. Another artwork that talks, however obliquely, to the need for all of us to help our planet (and ourselves).
Check out more of Tim Gaydos’s work here.
Speaking of nature and our connection with it, “Anima Mundi” refers to our universal or world soul. It’s about our connection to all things and each other. Interesting title for this painting of partial views of two women don’t you think? I spent a lot of time looking at this painting, pondering its possible meanings, constantly drawn back to it.
I wondered at first if the figures were the same person in different positions. The bodies look similar but the shape of the bra-type covering is unique for each. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily say that these are distinct figures but I’m going to say that it does. One figure sits, one reclines. We have no idea in what place they are situated, only that they are placed close together in the space. One of the things I noticed, especially as I drew back from the piece, is the horizontal line connecting the two bodies which somehow appear as butterfly wings on either side of the dividing line. This in itself speaks of fragility as well as strength and persistence. The bodies are cropped: we don’t see the full face of the top figure and we certainly don’t see entire limbs or appendages, only a small part of one hand. The lower figure appears to sleep, the upper figure may be watching over its twin.
The limited and neutral palette puts all attention on the shapes created by the severe cropping of the piece as well as on the relationship between the two women. The bodies are boldly and deftly drawn with pastel being used in a linear way to depict form and give texture. Lines are hatched vertically and diagonally – subject and background given equal consideration. The splattering of what may be watercolour is detected when you delve into the piece. Most of it is noticeable in the clothing with a wee bit visible in the upper section of the background.
I’m fascinated by the negative shapes along the edges of the painting where the cropping of bodies and background create small triangular light green shapes that surround and interrupt the figures. These women are ‘real’ in that they appear like the bodies of young women and yet they seem to be more metaphorical, representing women in general, offering some sort of narrative for each viewer to construct and take away. All is uncertain and yet there’s a feeling of balance in the tension created by that unknowing.
See more of Diane Rosen’s work here.
Ohhhh that courageous peachy pink background! We have a neutrally coloured subject of black and white but whoa! that background got me. Okay so it wasn’t just the background but that’s what really caught my attention. There’s also the look in the dog’s eyes – who could resist that? The dog looks off
There’s a deliberate path for us to follow around the painting. The animal’s eyes direct us to the right where we encounter the dark ear which falls towards the edge of the collar which sits on a patch of dark fur. Linked from dark to dark, we slide down Dottie’s black and white body, going from spot to spot. We find our way around to her chest where we can sense the anatomy of the dog beneath the skin. We rise, following the outer contour and
Back to the artist’s use of peachy pink, she also incorporates it subtly throughout the body of the dog – you can sense it under the white areas of fur on the chest and around the eyes. The collar also echoes the background colour. This and the deliberate use of negative space to create the body shape, tie Dalmation and background together.
See more of Michele Ashby’s work on her website.
From stillness to extreme movement and pure joy! A dog shakes off the water from… a sprinkler? a swim in the lake or sea? It doesn’t matter (and we are given no clues as to the source of the water). All that matters is the heartwarming feeling we get savouring this moment and our astonishment at the way the artist has captured it.
It’s hard to believe that we aren’t seeing the thick fur sway and swish under the force of the dog’s action, that we aren’t seeing actual motion. What contributes to this sense of movement? Well, there are the swipes of lavishly applied pastel that follow the direction of the fur as the dog rotates through its shake. Also look at the way the edge of the mouth lifts slightly as it follows the force of upward motion. An ear flies skyward too, revealing its inner pinkness. And then, of course, there are the sparks of water exploding off the body as thin white pastel marks zinging off in all directions – just as water being shaken off would move.
I’m taken by the colours of this piece, the contrast between warm and cool temperatures in areas of similar value, for example, the pale blues and pinky notes of the shadow side of the fur and the blues and reds of the middle value background. All of these together contrast with the light and warmth of the small areas lit by the sun. The shocking colour of the backlit ear with its delicious pinks and purples is echoed in a muted way in the colours of the background.
There is a wonderful simplicity in the value shapes – the light value of the entire dog sits against a
See more of Lisa Gleim’s work on her website.
And that’s it for the pastel painting roundup! I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment after the blog.
Tell me which is your favourite from the roundup and why. You can also add your own interpretation for any of the pieces. Or disagree with mine! I welcome your voice here. Take your time, review each piece carefully, and tell me what you think about my choices and
Until next time!