Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Pastels Today": The Pastel Society Exhibition (#2)

Drawings in seconds while eating a sandwich
at the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition
pen and ink in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

This post focuses in artists featured in The Pastel Society exhibition in the Mall Galleries whose work I particularly liked. I'm only including those which have websites I can point readers to - as narrative without images isn't very satisfying. 'PS' after their name means that they are members of The Pastel Society.

Felicity House
- I loved all her pieces. One of her works or her work as a whole (I was unclear which) won a Sarah Samuels Award. Her drawing "Three Red Jackets" of three Guardsmen in unbuttoned red jackets and standing informally was delightful. Her "Speckled trout on spotted plate" 'read' from across the room and looked good enought to eat. Her "Cream Tea" - with lots of raspberry and strawberry colours evident in the work - was an unusual concept for this subject. My favourite though was the drawing of "Artisan's chocolates in Robin's kitchen". Her drawing has a very relaxed but sensitive line and I love her hatching technique and marks (which you can see to good effect in 'Preparing Broad Beans' in the link). The minimal use of colour made the artifacts gleam on the page. I'm intrigued by the support she used - I'm guessing a blue-grey mountboard.

June Arnold PS very much deserves a mention for her great technique (I'm still puzzling about how she's working but it's fun trying to work it out!). "Outside the Taverna" is featured in the Pastel Society Gallery, although we all preferred "Siesta Time" which had some beautiful passages with lost and found edges and very subtle use of colour.

Two female artists produced some striking landscape work. Averil Gilkes PS was showing some lovely abstracted landscapes - which were terrifix examples of the 'mostly, some and a bit' rule. I think the one in the link is titled 'Estuary' - and I'm sure Vivien will write more about it. Cheryl Culver PS, RBA produces work in pastel which focuses on large spaces, topographical features and the scope for use of line in the landscape.

I really liked Jill Storey's work and I remember her from last year. Her bluebell haze (which was much better than my bluebell work!) won the Annie Longley Award. She also produced an excellent work of the skaters on the icerink at Hampton Court Palace.

Both John Ward CBE, RP, NEAC, Hon PS, RWS and Victor Ambrus VPPS, RE, ARCA produced beautifil figure drawings in their inimitable styles. I'm always amazed by how little pastel Ward uses on paper to produce his painterly effects. I particularly enjoyed the drawing of Kew Green by Victor Ambrus partly because (as readers will know by now) I just love sensitive hatching! With this one though I also really liked the composition and the great use of 'empty space'.

Roy Wright PS: Wright produces large drawings of familiar but complex scenes in charcoal. His view of the law courts can be seen in the members gallery of work in the exhibition. Personally I preferred his drawing of the riverside at boats at Richmond - which can be seen on the Henry Boxer gallery website

Finally - it's worth noting for all those daily drawers out there that one of Aderbanji Alade's was a composite of about 16(?) portrait sketches of people's faces done while travelling on a train in the London area. Maybe I need to stop using my Moleskine for mine?

[Note: My pen and ink drawings were done pen in one hand and sandwich in the other while eating lunch in the 'cafe' part of the gallery. People observing paintings are apt to stand and stare for a short while - and that's how long I had to sketch them - always assuming nobody stodd right in my sightline while I sketched!]


  1. Thanks for the overview and highlights, as well.
    I don't know what I think of having other media at the pastel show. Obviously, the old and venerable PS knows what it's about, but here in the US, the PSA has an enthusiasm to promote the "misunderstood" medium of soft pastel. It's a necessary mission, I feel.
    Sounds like the subject genre is a little stale, however we always look for new ways to approach old scenes.
    I love your approach: go there, take it all in, and sketch away!
    I also have to interact with you on your definition of drawing. I am far from decided on my definition of this. On the one hand, I feel that any mixing of color produces a "painting". Then again, a strong argument could be made for the use of the brush being integral to painting.
    Then, of course, the ink wash people do draw with brushes, don't they?
    Another one that works for me is the covering of the surface. Lack of complete covering reminds me of drawing, as do a lot of linear and gestural elements. Near full covering seems like a painting.
    Not that these definitions are very important to the observer, however the societies do turn on these sorts of things.
    Glad to get the chance to "be there" through your kind reporting!

  2. Thanks Casey - I knew that people like you would appreciate a more detailed post!

    I'm not sure what's going on with media thing. I could understand water or solvent being used with pastel and brushed out but some of these seemed to have a lot more going on - lots and lots of texture.

    I still struggle with the difference between drawing and painting. I think the nearest I'm at to a definition at the moment is that complete coverage of support = painting. It can't be the use of a brush as that immediately makes all works done in dry media automatically drawings - which I guess is a definition some would subscribe to - but I don't. I'm not sure everybody would go with the combining of colours makes for a painting - as there's lots of people who combine colours optically without thinking it becomes a painting.

    So I'm basically still struggling.........anybody else want to offer their opinion?

  3. You touch on the media.
    The ways of doing soft pastel, nowadays, are too numerous to mention. I wouldn't agree if a society or panel were to exclude pastel work that had been underpainted with pure pigment, as I do with Createx Pure Pigment. Likewise, when we scumble a hard pastel along the paper, and then use any of a number of solvents, or even water, to tone our paper. Others work on wet surfaces.
    The other one, is the rule about how much hard pastel may be used. Too difficult to define, IMO.
    Susan Ogilvie, PSA, uses heavily prepared grounds that make an integral texture for her pastel paintings. I see that as good, but someone at a society might get picky about it.
    I am really only hypothesizing these things based on rules that juries post. I haven't heard any true horror tales about these things.
    And your PS in the UK seems very open about it all.

  4. The color of those red jackets is brilliantly bright. Almost looks like suede. Thanks for the highlights. Jeanne

  5. just want to say that I love your blog, and the fact that you take so much time out to tell the rest of the art community about so many rich links and information of interest. Thanks very much for sharing!


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