Thanks very much to Maureen Thompson of the Markham Group of Artists who invited me to lead a full-day beginner workshop on how to use oil pastels.
It can be challenging to work in a new medium, but as one participant observed it is also liberating because it is easier and more fun to take risks when you’re a learner. We began by preparing masonite panels with Golden Acrylic Ground for Pastels. While they were drying, everyone practiced applying and blending colour as well as mark-making on test sheets of tinted paper coated with pastel ground, before turning their attention to their chosen landscape images for the rest of the day.
Most of us recall working with crayons or coloured pencils as children, an experience that gives artists their starting point. Colours can be stroked gently into the surface and feathered together to create new transparent blends, almost like tweed, or they can be scrubbed firmly into the surface to create dense opaque shapes – and everything in between. Everyone finds their own unique way to apply colour.
As part of today’s process we also looked at the work of two very different artists: Canada’s A.J Casson whose paintings are notable for a strong sense of design that he used to tame complex landscapes. Later, we looked at a number of exquisite works by the American artist Wolf Kahn, whose brilliant colour and calligraphic approach to landscape suggest a completely different way to tackle the challenge.
And here are the results of today’s labour:
Ten members of the Burlington Fine Arts Association (BFAA) spent the day with me
(right, above, with Gail Forbes past president) for an Oil Pastel workshop, held in the wonderful facilities at the Burlington Art Centre. Oil Pastels are a very liberating medium to use: they’re so portable, durable and stable. They appeal especially to people who love to draw and love colour. Using them reminds me of the fun I had as a child when I first made pictures.
It is important to understand how colours work together when you’re working in pastel, because you need to blend them and know how to adjust values to get a full range from each hue. So we spent a little time at the beginning reviewing these relationships and weaving additional hues by hatching and feathering, adding black and white, and by blending complementary colours. The process gave everyone an opportunity to use their new pastels and try out different approaches to mark-making. We worked on masonite panels that were coated with Golden Acrylic Pastel Ground.
The subject for the day’s work was a simplified adaptation of this drawing by A.J. Casson. The youngest member of Canada’s famous Group of Seven painters, Casson spent some of his formative years in Guelph and Hamilton where he took art classes at the Hamilton Technical School. This prolific artist had a particular affection for Southern Ontario villages that could be reached easily on weekend drives from Toronto.
Everyone transferred the drawing of this house on a hillside to their panel – with some lovely results. At the end of the day, we had a look at the pastel paintings our group produced. It is always fascinating to see how artists express their own personality to produce unique variations on a theme. Many thanks to BFAA for this invitation and the very warm welcome the members extended.