Long Break, now back to work!

After a long break from art, I’m back to work!  Life got in the way the past year- health issues and having a house for sale have interrupted my art journey.  Half of my art supplies went into a storage unit in December, 2016…

The only painting I did last year that is worth posting is a 6″x6″ soft pastel entered into the Marin County Fair in June, 2016.  I’ve been entering the fair since 2008, and this is the first year I’ve gotten a ribbon and sold a painting at this venue.  Over 3,000 fine art pieces are entered into the Fine Arts division of the fair, about 1,000 entries are accepted.

Painted from life, a small red satin rocking horse figurine my husband brought back from Morocco many years ago.  6″x6″ soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte paper.


More posts to come soon, and updated photos of recent work will be posted in pages in coming days!

After Mike Beeman’s Still-life Demo at IAPS

I was so inspired watching Mike Beeman’s 3 hour demo at IAPS, titled “Attacking the Still life with a Painterly Style”, that I came home and tried my hand using a few of his “fearless” techniques!

Mike could not emphasize enough in his demo, that we need to overcome our fear of failure during painting- he said many of his students “seize up” when they get a still-life setup in front of them, afraid to start. He said the worst that would come of a painting that doesn’t work, is that we’d just have to start again- and big deal! He said some paintings he’s started over 6 times before…

He emphasized blocking in large shapes first, focusing on values and color temperature (warm versus cool) and edges (lost and found, or sharp versus soft).

Mike completed 2 paintings in 3 hours! And he likes to talk too, so I think maybe he spent about 45 minutes hands on with each painting…

I’ve started painting more still-life setups over the last year or so, but many of mine are rather stiff, for lack of a better word. But after Mike’s demo, my painting has seemed to have loosened up and I’m in a happier place!  Thanks Mike!

Here’s what I came home and painted about a week after IAPS:

Still-life after Mike Beeman's IAPS demo

Still-life after Mike Beeman’s IAPS demo

IAPS 2015- an AMAZING pastel conference!

This year was the Eleventh Biennial conference of the International Associations of Pastel Societies (IAPS). IAPS is the umbrella organization for the myriad of pastel societies that exist in the US as well as a few overseas.  This year, there were 800 people registered for the conference!

The conference was held the first week of June, 2015 in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico, at Hotel Albuquerque.  Since I traveled to New Mexico with my husband and two dogs, we had to stay in a different hotel (because of the dogs, not the husband!).  At first, I was disappointed not to be staying in the conference hotel, but after the first couple of days, appreciated getting away from the conference hotel in the evenings- the conference was sort of a “sensory overload” for me.

The conference has several parts to it.  There are workshops that are hands-on, with instructors leading a one or two day workshop, with students using their own pastel supplies and producing their own paintings.  There are also artist demonstrations- these are not hands-on for students, but people are able to observe some of the pastel world’s top artists at work for 3 hours- producing a painting right before our eyes.  More about my chosen workshops and demonstrations below.

In conjunction with IAPS is one of the most amazing pastel exhibits in the country – PastelWorld- with almost 200 paintings on exhibit!  Works included juried pieces from members belonging to one of the IAPS member societies, as well as works from the instructors and judges. This was my first time seeing so many pastel paintings in one exhibit! The show was amazing to be able to see in person.  I was thrilled to see in person artwork from some admired artists such as Mike Beeman, Karen Margolis, William Schneider, Alan Picard and Richard McKinley, to name a few.  I also discovered some new artists to me who’s work I really enjoyed, Vianna Szabo, and Marla Baggetta to name a couple.  As part of our registration, all attendees received a high quality catalog of the PastelWorld exhibit, a nice memory of the exhibit.  One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was that next to each painting was an artist statement- reading the artists’ thoughts about the painting made me view some of them differently.  I wish more art exhibits would include this feature.   We were allowed to take photos at the exhibit (the glare was horrible, so no worries about “stealing” somebody’s artwork for reproduction!).  Here is a photo of Lisa Ober’s statement (she won an award for this painting):

Artist Statement, Lisa Ober, 2015 PastelWorld exhibit.

Artist Statement, Lisa Ober, 2015 PastelWorld exhibit.

IAPS also invites pastel manufactures and other vendors to sell their wares in the vendors hall.  Wow, talk about excitement!  Being able to see all the Unison, Girualt and Terry Ludwig pastels in person!  Terry Ludwig is my favorite pastel brand, and I’ve been using them since 2010.  I finally got to meet Terry in person, his wife Marie and their son Geoff.  I cannot tell you how exciting this was for me- I talked to Terry for about 20 minutes, head the story of how the business got started, and am glad to be able to support their family business.  I ended up buying 42 Terry Ludwig sticks- this time was special because I got to pick them out in person!  I mostly bought replacement sticks for those colors I was low on, but also picked out a few new lovelies!

Terry Ludwig booth at 2015 IAPS convention.

Terry Ludwig booth at 2015 IAPS convention.

Terry Ludwig booth at 2015 IAPS convention.

Terry Ludwig booth at 2015 IAPS convention.

Barbara with Terry Ludwig

Barbara with Terry Ludwig

There were many other events at IAPS, some of which I had to miss because I was too tired.  I did make it to the buffet dinner on Thursday evening and the banquet on Saturday night, although missed the banquet presentation after dinner.

For my workshops, I choose to take a two day workshop with figure artist Diane Rappisi.  The workshop was titled “Contemporary Approach to the Classical Figure”.  I enjoyed the workshop Diane is very generous with her individual attention at the easel, and is very encouraging. I wish we had more time for her to explain her use of color- she is an amazing colorist, and I love the vibrancy of her work. Here is what I produced in the workshop (the first day we worked solely in charcoal, the next day in pastel):

Figure painting from Diane Rappisi's IAPS workshop, pastel, 19

Figure painting from Diane Rappisi’s IAPS workshop, pastel, 19″x24″

I also took a one day workshop “Painting the Commissioned Portrait”, taught by Luana Luconi Winner. Luana started out by showing us a wonderful slideshow of her work. She explained her supplies and how she works.  She works with high end clients, and it was interesting to hear her experiences painting commissioned portraits of bank executives and North Carolina debutantes.  She did a couple of painting demonstrations, working from a live model, then we had our hand at trying some of her techniques.  I enjoyed the workshop, although didn’t finish my portrait!

The demonstrations weren’t hands on, but I enjoyed them more than the workshops! I attended a 4-hour portrait demonstration by artist William Schneider.  I very much like his portraiture work and was very happy to see his approach.  He finished a wonderful portrait in the 4 hours and captured the expression and got a good likeness of the model. Bill is a very generous teacher, and loves to talk art- I talked with him for about 45 minutes one-on-one after the workshop. I hope to take future workshops with Bill.

Mike Beeman did a wonderful 4-hour still-life demonstration.  Mike has a wonderful sense of humor, and is very free with his pastels when painting.  He was very inspiring, and I came home and produced probably my best still-life to date, using a few of his techniques in my own work.  Mike allowed us to take photos during his demo, here is one of him at work and his setup:

Mike Beeman Still-life demo, 2015 IAPS.

Mike Beeman Still-life demo, 2015 IAPS.

The best part of IAPS was the gathering of pastel artists from all over the US and the world.  Many of us paint in isolation- oil painters and watercolor artists seem to dominate the art scene around many of us pastel artists- usually when I attend local figure or portrait sessions, I am the only pastel artist.  It was so exciting to be surrounded by 800 other pastel artists for a week!  The biggest names in the pastel world were in attendance, and all were very generous with sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm of pastel art.

If I attend in the future, I will likely only sign up for the demonstrations only and not take a workshop.  It was not fun hauling all my supplies from Califorina, including my easel, heavy pastel box and especially my large art board that holds a 19”x24” piece of paper required for Diane Rappisi’s workshop.  I also found the workshops to be so exhausting, standing at the easel for three days, that I didn’t have the energy to attend some of the evening events.

IAPS would not exist without volunteers as IAPS and the conference are put together principally by volunteers.  I am amazed at the dedication of the pastel community— and I can’t thank them enough! Thank you to all the volunteers!

Pastel artists are a special group of people, and I hope to be able to attend IAPS again in the future.  I hope to meet some of you there too! 

More about IAPS at:  http://www.iapspastel.org/index.htm

Barbara’s First Solo Exhibit

I am excited to announce my first solo exhibit, which will be held at the Mill Valley Library in March.  There is a free reception on Tuesday, March 3 from 6-8 pm.  The reception is part of Mill Valley’s monthly First Tuesday Artwalk.  More information at the Mill Valley Library website:  http://www.cityofmillvalley.org/Index.aspx?page=195&recordid=20878′

Most of the work that will be on exhibit has been painted from life.  Models posing, fruit placed.  The Mill Valley Library exhibit space is modest in size, which is why I agreed to have a show there.  Eighteen of my paintings will be on display.  Honestly, for the hundreds of paintings and sketches I’ve done since about 2008, these eighteen are the only ones that I feel are “frame worthy”… (perhaps the subject of a future blog post!)

Enable images to view Posed and Placed: Works on Paper

A Signature, or Not?

A family member recently asked if I sign my paintings.

The answer is yes, but I prefer to sign my work in a way that becomes part of the painting, using lines and texture to enhance the beauty of the painting. In essence, I prefer to have my signature hidden in the painting- it’s there, but it may take awhile to find it. I also sign the back of my paintings in ink, with the title of the painting, and the date.

The style of signing one’s artwork is a matter of personal choice. Some artists prefer to have bold signatures across the bottom of their work (typically the lower right of the painting), other artists use a stylized form of their initials, and even others don’t sign the front of their paintings at all, but the back of the painting.

My signature has evolved over the years. In my early work, I signed my name and the year in the lower right corner of the painting- this is a typical placement for a signature. In a watercolor class a few years ago, my teacher, Carol Lefkowitz, insisted that we not sign the front of our paintings as she thought a signature distracted from the painting. This got me reconsidering how I sign my work. For awhile, I had stopped signing my work, but slowly started adding signatures again, until they evolved into my current style.

Here is an example from a recent pastel painting, Pretty in Pink, of how I now sign my work (this is a crop of her right shoulder):

Pretty In Pink signature

I used to dread signing my work, how to sign and where to place the signature. Now I look forward to finishing a painting and placing my signature on the painting and looking for the perfect place for my “hidden” signature!

Drawing or Painting in Pastel?

Some of you may wonder why I use the word painting when referring to my pastel work, instead of drawing. I myself was confused why pastel artists called their works paintings instead of drawing when I first started using pastel. A pastel artist that uses the pastel stick more like a paintbrush instead of a pencil, and covers most of the paper with pastel, often calls their work a pastel painting. A pastel drawing, on the other hand, tends to focus on line, and the artist is often not concerned with covering the entire background with pastel.

Most of my work I consider pastel painting, however, I also create what I consider pastel drawings- particularly the work created during figure drawing/painting sessions when the model poses for less than 5 minutes. These quick drawings are not done in a manner in which the pastel covers the entire page, and often, the drawing has more of an emphasis on line rather than on mass.

Sometimes I see pastel works that are richly colored and in which the pastel covers most of the paper, but there is a lot of emphasis on line quality and texture- this is to me where the painting/drawing distinctions gets blurred. I consider much of Edgar Degas’ pastel work a blur of the definitions.

Let’s look at some examples from Edgar Degas. (note, click on the photos to see a larger image).

Below is a work by Degas, completed in 1880, that I would consider a pastel drawing. Notice the emphasis on line.  Here, he used the charcoal and pastel more like a pencil, using primarily the tip edge of the stick.  There are some areas that it looks like he used the side of the pastel stick, but the line in this drawing dominates.

Two Dancers in Their Dressing Room, Edgar Degas, pastel, 1880.  National Gallery, London, UK.

Two Dancers in Their Dressing Room, Edgar Degas, pastel, 1880. National Gallery, London, UK.

In 1879, Degas completed another piece, that I would consider a pastel painting. Notice the broad strokes of color in the dresses, and how most of the paper surface is richly covered with pastel. Here Degas most likely used the sides of the pastel stick, much like a paintbrush. There is some line in this piece, but the line is not the emphasis of the painting.

The Green Dancer, Edgar Degas, 1879.  Theyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain.

The Green Dancer, Edgar Degas, 1879. Theyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain.

And finally, here is a painting that Degas completed in 1902 that blurs the distinctions between a drawing and painting. Notice the surface is richly covered with pastel, however, there is an energetic use of line throughout the entire piece. From a distance (or with a small image), it is hard to clearly see how the pastel sticks were used.  In the larger image, it looks to me like Degas used a combination of the side of the pastel stick (like a paintbrush) and the tip of the pastel stick (like a pencil). Clearly, when viewed larger, line dominates this image, but the use of line translates into a painterly like image when viewed small (or from a distance). Is this a drawing or painting?

Four Dancers, Edgar Degas, pastel, 1902.  Private Pastel Collection.

Four Dancers, Edgar Degas, pastel, 1902. Private Pastel Collection.

There is no right or wrong way to use pastel, and whether one considers their work a pastel painting or drawing is really not very relevant as long as the artist is able to express their inner voice. I much admire energetic line use in pastel work, but I personally find it much more difficult to successfully use this type of technique! Studying Degas’ work over the past couple of weeks makes me want to integrate more line into my future work…

Picasso, yes, he could paint realism…

Many of us know Pablo Picasso, the famed Cubist painter from the 20th century, who painted such unique portraits such as “Weeping Woman with Handkerchief” from 1937:


Before I had taken art history in 2005, I didn’t know if Picasso could actually paint a realistic portrait!  I learned in class that indeed, he did study art in his early years. I became fascinated with the Cubist movement and studied it more deeply, but never gave Picasso’s early work another thought, until…

Today.  I am currently in Barcelona, Spain, and today visited the Picasso Museum, which focuses on his early work.

I viewed many of his early portraits and landscapes, painted in oil paint.  Work that surprised me.  I came across this beautiful pastel portrait, painted in 1896, when Picasso was only 15 years old. “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother”:


The emotion that he captured, the sensitivity of his pastel strokes, all captivated me.  I would have never picked this out as being a Picasso painting, and a person just barely starting their art career.

Seeing Picasso’s early work from his teen years gave me new insight into him as an artist, and new respect for what he later accomplished.

At 13 years old, if I had been painting the types of portraits that Picasso was painting at this age, I’d probably now, decades later, be painting in Cubism too!  Right now I’m stuck in realism…