You all know how much I love colour! I love using it, I love seeing it, I love the feeling it gives! And I think this month’s guest, Clarence Porter, loves colour as much as I do 🙂
I encountered Clarence’s work for the first time at the ICAN conference and exhibition in Aurora, Ontario, Canada back in 2016. There was a large horizontal painting of an expanse of land, sea, and sky. You couldn’t help but notice this painting full of glorious, rich colour. And so I began to follow this artist’s work. A couple years ago, I included his one of his pastels in a round-up blog. You can see and read about it here.
Recently, I’ve begun noticing Clarence’s work popping up all over social media. It was like a neon sign from the universe – get this artist on your blog!! Happily, when I asked, in spite of a heavy schedule, Clarence Porter said YES!
Don’t know his work? Here’s a teaser.
Before I hand the blog over to Clarence, here’s a wee bit about him.
Clarence Porter Bio
Clarence Porter PAC, MPAC, PSA worked in the Toronto advertising world as an art director/freelance illustrator, a career spanning 40 plus years. Moving to Hamilton Ontario, Clarence pursued working in soft pastels and after receiving an Honourable Mention in the 2006 Pastel Artist Canada Purely Pastels Exhibition, he never looked back.
Clarence’s work is represented by Earls Court Gallery in Hamilton Ontario. He instructs at the Dundas Valley School of Art and is an occasional instructor at the Aurora Cultural Centre and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. He is also a part-time instructor at the Sheridan College in the Visual and Creative Arts Department. You can learn more about Clarence and see more of his work by going to his website.
And now a big welcome to Clarence Porter!
One of the first things I tell my college students and my workshop participants is that colours don’t matter if the values are right. However, colours do matter and I love bold ones – with the right values of course. When they are handled correctly, all the elements work seamlessly together. Just look at Henri Matisse’s “Odalisque in Red Shalvarah” or the many contemporary pastel painters that I call my pastel heroes.
It’s not original to say I love working with pastels because of their intensity of colours and their immediacy, but I do. With the range of colours I have at my disposal and the ease of application, I can convey not only colours but feelings, quickly. No mixing paint or waiting for paints to dry. I can set the mood for a painting simply with the choices of these amazing colour sticks – pastels.
And if I’m not happy with how the painting is working, I can take a cheap bristle brush and kneaded eraser, and remove the unresolved areas then layer over top of them with more colour. Pastels are very forgiving that way.
In my past life as an art director and freelance illustrator, I learned focus and discipline. I also learned a respect for the mediums I worked in, whether markers, inks, scratchboard, acrylics, or computer-generated art. I had just touched the surface with pastels in my earlier days but artist Tim Daniels gave me my official introduction into the possibilities of the medium. Tim knew bold colours as well as good design.
Why bold colours? I think my art reflects my life outlook and I think my use of bold colour palettes are my attempts at portraying the world in a brighter light. That’s my best guess.
I also see more than the brown bark of trees, the grey of shadows, or the green of leaves. I see the purples and blues in the tree bark, the oranges in the leaves and grass, the magentas and mauves in rusted metal, and the multitude of colours in the shadows. It’s all there. You just have to see it. Not look. See.
I find beauty in the contrast of the everyday. Whether it’s plumes of billowing smoke against steel factory stacks or long shadows racing across the ground, there is beauty to be found. Whether I’m walking through my neighbourhood, or climbing up to the hermitage atop a hill in the south of France, my inspirations are simple and everywhere.
Do I choose my colour palette beforehand? Up until my last series, “The Reaching”, I never preplanned my work: no thumbnails, grey scale, or colour studies. I just leaped right in and trusted my gut. There was no thought given to complementary versus split-complementary or triad versus tetrad colour schemes.
Before this last series, flying by the seat of my pants worked just fine for me. However, I had just acquired a rare 4’ x 15’ roll of Kitty Wallis Museum Grade Archival Sanded Paper and decided to use that for “The Reaching” series. Since I had never worked with Kitty Wallis papers before, the first challenge was to find out how it handled different wet underpainting methods and the layering of pastels. I turned to other pastel artists on Facebook and I also contacted Kitty Wallis directly and through the generosity of the pastel world, I was able to gather the information I needed to work with confidence on this new-to-me surface.
This was the beginning of a new process, of working with underpaintings and doing colour studies. With my photo reference in hand, I lightly sketched out the image directly onto the paper using a red number 311 Carbothello pastel pencil and then I came back over the pencil work, doing a tighter value study using a dark blue NuPastel – doing a kind of grisaille in blue.
After completing the same process for all of the images in the series, I fixed the blue underpainting and took pictures of it before moving to the next stage, the wet underpainting. Next I applied my “dirt” colours, as Karen Margulis calls them, using medium-soft pastels. I used SpectraFix as my liquid medium and did the wash on my dirt colours. I tested both alcohol and SpectraFix on the Kitty Wallis paper and decided I prefered how SpectraFix reacted as a wash medium.
I let them dry and moved on to the next stage – the colour studies. As I said, up until this point, I had never done colour studies for my pastels but one of the things that really connected with me at a Lana Ballot workshop was her mention of the importance of doing them. You always have to be ready to accept something new and though colour studies weren’t a new idea to me, hearing her explanation for doing them and looking at her examples made me see how this approach would be so beneficial for this project. The wonderful archival paper I had and my shadows concept demanded such attention.
On card stock, I printed out 4-inch high colour photocopies of the photos I’d taken of the dark blue “grisailles.” I put a wash of thinned-out Golden Acrylic Ground for Pastels over the card stock to give myself a pastel paper surface and I began my small colour studies.
This is truly where I realized the importance of colour studies and how they eliminate a LOT of colour concerns when it came time to work on the actual paintings. They helped me use my pastels with even more confidence.
All of this initial prep work took time but the rewards came when I was in the end stages of applying the final hits of my Diane Townsend Soft Form No. 804 – which I’ve had forever and guard with my life.
My pastels of choice in a general order of use are: NuPastel sticks, Rembrandt or Faber-Castell soft pastels for doing my foundation work and then in combinations, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig, Diane Townsend, or Great American soft pastels for layering and finishing. For any tight detailed work I need to do, I use Derwent, Faber-Castell or CarbOthello Stabilo pastel pencils.
My pastel paper of choice is the UART 400 Premium Sanded Paper. It gives me the surface texture that lets me play the way I like playing with pastels. I would love to get my hands on more Kitty Wallis Museum Grade Archival Sanded Paper but I don’t think that’s going to happen again.
I’ve been called a colourist by some. I don’t know about that but I do like my colours!
“THE REACHING”~ Clarence Porter
Saturday morning walks to the local convenience store
to pick up “The Spec” for Su.
Mid-March and the long morning shadows
appear to be reaching away from their naked trees.
There is a rhythm constantly of dichotomies:
dark and light, turmoil and calm, death and rebirth.
Eureka: shadows reaching for light.
Winter reaching for spring.
Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my! Look at all that delicious colour! Not only have I enjoyed Clarence sharing his work and progress, I’ve learned something! This idea of priming a printout of the start of your work with pastel ground over which to do colour studies is so cool!!
And what do you know, Clarence is a poet too 😀
And now, Clarence and I want to hear from YOU! What’s your biggest takeaway? What’s your fav painting? Do you have questions?? Let us know by leaving a comment 🙂
Until next time,