My summer through Europe by Sevine Clarey (NAA's Social Media Intern)
“Brilliant color that does not yellow with time, a velvety matte surface unlike any other medium, dry color that is capable of a range of effects. These characteristics are distinctive to pastel.” Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge of Photographs and Works on PaperThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pastel is powdered pigment rolled into round or square sticks and held together with methylcellulose, a non-greasy binder. It can be either blended with finger and stump or left with visible strokes and lines. Generally, the ground is toned paper, but sanded boards and canvas are also popular. If the ground is covered completely with pastel, the work is considered a pastel painting; a pastel sketch shows much of the ground. When protected by fixative and glass, pastel is the most permanent of all media because it never cracks, darkens, or yellows.
The origins of pastel can be traced back to the sixteenth century, when Guido Reni, Jacopo Bassano, and Federigo Barocci were notable practitioners. Some more familiar artists are: Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Redon, Vuillard, Bonnard, Glackens, Whistler, Chase, and Hassam.
Degas was the most prolific user and champion of pastel, raising it to the full brilliance of oil. His protégé, Mary Cassatt, introduced the Impressionists and pastel to her wealthy friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the United States.
Some tips on preserving your Pastel work
The greatest glory and the greatest weakness of pastel is its powdery composition. These opposing factors have provoked countless debates among artists as to how to stabilize these works, and which substances to use. While some materials and methods may suit a particular artist’s goals, there is no ideal fixative. In theory, any liquid applied to pastel will penetrate the spaces between the fine particles of powder and cause certain colors or the overall composition to become dull or darken, thereby diminishing its characteristic light-scattering property. Fixatives can also alter the color of exposed paper. These factors should be kept in mind if you choose to fix your pastel, and if so, it is best to experiment in advance with the materials you plan to use.
If you do not fix your pastel, its surface can still be well protected. This is most effectively done by framing, which avoids accidental smudging and abrasions, as well as the settling of dust. Whether the support is paper, canvas, or wood, at least a 1⁄4-inch space should be provided between the surface of the composition and the inner side of the glazing. This should protect against rubbing and the possibility of condensation and subsequent staining should there be a rapid drop in temperature. This space can be created by using a deep mat bevel, or by inserting spacers or lifts between the artwork and the glazing. Pastels on loose sheets of paper should be hinged at all edges or over-matted to avoid cockling and the consequent rubbing of powder against the glazing once framed. Matting materials should be 100% rag board. This helps to avoid discoloration due to acidity and provides mild buffering action against changes in humidity. For glazing, use only antistatic materials to avoid having the powder lifted off the surface of the composition. Such products include ordinary glass, as well as nonreflective glass that incorporates an ultraviolet barrier (such as Schott Amiran, Denglass Water White, or Tru-Vu Museum Glass). Acrylic sheeting should be used with caution because of its static charge. If it is used, apply antistatic solution to the inner and outer sides of the sheet. Guard against large thin sheets of acrylic because they will bow and rest on the surface of the pastel, and avoid turning any pastel facedown. From The Pastel Society of America
This workshop is designed for all artists from the realism painter to the abstract.
From emptyeasel.com by Mark Nesmith 10/11
And, don’t forget to check out the NAA 8 x 8 show in August!!
“As artists, we often obsess about the many and varied elements of our work. Everything from subject matter to color theory and paint handling come under close scrutiny.
But there’s one aspect that many of us often overlook. . . size.
Small, medium, or large, the dimensions we choose for our artwork will always have a tremendous impact on the effect it has on viewers.
As a young artist in college I was obsessed with large drawings and paintings. I rarely worked on anything smaller than three feet, and many of my paintings were six foot or more in size. Like much of the art world I believed that “bigger is better.” I equated size to quality, personal expression, and impact.
Over the years much has changed about my art making process. I’ve come to re-evaluate the “bigger is better” myth. In the process, my work has shrunk in physical size, but expanded in so many other ways.
These days I rarely work on paintings larger than two or three feet in size and most of my work is 18″ x 24″ or smaller.
Traditionally small paintings have primarily fallen into two categories: studies for larger works, or miniatures that are tour de forces of trompe le’oil painting technique. However, there are many artists who value smaller works as something more.
As early as the 1880s, the noted artist Whistler executed scores of small oil-on-panel paintings, some as small as 3″ x 5″ which challenged the conventional wisdom that equated size with importance.
One collector famously described Whistler’s small scale works as “superficially, the size of your hand, but, artistically, as a large as a continent.” More recently Ellen Eagle has earned quite a reputation for her diminutive pastel portraits.
Today there are hundreds if not thousands of artists painting and exhibiting small works, including many artists like Duane Keiser of the Daily Painting movement that first inspired me to approach my body of small work in a big way.
What I’ve learned is that larger formats can put distance, both physical and psychological, between the viewer and the art. While I adore those giant wall-sized Chuck Close paintings that can overpower a room, smaller sizes can allow for a more intimate interaction with the art by literally drawing the viewer in closer.
There are actually many reasons why artists choose to create small paintings. Some artists cite the time factor. I can finish a small format painting each day and still have time to work on some of my larger pieces. Other artists who prefer to paint en plein air like working small because they’re just easier to carry.
Painting small can also be a way to explore new techniques and experiment without the fear of using a lot of costly paint and canvas. My ability as a painter and my understanding of the medium improved dramatically when I began painting a lot of small pieces rather than concentrating on a couple large canvases.
Painting so many canvases in such a short time also helped me to quickly build a portfolio. And for some artists, smaller sizes help banish artist’s block or the fear of a blank white canvas. Having a wall-sized canvas to complete can certainly increase the pressure one feels to “get it right.”
Whatever your reasons for painting small, there are a few challenges to overcome for those of us accustomed to larger formats. Often artists complain about feeling cramped or boxed in when working on a smaller canvas. This can cause a painter to tighten up, giving the work a stiff and lifeless feeling.
Over time I’ve come up with a few tips to help the transition from larger canvases to more modest sized work, and I’d like share some of the insights I’ve gained:
1. Suggest detail instead of illustrating it in full
Consider using large blocks of solid colors. Using large shapes and loose handling can help keep you from feeling “boxed in” or cramped in the smaller format. My painting The Rocky Shore contains very little in the way of details yet comes across as a realistic view of Lake Mineral Wells.
The foliage is rendered in two or three large masses of color. The ripples of the waves are freely handled brushstrokes. I don’t try to indicate a leaf or a blade of grass. There’s really very little need to. Our vision is not merely a function of our eyes. When we view something our mind acts as a filter, interpolating and extracting much than our eyes can see.
2. Keep thinking big – deep, wide, and far
Just because the canvas is small doesn’t mean that the sense of scale and depth have to be small. I often use strong diagonals and foreground elements to create an larger sense of space.
Frosted Field, above, is just 8″ x 10″ but it uses converging diagonals of a snow-covered plowed field to direct the viewer’s eye to a distant tree line, giving a sense of depth that isn’t constrained at all by the size of the painting.
And it can work with offset angles, too. I added depth to my small painting Along the Beach with a strong diagonal of sea oats in the extreme foreground.
A bit of aerial perspective, or the gradual shift in colors from warm to cool as they recede in space will also help to give an otherwise small scale painting a huge feeling of space and atmosphere.
3. Use larger brushes to maintain a loose feel
The smallest brushes I own are size 2, and most of my work utilizes size 4 rounds and flats or larger. Although my painting Clouds Over Galveston only measures 8” x 10” most of it was painted with size 6 and 8 bristle brushes. The clouds are formed from large, loose strokes of colors.
4. Exploit contrast
Increasing the changes in color, value, and even the sizes and placement of forms can help give small paintings a more expansive feel. My 12” x 24” painting Early Morning at Caprock Canyon puts a darker, cooler foreground against a brightly lit background.
I painted large bushes and tall grasses right at the bottom edge of the painting to give the impression of stepping into the landscape. There’s barely any physical space on the canvas between the foreground and the distant hills, but the overlapping strong contrast in value and color makes it seem like miles.
Lastly, don’t think of your smaller paintings as studies for a larger piece.
While it’s true that many small paintings may later be developed into a bigger work, try to think of your smaller paintings as complete and viable works of art on their own.
And as they say, one size doesn’t fit all. Whether large or small, success in painting depends on finding the right balance for each painting—between the subject portrayed, the size of the canvas, and your individual style and technique.”
A collaboration between the NAA the Newburyport Opportunity Works, http://opportunityworks.net (or visit their Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OpartProgram) OpArt, provides individuals with disabilities hands on art instruction using different media, techniques, and materials, and the chance to realize their life’s ambitions through the creative process in the visual arts.
In 2004 the NAA started an art training program for the associates at Opportunity Works in Newburyport, MA. An NAA volunteer and staff member facilitated the program on a weekly basis in an open classroom environment using very basic art materials, such as crayons, poster paint, and construction paper. Program funding was provided by the NAA, and the first exhibition of the associates’ work was held at the NAA in February of 2005.
Today, this critical art education outreach program - OpArt - is managed by a coordinator on the NAA staff, Rachel Forte and NAA Board Member Jenna Signore, with the help of several volunteer NAA Members. The program has grown to include the participation of talented associate artists working with advanced art supplies and techniques, such as acrylic paints, pastels, water colors, charcoals, photography and sculpture. The artists have enjoyed growing recognition at the regional and state-wide levels for the quality of artwork created. The program is now widely known for the positive impact it has had on artists with special needs over the years. Sales of the artwork in various retail venues support the artists and Opportunity Works, Inc. in Newburyport. The program would not be possible without the support of our local funders, The Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, the Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation, and The Provident Bank Community Foundation.
Several successful exhibitions are held during the year in the surrounding areas , including at the Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury, MA, at the NAA itself and at The Carry Out Cafe in Newburyport, MA.
"Art reveals to us the essence of thing, the essence of our existence." - Rudlolf Arnheim
ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer's is a 501© (3) initiative of the I'm Still Here Foundation, founded in 2002, with the purpose of enhancing the cultural and creative life of people living with Alzheimer's disease. ARTZ draws on the support and collaboration of artists and cultural institutions, both nationally and internationally, as a collective resource, to share, educate and inspire.
As the video below informs us, the emotional memory in the presence of art eases some of the symptoms.
ARTZ Museum Programs -
• Peabody Essex Museum - Salem, MA
• Museum of Science - Boston, MA
• Fuller-Craft Museum - Brockton, MA
• Institute of Contemporary Art - Boston, MA
• deCordova Museum & Sculpture Park - Lincoln, MA
• Museum of Natural History, Harvard University - Cambridge, MA
• Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University - Cambridge, MA
• Sackler Museum, Harvard University - Cambridge, MA
• Larz Anderson Auto Museum - Brookline, MA
• American Textile Museum - Lowell, MA
• Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
A side note: In 2015 the NAA joined forces with Atria Merrimack Senior Living in Newburyport - NAA artist member Paula Estey led a workshop for seniors (experiencing varying stages of dementia) entitled Life & Legacy … the result was a powerful and emotional and so very positive experience for all, students and organizers. Both Atria & the NAA have agreed such programming needs to continue!