Welcome to your Daily Highlights from the first-ever Pastel Live virtual art conference! We hope you’ll enjoy these favorite moments and demos from this unforgettable event.
Pastel Live Beginner’s Day Highlights
Our first session on Beginner’s Day featured Jill Stefani Wagner, who shared tips to help you succeed as you begin painting with pastels. She included some of the history of the medium, an overview of the materials you can use, and why pastelists could probably get away with any crime (don’t worry – it’s just an inside joke!).
We watched as Desmond O’Hagan created an early morning winter neighborhood scene with sunlight streaming through the trees to create shadows and illuminate the snow. Desmond used bold, direct strokes and big shapes, slowly refining the painting with “little hints of color and edges.”
You can keep a palette simple and still be effective – we learned this, and how to study the light and shadow patterns with two contrasting values for the colors Tara Will worked with during her fun demo.
“I encourage you to dig deep into the study of color,” Kim Lordier said, “It’s truly fascinating.” Kim’s demo focused on all-things-color, including values, harmony, theory, and the basics such as the color wheel and concepts of saturation and intensity, and more. Specifically, she focused on a split-complement of blue violet, yellow, and orange.
In Terri Ford’s demo featuring a barn and an automobile as subjects, she explained how to use loose marks while still being intentional about what you’re drawing. Terri said, “The properties of pastel are unique in that painting is drawing and drawing is painting – as we get further into the painting, it becomes more so.”
During Susan Nicholas Gephart’s lesson, she advised: “It doesn’t matter how much color or passion you have for your subject, if you don’t have a strong composition, it won’t be successful.” Don’t worry too much, though – she assures us that when it comes to editing your subject, “you are the captain of your ship.”
Giving a still life demo of a ripe strawberry, Pamela Hamilton used a photo reference and started with a loose, abstract sketch, explaining all of her mark-making and color choices. “You want to start darker than how the finished piece is going to end up,” she said, “because you want to be able to see the colors shine through the different layers.”
A reminder for beginners: It’s important to choose colors that are the same value because they’ll naturally work together. Kim Casebeer went over this and much more, including how to use a toothy paper to create interesting textures in pastel, which allows you flexibility in choosing color.
Mary Aslin gave us a figurative painting demo in soft pastel, showing us the tools she uses to create a finished painting from a plein air color study.
We then ended our day with Eric Rhoads hosting the popular paint-along and happy hour session, where we continued to make new friends and talk about the world of pastel painting.
Day 1 Highlights from Pastel Live
Wow! Day 1 of Pastel Live did not disappoint! We enjoyed special lessons with some of the best pastel painters in the world, as well as bonus sessions from Blick Art Materials, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, Savoir Faire, and Royal Talens. Scroll down to get a glimpse of what you may have missed…
BONUS: During the chat, there was discussion of a special travel sticker from Eric Rhoads. Click here to download the image and use it the next time you need to fly with your art materials.
We had the pleasure of watching Tony Allain, who is based in Scotland, paint not one, but two pastels for us – a shimmery lake sunset and a snowy field leading up to a quiet farm. Said one attendee: “I love the loose, expressive quality of the underdrawing in this snow scene.”
With Gwenneth Barth-White’s demo, we learned how to build a portrait from the drawing to the value block, to the application of color. In the chat stream, she also answered a great question about how she sharpens her Caran dÁche pencils. (If you missed it – catch it in the Replays of Pastel Live.)
Alain Picard had an expressive approach in his lesson on how to create a painterly still life, using bold mark-marking, dynamic edge variety, and complementary colors to create exciting contrasts.
Peter Adams showed us how to transpose a daytime photo reference into a vibrant sunset painting.
“Because I layer everything, I think about what colors are in the background,” said Stephanie Birdsall as she painted with a light touch, adding, “In my classes, I ask you to see how little pastel you can actually get off your pastel when you put it on your board or paper. I like to keep it very, very transparent.”
We closed the official part of Day 1 with a demo from Lana Ballot, in which we watched as she painted a Long Island wave with splashes of sea foam and reflections in the white sand. At one point she shared a great tip that had one attendee say, “I just lost my mind.” 🙂 Lana pointed out that pastels are wonderful for painting waves because of the possibility for so much texture.
Afterward, we enjoyed another Happy Hour Paint Along with lively conversations with this new family of pastelists.
“Thank you for an amazing, interesting and challenging day. So much thought and effort went in to putting this amazing event together and I am just amazed! I’m so glad I took two days off from school to participate fully. See you tomorrow!” ~ Cheryl S.
Day 2 Highlights from Pastel Live
On Day 2 we heard from more of our special sponsors, including Royal Talens, Savoir Faire featuring Mario Robinson, Blick Art Materials, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and Jack Richeson & Company with Judson’s Art Outfitters featuring Nancie King Mertz.
The day was full of more camaraderie and learning, as you’ll see!
Ukrainian artist Vera Kavura used PanPastels to paint peonies and wildflowers from life, with natural light from a nearby window. The PanPastels were great for peonies since this flower has “fluffy” petals and there isn’t the need for strict precision.
FAQ: Are the sponge and/or PanPastels dry?
A: Yes, the whole process is without alcohol or any liquid.
We watched over Clarence Porter’s shoulder as he painted using a wide range of pastels, applying techniques that answer questions such as:
Why do an underpainting?
Why work from dark to light with pastels?
Why work from hard pastels to soft pastels?
And so much more!
Wyoming artist Mike Beeman knows how to have fun with color and texture, which he shared with us in a demo while painting a reference photo of a golden-winged warbler. “Just let your imagination run wild as you’re laying in color,” he said. “Try to get the values right along with the right shapes.”
“The thumbnail sketch is essentially where I figure out the painting,” said Barbara Jaenicke. “In this step, my goal is to pair down my landscape subject to about 5-7 edited shapes that are varied in size.” Barbara included tips for placing values within the shapes and the overall composition, encouraging us to think “shapes first.”
Another major highlight from Day 2 of Pastel Live was a demo with Mario Robinson, who taught us how to achieve texture and dimension by applying a cross-hatching technique while painting a portrait.
Toward the end of the day Eric reminded us that it can be hard to get critiques on our work, and we have to be willing to not get defensive, but instead absorb the information. With that in mind, attendees bravely submitted paintings for inclusion in our critique session with Susan Kuznitsky, who reviewed landscapes, still lifes, and portraits for the benefit of everyone watching.
Wrapping up the demonstrations for the day, Albert Handell taught us what he referred to as “interesting aspects of pastel,” including:
> How to start with a watercolor underpainting and finish with pastel;
> How to vary the pressure of your pastel to get more out of it and even change the color of it as you use it;
> How to use the color purple in a landscape, no matter what medium you’re using, and more.
Day 3 Highlights from Pastel Live
“I am so thankful for the gift of this Pastel Live event! So many wonderful artists sharing their joy of the medium …” ~Kim C.
Thank you, Kim, and everyone who has been a part of the inaugural Pastel Live virtual art conference! On Day 3 we continued to see amazing demonstrations and lessons from the world’s best.
On Day 3 we enjoyed bonus time with Savoir-Faire featuring Pierre Guidetti and Albert Handell, Blick Art Materials, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and the California Art Club, as well as the following master painters:
Painting from a reference photo, Marla Bagetta explained that she likes to have room to make edits and take some artistic license. “We often think we need the perfect photo to paint from,” she said, “but that doesn’t always serve us.”
“It is imperative for me to have my pastels visible and organized so I can make the best choices,” said hyperrealist painter Sangita Phadke. To begin her session, Sangita showed us how she stores and organizes her pastels (it’s not just by color), adding that her pastel storage area is her favorite part of her art studio.
“Red hair is not red,” said William Schneider during his pastel portrait demo. “There’s redness to it, but there’s a whole range of different colors.” He went on to explain how to use edges to avoid making your portrait not look like a zombie, or an alien impersonating a human: “It’s not a good look.” Bonus – we learned why he still wears a hat in the studio. Any guesses?
In her floral demo, Debora Stewart explained how she uses a variety of media, including pastel of course, to create a still life painting. “My goal is not to recreate exactly what I see, but to create an impression, an abstracted version of a floral – they can be any color I decide I want them to be.”
What you leave out is as important as what you leave in, as Aaron Schuerr explained during his landscape demo on composition and more: “The detail should enhance the overall idea, so be careful with it. Stop when the detail that you’ve added tells the story you want to tell.” Aaron gave us advice on how to troubleshoot a painting, including why you should think of “resolving” a painting versus “finishing” it.
Moderated by Kelly Kane, we enjoyed an exciting roundtable discussion with Janis Ellison (president of Pastel Artists of Oregon), Kathy Hildebrandt (president of Pastel Artists of Canada), and Tatijana Jacenkiw (president of Chicago Pastel Painters).
The topics included how pastel painting is on the rise and how the caliber of work continues to improve; what pastel artists can do to help promote and elevate the position of pastel work in the greater art market; and the many benefits of pastel societies.
Working from life, Cuong Nguyen began his portrait painting demonstration with a drawing, explaining the Verdaccio technique, which incorporates a surprising color to create a realistic skin tone. To create the initial highlights, he used a very light touch and started with the nose to create a three-dimensional effect. “The key to this technique is patience,” he said.
Thank you to all of our enthusiastic attendees, our dedicated sponsors, and our talented faculty for making this Pastel Live a success! We hope to see you at Pastel Live 2022!