Watercolor and Pastel Artists at CHAW
Weekend before last, I attended two all-day workshops–Pastel Portraits and The Still-Life in Pastel–sponsored by Smithsonian Associates at the Dillon Ripley Center. Both were taught by Gary Shankman, head of the Fine Arts Department at Sage College of Albany.
At both workshops, he began with a short instructional lecture, showed slides of both student and masterworks to illustrate approaches and techniques, and gave a very brief demonstration. Then we spent the remainder of the day working on a single pastel as he circled the room with individual advice and general comments. There was a late-afternoon break for sharing and critiquing. Most of us, especially if we tried to work large, didn’t finish.
Because Gary discouraged some of my favorite techniques–blending, use of black for shadows and white for highlights–I was challenged to get outside of my comfort zone and to experiment with layering and using different color.
While you are at work, he says, step back, squint, look at it in a mirror. I had not heard the last suggestion and found it very helpful. Because we learn to read left to right in this culture, he says we look at other things the same way, left to right. Checking your work in the mirror reverses this process and can help the artist find problems. It did for me.
He wants you to work the whole pastel and not go at it piecemeal. Also, repeat colors, e.g., use a little of the background color in the clothing. He suggests making the background darker on the lighted side of the work and lighter on the shadow side. Also, make sure that reflected light is never as light as the lighted side. He says working on toned paper can unify a pastel.
I thought the portrait workshop was the better of the two, but of course I’m not a good judge since I find still-lifes boring!
We worked from a live model in the portrait class. There wasn’t time to finish, but here is my portrait-in-progress. I still have corrections to do. It’s about 16″ x 22″ and done on light blue toothed (not sanded) pastel paper.