30 Oct

The Art Institute

A recent visit to Chicago was a refresher and inspiration. If you’re remotely curious about pastel, here’s a formal explanation from their Art Institute. Which also happens to explain why I love pastels, and the Impressionists.

“Pastel is a medium… made by combining dry pigment with a sticky binder. Once artists have applied the pastel to the surface, they can… blend it, leave their markings visible, or layer different colors to create texture and tone. Pastel… gained popularity in… the 18th century, but fell out of fashion… when pastel was deemed too feminine. (Grrr!!)  Impressionists rejected this bias and instead embraced the medium’s ability to impart immediacy, boldness, and radiance.”

Here’s to those bold Impressionists, who also weren’t much for blending. Mostly, they left their marks and layers visible, which is how I prefer to paint. This allows the intrinsic qualities of the pastel medium to shine. The crystals of pigment from different colors refract light differently. Therefore, leaving marks and see-through layers (vs. blending) adds vibrancy and energy to my paintings. Too much blending, on the other hand, can make things muddy. Your eye is perfectly capable of doing the “blending” if colors are layered or side by side. The point, for me anyway, is the immediacy of pure color and energy.

Therefore I was eager to see the Art Institute’s current exhibit of Impressionist pastel paintings. How inspiring to be in a room surrounded by Monet, Van Gogh and more bold colorists. As you can see, it made me very happy, as did being in Chicago for the first time in decades. My night, river and downtown photos of the amazing architecture have me wanting to paint a new series.


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