Janet Monafo Chat Transcript

11 Sep 2008

janet monafo pastelRead the transcript from yesterday's live online chat with pastel artist Janet Monafo.

2008-06-09 11:00:12.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Janet Monafo, a top pastelist who has been highlighted in American Artist magazine. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper (http://www.legionpaper.com/).

2008-06-09 11:00:20.0
Alli: Hi, Janet. How long do you spend arranging your setup, and do you prefer natural or artificial lighting?

2008-06-09 11:01:06.0
Janet Monafo: Alli, I use natural lighting. My studio faces north, I'm on the 4th floor and I have no reflections from any other buildings. So I use natural lighting exclusively.

2008-06-09 11:01:39.0
Janet Monafo: Alli, it depends--with a little luck, the setup can arrange fairly quickly, maybe a week. Without that luck, it can take two or three weeks. It's an important part of the work, but the biggest part is making the form, making the painting. It's not that the still life that I end up with won't need some adjustment, even when I've done the preliminary drawing.

2008-06-09 11:00:26.0
Joyce painters porch: Where do you find all the items that you use in your designs?

2008-06-09 11:03:36.0
Janet Monafo: Joyce, over a period of maybe 35 years, I have been frequenting garage sales as I see them, and stopping at junk shops. I always stop and see if there are things I might use in the future. And I use almost everything I get. If it's in the studio, there's a place for it somewhere in one of my paintings.

2008-06-09 11:04:49.0
Janet Monafo: some of the items are sentimental, and some aren't. Sometimes someone may give me something that means a lot to me. When you pick up something in shop or yard sale, you pick it up because you like it for some reason. It will have a symbolic meaning to you at the moment--which doesn't mean you are going to use it that way. I might just like looking at them. My husband may give me a box of candy, and I might like the box and the ribbon--but there will be something more to it.

2008-06-09 11:04:02.0
Joyce painters porch: Do you have any suggestions on reference material about form?

2008-06-09 11:06:43.0
Janet Monafo: Joyce, the best reference material about form is paintings from great painters. You can go back to look at Velazquez, Rembrandt, Caravaggio--the painters who were most interested in form. I think it's best to look at what has been done in the past. After all, the technique may change a bit, but the basic rules remain the same.

2008-06-09 11:07:37.0
Janet Monafo: If you are interested in looking at contemporary painters, Lucian Freud is a great painter of form. It's always the same--it's a question of values and edges. And you have to have an understanding of what the form means visually--it's all about understanding what you see, visually.

2008-06-09 11:08:10.0
Alli: Does your palette change depending on your subject matter, or do you always work from the same colors?

2008-06-09 11:09:10.0
Janet Monafo: Alli, I have a billion different pastels, in terms of colors, and I try to use the appropriate color. I don't have a palette--or I don't think about it in terms of palette. I just try to choose the right color, and that is difficult. I'm always learning about that. When you look at color, you don't know if someone else will see the same color that you see. You just have to try the one you think is best--it's trial and error, but you get better at it the more you do it. And that's part of the fun of it. It's always very pleasing when you get the right colors. It's about the color relationships, too. One item may look pink if it's near another object, an orange object. You keep judging on a relative basis.

2008-06-09 11:09:28.0
Joyce painters porch: I am trying to learn more about the forms of items & I think I need to work more on the basics. Thank You

2008-06-09 11:09:51.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Janet Monafo, a top pastelist who has been highlighted in American Artist magazine. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper (http://www.legionpaper.com/).

2008-06-09 11:12:19.0
Janet Monafo: Joyce, that's exactly what you should do! You should work from life--not from photos. You cannot learn how to depict form from photos, in my opinion. Set up a few simple objects with a background--you judge everything by what it's against--and see what you can do.

2008-06-09 11:12:05.0
joan101: do you spray a fixative on your finished work, and if so what brand do you use?

2008-06-09 11:13:42.0
Janet Monafo: Joan, I don't. I do have some Sennelier spray, and I've used it twice in 30 years or something like that. It darkens the pastel a little bit. I don't know what the need for it is, really. If it's framed behind glass or Plexiglas, I don't think you need it.

2008-06-09 11:14:14.0
Alli: You said in the AA article that you start with soft pastels rather than hard ones. How do you keep the tooth of the paper from getting filled in too early?

2008-06-09 11:16:28.0
Janet Monafo: Alli, the tooth just doesn't seem to get filled in. Only very occasionally do I have that problem. If I want to remove some pastel so I'm down to the paper again, I use a stiff bristle brush. I just wipe it out. Nothing happens to the paper--I use a Robert Simmons brush on Stonehenge paper, almost exclusively.

2008-06-09 11:17:47.0
Janet Monafo: I use a roll--Stonehenge has 250g and 320g. The 320g I have in a portion of a roll and I just cut off what I want, whenever I want something bigger than 38 x 50. I stretch it, wet the paper, staple it down, and let it dry--and it gets really flat.

2008-06-09 11:17:03.0
WilliamB: Do you do drawings and studies for any of your finished pastel paintings or just work direct from life?

2008-06-09 11:19:26.0
Janet Monafo: WilliamB, I do studies and drawings for all of them. I've done only a few pieces in 35 years without preliminary drawings. I do enough drawings so that I know what I'm getting into, so I know what the drawing problems are. I square it up--at least in quarters--so I can compare the drawing to the pastel and check placement and proportions. Years ago I made drawings that were one third the proportion of the planned pastel. I would square it up. Lately, I have been making drawings that are at the same size as the pastel that I'm planning to do. I don't square it up so tightly as I do before because I'm not enlarging it.

2008-06-09 11:19:43.0
WilliamB: How much time do you spend on those drawings?

2008-06-09 11:19:56.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Janet Monafo, a top pastelist who has been highlighted in American Artist magazine. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper (http://www.legionpaper.com/).

2008-06-09 11:21:18.0
Janet Monafo: WilliamB, it depends on how complex they are. A day or so? It's not a one-hour thing.

2008-06-09 11:21:28.0
WilliamB: That's a lot of time to invest in drawings- do you sell them, too?

2008-06-09 11:22:10.0
Janet Monafo: WilliamB, no because they are for me. And I put them on Kraft paper. Some are better than others, too!

2008-06-09 11:22:31.0
Janet Monafo: If somebody wants to buy one, I'll sell it to them! But I haven't gone out of my way to try.

2008-06-09 11:22:50.0
WilliamB: I guess as the piece get sold, it's nice to hang on to part of them that way?

2008-06-09 11:23:10.0
Janet Monafo: WilliamB, that's nice! That's true, you do have a part of them.

2008-06-09 11:23:46.0
Administrator: Don’t be shy. Ask a question!

2008-06-09 11:24:19.0
Alli: Do you think pastel has gained some credibility in recent years? Do you think it will ever be taken as seriously as oil?

2008-06-09 11:26:08.0
Janet Monafo: Alli, good question. When I started doing pastels, there weren't as many mfgrs of pastel as there are now. I don't know if pastel will be seen like oils are. If you have a terrific pastel, you have a terrific pastel. And if you have a terrific oil, you have a terrific oil. I think any great piece of art is taken seriously, regardless of if it is a watercolor, a print or an oil painting. But I can't answer the question further than that.

2008-06-09 11:27:56.0
joan101: What other mediums do you work in and if so are they the forerunners to your finished painting?

2008-06-09 11:28:39.0
Janet Monafo: Joan, no just the drawings. I may do some watercolors occasionally but they have nothing to do with the pastels.

2008-06-09 11:28:41.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Janet Monafo, a top pastelist who has been highlighted in American Artist magazine. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper (http://www.legionpaper.com/).

2008-06-09 11:29:39.0
Janet Monafo: For watercolors, it may be just to have an entirely different experience. They are almost exclusively landscapes. I don't paint in watercolor that often, but I like to do it.

2008-06-09 11:30:21.0
WilliamB: Your still lifes in American Artist were intricate and beautiful. What made you focus on still lifes, and what goes into making the painting more than just a bunch of items?

2008-06-09 11:31:56.0
Janet Monafo: William, I never expected that I would be doing still lifes when I started. I thought I would do more portraits or figurative work. When I started to do still life just because of it's availability--you don't have to have the model in front of you--I found it interesting. I liked the work of putting the setup together. I hadn't done a lot of still life in the beginning, but I found I liked the problems that arose from making a still life that was visually interesting to me.

2008-06-09 11:33:14.0
WilliamB: But your paintings are more than just "stuff"- how do you add drama and emotion to still lifes?

2008-06-09 11:33:43.0
Janet Monafo: I don't know if I am the right person to answer how the painting becomes about more than a few items. When you try to make a picture, you try to make unity, which is part of the difficulty of constructing images. When you talk about unity, you aren't talking about a bunch of items anymore.

2008-06-09 11:35:10.0
Janet Monafo: William, it's part of the process. If there is drama and emotion to them, it's part of the process, not something that I could dissect and bisect--it's partly intuitive and partly just who I am as a person. It's a visual process. It's non-productive to dissect it for me. It all goes together, it's all a function of yourself as a person, what you like, what you think about. Some people like to paint things that are more elegant in themselves. I like to paint simple things, things made out of paper. That isn't to say I won't paint elegant items.

2008-06-09 11:36:35.0
Janet Monafo: It's communicating the beauty in something that people may view as strictly utilitarian. There are tons of things that go into it.

2008-06-09 11:36:51.0
Alli: Having tried figure, landscape, and obviously still life, do you find that any of these subjects informs the others?

2008-06-09 11:37:59.0
Janet Monafo: Alli, I do find that there is a relationship. It's all part of the same process in terms of putting a picture together. You use the same principles and the skills (like drawing skills), but the process is basically the same.

2008-06-09 11:38:47.0
Janet Monafo: Basically, when it comes right down to it, you are stuck with the same problem of making the picture work, so you have to go back to the same basic principles in making the picture work.

2008-06-09 11:38:03.0
Joyce painters porch: Is it the simpler the items are the more you would put in a design & the more elegant items you would use less in a design? Or is it what excites you at the time?

2008-06-09 11:38:27.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Janet Monafo, a top pastelist who has been highlighted in American Artist magazine. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper (http://www.legionpaper.com/).

2008-06-09 11:41:35.0
Janet Monafo: joyce, no. I don't think in terms of design. I think of putting things together in a way that is pleasing to me--I don't know if that is design. I don't know if people think in terms of the word "design." It is more a matter of what excites me at the time, what interests me, Joyce.

2008-06-09 11:42:25.0
Joyce painters porch: Thank You

2008-06-09 11:42:34.0
Janet Monafo: Sometimes you have a list of things that you would like to do--one thing leads to another. You get an idea for the next thing, so there are things in the offing. It somehow works out, and the appropriate time arises for you to work on it.

2008-06-09 11:43:56.0
Administrator: Not much time left. Ask your question now!

2008-06-09 11:44:06.0
Alli: Do you use paper in a variety of tints, or do you just stick with one color for the ground?

2008-06-09 11:45:43.0
Janet Monafo: Alli, generally I use white paper and tone it myself with pastel dust. I make a grey tone. I recycle the pastel dust I collect. it's usually a neutral tone--and I don't have to add anything to it to get that neutral tone. I wipe it on the paper with a Kleenex.

2008-06-09 11:44:52.0
Joyce painters porch: How do you keep those track of ideas? Do you write them down?

2008-06-09 11:46:27.0
Janet Monafo: joyce, no, but I think I should! Thank you very much--that's a very good idea. I'm getting to the age where I might forget.

2008-06-09 11:47:09.0
Joyce painters porch: I don't think age has anything to do with that!!!

2008-06-09 11:47:41.0
Administrator: Anymore questions?

2008-06-09 11:47:58.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Janet Monafo, a top pastelist who has been highlighted in American Artist magazine. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper (http://www.legionpaper.com/).

2008-06-09 11:48:55.0
Janet Monafo: One thing I'd like to add is that now with the framing they have--with nice museum glass, optium,  Plexiglas…the products are so terrific these days that I think it's good for pastels.

2008-06-09 11:49:48.0
Janet Monafo: I do my own framing, I don't use a mat. I use a liner so there's a gap between the pastel and glazing. I like this solution because it doesn't look like a watercolor with a wide mat.

2008-06-09 11:51:36.0
Administrator: Time is almost up. Get those questions in now!

2008-06-09 11:51:38.0
Alli: What are you planning on doing in the future, careerwise?

2008-06-09 11:52:31.0
Janet Monafo: Alli I hope to do more pastels! To be able to continue to work. In terms of subject matter, I don't know. Whatever happens, happens. Right now I am working on another cluster. Maybe a figure painting next. Who can tell...

2008-06-09 11:54:25.0
Janet Monafo: Last summer, I went to a pig roast, and I came back with the head, so who could have predicted that? Unfortunately someone had taken one of the ears, which annoyed me to no end. I worked from it for a while, then when it started to smell, I boiled all the meat off it and saved the skull, with the mandible. And I've worked from that. I called one piece "Pile and Pig Skull."

2008-06-09 11:54:49.0
Janet Monafo: I did another with a deer skull that someone gave me. Those are things you don't plan on! It makes life interesting.

2008-06-09 11:56:05.0
Administrator: Thanks for all of the helpful information Janet.

2008-06-09 11:56:17.0
Alli: Thank you for your time, Janet.

2008-06-09 11:56:19.0
Joyce painters porch: Thank You

2008-06-09 11:56:22.0
WilliamB: Thanks for answering our questions, Janet!

2008-06-09 11:56:29.0
Administrator: Thanks for coming everyone.

2008-06-09 11:57:37.0
Janet Monafo: Absolutely! Thank you for your thoughtful questions, and best of luck with your pastels.


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