Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pastel Thursday #1

I had an itch to scratch when I got home: Dried Hydrangeas, 9 x 12, pastel on sanded paper.

My third formal painting class in fifty years, Painterly Pastels, kicked off with getting acquainted with the strange materials I've been collecting, since I signed up last August.

Over the last months, I had bought pastels from three different manufacturers: Nu pastels, Faber Castell and Rembrandt. I didn't go for the high-end stuff. I didn't know the difference between hard, (Nu), soft, (Castell), or medium, (Rembrandt). So I got three popular brands to see what's up?

A simple still life set up for a class of pastel novices. (Sorry the
photo is blurry; I had no where to brace myself as I zoomed in).
I didn't know what sanded paper was either--or why Wallis was so difficult to find, yet people complained about how expensive it was. All was explained. Papers were discussed. The benefit of Wallis sanded paper is it can be used many times over so it really isn't allthat expensive after all. The difference between oils and pastels is pastels are mixed on the support while oils are mixed using a palette. The two mediums, as I had suspected, complimented each other.

After the lecture and some hands-on trial basic value observations were made with our colors, Vianna gave an hour long demonstration. By the end of class, I couldn't wait to get home to try out my materials alone in my own space. After setting up a still life close to what Vianna put together, I spent an hour and a half on my first pastel painting on a professional surface with my variety of hardnesses.  What impressed me most was how sanded paper cut pastel dust down to near nothing making it well worth the expense. In addition of being reusable, sanded paper is wonderful with watercolors as long as you use cheap brushes. The sandy surface grates the hairs.


First order of business: select your palette beginning with the lightest value
you have among your colors. All other values are selected according to lightest value.

Vianna, working and talking us through her creative process, made me very itchy
to try my own hand.
At home, I found a pot with character and luckily had a couple of dried
Hydrangeas I hadn't used for fall flower arrangements. The sheets were a luck too--
two crib sheets left over from one of the grandkids visits. I guess I need to start
collecting still life materials?
And on my bar, once my watercolor station, my framing station, my everything-but-a-bar station, class
continued through my afternoon.  I loved the sanded paper. And the pastels I reached for the most were the Castells.
This medium may push me out of the house into plein air?

29 comments:

  1. Good for you Linda!
    I love your enthusiasm to try new things.
    I also love your "stations!"
    Whatever medium you choose your excitement and energy shows in your great art work!
    Great job!
    Take care.
    Your art buddy,
    Michael

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    1. Thanks Michael. I've been interested in pastels for a while. I had a feeling they suited my need for immediacy in the same way charcoal does. I had to give it a try in spite of Honey hollering about the expense of adding supplies. Well the deed is done and I put my fingers into it yesterday and enjoyed myself enough to go to the effort of putting together my own similar, but different still life. Next week I imagine we'll get to paint in class. What I love about pastels is what they have to teach you with regards to mixing values since you're doing it on the canvas so to speak. I should learn a great deal from this woman. Your art buddy too in case I never told you.

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  2. Wow, such a wonderful grouping of artists....living through their brushes! Lovely paintings!

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    1. It's a start I'm glad I chose to start. :-)

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  3. Very good! I see the painter's hand in the blending of colors, especially behind the subjects.

    Kitty Wallis puts down an underpainting to fill all the white space - economy of effort.

    You might also really like Sennelier La Carte sanded paper.

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    1. I told you Casey I needed you to have a workshop on this side of the continent, but did you listen? No. Well Vianna Szabo was a find. Her whole background is pastels, which then lead to oils, which was how I met her this last summer. She might be the only one to get me out on snowy roads this winter if she offers another class?

      Vianna was saying that that's what's so wonderful about Wallis paper, you can reuse and reuse them. She then brought a painting she had done on Wallis and wiped it into a very nice ish-colored underpainting. That's probably what will happen to this first attempt.
      In this one, I just wanted to see how the medium clung to the surface and how heavy or light handed I should and could be with each of my manufacturers. --I saw that brand listed at Dakota Pastels. Knowing nothing, I stuck with her supply list. Had a great time.

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    2. I am coming to Boston - maybe twice. Late 2013.

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  4. Exciting to see your first pastel on sanded paper...it came out great! Did you find some Wallis paper? I am sure you'll have a wonderful time in these classes---how many have you signed up for? It looks like you got a really nice assortment of pastels. Yay! Vianna S will get you outside in plein air! Hooray! (I think you will love it!)

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    1. Thanks. I thought so too and was surprised. I'm pretty sure it came out well because I did it at home with no distractions. We'll see what I bring home from school next week. Painting in a classroom setting makes everybody self conscious.

      Yes I did find Wallis paper; it's impressive and inhibiting. Cutting that stuff up didn't come easy; it feels too special. But I finally did apply my knife to it and divided it into four more reasonable sizes.

      The best thing I learned was how that two sided wood pastel storage box worked. I wanted to get one, but couldn't figure out how the pastels stayed in their storage areas when you closed the thing like a book. No where did it say that two palette boards were included that fit tight over each half. I thought my question was dumb, but after I asked it, several classmates said they had wondered the same thing. :-)

      The session is six lessons, but I'll be missing two. One, because she's going out of town; the other, because I'm going out of town. I will be able to make up those two during the winter session.

      Vianna is coming out with her own pastel sets. One for portraiture. One for landscapes.
      She's a big deal in the national pastel community with a long list of credentials and awards. I was lucky to find her.

      Somehow working with dry materials, seems more conducive to working outside. Oils are out of the question--too many wipes and liquids to accommodate. I'll still be taking watercolor to Mexico though. I've got that pack/beach/sketch routine down pat.

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  5. What a professional-looking pastel and still-life photography set-up you've created!!! I am most impressed. And thank you for the interesting info about pastels. I had not heard of the sanded paper, and was leery to try the medium because of the dust. Looking forward to more pastel posts, Linda!

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    1. Read my answer to Jane for dust problem. Thanks. My set up took some searching around the house. It made me think that I should start collecting still life stuff, but I won't. I've got enough junk lying around. The sheet backdrop is two crib sheets I happened across. I did have trouble keeping the back sheet taped securely to the acrylic painting on the wall.

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  6. I love this loosely painted pastel, gorgeous work, would love to do a class too to get the basics, have done a few but there is some knowledge lacking. What do you do to 'keep' it do you spray it afterwards with something ?

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    1. That's the beauty of the sanded paper. The pigment is held in place by the 'pockets' in the paper. You can spray it, which will really fix the particles,
      but will also darken all the values. The painting stays fresh looking without using fixative. You store it flat sandwiched. Vianna uses the foam board she used to mount it to when she painted it with a tracing paper top sheet and keeps them in drawers or on the shelves of a baker's rack.

      Before the class began, I had tried pastel on 'pastel/charcoal paper, but the dust was everywhere. My table surface was a mess. The sanded paper eliminated that fall-out and big clean-up. The pastel on charcoal paper had to be fixed. I threw it away. I had also tried the Turpinoid on it to see what that did; it made a black mess. I really had to throw it away. Turns out I had bought the wrong Turpinoid;I bought the 'natural', which was oily. Who knew? I have to get the plain. We're going to learn to do washes. Sounds very interesting to me. I imagine that that will fix the pigment too?

      Thank you Jane, sorry to have run on. It's an interesting medium. I can still see some dust overloads, so I probably need to use a brush on this, but to keep that 'loose' look absolutely no blending by rubbing is done.

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  7. Hello Linda, every time I come on your blog, I remain amazed by your talent. In this case, I find really amazing the quality and beauty of your first painting with pastels. Only a true artist can manage to create a still-life of this level, using a medium and a support, never used before. Great indeed! Have a good week end!

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    1. Talent is doing. It doesn't count if you just sit on it. I sat on it for years, then I got up. Thank you Tito for your kind words.

      The sanded paper---and having painted before--made my first attempt successful. PLUS something Vianna said: "you mix the pigments on the paper." That is how I often mixed colors when I was painting with acrylics. It's how wet-into-wet works with watercolor, the only way I like to begin a watercolor. The nice part about pastels is: you don't need any liquids, just sanded paper and the 'crayons.' :-) A good weekend to you too.

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  8. What a lovely pastel! I can't believe you've only started usung them ! Bravo!

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    1. It came out well,but still lifes still scream STUDENT to me. I have to get over that. They are a great way to paint 'from life' and learn about values and relationships. Nobody said what they were good for back in art school though. So I quit after drawing too many stiff lifes that bored the hell out of me. they just didn't MOVE. I either wasn't paying attention or just needed to get older to see their VALUE. :-)

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  9. One of the best things about pastel is the immediacy of the mark making. The skills you have developed with charcoal really show here.

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    1. Thanks Jean. It was my familiarity with charcoal that made me think I should expand into pastels. The immediacy is exactly what I like about the medium--and now that I know why pastel artists use sanded papers--it's even more attractive. The pastels themselves are costly though. You use those little half stick up pretty quickly. I'll see where this leads.

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  10. Absolutely beautiful, nice use of colors, love the arrangement and your composition. All your experience on other mediums comes through here.

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    1. Having painted with acrylics and played around with watercolor is very advantageous. Mixing colors on the surface via the additive method seems to be the key--and a bigger key yet is the paper. I really made a mess with that chalk when I tried it out on charcoal/pastel paper. I had to scrub the bar countertop three times before I got the film off--and my shirt didn't do very well either. At least the stuff came off in the washing machine. Sanded paper cuts all that clean up down considerably. If I lighten up my touch, I think the dust would be eliminated entirely. The mixing of those 'ish' colors requires patience. I definitely have a deeper respect for Casey's Klahn's work. His paintings are full of half tones and subtle grays--the colors that pull a painting together.

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  11. Glad to see you are enjoying the pastel class, Linda! I'm especially impressed that you went home and worked on your own set up, great job! The sanded paper really does make a difference. I work on other papers sometimes but always return to my beloved Wallis or U-Art. It allows me to layer color so I can adjust the value and saturation while still leaving hints of the color underneath. Letting the color mix with layering enhances the vitality of the work. Lately I find myself under-painting with brilliant colors. This is something we will do towards the end of the semester. When you work on pure color everything you lay down looks like an ish so you really have to trust the palette of pastels you initially choose. I do have some examples on my blog if you would like a sneak peak,www.viannaszabo.com/blog
    We have a eager group of artists with lots of good questions. It will be a fun class!

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    1. Vianna, thank you so much for commenting. After just one session, I knew the class was going to be beneficial. There is lots to learn about color through the use of pastels. I got that idea listening to you in your gestural portrait class. I'm looking forward to the other classes, I'm just sorry I'm going to miss a couple. Even though I'm planning on making them up, I do like continuity; it stimulates enthusiasm. But life happens. I think you're an excellent teacher--in good company with another teacher I had great respect for: Russell Keater. You are brimming over with excitement and passion for what you do and it's catchy. I really am glad I ran into you. Now enough goo, see you on Halloween. I'll be the one in the hat.

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  12. Sounds like such a wonderful class, Linda. I have worked with sanded paper and love to use it as well. I am able to put SO many layers of pastels on it...I love the finished look. Your painting is beautiful, Linda...Hope to see more on sanded paper.

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    1. Only on sanded paper for pastels. I was very impressed with it's dust control qualities as well as its tooth. Thanks Hilda.

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  13. Dear Linda nice to see you from running for a new adventure! And what a start! A very beautiful still life! Nice to follow from you other technique of which I know nothing(as oil painting), except that with pastels of pure pigment from Schmincke can be manufactured watercolors at home!
    I wish you a nice weekend and I hope this new adventure takes you where you really want to get!

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    1. I have used pastels before--years ago as a graphics art student. Pastels came back to mind when I started doing warm up sketches with charcoal to prepare for doing an oil painting. Pastels have the same immediacy, with the added advantage of color. I think they will be very helpful in predetermining the palette for my work in oil. My new adventure is part of a definite plan. Charcoal, pastels and oils are all mediums that give you instant results. I like that. At my age, I don't want to spend a lot of time blocking out and layering on glazes and waiting around watching paint dry?

      Now that I'm thinking about it: three years ago I came back to my art using colored pencils, graphite and markers. All of these are mediums that yield immediate results. Immediacy seems to be key with me. :-)

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  14. The pastel still life drawing is gorgeous! I love how you made it even more interesting with the colours you used!! I think blue spice it up beautifully.
    Thank you for sharing details, Linda. I know nothing about pastels, but now I feel I'm learning :)
    Hugs and smiles.

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    1. Thanks Konstantina. I had a good time trying out the medium and the new-to-me paper. I definitely think it has a place in my repertoire. As for painting with them, you do like you do when you paint. You push the color and balance the composition.

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