Central Texas Pastel Society

CTPS Member Show Best In Show "Insular" by Vicki Smith

CTPS Member Show Best In Show "Insular" by Vicki Smith

CTPS Member Show Best In Show "Insular" by Vicki SmithCTPS Member Show Best In Show "Insular" by Vicki Smith

Liz haywood-sullivan workshop


Crop, I taped my iPad!

First, let's get the disclaimers out of the way - to honor Liz's request not to reproduce her materials, I will be doing a review of the workshop, conveying Liz's points in my own words and not re-typing her subject matter. 

So, here are my top 10 "Liz Lessons":

LL #1: A good drawing - one that accurately reflects the reference and has the same proportions - is the foundation for a good painting. OK, this is sort of a 'duh' type of thing but think about how many times you eschewed making a value sketch and went straight to your paper, picked up generally the wrong pastel, and immediately started painting something for which you either had to tape an extra couple of inches of paper to make it look proportional or just ripped the paper off the easel and start over?  Liz showed us a low-tech way to "transcribe and scale" one's subject matter from a reference photo or an image on one's device to one's paper. Using ARTIST tape with crop marks (see image to the left) and then making those same marks on our paper makes quick, and accurate, work of image transfer. 

LL #2: Take a "big" picture and then find your subject later by cropping, color-adjusting, and generally finding an area inside the "big" picture on which to focus. Who among us has not searched our thousands of images for subject matter, started the piece, and then felt that creeping sense that there is something very wrong with what we are creating. In this case, "go big or go home" does not apply.

LL #3: Learn to blend colors with a neutral pastel. OK, first off, I don't have enough pastels. Or rather, the right pastels. Second, Liz made me a believer that one must have an arsenal of neutrals to paint the sky. Neutrals. You heard right. 

LL #4: Photos taken with an iPhone, Android, iPad, etc. do not render colors accurately. Nuff said. 

LL #5: Don't make cartoon-y clouds. While these are not Liz Haywood-Sullivan's words, it was in between the lines of her message. Clouds must comply with the same laws of perspective that other objects do. One of the things I see done, especially when I've done it, is making clouds all the same size. That may work in cartoons but not so much fine art such as we pastel artists are wont to produce. Liz demonstrated how clouds start to get smaller and 'slimmer' as they are recede into the distance.

LL#6: Sky color is a gradation of value, not a single color. Sky colors are very hard because we want to reproduce what we "think" we see - blue. We also think we see a lemon-y yellow. Liz assured us that we don't. By gradating the sky color from the top of our paper to the horizon line, whilst also taking into account where the sun's light is emanating from, we more accurately represent sky color. 

LL#7: Get your values right in your value sketch and THEN USE THAT SKETCH as a reference. Getting one's values in a composition right is something I have heard repeatedly from other great artists but, how many times have I done one or more value sketches, refining the values and defining my focal points, just to totally ignore it when I create my masterpiece?!  I think you can guess the answer. 

 LL#8: Maybe, on a test piece of paper, test the effect of your chosen under-painted color with alcohol applied before you put it on your paper? This one came home to me as I tried to figure out how to get rid of the big purple under-painting blob on my paper. Under-painted color + alcohol = darker color than you want. 

LL#9: Use black paper when you have a mostly dark subject. Some of the tips that Liz gave us were so full of common sense it has made me question my ability to make normal everyday decisions. The good news was that, as Liz informed us of this fact, I was not the only person with that "Aha" look on their face.

LL #10: This is a workshop. This is fun. This is a learning time not a finished piece time.  Day 1 - I tried to do what Liz said to do and yet, by day's end, I walked away wondering if I needed to donate my pastels to someone more worthy. Day 2 - I noted improvement such that I wasn't secretly planning to toss my piece as soon as I left and yet, when I returned on day 3, I wondered why I thought I had made so much progress on Day 2. Day 3 - as my trembling hands started to lay down color on my one piece of black Canson Mi Tientes paper, I was reminded by Liz that "this is a workshop, have fun". And I did!