April 22, 2015
|Jo Hall’s sketch of Sonia Delaunay’s ‘Simultaneous Dress’ of 1913 at Tate Modern|
If you are excited by colour, textiles, fashion and costume design, the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern is a must see. The critics may be right that her painting reached its zenith with the ‘Electric Prisms’ series, but what determination when funds failed, for her to launch a fashion house and bring her art to a huge audience with designs that influence and inform the designers of today. It is also a stunningly presented show!
A quick glance at the catalogue showed it did not treat its readers to the back view of the ‘Simultaneous Dress’ she designed to wear to the tango ball room. Here and in the Portuguese markets she drew much inspiration from movement and colour that became part of her journey to pure abstraction. Sadly I had no coloured crayons with me but working in monochrome I realised she not only cleverly juxtaposed colours but also textures, and flat fabric against ruched or gathered pieces.
I will be visiting again soon!
April 19, 2015
|Sgraffito workshop at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead|
Sgraffito is a word derived from the Italian word ‘graffiare’ to scratch. The boys and idlers of Pompeii may have invented graffiti as an undesirable way to scratch into layers of pale plaster to reveal their messages in the underlying darker plaster layer, but similar techniques have been used with enormous skill down the ages; in architecture, especially surface plaster decoration, ceramics and fine art paintings from ancient times to the present.
Oil pastel is a useful medium to experiment with this technique and also a great way to draw with unconventional tools, using anything from a plastic comb or nail file, to a lolly stick or flexible palette knife. Most of these and more were used at a one day workshop I was delighted to lead at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead.
We began by rubbing in a base layer of pastel, covering the support well and then applying a second darker layer. We then used a battery of implements to scratch into the pastel revealing the lower layer. A more subtle result can be obtained by applying one layer of pastel and scratching or scraping back to the paper or board support. More precise marks can be made by rubbing one layer of pastel over dried acrylic paint.
These are some of the participants’ works and experiments.
Sgraffito is a wonderful way to explore drawing and colour simultaneously and the results were vibrant and full of interesting marks.
We also tried dark and light surfaces
Sgraffito is an excellent way to make the finest of lines with oil pastel and is particularly useful to add surface decoration or fine detail, or to add texture to a rather flat area.
April 16, 2015
Oil pastel is a great medium with an interesting history.
|Orbital: Jo Hall Oil pastel 2015|
In 1921 the Sakura Cray-Pas Company was set up in Japan to develop an improved quality wax crayon. This was a direct response to an attempt to give young Japanese children a medium allowing them to work freely with colour, replacing long hours spent copying ideograms in black India ink. Sadly the product had a low pigment content, and blending and impasto effects proved impossible. By 1924 Sakura developed a high viscosity crayon: the oil pastel, comprised of a mix of paraffin, stearic acid and coconut oil mashed and used as a binder for the pigments.
Till a stabilizer was developed in 1927, two types were produced; winter pastels where additional oil was added to prevent hardening and summer pastels with very little oil to prevent melting. Unfortunately these pastels were too expensive for state schools and Japanese schools at that time were sceptical of self-expression in general, so cheaper coloured pencils were imported from Germany.
Commercially, oil pastels were a success, but not at all comparable to professional quality oil pastels available now. These early products were intended to introduce western art education to Japanese children and not as a fine art medium.
However, Sakura did manage to introduce oil pastels to a few artists including Picasso, but during the second world war these became unavailable, so Picasso convinced Henri Sennelier, a French manufacturer of quality art materials, to develop a fine arts version. These became available in 1949; superior in wax viscosity, texture and pigment quality and capable of producing more consistent and attractive works. They are many professional artists’ preferred choice today.
The information above was gleaned from Wikipedia where a fuller account may be found.
The photographs below are from a one day workshop held on February 14th at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts Maidenhead where we explored ways of working with this vibrant medium which can be blended, scratched into and is compatible with oil paint.
|Participants were encouraged to experiment with coloured and white paper and find ways of blending colours.|
|Pam is working on bright green paper|
Before Easter I led a course on drawing trees in soft pastel at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts Maidenhead. Starting by looking at individual trees and small groups of trees we progressed to exploring the wood from within, trees in blossom, trees as part of a “Fauve” landscape and trees in a romantic or dramatic situation. Some of the work was very expressive and I hope I have managed to include at least one piece from each participant.