Thursday, November 17, 2011

Still Life in Soft Pastel - Cars

I've never considered myself a still life painter, but this new series I've started could make me turn into one.  They're super fun.   

"Traffic Jam"
18" x 24"
Soft Pastel on La Carte

These are my son's old cars which he had saved in a box in his closet.  Funny thing I've learned about men and their toy cars, they remember all of them.  From what I've seen so far, men seem to turn into little boys when they look at this painting.  I couldn't have hoped for a better response.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Artist's Magazine Finalist!

My painting "Dog Tired" was selected as a finalist in the Animal/Wildlife category of The Artist's Magazine's 28th Annual Art Competition.  My name is listed among the finalists in the December 2011 issue.

"Dog Tired"
14" x 24"
Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

You can view WIP pics of this painting here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Northwest Pastel Society Exhibition Award

My painting "Nap Interrupted" won the Past President's Award at the Northwest Pastel Society's 25th Annual International Open Exhibition.  I had three paintings accepted into the show, which is being held at the American Art Company in Tacoma, WA, until the end of the year.  The American Art Company is a large, beautiful gallery, and the show is excellent.  If you aren't in Washington and are unable to see the exhibit, you can go to the American Art Company web site and see it online.  Of course, the photos don't do the artwork justice and it is definitely worth seeing in person, if you can.

"Nap Interrupted"
14" x 24"
Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

My painting "Venice" is on the postcard for the show, but unfortunately someone at the NPS thinks my name is Kate.  I actually like the name Kate, and I don't mind it so much when it's on the web site and I can get it changed, but this time it's in print.  So if you've received a postcard for the show, and you're searching for Kate Tirrell, apparently that's me. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Looking Ahead to Christmas

For years I've wanted to paint a Christmas themed painting that I could use for a Christmas card.  Unfortunately, by the time I'm thinking about Christmas it has always been too late.  I'm quite proud of myself for remembering early enough this year to make it happen.

This painting was a bit of a challenge, but great fun to paint.  I love the idea of arranging things into a pile and painting them.  I'm going to do it again with my next painting.  In fact, I might have many more like this in the future - my head is spinning with ideas!

"Christmas Memories"
14" x 18"
Soft Pastel on La Carte

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


A couple of days ago, my daughter said, "Why don't you paint while you're on pain pills?  Maybe you wouldn't paint something boring."  Ouch (I'm looking forward to the time when the brutal honesty of teenagers is replaced by a modicum of tact).  I don't want to talk about the reason for the pain pills, because then I'll go into a rant about Mohs surgery, and this is an art blog after all.  Suffice it to say, I hope I like my new nose better than the original.

Anyway, I decided to take my daughter's advice, and try to paint something loose and colorful (but also easy).  Unfortunately, the pain pills were somewhat unimpressive.  Not wanting to disappoint, I decided to see if I could push the color a bit more than I normally would.  I also decided not to obsess, as I normally would (the pain pills actually did help with this aspect).  This is the result of my day on drugs.  I sincerely hope it's not too boring. ;)

14" x 11"
Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour

I'm participating once again in the annual Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour.  If you're in Washington state the weekend of September 17 & 18, I hope you'll stop by.  My studio will be open to visitors between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. that weekend.  I'll be doing painting demos throughout the day, and you'll have the opportunity to ask questions and play with materials.  If you're in the mood to pick up some original art, I'll have something for every budget. There will be studio clearing discounted works (seriously, I need some space around here!) as well as my award winning works on display.

There are some excellent artists on the tour this year, so it will be a great way to spend the weekend.  Especially if this amazing weather continues!  For more information, visit the Gig Harbor Open Studio Tour Web Site.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Latest in my Soft Pastel Dog Series

I wanted to paint something fun and easy after the Venice painting, so I decided to add to my dog series.  I definitely think the idea of painting the same subject repeatedly has merit.  Of course, I know my subject very well, but I feel like I'm improving in certain areas.  Or maybe that's just my imagination.  This one didn't take me very long, though, so at the very least I'm improving in speed.

"Nap Interrupted"
14" x 24"
Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

A few months ago, the owner of Classroom Friendly Supplies contacted me and asked if I would review their pencil sharpener.  Any pastellist who uses pastel pencils knows that a good sharpener is hard to find.  Pastel inevitably breaks off and clogs the sharpener.  Always on the lookout for a great sharpener, I was very happy to have the opportunity to try it.  
The last time I reviewed a sharpener, I was impressed at first, but soon disappointed (see the review).  This time, I wanted to use the sharpener consistently for a few months to be able to give a better assessment of how the sharpener performs over time.  Since any new sharpener I try must compete with my Creative Mark Multi-Point for favorite sharpener status, I’ll be comparing it to the Multi-point in this review.
Overall, I like this sharpener.  Right out of the box, what impressed me was its style.  It is slightly more compact (and slightly heavier) than the Multi-Point, sort of retro looking, and has a metal body (the Multi-Point has a plastic body).  It’s a sturdy sharpener.  Like the Multi-Point, the Classroom Friendly Sharpener comes with a clamp.  This clamp works better than the Multi-Point’s but it didn’t take me long before I abandoned it.  It’s just unnecessary.  (I’d still like one with suction feet, but no one seems to make them that way.)  

Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

Other than the metal body, this sharpener is very similar to the Multi-Point, so I was particularly interested to see how it would compare to my favorite sharpener.  I fed it a pastel pencil and turned the crank - wow, did I get an amazingly sharp point!  It has an automatic stop, like the Multi-Point, but it was quite a while before I noticed it.  The feel of the automatic stop is more subtle than the Multi-Point, and a little bit of pressure on the feeding mechanism will allow it to keep sharpening.  This is good if you want a super sharp tip, but if you’re not careful it will eat the pastel pencil.  

Check out these super sharp tips!

Like the Multi-Point, this sharpener leaves bite marks on the pastel pencils (this doesn't bother me in the least, but if it concerns you, don't buy either sharpener). 

How does this sharpener hold up over time?  Pretty well.  I’ve found it takes more pressure for it to get a sharp point now than it used to, but it will still give great results.  It also breaks off the tip more often than it used to, but that is similar to the Multi-Point.  It seems like I get great results at the beginning, by three months it’s starting to get frustrating, and (assuming the Classroom Sharpener keeps wearing similar to the Multi-Point) I’ll need to replace it by six months.  
What happens when the pastel gets stuck in the sharpener?  This is the one area where the Multi-Point compares more favorably.  Most of the time, it’s fairly simple to poke out the stuck pastel.  Once in a while, it’s almost impossible.  The first time that happened was maybe a month in, and I couldn’t get the pastel out at all.  I pulled out the shavings receptacle and poked around to no avail.  I shoved a metal BBQ skewer in and poked, but it felt like I was hitting metal.  It was confusing and frustrating.  I finally gave up and set the sharpener aside, thinking it was unusable.  A few days later I missed the super sharp point, so I started poking around in it again.  I was able to poke an unbent paper clip inside along the grooves repeatedly until the pastel came loose.  I don’t know why it sticks in there so stubbornly sometimes, but it does.  It’s happened to me a handful of times, and if there is one thing that would discourage me from buying this sharpener, that would be it.
How do the sharpeners compare on price?  The Classroom Friendly Sharpener is $19.95 with free shipping.  The Creative Mark Multi-Point is $27.99 at Jerry’s Artarama, but you can often find it on sale (last time I paid $12.99, which was awesome, but typically it’s over $20).
So what’s the verdict?  Did the Classroom Friendly Sharpener replace the Multi-Point as my favorite sharpener?  I love the super sharp tip possible with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener, but I have to factor in the occasional frustration of not being able to get the pastel out.  As long as the blades stay sharp and I can get that super sharp tip, it’s definitely worth having the Classroom Friendly Sharpener around.  When this one wears out, I’ll buy another, but I’m not going to give up my Multi-Point.  I'll need it for backup when the pastel refuses to come out of the Classroom Friendly Sharpener.  If the Classroom Friendly Sharpener came unclogged as easily as the Multi-Point, it would definitely be my new favorite.  
You can buy the Classroom Friendly Sharpener here.
One caution for Conté pastel pencil users:  the Classroom Friendly Sharpener won’t sharpen the Contés.  If Conté is your brand, stick with the Multi-Point.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pastel Society of America Exhibition

My painting "Laundry Day, Venice" was accepted into the Pastel Society of America's 39th Annual Exhibition.  There were over one thousand submissions this year, and the jury selected less than 180.  I'm very happy to be among those who were accepted.

The exhibition is being held at the National Arts Club in New York City from September 6 to October 1, 2011.  See the Pastel Society of America's web site for details.

"Laundry Day, Venice"
19" x 25"
Soft Pastel on La Carte

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Venice Painting in Soft Pastel

This painting is based on a photo I took when my husband and I were in Venice last fall.  Normally this is not something I'd choose to paint, but I was so in love with the image that I abandoned all good sense and insisted on painting it.  As you might guess, it was time consuming.  Definitely my most ambitious painting to date.  I started this painting the end of last year, and then had to put it away for a while so I could get other projects done.  I'm very happy to have finally finished it.

For those who are interested, here are a few WIP pictures I took during the painting process.  

And the finished painting again:

25" x 19"
Soft Pastel on La Carte


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Terry Ludwig Award!

My painting "Laundry Day, Venice" won the Terry Ludwig Award in the Pastel Society of the West Coast's 25th Pastels USA International Open Exhibition.  Terry Ludwigs are my favorite pastels, so I am over the moon!  I'm definitely having a good month. :)

You can see the show at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, CA from April 24 to June 19, 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Best of Show!!

My painting "Old Friend" won Best of Show at the Northwest Pastel Society 2011 Members' Exhibit!

The reception was very well attended (it was packed in there!), and I got to meet some people I have known online for a while but hadn't met in person, which is always fun!

There are many excellent paintings at the exhibit, but my favorite paintings of the show were by Sandy Byers, who won the NPS Director's Award for her painting "Symphony of Swans."  Take a look at these paintings online and you will see how beautiful they are, but it doesn't prepare you for how absolutely stunning they are in person.

If you can get to the Kirsten Gallery to see the show, it's definitely worth it!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Latest Commission and News

I'm behind on my blog posting, and I'm not going to bother making any excuses (I don't have a good one anyway).  I'll just give you the latest news.

Here is my most recent commission, a beautiful cat named Frank.

Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

Now for the news:

I had three paintings accepted into the Northwest Pastel Society Member's Exhibit.  The show is being held at the Kirsten Gallery in Seattle from April 10 to May 8, 2011.  The artist reception is Sunday, April 10, from 2-4 pm.  I am planning to be there, so if you're local please come out and say hello.  It should be a great show!

I had two paintings accepted into the Pastel Society of the West Coast's "Pastels USA," the 25th Annual Open International Exhibition.  It is being held at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, CA, from April 24 to June 19, 2011.  Click on this link for information.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you Sunday!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dog Painting in Soft Pastel With WIP Pics

I've had a computer in my studio now for a year, and I love being able to paint from it.  I used to print out a picture on photo paper, and paint from that.  It's so much better using the monitor!  I can enlarge the reference and see much more detail now, which makes my job a lot easier.  I can also use PhotoShop to help compose the image.

For instance, I can put my reference image in PhotoShop and "Posterize" it to show only a few values.  This can help me work through my initial drawing.  Here is the ref posterized:

First I pick a light tone and draw out the highlights:

Next I take a middle and darker tone and place those in the appropriate places:

Next, I use a pastel pencil to work out my drawing:

I add in the background, and continue to work out the drawing:

Still working out my drawing while filling in local color:

Now I'm starting to fill in detail:

Now I've worked out the values for the most part, and just need the foreground and finishing touches:


"Dog Tired"
Soft Pastel on Suede Matboard

(I took these pictures at different times of day, in different lighting, which is the reason for the varying colors.)

If you've seen the demo on my web site, you'll have noticed that this is the same method, with the exception of using the computer.  Isn't technology wonderful?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pastel Painting with WIP Pics

This is a painting based on a photograph I took in Venice, Italy.   I loved Venice - it was a visual feast!  I was fascinated by the very common scene of laundry hanging out on lines in Venice.  It's just not something I ever see where I live.  

It was sunny and beautiful when we were there, and I loved the shadow patterns the laundry made on the walls of the buildings.  I enjoyed this particular spot because of all the intersecting laundry lines connecting the colorful buildings, the light on the clothing and, of course, the shadows.  All of that against the bright blue sky made me want to paint it.

I'm posting some WIP pics in case you're interested in seeing the process.

And the finished painting again:

"Laundry Day, Venice"
19" x 25"
Soft Pastel on La Carte