Crossline, 12x12

"Crosslines" 12x12" Pastel  ©Brenda Boylan

I live in a suburb just outside of Portland, OR. called Beaverton. The city of Beaverton has never had a centralized hub, and so for the past 4+ years, community volunteers have been working hard on revitalizing it's "downtown". Actually, there really is no true downtown as it's had it's share of quick growth and misplaced strip malls. Ah, but I did find this little spot that was bathed in sun and has more or less a vibe of the buildings in the core area of the city. I stumbled upon this 60's style building last fall with my pochade box all ready to paint, but the wind was a bit brisk so I decided it would have to wait. Here is my studio piece of that location as taken from photo.

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Morning Crocus, 8x8

Morning Crocus, 8x8" Pastel  ©Brenda Boylan

Spring is pretty much here in the Great Northwest even though it's not official until March 21. Just yesterday, I saw some crocus peeking up from our garden and thought, "YEAH, plein air season is almost here!" Spring means it's time for the Plein Air Convention which has been designed to inspire all those artists to go outdoors. It is also the highlight of my year. This time around I have been honored to mentor as a field artist.  That means I will be out in the field painting with 700 other plein air artists, demonstrating my technique and visiting with curious onlookers. Now the question is, should I bring oil or my ever faithful pastels?

The piece above was from deep within the vault, created some eleven years ago or so when I first began painting with pastels in earnest. Sorry it is a bit blurry, but I don't have a good photo of it and has since been purchase by a collector. Whenever I see crocus, it is a reminder that spring is just...around... the...corner!

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Uncertainty, 16x12

"Uncertainty, 16x12" Pastel  ©Brenda Boylan

The road less travelled, in this case, is what this painting is all about. I often write about my family farm and my childhood memories that surround it. Directly behind the our farm house and property there is an old log road that leads to the top. When my Dad was a young boy, he'd hike up the hill and set up camp on the top, above all of Creswell. Then once he had hiked my sister and I up there when we were grade school aged, feeling above all the earth when we reached the summit. At the top there was a fresh cold spring that we could drink from that made us feel connected to the earth. Late last summer, my Dad at age 75, my husband, and two kids hiked up the mountain again. It had been years since I climbed it and, as for my Dad, he was so much more in shape than all of us! At the very top we ended up scrambling through some blackberry brambles and perhaps some poison oak, Oregon blueberry, ivy, and thick brush. The ground was not to be seen, only the tall trees above and the sky peeking through the fir and ash trees overhead. We came upon a dirt road and started downhill to the other side of the mountain, passing through private property.  As dusk was upon us we approached this road (above) and thankfully my Dad knew exactly where we were, but it would be around 3 miles on the country road to the farm house by foot. It was getting late and the sun was setting, so we cut through a pioneer cemetery and another neighbor's yard littered with horse poo, back onto our property. With no real path to follow we just faced downhill by my Dad's memory and found our way back.  "Uncertainty" is a road less traveled.

Old logging road

On the way up

View from the top overlooking the farm

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Pastel workshop Recap

 "Ferdinand", 12x9" Pastel

This past weekend I taught my Pastel Punch! workshop at Sequoia Gallery to a wonderful group of artists. They all worked very hard and so I'm going to share a bit of what we worked on and some of the finer points that I taught.  

Values are distinct when color is absent.

First and foremost I encourage every artist, whether they are a beginner or advanced, to study on an ongoing basis the importance of values. This is probably the hardest point to drive home to artists and often the one thing that we all struggle with the most. Here is my value demonstration of what I titled "Ferdinand." In this lesson, we used just ten pastels of varying values to create depth and volume. When I returned home after the day's work, I checked my work by photographing him in black and white mode to see if I read the values correctly and it looks like I might need more practice too.

Another project we worked on was a 4-value, single hue underpainting using Turpeniod. Turpenoid offers flexibility with the dissolved pigment, but it takes a long time to dry.  It's great when out plein air painting as the heat of the day evaporates it quickly enough.

"Glass Implements" 9x12" Pastel

One of my favorite exercises is having the students create a quick 20 minute study. I use a timer and count down the minutes to add pressure to create. It is my intention to get the students to loosen up and simplify their work.  No room for details in this exercise. Then we stretched a bit further and painted a 10 minute study.  Everybody gets a kick out of the energy that is evident in the work. If I had thought of it, I'd have put on a blood pumping marching tune by John Philip Sousa. Here's my 10 minute attempt (from a photo that I had painted alla prima in oils.)

"Teacups, 10 minute Study" 9x12" Pastel

Because pastel can be handled in so many ways, whether it be blended, crosshatched, stippled or patterned, an artist can have such versatility and a lot of fun.  Here are a few of my students' works with their choice of mark making. 

A delightful stack of cups by artist Ann.

...and a very precious robin's nest by artist Marianne

And finally, here is the wall of most of the students' work.  It was a fun workshop and when I woke up the next morning after the workshop, I expected to go back for more.  There will be more workshops as I have just signed a contract to teach "Pastels Inside & Out" at The Oregon Society of Artists in September,  and I also will be teaching "Pastel Punch!" at the Emerald Art Center in March of 2014. (Details will be up soon.)

Some of the students work over the course of the workshop.

If you are interested in having me teach a pastel workshop in your area, contact me and let's discuss the possibilities.

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Old Chalks + Pastel Punch workshop this weekend

Old "Chalks" 

The Farmhouse as seen from the new house.

A few weeks ago, I visited my Dad on the family farm. As a kid, my Dad worked the property like every family member did in the bean fields, milking cows early in the morning, walking to school in the snow... up hill no doubt. When he graduated from college, he left the farm for the city life in California. When he and my stepmom retired, they moved back up to the farm and built a new home on the property. Luckily, they left the original farm house intact.  Last time I visited, my husband, kids and I went over to the "Farm house" with Dad and we got to dig through some of his old boxes that he keeps in a corner of the farmhouse. He spoke of his childhood as we pulled each item out as if it were just yesterday. We found his Scouting badges, an old film camera and film canisters, a fishing rod and cricket cage, my Grandmother's Christening dress and baby shoes, Indian arrowheads, and more. In one of the boxes I found a small wooden birch box with a latch on it and took a peek inside. "Oh, those are just some 'ol chalks" says my Dad. "Yeah, but I'd like to know if you plan on using them?"  So here they are, and they are mine!

Sampling on Wallis paper

I played around with them today and found that the pigment is intense, with little binder. They are soft and blend well.  An unusual aspect of these is that they are very lightweight as if I am holding a dry sponge. There was no label as to the manufacturer, so it's my guess that they were just "chalks" for a school art project.  Looks like they saw little use with a few broken ones.  I think I will put these dusty sticks to some good use. If not, I guess my kids will find them in a box stored in a dusty corner someday.

Also, I'd like to mention that my Pastel Punch! workshop is this weekend, Feb 8-10th. I am so excited to get back to teaching and love sharing my passion with pastels. There are still a few spots left so if you are in the area and want to know how to make an impact with this super cool medium, give it a try. I might even let you play with my newfound pastels from the farm.  :)

Workshop info HERE
Register by calling Sequoia Gallery at 503-693-0401

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