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Richard McKinley’s Pastel Pointers Blog
The general purpose of beginning a pastel painting with an underpainting is to create a setup in advance of the application of pastel. It is the cake, so to speak, to the icing. An underpainting is particularly useful when surface tone is vastly different than what is being portrayed. This can be especially bothersome in dark passages where major amounts of pastel would have to be applied, making subsequent pastel application difficult.
There are some paintings that linger in our memories like a favorite song, playing over and over again. I saw one such painting at the annual Pastel Society of America exhibition in New York City this fall. As I entered the Grand Gallery in the National Arts Club and began my tour, I was again reminded of just how far the medium of pastel has come. Each painting was fascinating, but as I arrived in the back portion of the gallery and glanced to my right, a certain painting immediately captured my full attention …
This week the United States of America celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday—a time when we’re encouraged to reflect on the things for which we are thankful. Human nature, being what it is, often keeps us more attentive to the negative versus the positive aspects of life. All we have to do is tune into the daily news to witness this fixation. This predilection to the negative may serve a profound purpose in encouraging us to strive for better, but when left unchecked over a period of time, can led to frustration and hopelessness. The same tendency to focus on the negative can affect creativity.
The “Pastel Pointers” column in the current issue of Pastel Journal discusses three methods that plein air pastelists can use to find inspiration in the studio when winter forces them indoors. However, the landscape artist still faces the challenge of being denied access to the literal scene, something the still life and portrait/figurative painter doesn’t have to contend with forced indoors. There are two approaches I use to deal with this situation.
After working in pastel for well over 40 years, I have again become enamored with the usefulness of harder pastels. Beyond their capabilities for traditional pastel application, they can provide the means for creative pastel techniques
Within the sphere of pastels, there are varying degrees of stick firmness. The level of softness or hardness of a pastel stick is dependent on the individual pigment characteristics, the addition of inert compounds, and the composition of the binder holding the pigment together. Generally, pastelists categorize the sticks in their palettes as either soft or hard. The pigment may be the same between a hard and soft pastel stick, providing a similar hue, value, and chroma, but the firmness of the stick will ultimately have a profound effect on the application and its final appearance. When determining which firmness of stick is best for your specific painting needs, take these factors into consideration …
As Halloween approaches, we are again surrounded by all things scary. While readying treats to ward off the threat of tricks being played from throngs of costumed neighborhood children, I was reminded of the scariest thing that artists confront: the blank surface.
While pastel had been an established medium well in advance of Edgar Degas, it was his technical experimentation—often pushing well beyond traditional methods of application—which inspired subsequent generations of artists to consider its use. Degas brought a “do whatever is necessary” attitude to working with pastel that firmly catapulted it well beyond a delicate sketching medium. Pastel reinforced his natural draftsmanship tendencies and allowed him to easily break free from the confines of customary composition.
The Pastel Society of America’s celebration of the 41st Annual Open Exhibition, “Enduring Brilliance,” continued on Sunday, September 24, with the centerpiece awards ceremony, honorees presentation, and the annual celebration dinner. The ceremony opened with the introduction of the society’s new president, PSA Master Pastelist, Jimmy Wright. Jimmy then gave a fitting tribute to his predecessor, Rae Smith, who spoke emotionally of her years of devotion to the PSA and the continuation of founder Flora B. Giffuni’s vision.
The Pastel Society of America (PSA) recently concluded its annual exhibition (September 3 through 28) aptly titled, “Enduring Brilliance.” This marked the 41st annual open exhibition during the month of September in the Grand Gallery of the National Art Club located in the historic Gramercy Park district of Manhattan. Concurrently, The PSA School for Pastels had its 24th student exhibition in the Trask Gallery, also in the National Arts Club.