Working on Pastels in the Winter

I need to remember when working on a pastel in winter I should cover it up before I transport it from the classroom to home. When I left for the class this morning, there wasn’t much precipitation that I thought about what I should have when bring the pastel home.

When leaving class it was lightly raining. Of course, my pastel was taped to my drawing board and I had nothing to keep it dry. I tried turning it upside down exposing the back of the board to the elements. I thought that was a good idea.

Turns out, during the steps from the classroom to the car, I must have brushed up against the pastel. There were slight streaks that would need to be fixed. I have in the past had water drop onto the pastel during, which makes for a glaring mistake.

I need to remember bringing a sheet of glassine to tape over the pastel to protect from both the elements and from my winter jacket.

Critiques

Yesterday I attended an art critique. A local group has put together bi-monthly critiques open to the public. I’ve participated in group critiques during classes and workshops but I haven’t attended critiques open to artists working in various mediums. A critique allows you to gage whether or not your artwork connects with an audience.

It was a small group working in Oils, Fabric Arts, and Pastels (me). As with any critique, you have to introduce the work. You give a quick background (why or how you came to be an artist) and discuss the work displayed. Some artists depicted realistic subject matters and others worked in abstractions. It was interesting to see the various styles.

Overall, the feedback for me was positive. I showed two works from June 2017 from the Minuteman National Park near the Old North Bridge. One participant knew before I said it that the area was near the bridge (the bridge was not featured in either of the two pastels).

The main questions about my work involved composition, mats, and frames. Ironically, the current pastel class I’m taken is all about composition. I’ll apply what I’m learning to future works. Perhaps the one thing I need to do to make my compositions stronger is to sketch out various compositions before working on the larger piece. I don’t normally make many small sketches of one scene. With the small sketches, I can determine if I need to focus on one area more than another or if I need to zoom in to find the best composition.  I need to get into the habit of making smaller sketches to test things out.

Mats and frames are always hard for any artist. Many times when you submit artwork into a juried competition, you use a standard white mat. When you are displaying your work in a non-juried exhibit you may choose any color. When working with a professional framer he or she may suggest certain mats (colors and surface texture). The framer may suggest a color that will not detract from the artwork, a color that is the primary color seen in the artwork, or a color that will  enhance the over piece. My framer suggested a color she thought worked well with my landscapes. A mid-tone violet was suggested as violets where used in the underpainitng and could be seen peeking through the greens of the landscape. Those attending the critique wanted to see seen a lighter mat.

At the critique, they were not sure about the frames I chose. Frames are always hard. You try to be either consistent with the frames used or work within your budget while still trying to use frames that will work best for the artwork. Ironically, while this group wasn’t to sure about my frames a few people who had seen my exhibit in August commented how they liked the frames and thought they worked well with the pieces. It just shows everyone has their own opinion and it’s hard to get a 100% consensus.

Color Theory

On Tuesday, we continued with our pastel class focusing on Color Confidence. We played with neutral colors plus saw how analogous colors worked compared to complementary colors.

At the store where I work, we had a gouache artist present a demo in the spring. She believed  it was important artists create their own color wheels to fully understand and appreciate how colors work. I remember learning about the color wheel in school but I don’t specifically recall mixing pigments to learn about color.

In college, the teacher in one of my first art classes had his students use colored pages in regards to color theory. I’ll have to think about his reasoning for it but I remember we used these pages during the semester in various exercises. I don’t recall any classes after that point where we spent time discussing color theory by mixing colors.

I feel I may have missed something by not mixing pigments. I’m glad the subject matter for this month’s class is Color Confidence. During the first two classes, I learned a lot about mixing neutrals and how they can be used to make colors around them stand out. These exercises will be very beneficial as I continue with my art.

New Value Study

Well, it’s not perfect but much better.

When viewing the black and white photograph of the study you can see I’m still not quite there but much better than my first try (See previous post http://cynthiarodday.com/blog/2017/10/03/its-so-good-because-its-so-bad/ for first attempt).

I think one thing is certain from this exercise. I need to work on determining mid-tones values. Ultimately, I should purchase a few mid-tones of various colors.

While the study isn’t perfect, I wanted to apply it to an actual photograph of a landscape. Does have the right values make a painting work regardless of the colors/hues used in the artwork. Below is the pastel using the various colors in the new Value Study

Do those colors work? This scene depicts pine trees along a small lake. In the reflection you see the trees as well as the sky. Here’s the original black and white photograph. Tell me does the colors from the Value Study work?

It’s So Good because it’s So Bad!

Question:
What’s wrong with this photo?

Answer:
It’s So Good because it’s So Bad….

We are discussing Color Confidence in our OctoberPastel Class. Over the next few weeks, we are doing exercises dealing with value (light vs dark), chroma (bright vs dull) and temperature (warm vs cool).

Our first exercise would really hit home the idea that while color gets all the glory, value does all the work! First we were tasked with picking out one hue in varying values. In my values photo, the top row showcases a violet hue ranging from lightest to darkest on a scale of 1 to 5. The thought process is in painting it does not matter the color you use as long as it matches in value. If you have the correct value, the color will work in the painting.

In the other rows we were asked to pick colors matching them to their corresponding value. It’s more difficult than you’d think!

A previous pastel teacher once said she could easily pick out colors based on value without thinking about it. In singing, this person would be known as having perfect pitch. Most people are not that lucky. I am one of those unlucky people (not being able to pick out values so easily)

There were a number of times, I found a color that I thought could be a two or a three value and took a chance in placing it in squares of the exercise. When I completed study, I took a photo of the piece and converted it to black and white. Here’s where you can see the mistakes.

That’s why I say it’s So Good because it’s So Bad. Obviously, I’ll correct the value study. The more I work on it, the better I’ll become at determine values and picking colors that will work cohesively in an artwork.

Here’s a photograph showing how to fix a few of the mistakes  once I correct the values. Knee completed, I can move onto the next step by taking these values and applying them to an artwork such as a still life or landscape. I’ll post on that part of the exercise later this week

Sometimes the best way to learn is to make mistakes.

Demos

At work, we’ve been doing Facebook Live demos weekly since August 10. I’ve been the presenter three times so far. The first time I discussed Pastel Supplies followed by a demo on creating a pastel. Originally, I planned to do a full pastel in 10 minutes but realized doing the pastel while talking and keeping it to 10 minutes was hard. I chose to show what an underpainting would look like when dried and started a small pastel using a dry underpainting. Overall, I think those demos went well

Since the weekly demos have started we have increased the number of views and number of 3-second views. Hopefully people are finding them helpful as well as reminding people what the store has to offer to our customers.

Yesterday, I did a demo on Starting a Watercolor using Basic Techniques. Similar to other demos, I prepared an outline of what I hoped to discuss during the 10 minutes. By Tuesday afternoon and evening I began practicing the techniques. I wanted to show people how to apply paint to the surface, ways of correcting mistakes, and a few ways to add texture to your watercolor painting.

It was a good thing to practice! I planned to show viewers how to use rubbing alcohol, salt, and a sponge in watercolors. In my attempts to use the alcohol, it didn’t work.  Perhaps I wasn’t using enough rubbing alcohol. Checking YouTube, I saw someone dip a straw in rubbing alcohol and touch the paper surface.  I tried that method too. It didn’t work.

If it wasn’t going to work in a practice demo, I wasn’t about to try it in the actual demo. I changed it to using a splatter effect. It worked much better than the rubbing alcohol.

Quick Demos

At work, it was decided we would do presentations or quick demos on Facebook Live. It would be a great way to interact with our customers, we could inform everyone about the products we have to offer,  and we could do quick demonstrations.

I was asked to do the second Live segment—Introduce our customers to the various pastel products available at the store. I began thinking back to a college course I took on public speaking. I decided to do an outline and begin practicing.

The outline came together easily in my opinion. I had an open (introducing myself and the topic), a middle (discussing paper, pastels, and various tools), and an ending (reminding everyone of our weekly Live presentations, where to see our calendar and where we are location for those new to our Facebook page.

A day or two before, I practiced using the outline in front of me.  Soon I realized just winging it with the outline and not having real dialog would not work for me. I fumbled words and had a few seconds here and there where I didn’t speak.  Working on sentences helped me determine what I wanted to say, helped me memorize important information, and minimized those areas where I blanked out on works or phrases

Now I’m practicing for the next Facebook Live segment —Creating a Pastel on Sanded UArt paper.

 

The segments we will be doing on Facebook Live can be found on Albright Art’s Calendar page

 

Washing off your Pastel

I thought I’d share the working process of my recent textured pastel.

After creating the first textured pastel in class, I wanted to try it at home. I used a Gessobord instead of cutting a foam/gator board to a specific size then applying gesso to it. I created an underpainting of the scene then I dripped acrylic paint to the areas where I wanted more texture to appear. One classmate worked on her textured pastel at home as she wasn’t in class for the application process of the acrylic paint. She specifically used different colors for drippings depending on their location in the image. Many of us liked that idea and I thought I would try it on this one. When the acrylic paint was dried, I applied the acrylic ground so the pastels could adhere to the toothy surface.

The underpainting, acrylic drippings, and acrylic ground applied to the surface.

I started on the background and slowly moved to the middle ground. After a while, I started working on all parts of the pastel but soon realized I had a problem. The colors started becoming muddy looking especially in the trees. At this point I thought I’d try what my teacher once suggested—if it’s not working, wash off the pastels and start again.

The colors were looks muddy and I didn’t think I could get new colors adhere to the surface.

I had done it once before and thought I’d try it again. I washed off the textured gessobord and let it dry.

Washing off the pastels from my textured Gessobord.

Looking at the artwork, I decided more texture was needed. Once I washed off as much of the pastels I could, I let it dry then dripped more acrylic paint in some areas.

I started applying the pastels again after a few days break. This time it was working and I really liked how the trees were looking.

Once the trees were set, I worked on the remaining sections. The middle was coming along nicely but I wasn’t happy with the stream and reeds in the foreground. My teacher had recently sent an email about her new blog entry. She discussed how she washed off a section of a pastel that wasn’t working the way she had hoped.

Check out her blog entry at https://jeannerosiersmith.com/blog/122388/metamorphosis

It was worth clearing off that section as in my opinion it just didn’t look great. I washed off the stream and reeds and started again.

I am happy how this textured pastel progressed. Creekside Stroll is on display as part of the Journey through Open Spaces exhibit.

Final version.

 

Journey through Open Spaces

Journey through Open Spaces is officially open!

While I had all pastels matted and framed by Sunday night, there were few  small things that I needed to complete. I updated my biography and artist statement, created gallery tags for each piece, and finalized a price list.

August 1

I arrived half an hour or so after the library opened to hang my pastels. I met with a library staff member who helped me get the hook over plain rods for each pastel. Many gallery spaces uses these rods so that no nail marks are made in the wall. I was informed the gallery tags I created could not be taped to the wall. I hadn’t received any specific documentation about exhibit guidelines so it was a good thing she mentioned it to me.

Assemble Pastels into Groups

I laid out the pastels on the floor getting an idea which areas had the greatest amount of space allowing pastels to stay within a specific group. I have a number of pastels on a few National Parks, some pastels based upon a national wildlife refuge, other historical local areas, and land from a botanical garden

Once I had the space planned out, I began hanging each piece.  Luckily I had help from a family member, which made hanging the exhibit even easier.  Overall, from the time I arrived to the time I left the library, it took only a little more than 2 hours.

Forgot Something

The experience of hanging an exhibit wouldn’t be complete without realizing I had forgotten something.  I forgot the postcards I created and a guest book.  Later in the afternoon, I came back with the postcards and guest book.

Forgot Something Again

When I dropped off the guest book, I added the exhibit title and dates to the book. What I didn’t realize was that I forgot to leave the pen I brought with me for everyone to use. Fortunately for me, a friend came to the exhibit and left a pen.

The view of one wall of the exhibit.
A view of some pastels in the exhibit.

One week countdown begins…

Let the week countdown to the 7-week exhibition begin. Last week I mentioned 23 pieces were matted and framed. Now there are 25 pieces framed and ready for the exhibit. I finalized the piece I was doing last week so it brings the total number of artworks  to 26.

When I mentioned to my classmates I have an upcoming exhibit,they asked me how many pieces I would display. I responded by saying 24 pieces. They were all surprised by the amount of work I have ready to display. Another friend was surprised at the amount of pastels. I don’t see it being a huge amount; I’ve been working on pastels since September 2015.

I’ve always been inspired by landscapes so whenever I’m in a class my main subject matter has been landscapes. Last year when I knew I would have an exhibit in Stow, I made the conscious decision to have all those pastels connected by imagery of open spaces such as National Parks, National Refuges, and Botanical Gardens. I continued that imagery as I took classes or worked on pastels on my own.

As I was speaking with a friend today, I said I had two other pastels I could include but I hadn’t thought of framing the pieces. She thought I could and should include them. My brother thought the same thing. He said it’s better to have too many pieces when I go to hang the exhibit then to think to myself, “I wish I had framed those pieces as there’s still space to display work.”  Also, it’s much easier to bring home  a piece if there’s no room then to rush around matting and framing an artwork at the last minute.