Sunday, July 9, 2017

1st Pastel Demo

1st Pastel Demo, 6.5x8.5" pastel, Diane Mannion

Why Pastel?

My 1st pastel demo at Ringling Englewood Art Center was unexpectedly fun and exciting!  It's off-season here in SW Florida… thought only a few people would trickle in.  While I set up my equipment, seats filled up and folks stood on the sidelines, standing room only.  

I'm thrilled with the intense interest and enthusiasm for this medium.  I was pelted with questions and happy to share my love for this dusty stuff.  After confessing I was an oil painter, had to explain the reason for working in pastels, watercolor, gouache, pen and pencil.  I use these mediums to strengthen my oil paintings.  

Why Pastel?

1. Color! 
Pastels allow me to "see" color in new ways.  All those sticks of hues I'd never think to mix with oil paint are inspiring.  With oils, I mix what color I "think" is needed… with pastels, there are colors I'd never think to use.  Often because I can't find the "right" color (never enough sticks), I'll use another and suddenly it works (or not).

2. Speed!
A small pastel study can be created quickly which then gives me insight into the direction to take for an oil painting.  These studies are valuable reference material for future paintings.  They're colorful thumbnails sketches that can be scribbled in a few minutes.

3. Portability!  
A few sticks and a sketchbook work well for lap sketching on the beach or anywhere.

4. Fun!
Pastels are simply something I do for myself.  No worrying about creating a finished masterpiece.
Just doing it for fun does makes me feel a bit guilty… but knowing it helps my "serious" work is totally freeing.

5. Sharing!
I realized after witnessing the enthusiasm and curiosity during my demo that I get great joy out of sharing what I've learned.  Had many requests for teaching pastels.

My 1st Pastel Demo (above) was created while TALKING for an hour and a half!  I started by holding up my viewfinder to look at the fabulous bouquet of flowers I had set up in a blue vase.

Explained why drawing and painting from life was so important.  Then did a quick thumbnail drawing in pen in a small notebook, a map of how I would approach the pastel paper.  Quick scribble with enough information of where vase and flowers would be placed.

Worked on white Pastelmat taped on four sides to a board.  Blocked in the "local" colors roughly, not trying to draw.  Wish I could have taken progress shots here but was caught up in dramatic theatrics and not a little stage fright.  
Once the white paper was covered with rough pastel colors there were gasps when I took a brush with alcohol and washed the whole thing like a watercolor.  Explained that the pigment in pastel was the same as watercolor and oils, just different binders held them together.  This underpainting wash could also be done with water but alcohol dries almost instantly.  Vodka could be used in a pinch, but most agreed it would be a terrible waste.  

The underpainting stage could also be rubbed in with tissues, rags, or paper towels, but has a different effect.  By getting rid of the "white" it's easier to judge the values of dark and light.  

Explained that a painting is an underpainting until you decide it's finished.  Many layers of under paintings can be applied if needed.  The same process happens with oils, working thin and wiping off areas.  Pastels can be brushed off and reworked.  The better the quality of paper… the more the drawing can be redone or done over completely.

Nothing's wasted.  Oils can be wiped, turned over and repainted.  Pastels can be brushed off.
Demonstrated how I save my pastel dust, collecting enough in a jar to make a new stick.

This is a practice drawing on Canson Mi Teintes done the night before my demo.  Simply sketched, no underpainting, blended only with Nupastels or Giraults.  I never blend with my fingers, use bits of pipe insulation or tissues or other pastels, instead.  Over blending can make a work look tired.  Let those pastel crystals shine!

 Floral Practice, 6x8" pastel, Diane Mannion
Thumbnail sketch

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