Taking Off the Straightjacket

18 Mar 2012

I am not a finicky person, so getting my hands dirty to get a job done is totally fine with me. But with painting, I can get so uptight and hesitant that the physical joy of it all goes right out the window. I'm trying to be better about what I'm calling my straightjacket tendency, and one way I'm doing so is by exploring pastel painting a lot more.

Birth of Venus by Odilon Redon, pastel painting, 1912.
Birth of Venus by Odilon Redon, pastel painting, 1912.
Pastel is an incredibly freeing medium. It almost begs you to loosen up and make flowing gestural marks or rub it around with your fingers. In fact, the pastel painting lessons that I've learned always emphasize the artist's hand as the most important tool we have. This up close and personal aspect of pastel drawing can make you feel comfortable and more fully engaged with your artwork, which is key.

I also appreciate that there are traditional and nontraditional ways of using pastel. Since building up layers isn't always the easiest thing to do with the medium, you can vary strokes, colors, and ways of blending. You can tone your entire paper and then pull out the light with an eraser or careful blending, or you can use colored paper to instantly create values in a work.  
One of our latest DVD, Children's Pastel Portraits with Wende Caporale, has been an eye-opener for me in terms of the techniques Caporale uses and the great work she produces working with pastel, showing that the real sweet spot for artists is a combination of freedom with the medium and strong technical skills. If you feel like you want to loosen up in your own practice, Children's Pastel Portraits with Wende Caporale just might be the resource that helps you get there. Enjoy!

And what inspires you to loosen up when you are working? Leave a comment and let me know!



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Children's Pastel Portraits with Wende Caporale

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Discover 3 hours of pastel instruction with Wende Caporale! Attract attention from across the room with a lesson in achieving elegant pastel portrait paintings.


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KatPaints wrote
on 19 Mar 2012 6:52 AM

I'm reminded of the movie the Truman Show. There was a scene of the wife in the kitchen and she commented to Jim Carey that she loved this new product and what good it was doing for her. Then she turned to camera and said did a commercial. I also had a friend tell me about these great vitamins and how they were positively effecting her health. I was really drawn into the conversation and enthusiastic for her. Then she told me about this Amway product and how much it costs. My heart dropped.

I don't believe your authenticity Courtney. Mixing blogs with advertisements make you look like your doing your job or trying to sell us something. It puts your artistic integrity into question.

Jan Schafir wrote
on 19 Mar 2012 10:01 AM

Hold your art tool at the end of te instrument,use your whole arm, not just your fingers,paint to light airy music. most of all paint with an attitude of joy and freedom..  Don't be afraid to make mistakes.   Jan Schafir

artinmydna wrote
on 19 Mar 2012 4:22 PM

Hi Courtney, although I love oils and want to know it to the point where using it is second nature it does make me feel "hesitant" and I find myself making little dabs instead of bold conquering strokes, and uninteresting color combinations.  Hence, I'm tempted to try pastels, especially panpastels.  I've been taking Johannes Vloothius instructions through Wet Canvas and when he demos pans, it  seems such a dynamic medium.  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


dafella11 wrote
on 24 Mar 2012 12:38 PM

Been into drawing and oil painting on and off for years. Last year I was in my friends and he gave me and old plastic box with all broken bits of chalk pastels in and said and explained about layering. WOW I could not believe the first pictures that I pulled out. The colours were like nothing I have seen before. I really love my purples and reds and I find that if you use a peices of say like a white hard bit of chalk, you can blend with it by rubbing it. I have put my pastels down for now 4 months and am back drawing heavily, I am just drawing anything old trainers faces anything as long as I have got a pencil in my hand. I want to become a master :O) Cant wait to get the pastels back out, however even though I am itching I will wait till my drawings and eye improve then watch this space. Da Love Tommy

dafella11 wrote
on 24 Mar 2012 12:41 PM

Hey that comment about advertising... everyone has to make a living and the vibe I get from this site is one of positivity.  There is no need for that come on :O)

Terka Vcelka wrote
on 26 Mar 2012 12:32 AM

Hi Courtney,

very nice article, thank you. I like pastel very much too, even I´m not a profi artist :) I love pastels, because I can feel the work, touch. I have pastel all over when I´m finished :) And also, I can some like control what I´m doing. The other way round, I´m still fighting with the aquarel. This is still a mistery for me, but woudl like to get into.

Thank you a sorry for my english, I´m writing from Czech Republic (Europe).


on 26 Mar 2012 12:11 PM

This feedback is great! Thank you!

And as always my goal is to highlight great resources and interesting instruction that might be of use to the Artist Daily community, which includes beginners and more advanced artists. And I've always got an open-door policy, so if you have a resource that deserves attention or an artist that I should know about, don't hesitate to let me know. Thanks!