Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sheila M. Evans - Interview

Coral Reef No 2
Sheila M. Evans

Duet No 3
Sheila M. Evans

Sheila M. Evans

Sheila M. Evans, PSA, NPS

It gives me great pleasure to bring Sheila M. Evans' botanical pastels to your attention. If you are a pastel artist yourself, you may have already seen her work gracing the cover of Dakota Art's catalog, or in the October issue of The Pastel Journal.

Sheila provides the following in answer to my questions.

"First, thanks for doing this interview for the blog: Pastel. Is there anything you'd like to add to The Pastel Journal article featuring you from two issues ago?" (Casey Klahn)

I'd like to clarify that the Ambient series is my newest and most current series. Not that this matters to anyone besides myself.

"What camera are you using for those macro photos you take for reference?"

It's a Sony Cybershot 3.3 Megapixel camera. I'm using the lens that came with it. I usually end up using very small portions of the photos I take, so we are talking about some seriously low-res reference photos. But I like it that way. I think it keeps me from getting too bogged down in details. Once I took some really great reference photos--super sharp, nicely composed, usable just as they were. They resulted in some terrible paintings! Well, not terrible, maybe, but definitely too futzy and detailed for my taste.

"You were listed as liking Mucha and Monet? Give me another artist, without an 'M', from history whom you follow."

I've always been blown away by John Singer Sargent.

"Now give me a contemporary artist whom you admire."

Albert Handell--I'm amazed at the depth he achieves in his paintings and how little he seems to have to do to accomplish it.

"What first brought you to the pastel medium? Did your classes at Gonzaga introduce you to them?"

Sort of. Gonzaga didn't offer classes in pastel, but there were these great figure-drawing classes taught by Bob Gilmore. He still teaches them, actually. It was more like an open studio than anything, and there were a few adult students auditing the classes who worked in pastel, which was interesting. But what really got me started was the gift of a box of pastels from my parents. I took those into the drawing classes and started timidly experimenting with color in my drawings. It was still just line work for the most part. A few years after I graduated I picked the pastels back up again, but this time I applied more of what I'd learned in my oil painting classes, and worked from dried flowers rather than live models. That's when things really started to take off.

"Tell us about your palette."

I have several hundred pastels and about 30 I use regularly. Most of them live in the boxes they came in and my workhorses sit in semi-sorted chaos in a Dakota box by my easel. I have three sections of pastels which are divided into red/oranges, green/turquoises and purples. The black and my vine charcoal sit in the grooves between the mesh trays of the box. It's mostly Unison, but I have plenty of Schminkes and Senneliers, and a few Diane Townsends and others in the mix.

"Tell us what the Sheila M. Evans box of 12 pastels would be like - some of it's colors and the brand."

Well, ideally I'd start with Rowney's intense black, but since they've reformulated their line I haven't seen them available in open stock, so I've had to do without. So let's see. A black (I've been using Art Spectrum's). Also from Art Spectrum, the darkest shade of Flinders Blue Violet. From Schminke, the pure shade of caput mortuum hell (I can't think of the English name but the German one amuses me so I remember it.) Also the Schminke pure quinacridone violet. The rest would be Unison, dark brownish reds, ochre greens, blue greens and purples.

"If the Unison factory burned down tomorrow (God forbid), what would your favorite pastel brand be, and give us a couple of reasons."

Yikes! That's a scary thought. Well, I suppose it could happen, even in rainy England, so I guess my next choice would be Schminke. They have some great subtle, and not-so-subtle, colors, and a very consistent texture which is great. Sometimes they are too soft in certain situations, but you always know what you are getting. And it doesn't hurt that my local art store has them in open stock, either.

"You once divulged your repair method for Senellier La Carte paper to me. Could you give us that here?

I have a couple of tricks with the LaCarte. One I learned from another artist or maybe an early issue of Pastel journal. That was if the surface got hit with a drop of water and came off, leaving the shiny white underlayer. In that case I would hit the spot with a bit of fixative and let that dry, then touch up with pastel. It allows the pastel to stick to the surface again.

My other LaCarte trick is for when the texture is too rough. When I first started using LaCarte, it had this great, consistently velvety texture. Then, I started getting batches that were a bit rougher and less uniform. The rougher texture was harder to work with and when it came time to frame the pieces, I found it didn't grip the pastel as well. I had a lot of trouble with dust drifting. At first I just ordered different colors but eventually all the paper I got had this new texture. Out of frustration one day I took a piece of sandpaper and went over the whole sheet of LaCarte. It worked perfectly: I had my old LaCarte back!

"What is your favorite, or preferred La Carte color?"

Sienna. It's warm but neutral and a good middle value.

"What's on your easel right now?"

Would you believe, an oil painting?

Sheila is a Signature Member of the prestigious Pastel Society of America, and of the Northwest Pastel Society.

Evans has had two consecutive and recent honorable mentions in The Pastel Journal 100 competition. She won the Dakota Art Pastels catalog cover competition and that's why every time I see my favorite catalog I say, "I know that artist!" October's issue of The Pastel Journal has a feature article about her beautiful botanical works and the process she uses to compose them.

Sheila adds Spokane ArtFest, Bellevue ArtsFair, Sausalito and Sun Valley to her art fairs, and carried home a banner from the latter for Best in Drawing. Gallery exhibits in Seattle, Portland and Spokane featured her work recently, and she currently has a hanging of large pieces at the Kress Gallery in Spokane's Riverpark Square.

On a personal note, I met Sheila at a Spokane pastel workshop (taught by Jennifer Evenhus) and it was evident to myself and all the class that she was an artist of powers. Her figure work is wonderful, and I hope that becomes part of her ouvre in the future. Now, Sheila and I show up in the same art fairs throughout the West and in that way I get to see what she's painting on a frequent basis. On the art fair circuit, the pastelists tend to stick together since we are a peculiar bunch.

Anisotrope Studio, Sheila's Web Pages.

Administrative Note:
The template of this blog has changed to a Lefty Stretch model. It does some harm to the uniformity between this blog and The Colorist, however for some reason the right column of the former template was crowding the main text at this blog, but not at my other one. Additionally, the default size of the font was inexplicably small. The stretch version may either solve that, or somehow make it more tolerable when I forget to change the font sizes manually.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pastel Artists Discovered

Here is a short list of some excellent pastelists that I have come across on the net. Pour yourself another cup, and start clickin'...

By the way, it looks as if we're on a loose marine theme here.

  1. Derek Jones, of Scottish Borders, U.K. has some beautiful mixed media (I see pretty much the pastel) and of particular interest are his current postings with turquoise boats. Derek, would you happen to know the Sixteen Men of Tain?
  2. Steve Hill, of Lopez Island, WA. Steve is the president of the Northwest Pastel Society, and I've noticed things good happening over there. I'd better get off my rear and join up soon. I guarantee you that Steve probably knows the 16 Men of Tain. I think I closed a sale on one of Steve's pastels once. You still owe me for that one, Steve.
  3. Mary Aslin, a member of the NPS. Her blog is here.
  4. Sandy Byers. Whidbey Island resident and fine artist.
  5. James Southworth. Very strong color and very prolific artist.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Enter The Atelier

Now, to look at the little Hoquiam Shipyard painting through the lens of classic realism.

Early in her book, Aristides provides one of the best explanations of the "Golden Mean" I have read. Without getting into the math, philosophy and science here, I'll offer the interested this link (One-Over-The-World web link, everything you could ever hope to learn about the Golden Mean). Cut to the chase and see the application of the Golden Number to art.

But, how did my "intuitive" composition hold up to the "school solution" methods of arranging the elements of my picture? I went to Photoshop to see.

The first jpeg gives an overlay of the Golden Mean (GM). Hmmn, I thought. Not too revealing. I guess I did have the key lines of my building-boat masses parallel to a GM line (short line). And, the line of background elements sort of fit the theory, although not quite parallel with the long axis GM line.

Then, I decided that it was kosher to look at the main elements of the picture, and to group them as a GM box (jpeg below). Nice! The green outline is the GM 1:1.6 ratio box that is the anointed "perfect ration" outline (well, not to scale, but the idea is there). The pink-violet lines are the lines of interest of the anointed pictures. The upper yellow line shows a parallel line that I employed, and the other yellow lines complete the magic triangle so well known by lovers of the Renaissance artists.

Well, not too bad. I describe myself as "self taught," but I actually have studied a thing or two about art and drawing over the years. It's just fun once and a while to hold these things up to the light of the classical drawing standards and see how they compare.

In the end, I do have troubles with a few things in my painting. The way that the right most line of the building lines up with the boat's housing line gives me fits. In one way, it helps the grouping cohere, but on the other hand it makes it harder for the eye to distinguish the boat from that background element. If I were to re-do this painting in a larger format, I would monkey with that to see what I liked better. What do you artists out there think of that part?

Further, there are some crude aspects to the boat hull and the tall legs of the large building, but I also kind of like the way the pastel mimics the brush strokes of an oil painting and just left it as is.

The main thing is, I wanted to take this piece fresh from my studio and in my less intellectual state of mind, and critique it against the searing light of "perfect drawing" skills as shown in the new Atelier book. In the end, I am happy that my composition is in the ballpark, and I very much enjoy that turquoise color!

Golden Ratio Links:
Play with an interactive Golden Rectangle - fun!
Just the facts
Blogger Post On Subject
An Approximative Approach
Museum of Harmony

Self Critique - The Back Story

Here is some interesting "back story" on the little marine piece that I just posted last week.

It started out as a plein air session drawing, on a beautiful sunny day (rare in Hoquiam!). My first efforts at isolating a composition in the studio had me getting in a value scale. Early on, I wanted to get in one boat and the "SHIPYARD" building. The reasons for this were the strong white values of the two objects, and their clear shapes. But the problem occurs in how to portray them both without getting too cluttered and losing focus.

My value scale kept pushing me towards a darkened to middle value sky, which trended away from the sunny day reality. Oh well, that's my Hoquiam, always gray. And I very much liked the tall green-gray structure at the dry dock, but knew at first that it would be a huge distraction from the composition.

I went thrashing around for some ideas, because I wasn't very pleased with the line and form compositions. I'll say here that I don't have a hip pocket or standard plan for realist works, since my signature work is the abstracted landscape. I pulled out the Albert Handell book on plein air pastels, and he did have a marine scene, so typical of California. There were the colors turquoise and gray-green! Since I wasn't after the originality of color that I often go for, I decided to try using the turquoise, especially because I don't favor blue greens typically. Here would be some great color exploration for me.

The compliment of turquoise is red-orange, so I chose a hot orange to tone the Wallis paper. Now, all of a sudden, everything started to flow together. I abandoned the first value idea, but stayed with the massed values aspects. I really had fun putting this together. The turquoise provided a very cool temperature color to place against an otherwise warm setting. Back came the original blue sky, because the value scale of the main area was strong enough to support a light sky. Back, too, came the tall green structure to "push" the eye down and to add linear means to the composition.

The white building was able to recede because of the strong cool color of the boat's superstructure. All I had to do was add some warm compliments to the white walls.

Then my drawing book came in the mail! Now, all of a sudden, I had to start looking again through the critical lens of "perfect" realist drawing! The book, Classical Drawing Atelier, is a marvelous overview of old school, measured rendering and representation. I say old school, but of course the atelier is a contemporary institution that is established on the timeless foundations of rendering.

But, I wanted to finish the work, sort of "as is". I could see some "realist" errors, but wanted to keep them in. Why? Because I knew I had a non-commercial goal, and have a penchant for looseness, anyway. And, that is not to mention that it is very tiny at 6" x 4.5".

The one thing I did notice on my first opening of Juliette Aristides' book was that I may be too line-centric in my drawing in general, and not very refined in my "forms". So, when I took the little pastel work back to the studio for it's final effort, I did work on "modeling" the form of the boat's structure.

Next Post: I compare my drawing to the Atelier principles.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pastel - Pacific Coast Shipyard - Bump!

Hoquiam Shipyard 1
6" x 4.5"
Original Pastel
24 October, 2007
Casey Klahn

This is a scene from my home town of Hoquiam, Washington. File this one under: "hobby," since it's a more realistic piece than I am used to doing. Because of my lack of practice lately, it took me many tries to get workable composition of this one. I'm still not satisfied, but since it's going in my own collection, it will have to be finished as is. Fun stuff!

After the funeral of a favorite uncle near my home town, I stopped at the Hoquiam River and had a plein air session in full sunlight. That's a very rare occurrence in my home town, so it was a special and memorable time. I rarely get to my old town, anymore, since it's a very long drive from my new home area.

The image of this artwork is also not taken with our professional outfit, but with my point and shoot digital camera under studio lights.

I'd like to share the photo merge that I made on Photoshop from my photos of that day:

Room for more paintings from this shoot, no doubt.

Here is an envelope with some value studies for this painting. In the end, I only got some grouped value masses from this exercise.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wolf Kahn Exhibition Catalog

When I had the pleasure of visiting the Ameringer-Yohe Fine Art Gallery in New York City a little over a year ago, I also got my hands on this beautiful catalog printed on the occasion of the artist's installation: Large Format Pastels, 10 November 2005 - 7 January 2006. I missed the exhibition by a long shot, but the gallery staff were cordial and allowed me to view about 7 of Kahn's small pastel works.

One can find these rare books on e-bay, for sale. Kind of like selling a gift, don't you think? The gallery presents these freely to patrons who show an interest in the artist's work and who would enjoy having this compliment.

Here is an example of a more current WK catalog from the A-Y Gallery.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Green Singer

The inspiration that the cover article from this month's issue of The Pastel Journal gave me was tremendous. The article displays the 8 Wonders of the Pastel World, which amounts to a jurying of individual pastel paintings (well, perhaps one is a drawing) by 8 famous artists in history. Then, the magazine chose 8 noted contemporary pastelists to comment on these great artists.

It doesn't hurt that they had beautiful photos of each artwork, and that the historical artists are known to all pastelists everywhere.

Because I find it rewarding to write critiques, I decided that my own choice for the best pastel work should be included here at

La Chanteuse Verte, 1884
23.75 " x 18.25"
The Green Singer
Edgar Degas

Degas (1834 - 1917) gets the wave as the artist with the number 1 pastel work of all time. I agree wholeheartedly with the premise, but my pick for the best work that I have seen by Degas is The Green Singer. This virtuoso painting resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I am kicking myself for not getting in there when I was in town last year, but I now have another reason to return to the big apple.

Considered to be performer, Marie von Goethem, this young subject is possessed of a stage grace that Degas brings out, even in his cropped style, by creating arcing lines that are most notably present in the left hand bent at the wrist, and the cocked head and extended chin. Counter pose the graceful figure with the artist's choice of the gauche colors turquoise, orange, yellow and olive. It seems to me that the colors become the star elements, as the orange and orangey-yellows bloom from the blue paper. And, even our singer is aware of the attraction of her stage attire.

Add to the mix Degas' wonderfully free scribbling marks of the background and the lace at the model's collar. Is the work unfinished, or simply rendered to create freedom of expression? Our hero is known for his attention to detail, and his slavish realism. Yet, his freedom of action as he grew older is noted, both in his usage of different and pioneering media, and in examples of his sketching style. 1884 is hardly his latter era, though. Perhaps the dogma about Edgar Degas must be re-thought. Can we think of him as an early expressionist?

Maybe I'd better step-up my personal goal of returning to the figure in my own art...can you say "Atelier," anyone?

Further Links:

Degas' Unfortunate Model.
Degas' Model in a Fictional Better Light.
Looks like when Degas' eyesight began to fail, he had to turn to pastels. (Link) They require less acuity, apparently. Oh boy, fellow pastelists, we still have work to do in educating the art public about our fantastic medium.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Interview Program

We will be interviewing pastel artists beginning with the award-winning Sheila Evans in the next few days.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Abstract Saturday - Oct. 13th

Soft Pastel
7" x 5"
Casey Klahn

Since I am busy hosting this weekend, I will post an abstract and bid you: enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2007

In Praise of Henri Roche, Pastel Maker

Casey at the Box

There is a secret in the pastel world that I will now let you in on. The Henri Roche Pastel is the best, and the most desirable, pastel stick on the planet. Keep that little snippet under your hat. This guy, Barry Katz (location held secret), has leaked the news already, but I am not sure if you have read his article yet. He relates the story of how he spent a good deal of effort and fortune to acquire some of these delicate beauties.

Here is a quote from Katz's epic search for the holy grail of pastels:

I first heard about Henri Roché pastels several years ago from the painter, Wolf Kahn. He spoke about the almost ridiculous difficulty of obtaining them. They were, he said, made according to an ancient recipe by an elderly Parisian lady who, along with her two elderly sisters, maintained the last vestiges of a family business that had catered to many of the great artists of the last couple of centuries. If you wanted to buy some, he continued, it was necessary to appear at her doorstep at a particular time on Thursday afternoons and hope that, if she were feeling well enough, you would be admitted to the sanctum sanctorum, the Lourdes of the serious pastelist. I thought he was exaggerating.
Read the whole article here.

Buy 'em here:
Rochester Art Supply, NY.

Okay, let's cut to the chase. Here is Ms. Roche (
Isabel Roché ?) herself, in a video interview:

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Saturday Gestural Abstract

Yellow Gesture
18" x 11"
Original Pastel
Casey Klahn
Collection of the Artist

Some are new to my blogs, and so I want to use the Saturday posts to showcase some of my abstract work. I don't have a venue to sell these, and so they are a non-commercial project. Well, to be honest, this one was created at a workshop and so it would be poor form to sell, anyway. But, for a period of time I want to keep my abstracts, as a whole, off of the market.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

My Own Home Made Pastels

Registering My Colors

Red, Yellow, Green, Ultramarine Blue, Blue-Green, Gray & Violet. I must have either skipped Orange, since I have several hand made ones that were done at a Kitty Wallis Workshop, or else I just can't find where I have them. I did make a color chart when I made them, but we had a basement flood and had to quickly put away my pastel making station, so I'm not sure where that is either!

This photo will help me decide where to go next in making my next set of sticks. I may have actually made a few more than this, but they are nubs by now and indistinguishable from my Diane Townsends and other store bought ones.


Use this post as a motivator to start exploring the craft of hand making your own pastels. Pigments differ in their qualities, and it can be a hit and miss process, I am told. With the method I use, though, I have been making consistent sticks that I prize.

Making Your Own Pastels

Making My Own Pastels from Old Bits & Easel Tailings

Since I am getting hits for the time-honored DIY pastel subject, let's revisit my attempt at the topic from last March. Post #1 had us setting up and gathering supplies, and Post#2 had us making the little critters. The latter post also has a good list of DIY resources for you.

Especially helpful to me was the Paul de Marrais link, whose method unlocks the super-secret, never-before-revealed and classified gnosis on how to make the pastel sticks. Can you say: "de-mystify"?

Now, my post only went far enough to get you started re-constituting your broken sticks or your easel tailings. The next move for you is to buy some pigment and make your own pastels from scratch. See the bottom of my second post for pigment information.