Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Painting the Person You Care About in Pastel"

Last week Jan 16 through Jan 21 I conducted a Pastel Portrait workshop entitled "Painting the Person You Care About in Pastel" and it was an intimate painting workshop for the Chestertown Maryland Art League in the lovely town of Chestertown, Md. My old friend and artist Marj Morani put it together. Marj and I met while both living in the Caribbean years ago. She lived in Anguilla BWI and I lived in St. Maarten NA. and we used to go back and forth by ferry from each of our homes to paint together. As life brings us constant change and challenged, we are both now back in the states and involved with our art careers again. I had already conducted a Pastel Drawing and Painting the Portrait last year but this time used another theme. My eager and hardworking students this time were Marj Morani, Mary Pritchard, Holly Geddes, Barbara Tinneson, and Bonnie Keating. (also pictured in this photo is a former art student Evie Baskin.
We began our week long class together by learning how to photograph their chosen models so that after I am gone the students would know how to take their own photographs for more portrait work. It was interesting because all models were so varied. There was an older man, two older ladies, a young woman and a young granddaughter. The group would learn so much from such a variety of heads and faces.
I printed up 5 X 7 in  photos of each model and on the first full day of class, they learned how to proportion out a 10 x 14 in. drawing of their loved one. I explained the difference between working from life (from the model in front of them) and from working from a photo. The way a camera interprets the model and the way in which our own eyes actually see the person modeling.
The first day I could feel the excitement, the anticipation and the pressure they put onto themselves to achieve the likeness. 
This is Barbara's beginning of a portrait of her husband .Her drawing has a light touch, careful acuracy, and sensitive portrayal of her lines, angles and shadows.
This is Bonnie's beginning of a woman/friend of hers and a brand new art student she showed so much promise. Always wanted to be an artist but was discouraged in her youth as so many young people are. Her determination, hard working ethic and intense interest in the procedure and subject matter was exciting.

This is Holly's beginning drawing and she was determined to get this likeness as this chosen woman model meant a great deal to her and to many others. Holly I worked with before and her progress and growth in pastel and portraiture was amazing. She had the most difficult subject to do as it was someone who insisted on an open mouth smile with many teeth and a head of hair with very springy irregular texture to it, and also a scar on her forehead that the woman did not want to eliminate. So Holly had her work cut out for her but all the students would learn from each individual students chosen subject. Holly did not want to even take breaks she was so involved with her work.

Mary Pritchard is a professional pastel plein air painting herself and chose to take her pastel to another level by doing a portrait. Mary was a great student which makes me believe that she is most likely a great teacher as well. I think one must be a good student to be a good teacher. Mary learned to use pastels as I do instead of her way of working with them which was very different for her. She concentrated and was careful to follow each one of my directions. Mary also commented during the workshop that she not only learned a great deal about portraiture in pastel the way in which I work but also about teaching from me. I loved hearing that. She worked bravely and again so intensely like all of my students in Chestertown. Her subject was her young granddaughter.

This is my friend and artist Marj Morani with whom I have been friends for many years. This is her studying the details of each feature of her subject , her daughter in law. Her natural painting style is broken color and painterly as well as impressionistic so accomplishing the details and accuracy in a portrait was quite the challenge.

This was a demonstration I did for the students on drawing each of the features on the face using Canson steel gray archival paper and using a progressive value method of first starting with nupastel # 253 and then #283 and then when more acurate drawing is being finalized # 293 which is the darkest of the three colors and also cooler (more bluish ) in temperature.  Then I used # 276 an Ivory color nupastel to just touch the high lights to make the drawing more three dimensional.
The beginning drawing using the #253 is an estimate of what your eye sees and it is very structural in it's interpretation steering away from rounding off features in the work. It looks as if everything has corners to it, even a cheek!
The # 283 is almost the same value as the first nupastel but appears a slightly different temperature and that is when you start to really see what you have been studying. You begin to look at plum lines to check your angles, you check what changes of direction you long lines take within them and you start to look at not only the outlines of the head and it's features but also the shadows on each form as well as the shadows cast from each form or feature (cast shadows)
These were the issues and problem solving the students worked with on day one and day two.  I remained on my feet to look at each students work and check each of their steps in the process as they worked and the days passed

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