Venue: Pastel Society of Victoria, Australia
Speaker: Regina Hona
The second demonstration for 2013 at the March meeting for the PSVA, was supposed to have Herman Pekel demonstrating water colours. A bit strange for a pastel society to have so many artists showing other mediums but, hey, I use most of them so I will go if I want to learn something new!
After the forty minute mark past the start time of the demonstration we finally gave up on Herman and Regina very kindly stepped up to do an unplanned demo of tonal portraiture in tones of grey and black. The colours (or lack of them) was because she didn’t have her kit with her and the pastels were donated, as was the paper and easel. The sitter was a volunteer from the attendees.
I have to say that Regina has gained my admiration for doing such a great job without any warning and with none of her own materials. As we know most of us get used to using all our own pastels etc. They become familiar and the application to the paper is known before we use them. To pick up any new pastel in front of a crowd of experienced pastel artists was what I consider to be rather brave and shows her considerable talent, experience and comfort with her own abilities and training.
Regina talked us through the measuring of the head and having a set point to return to as you build up your portrait, to not only continue measuring from, but also to check the progress of the work without hovering too close to it. From a few light marks to show the division of the head into thirds the shadows were drawn in and the lines to mark the nose and mouth were placed.
As Regina is a tonalist she shaded in all the area of the dark side of the face and under the brow including where the eye was to go. The light application of the pastel allows for a lot of layering so the lighter shades could go in later to show the whites of the eye on that side and lighter parts of the eyelid. The space between the eyes was measured carefully, using the method of the width of an eye being between each eye on a face. This is a general rule as everyone is a bit different but gives you a great starting point.
A mirror from a compact was donated for use to check the progress of the work, which seemed to work very well. It’s amazing what you can work with in a pinch, and the portrait was still looking amazing as the tones were built up to form the modelling of the cheek bones, chin and nose.
The eyes were worked on fairly early in the piece as Regina likes to work from these outwards. This is a method I use for painting animal portraits. As soon as I can see the character of the animal the rest just seems to flow on naturally. Regina called this the “Daniel Green Method”.
Another method I saw her use was placing a touch of her lightest tone on the nose so that she could see how it sat with all the other tones already used. This made it easy to see how much room she had to broaden her tonal values. You need three values to create form and addition of more in between these models things like faces. Good contrast in tonal values also creates drama and depth pushing and pulling things forward and back into the painting.
“Remember the little shadow under the eyelids”, was a good point. These little touches make yes look realistic and help the eyelids to look like they are over the eye and not part of it.
As she worked her way around the portrait, Regina commented that even with so called recipes on building up images, you should still just go with the flow. If that takes you away from one part to another then just go with it. Working naturally for yourself and your painting style is better than struggling to try to copy someone else’s. Draw over things if you are not happy with them, brush off bits if that doesn’t work – the pastels can handle it. Building up with soft application of layers allows alterations and changes.
The model had lovely long dark hair which framed her face very nicely so when this was drawn in it pushed the face forward and it became even more three dimensional. With very small adjustments here and there to soften some edges, add a little highlight here and there the portrait was completed.
Regina said she probably do more to it, but it looked beautiful the way it was. Great mark making with a painterly finish that still held up as a very nice likeness to the model. The best bit was seeing how a well trained artist can rise to the occasion and produce some amazing art under conditions that many of us would shy away from.
I am actually happy that Herman didn’t make it on the night, I really enjoyed watching Regina work and learnt a lot from seeing how you can rise to a challenge – even in front of a crowd, at the last minute!