Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ray Hassard pastel workshop, Day 2 Part 2

Still Life on Black 9x12 pastel, copyright 2012

When I concluded that the previous painting was finished, mostly because the paper wouldn't allow me to do any more, Ray came over for a look.  After discussing the paper and techniques for a bit, he noted that I seemed to emphasize deep shadows and dramatic lighting.  I also like to use the side of the pastels to block in large areas of color rather than making careful, precise marks, which he said made my painting very expressive.  That comment in particular has me walking on air.

Then he told me, "I'm going to give you a piece of black paper.  There's about an hour left, lets see what you can do."  Talk about pressure!  But then I realized that really, the pressure was all in my head - after all, it was just a workshop and I only had an hour so if it turned out terribly, no big deal.

To my surprise, it didn't turn out terrible at all.  In fact, I'm quite pleased with it.  Working on black requires a different mind set since typically with pastels you start with the darks and the go lighter, adding the lightest bit last.  With black, your darkest bits are already there so you need to start more in the mid range.   Actually, the biggest problem I had was that the green avocados in a green bowl were rather dull.  Ray pointed out, again, that I needed to place more red around the painting to give it balance and that I needed to make the background more interesting, both of which were true and improved the painting significantly.

So what did I get from this workshop?  I already knew about the underpainting technique and the various papers and pastels.  But I had never tried them before, and reading about these things on the internet is never as good as seeing them and trying them myself.  In the end though, I think it was mostly about getting feedback to reinforce my strengths and point out areas where I need to work.  Keep it loose, keep it simple, keep it dramatic.  Don't ignore the background.  Watch that the colors are well balanced throughout.  Use more red!

I think what I got out of more than anything else is the confidence to see where my strengths are, and especially to see where I need to improve.  I've already framed and hung this painting up in my studio as a reminder both.

Thank you Ray!


  1. Hey, Erica, you're welcome!! You were a wonderful student and I look forward to seeing you develop your pastel abilities!
    The artist I mentioned to you, Desmond O'Hagan, is at I think you would enjoy seeing his work.
    Thanks for taking the workshop and I'm so glad you enjoyed it and got some good things from it.

    1. You are right Ray, I do like his work! Thanks for the link. And I did get a lot out of the workshop. I wish I could take one of your plein air workshops as well, but free weekends are rare for me thanks to my overachieving kids. I think I'd like to get more serious about plein air this summer though. I forgot to write down where you said you got your set up though.

  2. It's good to hear you sound more positive than a week ago. I'm glad you got lots out of this workshop and I look forward to seeing new paintings with lots of red :)

    1. You are right Sue - what a difference a week can make. And I will keep reminding myself - more red!