What I learned from attending Pastel Live! and how to use your artistic frustration as Miracle Grow for your artistic abilities...
As a teacher, I REALLY wanted to demonstrate for Pastel Live this week, which was a three-day pastel workshop featuring many of the top artists you dream about. I also realize that to be a good teacher, I need to know who the audience is, what their needs are, and how I can meet them. So I attended instead, to see what it was all about, and it was enriching.
Workshops are expensive, and attendees expect to get their money's worth. As a workshop teacher, it's always my goal to exceed expectations and blow minds. I take workshops with other artists as often as I can, and at least once a year (my birthday present to me!). If you attended Pastel Live! then you got your money's worth and more as well.
I learned many things which I will summarize for you here, as fellow pastelists you will probably appreciate them, other mediums can just scroll on down to the 10th paragraph to get to the good stuff. All artists are visual learners and learn mainly by seeing and doing, not by reading about it. For me, I need to watch it being done, then do it myself for it to really sink in. I attempted to follow along with each demo.
My first day started with Tony Allain whom I have admired for years. Unfortunately, I had a mammogram during his demo, so I wound up watching it on my cellphone with headphones while being tortured. I later painted along with the video to try out his style. He was quicker and less contrived about color and stroke than most artists-he trusted his intuition and went bold with his color and strokes. I learned that I overthink things, and could be far less realistic and still get the spirit of the message across.
Next was Gwenneth Barth-White who did a portrait demo that started with a very detailed drawing of a head before she put a single stroke of color down. I appreciated her patience, and she was slow and methodical in her approach and selection of colors. She used Zorn lighting (lit warm on one side, cool on the other, with a dark stripe in the center of the head). I learned alot about her process and how she sited measurements comparing this part of the head to that part. I use Betty Edward's method of eye level to chin, so it was new to me.
Next was Allain Picard who I also follow, and was familiar with his style. I was surprised at how organized and thoughtful he was, and he reminded me of Jen Evenhus who puts alot of thought in every stroke. He worked the complements well, choosing colors that would pop and applying strokes cleanly with an occasional swipe with the edge of a paper towel to blend or break up a line.
I didn't attend every demo as alas I am still a working artist and had to teach my own classes during the event as well. What I'm giving you are the highlights of the sessions I did attend. Lana Ballot was a pleasure, as I consider her a friend and colleague, so it was nice to see her in action. Her demo was also one of my favorite subjects; waves. She has a similar style so it wasn't hard to follow her, but I was surprised by her use of underpainting and color choices. She did an alcohol wash with green and purple before starting in with pastel. I never in a million years would have thought to do that. Clarence Porter did a similar underpainting in his demo. He went very slowly and methodically as well.
William Schneider has a refreshing sense of humor and approach to color. He did a portrait of a beautiful young woman with red hair. I was surprised by his use of greens in the cool shadows of her head, as I would've used them as an underpainting but not a skin tone. He said something I often say as well; "you can substitute any color as long as it's the right value and temperature!"
This is just a taste of the demos, and I encourage people to try the event next year, or one of the other Live events for watercolor, realism, or plein air. If you are very experienced, like me, you will still get a lot out of it-technique wise, and also the opportunity to fan-girl out on all the fun artists you read about in art magazines. Most of the participants were beginner to advanced level artists. I got to know a few in chats, and break out rooms.
One topic that came up repeatedly was frustration. I experienced it myself. That moment when you come up against a skill or technique you are just not quite able to pull off. Most of us want to think its a teachable thing that you just follow along certain steps and VIOLA! There it is! Most art techniques are like that to a certain extent, but then there is a level of finesse involved. You have to be able to finesse the pigment to make it do what you want it to do.