Sunday, November 10, 2013

Workshop Wrap-up: Piedmont Pastel Society

Pass the Barn on Your Left, pastel, 11 x 14

This past week I had the privilege of conducting a workshop for the Piedmont Pastel Society in Charlotte, NC. In the four-day workshop, I had students focus on a specific challenge each of the four days: basic composition development, the "five shape landscape," minimal stroke exercises, and limited color palette working from a black & white photo.

Below is from the first day of the workshop, when I introduced my method for planning out the basic composition for a painting.

Winter Journey, pastel, 12x12

Day two, we took that idea one step further with the five shape landscape...dividing the composition into no more than five shapes to get the painting started. Shown below are the thumbnail sketches, which 
    indicate the inital five shapes, and the underpainting based on the five-shape value sketch.

underpainting for Pass the Barn on Your Left (at top)

  We switched gears on day three to focus on stroke often ignored skill! By counting the strokes applied to a painting, artists are usually shocked to find out how many unnecessary strokes of pastel they otherwise find themselves piling onto their paintings. We also addressed stroke direction and how much of the pastel stick we want to have touching the surface for different types of strokes. Even though this workshop focused specifically on landscapes, we warmed up with a 20-stroke apple exercise, since an apple is a simple, recognizable shape in which we could focus on strokes rather than copying from a photo reference or an actual apple. (The top two apples painted in 20 strokes each; the bottom one was fine tuned after the 20 strokes.) We then moved onto small landscapes, working to about a 6x8 size, completing these studies in 100 strokes or less.

Although during the first three days of the workshop I made mention often of how I go about choosing my color palette, on the fourth and final day, that was our focus. By working from a black & white photo and limiting the palette to no more than 20 pastels, we used values and color temperature to develop a harmonious color palette for the painting.

Unknown Journey, pastel, 11 x 14

black & white reference for Unknown Journey

This was a fantastic group of 18 motivated artists, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with each one. I was also given the honor of judging this pastel society's exhibit, which included some amazing work. The past week was certainly a case in which the instructor/show juror left feeling just as inspired as the attendees! Thanks, Piedmont Pastel Society!


  1. Love your beautiful painting! I always enjoy your posts--so much so that I always read them at least twice and study each photo. Love your style--you're my inspiration!

    1. What a nice comment, Judy! I had to squeeze that post in between two back-to-back trips, so your kind words have made my day. :-)