Sunday, May 29, 2011

Teaching Pastel

There are wonderful days of painting in the studio .... and of course the best is painting outdoors from life! Spending time with nature is by far my favorite painting past time!

But, having said that, almost as good is when I teach a workshop and get to watch the proverbial "light bulb" go on in the aspiring artist's face.... when they suddenly see and know something they had not been able to grasp just a few moments before! Fun, fun, fun!

My pastel box
This was made by my Dad!
Last weekend I had a pastel workshop -- two days of teaching at a wonderful place called the Atlanta Artist Center. Look them up online and see what this great organization is all about. I will give you a link for them at the bottom of this post. The first day was the busiest --- setting up my easel and supplies, and then helping them set up and decide what they wished to paint this first day. Then I do a demonstration: first the thumbnail, then my watercolor underpainting technique and the starting of a pastel painting.

I start out by talking a little about what pastel painting is to me and the correct way to frame these wonderful vibrant paintings. Then I ask the students questions about what they want to learn in this workshop and why they chose me to take from. This gives me a little insight into what I need to help them with. I pass out a few cheat sheets with information about various aspects of painting in pastel .... and some of the hints and tips can be applied to any of the painting mediums... composition, color theory, value study, etc. 

The watercolor "splashy"
underpainting
I continue by showing them my set up, discuss why I choose a particular photograph to work from .... but for me it is a digital image on a 15 inch photo screen.  This is way better than looking at a printed photo ... but as most of us know, not nearly as good as being outdoors and painting from life. But, when you teach a studio workshop, then you work with photos or digital images. The underpainting is started, questions are asked, and then some of the first layer of pastel is applied.

At this point, I usually take a break from mine to allow the students to stretch and start their paintings: doing a thumbnail, discussing the reason choosing their image, how to simplify their thoughts, and then do a small bit of the underpainting. This order for the morning seems to keep students from getting tired of just listening and watching the teacher!

Before lunch, I go back to my painting, students return to their seats, and I continue to show the process I use for layering the pastel on the surface. I discuss working on the darks, adding some intense color, what I want in the sky .... and how these things affect the rest of the painting. I keep up a bit of back and forth talk and answering questions from the students. They ask why did I do a certain color, or value ... or shape, .... or why did I change something. It allows them to see how I push and pull the image into something that is an illusion .... making a two dimensional image look three dimensional! It's magic! We fool the eye with our use of value changes, and especially color theory with warm and cool play back and forth!
My plein air painting in oil ...
the resource and then the larger pastel.

The remainder of the day .... after lunch .... the students work on their paintings with input from me. I go back to my piece maybe once or twice for a few strokes and discuss something that I have seen the students need to watch. A couple of the students do enough on their paintings that we decide they need to stop. Better to leave it a little underworked and fresh .... instead of doing way too much and having it look too fussy! Tomorrow they get to start a new one .... and maybe after lunch start another one. I tell them it is more important to plan the painting .... taking the time in the beginning .... and then start the paintings with a better chance for success!

So, this was the first day. On the second day, the students worked on the start of another painting. I tell them it is more important to plan the paintings, then start them, than it is to finish them completely in the workshop. I also started another demonstration as they worked. They are told to periodically take a break from their painting and come take a look at what I have done on this demo. There are times I tell them to come watch a specific thing I am doing to it. But, I am always walking around and offering advice and answering questions.

Here is the second demo .... though I will be assessing both of them to determine what I need to do, if anything to further the idea I had in the beginning!

Chama Chamissa -- Pastel on Ampersand Pastelbord
Here is the link to the Atlanta Artist Center which is located in Buckhead ... a great little area in the Northern part of Atlanta .... www.atlantaartistscenter.org.
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