The Pastel Journal

The Pastel Journal November/December 2018

Pastel Journal covers topics of interest to working pastelists as well as those who work in pastel as an additional medium along with those who are just experimenting with the medium.

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2 Min.
risk and reward

“Damn, and just when I was starting to get it!”These words, attributed to Impressionist giant and pastel icon Edgar Degas on his deathbed, point to one of the artist’s remarkable qualities—that is, his ongoing interest in “the search.” Here was an artist who was not averse to risk-taking, who looked upon innovation not as a threat but as an opportunity for growth—a way to take his art-making to new and daring heights of creativity. Degas’ penchant for innovation manifested in a variety of ways, perhaps most notably in his compositional experimentation, but also in his readiness to work in a variety of media—not only pastel, but also engraving, monotype and photography. He was not one to settle into a comfort zone. Such daring-do doesn’t come naturally to most, and yet it’s…

3 Min.
fresh perspectives

THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS BOSTON IS HOSTING the exhibition, “French Pastels, Treasures From the Vault,” through January 6, 2019. I worked with the museum this past summer to develop supplemental materials to make the process and implements of pastel painting more accessible to museum visitors. For the exhibit’s “art cart,” the curators and I wanted to show the range of materials and techniques used by 19th-century pastelists, so I decided to take it to the next level and show the visitors by example. It was a simple idea: Take a still life with three pears, and create one painting each in the styles of Degas, Cassatt and Millet. The aim was to show the variety in style and approach possible with pastels. That all sounded fine in theory, until I…

3 Min.
the art of not knowing

A MEMBER OF THE CHOCTAW NATION BY BIRTH, Susan Ross Grimaldi, M.Ed., was recognized at an early age as a visionary by her Choctaw grandmother, who in turn taught her. Grimaldi was initiated as a healer at the age of 19. Today, she’s a Native American shaman who has participated in thousands of healings and is world renowned for her invaluable fieldwork in cultural preservation of shamanic traditions from the Amazon Basin, in Brazil, to remote regions of Tuva, in eastern Siberia, and Mongolia. She also spent 17 years on a project in northeast China and Inner Mongolia helping to revive shamanism. She has authored articles, been the subject of radio interviews and, with her partner, John R. Lawrence, Ph.D., filmed documentaries on shamanism. A State of Rapture From an early age,…

1 Min.
a dance with color

“I like pastel because it’s instantaneous and full of beauty,” says Grimaldi. “I can be direct, intense or delicate and engage without hesitation. Waiting for paint to dry breaks my flow, but using pastels always feels expansive and exciting. It makes me happy. When I paint, I’m lost in timelessness and feel innocent, somehow more dear to myself. Pastel painting moves me in a way that helps me to appreciate myself.” Grimaldi’s favored pastels include Schmincke, Sennelier and Henri Roché, to which she sometimes adds PanPastels, and she’s particularly keen on the use of iridescents and metallics. Highly experimental, Grimaldi uses a multitude of both traditional surfaces, such as Richeson Pastel Board and various sanded papers, as well as nontraditional surfaces, including metallic photo papers, raw silk, linen, cotton and deer suede.…

4 Min.
composition boot camp

IT SOMETIMES TAKES CONVINCING THAT an entire workshop devoted to composition is worthwhile. Most students are more concerned about the end of the painting process—those sparkling finishing touches. But when I teach my Composition Boot Camp workshop, I focus intensively on what I believe is the most difficult, yet most important, stage of the painting process: the beginning. I find that most students either rush through this composition stage or bypass it altogether. The result is that they fall prey to myriad bad habits that inevitably work their way into their paintings. The good news, though, is that there are indeed learnable skills that any artist can master to address these potential pitfalls successfully. Following is a list of five common bad habits that appear in a painting when particular composition skills…

1 Min.
shaping up your images

A proportion scale, or wheel, which has an inner wheel that rotates atop a larger outer wheel, aids in the resizing of an image to fit a target width or height. To find correct proportions: Choose either the desired height or width for the thumbnail sketch. For example, I chose a 3-inch vertical height for my sketch. I lined up 3 inches on the small wheel to the corresponding vertical dimension of my painting size—in this case, 8 inches—on the large wheel. I then found the horizontal dimension of my painting size on the large wheel—in this case, 10 inches—and looked to see what 10 inches lined up with on the smaller wheel, which resulted in the horizontal dimension for my thumbnail sketch: 3¾ inches.…