9/25/13

Pastels Inside & Out Workshop recap

This past weekend I taught my pastel workshop in Portland, Oregon at the Oregon Society of Artists to a handful of very engaged students. My focus was to share everything I know about pastels, and then have my students give them a try outdoors painting en plein air.

Preparing for a workshop takes much thought and preparation, so much so that I found myself waking up in the middle of the night coming up with new ways to teach my lessons. That's when all the best ideas come, in the middle of the night, right? A few weeks before the workshop, I called upon my favorite vendor Terry Ludwig Pastels to see if I could get a few pastel samples for my students.  He generously sent me these two boxes and we divided them up equally for each student. What a treat! The rectangle shaped pastels on the right apparently didn't quite make the "color match" for his colorful sets, yet they still have the wonderful consistency and texture I've come to expect. The box on the left are neutral mixtures that were hand rolled and made into unique shapes with small notes of creativity written on top. I especially like the heart shaped ones. Thank you Terry!


I also went to the Wallis Sanded Paper warehouse and picked up a big pile of paper for my students to use just in case they needed more. For three days we discussed everything pastels:  the nature of pastels, how to keep the studio dust free and safe, studying values in art, mounting pastel paper, storing finished pieces, shipping, the complicated job of framing pastels, colorful underpainting techniques, modifying colors, mark making, color theory, and composition. Some points of the lessons could easily translate over to other mediums, but are so valuable for all artists.  

A simple way to "catch" the pastel dust at your easel. Use a 2" wide strip of masking tape and tape it to the bottom of your easel. When finished painting, just gently roll up and dispose.


Having a "cropping tool" is one of my essential tools in the studio that I use over and over again to rearrange the composition of my source images.

The one point I wanted to drive home with my students was the importance of values and understanding how to see them. Before each lesson the students sketched with pencils their preliminary images, squinting their eyes a lot to simplify information.  They referred to their color wheels and value finders to aid in the process. We then created value studies using our colorful pastels to train the eyes, helping them fine tune and become aware of values for better painting. 

Here are couple of quick sketches of my students work prior painting to help them find and group three or four values in their work.




Here is my demonstration on values. I used 10 sticks of pastel ranging from dark to light (2 for each color block) in a 4-value sketch. See sketch above.

We then worked on mark-making, the one distinction that pastel excels at than any other medium.  Notice a common theme?





Because of the pace of the workshop, I demonstrated several pieces showing the major point of the lesson, but never completely finishing any of them because I wanted the students to get right down to working.  One of the lessons was on under painting with alcohol and then again another with Gamsol. For the Gamsol underpainting, we first lightly scumbled pastel in value blocks and then washed the scumbled pastel with the dispenser. We used a hand held blow dryer to hasten in the drying process.

Blocking in the under painting with one hue then washed with Gamsol.

My demonstration (incomplete)

A quick demo on color modification (incomplete)

Some student work:





Students value studies.  As my first pastel teacher Kitty Wallis once told me, 
"Values do all the work, color gets all the glory".

You have to be flexible with teaching workshops, as they do take on a life of their own. On the final day of the workshop it rained a typical Portland rain, so I changed up the schedule and demonstrated a plein air piece looking outside the large window overlooking turn of the century homes.  We discussed the challenges of painting plein air with pastels, and then went on to complete our works. We wrapped up the workshop with a group critique and we went home full of new ideas. 

I want to thank the Oregon Society of Artists for asking me to hold a workshop at their facility. They are very easy to work with and provided me with a facilitator, Michael to aid in opening, setting up, and closing of the building.

6 comments:

Celeste Bergin said...

what a fab recap Brenda...your student's work shows that you inspired them ---they got it! Congratulations---what a lot of gorgeous work

Marsha Hamby Savage said...

Hi Brenda, I thoroughly enjoyed your post about teaching your workshop. Great information and great job! Sounds like they had a wonderful teacher.

B Boylan said...

Thanks Marsha, i had a wonderfully engaging group.

Debbie said...

Oh, thank you Brenda, for sharing your workshop experience. You are such a great teacher, and so willing to share your knowledge. I wish I could have been there this year! Beautiful work by all.

B Boylan said...

Hi Celeste,
Thanks so much. Everyone worked so hard, and I saw so much improvement and discovery happening. When it was all over, I went home and slept till 10 the next morning. :)

B Boylan said...

Hi Debbie,
You are so welcome. Perhaps I will see you in another pastel workshop of mine. I will be teaching in March at the Emerald Art Center in Springfield, OR.