Friday, September 26, 2014

Going the Distance

Roadside View, oil, 8x10

Peeking Through the Trees, pastel, 8x10

Along the McKenzie, oil, 8x10

I came back from my visit to Oregon a couple of weeks ago supplied with some new photos for studio work. Looking through them, I saw potential for focusing on distance in the landscape for my studio classes this week.

Discussions in my classes revolved around making value shifts in the more distant areas to read lighter than what the photo shows, and carefully addressing color temperature according to the lighting conditions.

In the case of Roadside View and Peeking Through the Trees, the foreground is in shadow and the distance is in strong, direct sunlight, which flips around how we normally think of how to use warms and cools, since we have strong cool hues up front and sunlit warms in the distance. More saturated hues in the foreground cools, with the help of some more defined edges, allows that area come forward. And in the distance, muted warms in the sunlit areas, with very little value contrast against the cools, still allows that area to read far away.

Along the McKenzie has more consistent lighting from foreground to background, so in this case we have the more common use of warms up front and cools in the distance.

Below are a couple of other demos from private classes I've held recently...

Dappled, oil, 8x10

September Wetlands, oil, 8x10

I'm teaching three more workshops this in Texas next month and two here in Georgia in November...

OCT. 13, 14 & 15
Farmers Road Art Workshops
1105 FM 1863
New Braunfels, TX 37132
Contact Mary McIntosh at or 830-625-0132
Workshop fee - $345

NOV. 6 & 7
The Art Loft, Dahlonega, GA
Visit to register.
Workshop fee - $225

Nov. 15 (Sat.)
Red Cockerill Gallery
2845 Cemetery St.
Austell, GA 30106
Contact Ann Cockerill to register: 770-944-3160 or 
Workshop fee: $130

See my workshop page on my website for details or email me with any questions.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Peek Inside My Box

My "backpack" size pastel box.

I've had a couple of requests to post an image of my opened pastel box. (Or for those of you on re-post.) I don't claim to have the perfect set up, and I'm always questioning if I have the right proportions of each hue/chroma/value, and I add/subtract from it when I acquire a new supply of pastels. But this is pretty much what it usually looks like.

I mention the part about having this image initially posted on Facebook, because I chose to delete the entire post due to some unfortunate comments made by someone who simply misread something, and then decided that I was just doing it all wrong, partly because it didn't appear that I use any hard pastels.

When I posted the image on Facebook, I didn't mean for it to be that specific about my working methods or all of the materials I use. But for anyone curious, I do use a small amount of hard pastels--usually only about 4 or 5--for a loose block in that I wet down with alcohol, plus greys and neutrals, which I keep separate just due to space limitations. The pastels shown here in my box are mostly soft brands (Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, Schmincke and Unison, and maybe a few misc. others.)

When traveling, I find it easier to place my hard pastels separately in a small cardboard box with foam cushioning since it's just a few that I need, and then another cardboard "Terry Ludwig" box that holds 30 of my favorite greys and neutrals. I sometimes customize these small boxes with specific pastels I think I may need for particular workshop demonstrations. Those small cardboard boxes, with my backpack size Heilman box, fit nicely into my rolling backpack that I carry onto a plane. I usually use this same combination for pastel plein air in my same rolling backpack.

For traditional pastel artists, the norm has always been to start with hard pastels and work up to softer sticks, typically due to the way in which pastel pigment fills the tooth of the paper. The softer the pastel, the more quickly it fills the tooth of the pastel surface. But materials are changing all the time, and the pastel supply manufacturers are getting almost as creative as the artists when it comes to how the products perform. So even though an admired artist or workshop instructor shows you a particular method, certainly give it a try, but always give yourself time in your own studio to experiment with your supplies. What didn't work on materials made 15 years ago may actually react much differently with newer brands. There are of course common methods that are used for good reason. (i.e., don't try and wet down a thick layer of very soft makes a sticky mess that completely fills the tooth! But hey, someone out there may find a way to make that method work in their own unique way.)

What's amazing about pastels, or any painting medium, or really any creative process, is that there's no one right way to create art. That's what makes it art, and not something cut-and-dry like accounting. And it's also what makes it unique to each individual artist.

On another note...

I've noticed that I no longer can receive comments on this blog. I have no idea why. I've looked into it and haven't yet found a solution. It doesn't appear that there's even a spot anymore for someone to leave a comment, but I could be wrong. If anyone happens to know why this is and how to correct it, I'd welcome your input via email ( I always enjoy reading the comments people leave here on my blog...and I really miss them!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Quick Visit to my Home State!

I grew up in New Jersey and lived there until 1992 when I moved to Atlanta. Since my sister just moved from New Jersey to Florida a few months ago in search of sunshine and year round beach time, I no longer have any immediate family there. A little odd knowing I won't have reason to visit there nearly as often. But I'm looking forward to a brief visit there in a few days, by way of a quick overnight stay first in New York City to attend the Pastel Society of America awards night on Sunday, and then on to New Jersey ....

On Monday I'm conducting a pastel demonstration in Middletown, NJ (central NJ near the coast) from noon until 3:00. For anyone who'll be in the area at that time, you're invited to attend! If you'll be in the city, you can take a NJ Transit train from Penn Station to Middletown Station (about an hour) which is just across the street from Middletown Arts Center where the demo will be held. See the flyer above for details. (Yes, you can still register, or even decide last minute and just show up and pay at the door!)

Hope to see some of you there...either at the PSA show or at the demo in Middletown!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It was all great, until it wasn't.

I just returned from teaching a workshop in Springfield, Oregon at the Emerald Art Center for the Pastel Society of Oregon with a fantastic group of artists. Their enthusiasm for the pastel medium and desire to learn made it an inspiring week for us all! Plus, it was my first visit to Oregon, and although I didn't get to see a whole lot of the area since this was a studio workshop, I did get out a bit here and there to see the spectacular scenery and enjoy some gorgeous weather. Topped it off with having the honor of presenting awards for the Pastel Society of Oregon's annual show. Really a great week!

All went incredibly well until I returned home, opened up my new issue of the Pastel Journal, looked at my workshop listing in the back, and realized that I had the dates wrong for my next workshop coming up next month in Texas. (Oh, #&@%!!!!!!) My host for this workshop did contact me yesterday to let me know a student just called her regarding the date discrepancy, but I assumed it was an earlier issue, which may have had previously planned dates that we needed change after the magazine went to press. I suppose I never made the correction and never caught it for the more current issues.

With all that said...I have plenty of room in my pastel workshop next month which has been promoted with the WRONG dates in the "pastel bible"! It's in New Braunfels, TX (Texas Hill Country). Correct dates are October 13, 14, & 15 (Mon/Tues/Wed). The studio location is also a bed & breakfast, so lodging is right there, making it super convenient for out-of-town participants.
Contact Mary McIntosh at Farmers Road Art Workshops
1105 FM 1863
New Braunfels, TX 37132
Workshop fee - $345

In the meantime, here are my pastel demos from Oregon this past week...

The Back Roads, 11x14

Cool Summer Evening, 11x14