Mark-making &More Glass Jars, 9x8

"Glass Jars, 9x8" Pastel on sanded paper

Don't you just love texture in paintings? It makes a 2 dimensional image move forward with depth that you just couldn't get with a drawing. Oil painters have the advantage of impasto application, but what about pastelists? Since it's a soft pigment it just can't make a thick and juicy mark! But pastels offer a wonderfully expressive mark-making quality that oil painters just can't match. Mark-making can produce incredible results so unique that each artist's style begins to shine through.  I was first attracted to pastels because of the mark-making I saw in other accomplished artists such as Sally Strand and Sandra Bushell.

Last week in my pastel class, we worked on mark-making again (glass ball jars seem to work for this exercise) and in my demo (above) I used this linear technique. This vertical mark-making is actually quite exciting to look at!

detail shows the many layers of vertical marks made to create shape.

Depth and shade were rendered with a thick and thin mark with ink using both crosshatching and swirly marks. 
Reminiscent of the unique designs of our fingerprints.

Perhaps my interest with mark-making began when I was a kid.  Back then, I was fascinated with the dollar bill and how it was illustrated. Hours would be spent looking through a magnifying glass at George Washington, while trying to figure out how to make a drawing with lines just like those on the bill. Little did I know I'd be doing something similar in pastel as an adult.

The variety of mark-making is endless and is up to you and your imagination. So next time you hit a big slump with your work and are feeling like your work is getting boring, try making some marks. Try using thick and thin pressure with your pastels to garner wide or thin marks. Use color variations that can be optically mixed, or even different shapes like swirls, dots, or swipes of color to render beautiful work.

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Swift Crossing, 20x16"

"Swift Crossing" with detail, 20x16" Pastel

Back when I went on my adventure to New York City last September, I walked what felt like 20 miles on the streets with my camera at the ready. There was activity and color that would last me a lifetime of painting inspiration, but the deciding factor must offer a decent composition. Here, "Swift Crossing" has that typical "U" shaped composition so characteristic of any street scene lined with buildings. I like to think some compositions are much like the alphabet, offering up the "S" curve, "L", "V" or "T" to name a few. It was the people crossing the street in what reminded me of the "Beatles" album cover "Abbey Road" that attracted me the most of this scene. I worked with the color a lot, having first used filters on Instagram to see where I could push the colors and mood. I ended up with a more intense and darker look than the original image, I think it works. Thoughts?

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Lessons From the Easel

It's been 2 months since I last posted and I am soooo sorry for not keeping up with you, my dear blogging friends. It seems that there are just not enough hours in the day to keep my schedule flowing smoothly.  I have so much to share with you but I just can't carve the time out for writing out my thoughts as frequently as I'd first set out. I have decided that I absolutely must make time for organizing my business matters now so I can blog and be more productive at the easel.  I am making a small dent, but the list goes on. Ugh. I just wanna paint!

Well, I have been painting! Here are some demos from my weekly pastel class that I have been teaching at the Oregon Society of Artists. The class has been loads of fun. The students come away learning plenty, making it very rewarding for all of us. The weekly classes run 7 weeks in a series, and we are in the midst of the last series before the plein air season starts back up in earnest. Here are a few demos I painted to illustrate the versatility of pastel. Some demos are very quick, while others take a tad longer.

Limited strokes...

Timed 5 minute paintings...

Underpainting demo...

There is so much to teach when it comes to pastel because it is so incredibly versatile. I do hope to make my workshops available to regions beyond Portland. Perhaps a workshop in a sunny state or another country might be in my future? Where would you like to attend a pastel workshop?  Well, anyway, enough about workshopping.

I have also been hunkering down for the last 5 months in my studio painting large with oils for a March show in Palm Springs, CA. at Brian Marki Gallery. The show was inspired from a plein air journey to the Coachella Valley last April, (read Blog post here) and now I have a place to share them. The group show "Portland Paints the Desert" will feature Portland area artists Anton Pavlenko, Thomas Kitts, Michael Orwick, Scott Gellatly, and myself.  Honestly, I haven't painted this large since 1988, so it was a stretch for me, especially since oil painting is not my forte', but I did it and am really proud that I stretched a bit. "Desert Wash" was the largest piece I have ever painted, well, if you aren't counting mural work.

Well, there you have 2 months in a nutshell...plus then some. I'm hoping the next time I post that it will be sooner than later so you can follow along in some measure on this artistic journey.


"Desert's Last Breath" 40x30" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas

"Skirts" 40x30" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas

"Desert Wash" 36x38" 40x30" Oil on gallery wrapped canvas

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