Thursday, April 29, 2010

Northwest Pastel Society Members' Exhibition Results

It was so fun to see the NPS exhibition in person!  My daughter and I were staying at a hotel in Burlington (we were having a girls weekend, shopping at all the outlets north of Seattle) and made the half hour drive up to the Blue Horse Gallery for the reception.  It's such a beautiful area up there, it's totally worth a visit.  Anyway, the reception was great.  The gallery is large, and all the art looked wonderful on the walls.  I went assuming I didn't win an award because I hadn't been notified ahead of time, but when I arrived I found out they had decided to let it be a surprise this time.  My painting "Sun Kissed" won second place in the miniatures category.  If you'd like to see the show online and check out the winning pieces, go here and here (the entries are divided alphabetically).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Northwest Pastel Society Exhibit at the Blue Horse Gallery, April 23 - May 28, 2010

All three of the paintings I submitted (Sweet, Addiction, and Sun Kissed) were accepted into the Northwest Pastel Society’s Members’ Exhibition.  The Artists’ Reception is tomorrow night, April 23, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Blue Horse Gallery in Bellingham, WA.  I will be at the reception and would like to invite everyone close enough to attend.  Check out the Blue Horse Gallery’s web site for address and directions.  Hope to see you there!

An Experiment in Painting Loose

An artist friend (who would probably prefer to remain anonymous in this instance!) shared with me her secret of painting loose: wine.  She said drinking wine while she painted loosened her up.  “How much do I have to drink?” I asked (never let it be said that I’m not willing to make sacrifices for my art!).  I was intrigued by the idea and thought I’d make an experiment of it sometime.  
A couple of days ago I poured myself a glass of wine before dinner.  I hadn’t had a drink in so long, I was feeling quite tipsy.  Then I remembered the experiment, and thought it would be a perfect time to try it.  I quickly pulled up a picture from my files and started painting.  I took some pics along the way to document the experiment.

I started with a loose sketch.

Yep, one glass of wine and I can't even tell the picture isn't in focus.  What a lightweight.

Fleshing him out a bit, unfortunately still out of focus.

Apparently I was starting to sober up because he's back in focus.

Getting too sober, starting to lose my looseness.

Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

I wouldn’t exactly call it a masterpiece, but it’s not particularly horrible either.  I think this experiment deserves further exploration.  Maybe I'll try it again when the weather warms up and I’m in the mood for margaritas.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guitar Player

I've been working fairly small for quite a while, so I decided to paint something big.  I totally enjoyed painting this one.

27.5" x 19.5"
Soft Pastel on Pastelmat

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pencil Sharpeners for Pastel Pencils

When I first started working in pastel, I ruined a couple of electric sharpeners.  The pastel would break off and get stuck, and I either couldn’t access the blades to dig it out, or I couldn’t get it out completely.  I searched for a pencil sharpener that would work well and settled on the Creative Mark MultiPoint.  After a year and a half, though, the blades are dull and don’t work well.  Obviously, I needed a new sharpener.  I was planning on ordering another MultiPoint, but then I saw Roby Baer’s videos on YouTube (if you haven’t seen them, check them out!).  She had such a nice point on her pastel pencils, I had to ask her about her sharpener.  She uses the X-Acto Powerhouse.  I bought one yesterday, and thought I’d share the pros and cons of each sharpener for those who are interested.
First, the MultiPoint:  I bought this sharpener at Jerry’s Artarama for around $25.

  1. It accepts pencils of different sizes and shapes
  2. It gives a decently sharp result
  3. If a pastel breaks off, you can open the shavings receptacle and poke it out with something sharp (I use an unbent paper clip)
  4. It is fairly rare that a pencil would break off 
  1. The clamp is annoying.  I couldn’t get it to stay on anything.  I usually put the sharpener on my knee to use it.  
  2. Their claim of “one hand operation” is, IMO, a joke.  The automatic feeding clutch does work (most of the time), but since the clamp doesn’t, one hand has to hold the sharpener in place.
  3. The pencil clutch chews up the outside of the pencil, which may or may not bother you
  4. It stops sharpening automatically, they say to avoid waste, but you can't get a sharper result than it is programmed to give
  5. No warranty - plan on replacing it every year, sooner if you're a heavy user
Next, the X-Acto Powerhouse:  Purchased from Office Max for $33.
  1.   It gives amazingly sharp results  
  2.   It has suction feet that make it stay put very nicely on my desk
  3.   It comes with a 2 year warranty
  1.   It doesn’t accept different sizes of pencils
  2.   Nothing else, but I’ve only had it a day
I have full sets of CarbOthellos and Derwents, plus a few pencils of different brands I bought just to try (you never know when you might want to get another set, right?).
  1. CarbOthellos fit very nicely
  2. Derwents are very snug, but they’ll go in with some pressure (and it takes pressure to get them out as well)
  3. Pitts go in slightly easier than Derwents, but not as easy as CarbOthellos
  4. Creatacolors go in very easily
  5. General’s go in very easily
  6. Contes will not go in at all
I’m excited about the sharp tip the X-Acto Powerhouse delivers, and the warranty is attractive.  I may buy another MultiPoint for backup, and for the Conte pencils if I buy a set (I really like those pencils!).

Update:  After using the X-Acto Powerhouse for a while, I'm back to the MultiPoint.  The Powerhouse worked well for a bit, but soon pencils were breaking off, and it is difficult to get the pastel tips out when they break in the sharpener.  I tried pulling out the shavings receptacle, but there is no way to poke out the pastel.  I had to use something very thin and sharp (I use a stainless steel BBQ skewer - I asked Roby and she uses an awl) and poke it directly into where the pencil feeds, stabbing the stuck pastel to break it up.  It got to where every pencil was breaking every time, and I just got tired of it.  It's not worth the hassle.  I bought myself another MultiPoint (actually, I bought two because Jerry's had them on sale) and almost cried with relief when I started using the new one.  I was able to get a sharper point on the new MultiPoint sharpener than I did with the last one, easily equal to the Powerhouse.  With nice, sharp points and very little hassle, the MultiPoint remains the best sharpener for me.  

See my review of The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener.