Tag Archives: Aleda O’Connor

The magic of soft pastel

Sheep, hillside, by Aleda O’Connor. Soft pastel on board. 16″ x 20″

Though I’ve been using oil pastel for almost 20 years, soft pastels aren’t part of my regular kit. So when I noticed a six-class session at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) taught by pastel artist Clarence Porter, I jumped at the opportunity to experiment. I first saw his exquisite cityscapes of the Hamilton skyline in the spring of 2012 and loved them.

The class was as much fun as Clarence’s colourful paintings. He led us through a variety of techniques and concepts: using sponges to apply and blend colour; the effect of alcohol as a blending/fixing medium; the differences between hard, soft and pan pastels; tips on using a variety of tools from pencils and erasers to palette knives. We experimented with several different surfaces, including paper and board prepared with Golden Pastel Ground, which I also use as a base for oil pastel.

My painting, Sheep, hillside was completed during the class.  Clarence Porter will be teaching another pastel class from March 24 to May 5 2013, at the AGH.

An Oil Pastel Workshop

    
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.

West Guilford, by A.J. Casson   McMichael Canadian Collection

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. 

Artists Inc. Annual Members show

Wash Day, Co. Kerry by Aleda O’Connor Oil Pastel on Wood Panel 24″ x 36″

My painting Wash Day Co. Kerry  is part of the Hamilton Artists Inc. Annual Members Show, that opened last night and runs until December 16. The Artists Inc. Gallery is located at 155 James Street North, at the corner of James and Cannon Streets in Hamilton. Over 100 artists are represented in this year’s show. It’s open tonight for the James Street North Art Crawl, or you can drop by during the regular hours: Wednesday to Friday 12 pm – 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday 12 pm – 4 pm.

Burlington Fine Arts Association – Oil Pastel demo step-by-step

In September, I made a very abbreviated start on an oil pastel demonstration at the end of my presentation to the Burlington Fine Arts Association at the Burlington Art Centre. I didn’t have time to show the group much about how I work in the allotted time, but I promised I’d post it when it was finished. Here’s what it looked like in progress: 

I began by drawing in the major shapes and blocking in patches of colour.  

Wheat field and Willows Step 1

At step two, below, I emphasized the orange/pink glow where the sun shines on and through the wheat stalks.

Wheat field and Willows Step 2

By the third stage, I have worked into the shapes with more colour – building layers with my Sennelier Oil Pastel sticks and Sakura Cray-Pas Specialist Oil Pastel sticks, while also scratching into the surface with a palette knife and a bamboo skewer. I find that by using different brands of pastel I can manipulate the texture and colour better. I also use oil pastels made by Holbein and Caran D’Ache.

Wheat field and Willows Step 3

Finally, I refined the surface, added more colour in the sky, defined the shapes and shadows of the willows and added additional contrasting complimentary marks throughout, but especially in the foreground wheatfield. Notice the distant roadway as well – a last-minute addition.

Wheat field and Willows by Aleda O’Connor Oil Pastel on Wood Panel 18″ x 24″

It’s been a good move…

Some of you know that Barry Coombs and I moved to Hamilton45 minutes west of Toronto – in May. Six months later I can report that we are thrilled by our decision, by our new home that has enough space for both of us to have studios, a guest room, plenty of storage space and a big garden in a lovely neighbourhood, close to the lake and farmers market. What more could anyone want? Barry had many connections here, having taught at the Dundas Valley School of Art (DVSA) for some 20 years, and I have been most warmly welcomed by absolutely everyone I have met, from Barry’s former DVSA colleagues and students, to our new neighbours and the folks at the Burlington Art Centre (BAC) where I recently gave a presentation about my oil pastels to the Burlington Fine Art Association. We have become regulars at the James Street North Art Crawl, and last month I attended some of the screenings of the Art Gallery of  Hamilton’s World Film Festival.  (Heck – all three venues were less than 10 minutes away.)

Bicycle, 3″ x 4″
Pen, Ink and White Charcoal on Toned Paper

To top off this perfect beginning, my little drawing Bicycle was chosen for the Viewers Choice Award at the opening of the Second Annual Miniature Show at Hamilton’s 337 Sketch Gallery. I’m very proud to be part of this show that contains some exquisite works of art – none of which are larger than 3” x 4” or cost more than $200. (I have my eye on a few beauties.) The show runs until October 29 at 337 Ottawa Street, Hamilton.

Art Gallery of Hamilton Super Auction

Black Spruce, by Aleda O’Connor Oil Pastel, 20″ x 28″

My oil pastel landscape painting “Black Spruce” is up for sale in the first of three online art auctions in the 2012 Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) Super AuctionFunds raised through this event are being used to establish an art acquisition fund for AGH .

 

My first presentation on oil pastels

I was the guest speaker for the Burlington Fine Arts Association this week – an exciting first for me. I am so grateful to Victoria Pearce for inviting me to talk about this rewarding medium and to the Association members for their warm response to my work. I briefly discussed the origin and history of oil pastels, the artists who have inspired and influenced my work, and demonstrated my set-up and materials. As you can see I started a new pastel painting and I’ll post the finished work when it’s done.  The event was held at the Burlington Art Centre, a wonderful facility not far from our new home in Hamilton.

Figure Drawing

Graphite on paper 18" x 24"

Works by participants in the weekly Sketch Group are on display in the Heliconian Club at 35 Hazelton Avenue in Toronto’s Yorkville, until March 7. “Majesty,” my drawing of actress Sandi Ross, is part of the exhibit.

The Heliconian Club generously opens its hall for life-drawing sessions on Mondays for members but also welcomes non-members. The morning session features short poses from 10 a.m. until noon. From 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., the model holds a sustained pose. If you’re interested in drawing with the group, just show up with your chosen drawing materials at 9:45. Some drawing boards and a few easels are provided, but bring your own to be sure you are comfortable.  Fees are $7 for the morning and another $7 for the afternoon.

Watercolour with charcoal pencil

I joined a Sustained Saturday watercolour class taught by my partner Barry Coombs for the afternoon, after a space opened up at the last minute.  These studio days run from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. several times each term.  The still life subject was predominantly brass and we were encouraged to compose our image by employing a very tight crop. I admire people who work in watercolour, and even though I’ve been working at it for about 18 months, my results are very unpredictable. That’s partly what makes it fun – and terrifying!

My original idea was to spend the afternoon drawing in black and white with pen and ink. Working on hot press paper, I sketched the subject lightly with pencil. Then, inspired by the work being done by others around me, I changed my mind and used watercolour to block  in the key shapes, adding some secondary washes to form the shine and shadows. Next, returning to my comfort zone, I  added value, structure and depth with charcoal pencil. (So much for planning!) I was surprised by how the charcoal seemed to melt when it touched the still-wet paper as I worked. I liked the effect, and for a while worked back and forth between the dry and wet mediums.  If you want to see more about the class, see Barry’s blog post about the day. 

Watercolour and Charcoal Pencil study 12" x 16"

Opening Night at Core Realty

I’d like to thank everyone who came to the opening night of my exhibition at Core Realty and to thank Core for its generous hospitality and support. The turnout was excellent and I had a wonderful time! 

The show is open for viewing seven days a week from 11 am to 4 pm and continues until February 16.

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