Why are portraits so daunting? We are used to looking at peoples eyes intensely. We look at their mouths to lip read (when they aren't wearing a mask) Have you noticed how hard it is to recognise someone when we cannot see their nose and mouth? But when we start a portrait - the first thing we go for is the eyes! I must get the eyes right! We love the detail in eyes and are drawn to them automatically.
Sadly this is the reason we miss the big picture. It is actually three proportions in the face that help us recognise people. And 5 shadows that give form to the face that helps us recognise them also. If these promotions and shadow shapes are in the right place- Voila you can recognise someone's face.
The following 3 steps are crucial to my portrait. If I get these right - I won't have a lot of trouble. If they are out of proportion - no amount of beautifully painted eyes will help me.
This was the demo for a recent workshop. Next week will be adding pastel and teaching how to mix skin colour. Fun Fun Fun. It is also part of a new video series being started on pastel portraits that I hope to release soon. I hope these tips help you in your next portrait painting. Cheers Tricia
Recently I sent an article to PASA in South Australia to tell of my art journey. Thi thought it might be good to share it with you also.
I can remember being very little and drawing. But art was not considered a job in my world. Being good at math made becoming an artist in the 80’s impossible for me. Somehow, I was able to fill in my own subject choices in high school and slipped art in instead of physics. Still don’t know how I got away with that.
Although I went on to study science and accounting art was always there. I always had a painting going on somewhere. And realism was my thing. The more detail I could fit in the better. Working with coloured pencil and acrylics on canvas, the threads on the canvas would drive me nuts as my single hair paint brush tried to add more detail.
I found pastels in the mid 1990’s. With Maxine Thompson as my tutor, one painting and I was hooked. No longer could I use detail with this big blunt stick of pastel. But my first result of Max the dog was (I thought at the time) amazing. Pastels were now “it”. No brushes to clean. No pallet to wash. I put myself in the playpen and let me children rule the house. I had found my medium.
image below..Max My first pastel painting with Maxine Thompson in 1996.
It took many years of playing on my own before I attended my first winter school in 2005. My first tutor was Lyn Diefenbach. It is at that workshop that the penny dropped on tone for me. The next winter school 2 years later was with Louise Corke. It is there that the lightbulb turned on of colour temperature. Louise, the ever encourager took me aside and said “I had something”. The president of the PSA was also at the workshop and encouraged me to come to their meetings in Brisbane. To understand my commitment, I worked full time and after work would drive 1.5 hours to the 60 minute meeting and then 1.5 hours home. Often getting home near midnight. But the amazing passionate pastel painters I met there were truly inspiring. Always encouraging, mentoring, sharing. There is something about pastel artists that I have not seen in any other art groups. I had found my tribe.
I had a dream and set a goal to become a Master Pastellist with the PSA. It took four more years of extreme dedication making pastel the only medium I used and going to every workshop I could find. Mastering one medium rather than jack of all trades was my aim. And I realised that goal in 2011.
I started teaching my first class in 2008. For the first few years I think I learned more than the students. And by 2010 had made the leap to make art my full-time job. It was a scary moment to let go of your regular income, but once I leapt there was no turning back. Running 3 classes a week and holding demonstrations and workshops for the PSA my life was now all about pastel. I had found my career.
Tutors in my life over that time, Leonie Duff taught me intensity of colour. Regina Hona taught me you did not have to lose accuracy to be “loose”. Dawn Emerson taught me to let go and find my soul. Judith Carducci taught me that I didn’t need more tutors, I needed to paint. The medium of pastel has changed a lot in the 25 years I have played with it. The variety of papers and pastel brands at our reach now are amazing. And painting anything from life is my favourite genre. My style loves to play with the deep toothed papers like Uart, and Kitty Wallis. I love exploring the pastel boundaries and use underpaintings, and mixed media to see where I can go. My style has become more and more impressionistic as I learn to let go of accuracy and make it about the story I want to tell. Colour and its relationship to composition is my latest joy to explore. How to bring harmony and balance to your story. (The power of simultaneous relativity is mind blowing magic when you get into it.) I also make sure I start a new medium every year. Oils, watercolour, pen and wash, and charcoal are now on my list of mediums I use. Pottery still needs some work. You are always growing as an artist.
It is hard to describe the whirlwind that was wrapped up in the last 10 years. Winning awards, exhibiting in the USA. Teaching in New Zealand, Fiji, and every capital city and territory of Australia. But with all of those things you can put on a resumé, it is really about growing as a storyteller in my art. There is a point to it now, a goal of not accuracy but of a message.
There is something quite spiritual about putting your heart on the canvas. It is daunting, fear of failure often consumes, but I find the why of your art the key. I have a spirit within me that calls me to paint. It is my why. It calls me to tell the story of creation through the beauty of a sunrise or the powerful meeting of earth sea and sky. The light that falls on the face of a child or the velvet touch on a petal. It all hits my heart and connection with the Creator. I have cried while painting some of my work as I am overwhelmed by the moment. I have also been blessed to see a tear roll down someone’s eye as they looked at my work. Art has a power to tell a story beyond words. Then to have the privilege of teaching and sharing my knowledge to students is another joy. To watch it when they get a lightbulb moment is very special. And to see them grow and start to win awards of their own is a proud moment. I have found my calling.
I encourage you to keep finding joy in your journey. Keep sharing your failures and your lightbulb moments. And most of all encourage each other. It is on the encouragement of my mentors that I am where I am. Explore, play, risk failure, find joy in accomplishments but most of all, find your story.
Art is addictive. Somehow it gets into your life and it will not let you go. Beginning to see - really see with an artist's eye. Not just assume and take for granted. There is a world that opens up to the artist that others cannot see. They just don't understand what intrigues you so much and brings so much passion. Well if that is you - you have found your tribe. As artists we often hide in that strange world of seeing what others do not see and get lost in our own thoughts. But we also need to share. Share what we have found. Share how we have lost the path and would love to know if someone else has found that path and where did it lead? We speak a language that only other artists and creators seem to understand. The eternal chase of light, colour, harmony, contrast...story....I remember my first winter school that I attended. Six days of pure indulgence. A first for me to spend money and time just on me and my crazy addiction. But it was the best thing I ever did. I found over 200 other people just like me! The passionate discussion over dinner about tone and temperature. The joy of knowing you were not weird and everyone else had the same questions that you did. The same need to see more, know more, explore more of this thing called art. I was not alone anymore. But alas from the mountain top experience comes the valley of returning home to the laundry and groceries. Wondering 'did that just happen? Where did the time go? Will I ever remember all the information that just poured into my brain over the last few days?' All I can say is I am better for it. Now I am many years on in my art journey and I have the joy of being the tutor to the habitual winter school tribe and the newbies too. I look forward to being there to show the paths that I have found. Take you down road less travelled and open a new world of colour, light, harmony and contrast for you and to find a place where you belong. Come - indulge yourself. artsworx.usq.edu.au/event/pastels-with-tricia-taylor/
Meet Emillie Claire. A new companion for my painting travels. She has her own painting kit ready to plein air. It is amazing how many people will talk to you when you have a teddy bear on board. Perhaps it breaks the ice. She certainly brings a smile to many.
Ever had one of those paintings where your pastels just go crazy and your pastels get all mixed up and muddy? You just zone out being all creative and then you look down.... Oops - dirty pastels. You can no longer determine if it is blue or a red! Time to spring clean your pastels.....Here is how I do it. Using oat bran I fill a ziplock bag half full. In go the pastels. With a bit of a shake and shuffle for 30 seconds - hey presto! Clean pastels.
eThe ultimate question on how do i limit my pastels! This is how my head works when I pack my pallete. You will choose different colours when you pack your pallete because you love different colours to me but the theory is still the same. Keep them sorted by tone and by temperature and it becomes easier. The reason I use 2 boxes is for packing to fit into my carry on luggage - but it is also handy that all the colours on the left are my cool colours and all the ones in the right side are warm. I know that to grey something down I just choose something in the other box! I hope this helps you. I would love to see your pallete set up!
I get asked a lot - how do I pack my pastels for travel? We buy these fabulous sets and have great timber draws at home - but they are heavy and too big to take plein air or to workshops that are away from home.
There are a few ways to pack your pastels for travel with many on the market to purchase. Some easels come with compartments for your pastels which are good too.
My way is just one way of many that is home made.
I have two small boxes that are each about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. I have lined the boxes with foam rubber top and bottom. With a layer of paper towel on the bottom of the box so I can clean it every now and then. (the boxes are old rembrandt 60 half stick set boxes. But you can use plastic food containers or whatever you have that is light and sturdy.)
One box has cool colours and one box warm. I sort them by tone and then temperature then intensity.
When travelling the two boxes are stacked on each other and held tightly closed with large elastic bands. As they are closely packed they do not move much and therefore do not break. They are all half stick size pastels. I also have similar size boxes of Unison 63 half sticks that are great for plein air and travelling too.
The best thing is they fit in my carry on luggage if flying so I can keep them safe with me.
Weights about 1kg for two boxes.
I hope this helps you next time you travel with your pastels.
Enjoy My adventures into the joys and tribulations of