Friday, 1 August 2014

Demo at Pastel Artists of Canada National Exhibition, May 2014

Demonstration piece at Pastel Artists of Canadas' 23rd Annual Pastel exhibition, 
"Purely Pastel"

Last May, I was asked by the Pastel Artists of Canada to do a demonstration at the opening of their national show, at Beaux Art Brampton. This is an art venue, with exhibition and workshop space downstairs, and artists' studios upstairs. It's in an old funky building in downtown Brampton, Ontario.

The venue was quite nice, and I demonstrated in the workshop space behind the gallery, segwaying nicely into the opening, which happened when my demo was over. I brought some still life material with me, and took one hour to draw out and execute this piece.
At the end of my hour, I was no where near where I wanted to be with the piece, so I took it home with every intention of finishing it quickly, before my motivation for the piece waned. However, life got in the way, and I only finished it now.

Luckily, I did have some photos too, as it's pretty hard to set up exactly the same scenario with lighting and all objects in exactly the same position.
For those of you who were at the demo, you know I was trying to stick to three values in the beginning, and trying to stick to the primaries, so as to have a nice triad of colour harmony.
Once I got the piece back to my studio, it didn't seem to work, and I had to make new decisions in the moment for the piece to feel alive to me.
The paper I was working on was Art Spectrum, the nice red brick colour. So I worked the primaries onto red, then toned down the shadows with blues and purples, finishing with more reds on the top layer, to bring a small amount of subtle light into the shadows. I played quite a bit in the shadows, trying to build dimension and depth by having some slight contrast in value,within all the darks there.
It probably doesn't show up well in the image, but the light areas are done the same way, with some value contrast, using several highly tinted colours to create dimension in the light areas.
The mediums were basically the flowers, and I used a variety of reds, some warmer, some cooler, and a little variance in terms of value as well.

I have had the experience before, of losing my momentum with a piece, due to distractions, and being away from a piece for too long. Since I know this can happen to us all, here are a few suggestions to minimize the damage when you just can't get to finishing your painting :

1) Keep a journal for your studio. At the end of a painting day, write about exactly where you are in the piece, anything that comes to  mind. The next time you go to work on the piece, you can read this back to yourself, and re-gain your mind set and focus. It's like pressing the save button, on your creative mind.
2) Write your  initial intention with the piece on a post-it note, and stick it to the easel, so you don't forget what you are after. You can use this to guide your decisions, and to ruminate over when you may decide to change direction mid-painting, just do it consciously.
3) It never hurts to take pictures of what you are painting, and of your painting as well for future reference.
4) If the piece fails to stand up to your intial intention, don't be afraid to try something bold and different, even if it takes you away from your first goal. This is a time to experiment and be bold, take risks. After all, the minute we are precious about anything in our work, we've just lost it.

This is not the best piece I have ever done, but the way I describe it to my students is that our minds are like a mountain range. Sometimes we find ourselves at the top of the mountain, the middle or the bottom. The more practice we get, the more this phenomenon evens out, with less highs and lows. But until we are fully trained, (I will always be in training), one is never safe from the mountain range.

Good luck everyone, cheers, Margaret Ferraro

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