Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Adelaide Artist Trevor Newman's Pastel Demo

Hi all

Firstly congratulations to Gerhard Ritter on winning a first prize at the Kapunda Art Show.   Gerhard is a brilliant artist, especially at doing portraits,  and we are very lucky to have him as a member our Port Community Arts Centre.  If you would like to view the winning painting and some of his other work his site is at
and it is well worth taking the time to browse through it.  

The other day my best friend Rosemary and I were fortunate enough to attend a demonstration of pastel drawing given by well known Adelaide artist Trevor Newman.  We both like his work so it was really great to see him actually creating a picture for us, right before our eyes.  If you are not familiar with his work and can handle feeling envious of another artist then check it out at

Trevor Newman with a photograph from Venice,   a blank sheet and a captive audience

Anyway, Mr Newman who was suffering with a cold but nevertheless turned up (bless him), was laden with a series of boxes full of recently purchased pristine pastels, each of  which when opened dazzled us with an array of  beautiful  colours.  It had my friend Rosemary (who is learning pastel drawing)  as well as the other pastel artists amongst us (which I am not) drooling with envy.  The pastels (hundreds of them) were Unison Pastels which  are a hand rolled (whatever that means) English brand which you can purchase cheaper from the US than the UK (figure that one out!).  He had a few mostly darker colours in other brands, but Unison is his brand of choice.  When  I asked him what other brands he considered were acceptable he said that Sennelier and Schmincke were OK (guess I better ditch my old MontMarte set which is currently collecting dust in my studio).

An amazing array of colours from which to choose!
Now before I continue, I should point out that I am not a pastel artist. On the few times I have played with them I have ended up with a smudgy mess on the picture, the table, me and everything else within 2 metres, so my knowledge is not very extensive.   It is for that reason that I will apologize in advance for any lapses in detail in this epistle, such as the fact that he first coats his paper with  I don't remember what,  to give its some teeth or tooth or something (I can hear you pastel artists out there sighing in disgust already).

Anyway I gather it is something maybe called colour fix clear  pastel primer and it makes the surface rough which is apparently good if you are using chalk pastels.   Normal masking tape was used for the border, however we were advised  that the blue painters tape is actually better. 
There was only a short time for this demo and the  painting  to be created was from a photograph taken somewhere famous in Venice.  In the photo there was a sunset sky and lots of water with lovely waves and reflections in the foreground.  

Trevor pointed out that this would not be an exact representation of the photo.  He advised that the colours as recorded by the camera can often be different to how we see them and that this would be an interpretation of what he saw when he visited the location.

Firstly the sky....
 Firstly, Trevor decided on the colour characteristics he wanted and then carefully selected some bright and bold yellow, gold and orange colours with which he proceeded to just scribble (technical term (hem hem)) over various parts of the sky in what appeared to me to be a haphazard fashion.    For this painting he decided to work brightly at first and then to tone it down later. He used bold gold colours in the middle of the sky and touches of greys were added to the sky on the left.  Dark colour was added to show the buildings and then a strong orange for the water.  
Then the buildings....

Then the sea...

He continued adding a variety of yellow, orange, purple and grey shades to different areas of the paper, only leaving a white area where the reflections on the water were to be.

Trevor checking his bold scribbly lines before proceeding to the next step.

Metho being applied to the sky...

I looked at what he had created and thought, "whoohoo, I can do that!"   Next, much to my surprise he picked up a paint brush and proceded to paint over the picture with methylated spirits. 

And now to the sea...

He used a wide brush to push the pastel colours around on the canvas.  Apparently acetone is better than methylated spirits, but he had chosen not to use it because of the fumes.  The metho takes a little longer to dry than the acetone does.

It wasn't long before all of the scribbly lines had disappeared and no white paper was visible. 

Trevor waits for the metho to dry so be can proceed.  Sorry about the quality - my little camera doesn't zoom well. 

Highlighting the spire

Once it had dried and he was satisfied with the result he started to add lighter tones to the sky around the spire of the building and some blue tones the the front of the buildings to provide colour variation and detail. 

After this he started to put some more lighter yellows and oranges in the sky and some shading tones in the sea.  Light greyish tones were added between the sky and sea.   We were advised that it is best to start in the distance and work forwards, which is why he started on the sky and buildings before the sea.  

Bringing in some greys and darker tones
Gradually the tones of the sky, sea and buildings began to change before our eyes and you started to get an idea of  how the overall picture was going to look.  It was really frustrating (to me) to see how skillfully he wielded the pastels so that with just a few quick, deft zig zagging  strokes,  waves magically appeared.  It takes me forever to paint waves with my watercolours and mine certainly don't look as good as his!
Some light yellows are added to start the reflection detail

Next the light relecting off the sea had to be added, which was quickly done with with layers of lighter and lighter colour.  It always amazes me how just a few curvy little touches in just he right place  make something look real.  When you go to an art gallery and look closely at a painting it is just a series of blobs or strokes of colour.  The trick (which I have yet to master) is the putting of the blobs in the right spot and order.  Trevor put his strokes in the right spot with absolute precision and then using  the lightest almost white colour,  the reflections were  done.

Light almost white colour completes the reflection

 More orange wave tones, with a dab or two on the sky too....

Or so we thought.....  Trevor however, had other ideas.  After standing back and viewing it from a short distance he decided that it needed the addition of somemore orange and also some more darker colours in the foreground, the further enhance the look of the waves.  

Dark tones in the sea,  a little more blue on the buildings.
By now we were all going "ooo aahh, just look at that"  and "damn, why can't I do that"  etc. etc.  There was an air of awe and admiration in the room (with perhaps a smidge of envy). 

I asked Trevor how you fix a stuff up (which is hard to do with watercolours) and he said it was usually pretty easy to do.  Generally a stiff brush will remove an incorrect colour, or a damp rag. 

Method for emoving excess chalk dust
When questioned about fixing his pastels he said that he does not spray any fixatives on his finished work.  He handles them all very carefully.  When the painting is finished he holds is vertically at a slight angle face downwards (as in this picture) and gives it a few stiff taps on the back.  This helps to shake off any excess chalk which may smudge. 

We were advised to go to only good professional framers who know how to frame pastel paintings.  The not so good ones spray paintings with fixative to overcome their inability to handle and frame pastels correctly.  I was not aware of it, but it seems that good pastels  do not fade over time and the life of the colours will probably outlast that of the artist. 

Final inspection!

I thought it looked good.

We were almost out of time and I thought this looked good,  but after the above inspection Trevor decided that it was a little too detailed and dark where the buildings were, so he added some vertical strokes of lighter colour to it and finally it was finished, as show below.

Daa daaahhhhh!  Venice - the finished article - how good is that eh!?

Mr Newman duly signed the painting and when asked what he uses to sign, advised that it varies depending upon the painting, but sometimes he uses a soft charcoal pencil.

We were all suitably impressed with the demo and all the good advice we had received (I should have  taken notes) and John Ford (my watercolour teacher) thanked Mr Trevor Newman for kindly giving us such an interesting demonstration. If time had permitted I think we would have all sat and happily  listened to/watched him for a lot longer.  As it was a demo, the painting was offered for sale there and then and was quickly sold (Ursula beat me to it - drat, drat and double drat!). 

Section of the waves
 For those who are into looking at things in more detail, these are a few close ups I took of sections of the painting showing his use of colour and the pastel strokes used to create the desired effect. 

Showing toothy texture 

Note the nice "toothy" texture of the primed paper.  
Sky and Water

Loved the way the sky had scribbly marks in it still- great effect and so different to watercolours.  I reckon I might just have to get some pastels and have another bash at it. 

I would like to thank Rosemary for lending me the notes she took at the demo (so organised!), without which this blog would have been just a collection fuzzy pictures.  My apologies to Trevor Newman if anything is incorrect - it was unintentional and can be blamed on advancing senility, which is giving me the retention abilities of the average gnat.

Until next time - cheers all.


Monday, 5 September 2011

Royal Show Beaded Items - A Blog For Dawnetta

Hi all

Further to my previous blog about our trip to the Royal Show, this is just a quick little addition which I've put up for those who like looking at beaded things.  I have recently been following the lovely work of  Dawnetta, a facebook friend who does some beautiful floral  beadwork. 

Once upon a time,  I would probably not have given such things a second glance but after looking at Dawnetta's work I paid a little more attention to some beaded items on display in the craft hall.

I took a few snaps of some dolls which had had beaded clothes made for them.  The show is a place where hobbyists can exhibit their work and hopefully win a first, second or third prize.  I cannot image how long it must take to make some of these things - I don't think I would have the patience!

Some of the dolls whose clothes were all made of beads

Thought this was kind of cute (I think it is a pussy cat).

Can't image how much time and patience it took to make these!

A few other beaded items which were in a different category. I rather Liked the picture in the frame.

Necklace (sorry about the reflections)

If you enjoyed looking at this and want to look at more beadwork,  Dawnettas facebook page is at  and her Artfire artisan studio is at

Well that's it for the beads.   If you are going to the show the craft hall is well worth checking out.
Have a great day.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A Day At The Show - Rosemary Makes Me Watch The Dancing Flowers

Hi all

As I promised myself I would write something each week to practice my spelling and grammar  and keep the grey matter from further deterioration, I am back again to tell you that today I went the the annual Royal Adelaide Show with my best friend Rosemary.

Neither of us had been to the show for a couple of years and Rosemary kindly purchased my ticket as I am currently financially embarrassed (so if anyone wants to help me become unembarrassed by buying an item or two from my Artfire studio , please do not hesitate to contact me, hem hem (sorry, but a gal's gotta try doesn't she)).

Anyway,  I had my orthotics in my sneakers and she had her walking stick and the two of us hobbled our way eagerly to the entrance, ready to make a slow and steady beeline for the arts and crafts.  As we entered the gate our senses were assaulted by a kaleidoscope of colour and a cacophony  of noise (well that's my two big descriptive  words for the day out of the way) all of which made us decide that, firstly, coffee and cake would be the best way to tackle the whole exercise.   After reminiscing for a minute about childhood rides on the Merry Go Round, an impressive one of which was right by the entrance,  we pushed our way forward through the masses of people in sideshow alley.  We  headed to the CWA (Country Womens Association) cafe and proceeded to pig out in a genteel fashion on jelly slice and Farmers Union Iced Coffee (the only iced coffee to have as any south Aussie will tell you)  before proceeding to our objective, which unfortunately proved to be a little elusive.

The Ferris Wheel and the Merry Go Round

 This Merry Go Round is a work of art itself!

Eventually, we found the craft section where we trekked around and around faithfully looking at all the pretty things on display, all the while making frequent trips to the exit so we could go and sit on a little stone bench and rest our respective arthritic ankles, knees, hips, etc, etc.  (ho hum).   After each little sit down break we forged our way back in and continued our browsing.  I tried not to be annoyed by the fact that a good percentage of the art in the Junior section was better than mine (mutter, mutter, snarl, snarl).

Just as I was ready to rest my bone on bone knees and head for another little "sit down" exit, the microphone announced that the  Jenny Gilles "Naughty By Nature" Performance was about to begin.   Rosemary suddenly became all excited an animated and said "oooo!  oo ah, you don't mind if we watch this do you?"  Did I mention  that Rosemary is my closest friend and she a flower loving hippie from way back - she just loves her veggie garden and her flowers and her sewing machine, so how could I say no.  So giving my best knee ignoring smile  I said "OK" wondering all the while who the heck was Jenny Gilles and what was her "wearable art".

Rosemary (not impressed that I am aiming the camera in her direction)
Oh dear, the diet is still not working, where did that double chin come from drat it!

The ever stunning Rosemary and Heather wearing  their  own tie dye "wearable art". 

I can now tell you that I am an expert on what Julie Gilles and her wearable art is.  As all the chairs were taken by the people who had the good knees, which had been able to carry them to the chairs quicker than ours could, I stood alongside Rosemary to watch the performance.   I am not sure how long it was in real time, maybe half an hour, but in sore knee time it was about 6 hours, but I lasted the distance (barely) and clapped very (relief), very,  enthusiastically when it finished. 

Don't get me wrong though - it was only my knees that wanted it to end.  The rest of me enjoyed the show.  For those (like me) who have not heard of Jenny Gilles, she is a clever and talented artist who makes theatre  costumes.  In this instance the costumes were  floral in nature, with the exception of the odd insect or two here and there.  Apparently Jenny is an artist and quilter  who has turned her talents into an art form,  creating these amazing pieces of this "wearable art".  This was the third time she had been at the Royal Show and she was also drawing everyones attention to the plight of Christchurch, New Zealand.  She used to do a number of performances at the Christchurch Cathedral, which was so badly damaged in the recent earthquake.  This show consisted of a number of dancers performing to music and  all wearing her "art" dresses and hats as they glided and danced about the stage. 

Every type of flower imaginable  was presented to us and the whole thing was lovely and colourful and fun.  Some of the costumes were absolutely amazing and beautiful and some were a little rude but hilarious.  As someone who is singularly inept at sewing and any type of fabric craft, I was truly impressed by her skill and creativity.  Rosemary (who is very much at home amongst sewing stuff and has herself mastered the mysterious art of manipulating fabric into fascinating things) was also impressed.  I raised my camera to take a few pictures but an eagle eyed attendant quickly pounced and informed me photos of the show were forbidden (drat, drat and double drat!), however I was allowed to photograph some costumes from previous shows which were in a static display nearby.  For those who would like to check it out her website is at:

Some earlier examples of Jenny Gillies wearable art. 

After the performance finished (by which time I feared movement was now beyond me)  we forced our frozen ankles and knees into action (groan, groan) and headed for something upon which we could place our bums.  A wall around a flower bed provided us with a place to sit and after we had watched the never ending parade of people laden with children, fluffy toys and show bags we ventured back inside to look at the paintings and photography. 

There were a lot of great paintings and photos on display and quite a few sold stickers on the art as well, which was very promising as it was only day three of the show.  I was pleased to see that my art teacher John Ford, who had entered some paintings this year, had sold one of his train paintings.  He is well known as one of Australia's best maritime artists and although he usually paints ships using watercolours, he also does the occasional acrylic painting especially of trains.    You can see 4 or 5 of his pieces at this site:

Eventually, after we had played art and photography critics for a while and could barely walk another step, we decided we had neither the inclination nor the physical ability to view the real floral art displays or to pat the little farm animals.     We reluctantly decided that it would be best to leave while we could still hobble and so we began the arduous journey  back to where the car was parked.  I am convinced that some evil car park gremlin had moved my car whilst we were at the show,  as the walk back to the car seemed about five times the distance we walked  that morning (and in an ocean of parked cars it  was just as well Rosemary remembered where we had parked!).  So near and yet so far ... just one more step....plod, plod, groan, plod.....We both breathed a big exhausted sigh of relief as creaking from every joint,  we gently lowered our posteriors into the plush and accommodating seats of my Ford Escape (aaaaaahhhhhhh sigh...oh dear, we're gonna pay for this tomorrow.... aaaaaaahhh......).

I should make mention of the fact that earlier whilst we were in the craft hall we spotted my first cousin Dianna's excellent exhibits of smocking and sewing.  Dianna has been studying all that stuff I know  so little about (sewing, dress design, fabric art, etc.).  I don't know for sure how many competition categories she entered or if I missed seeing any, but I saw she had won two First Prizes and a Third Prize, so well done Dianna - congratulations on that cuz (who's a clever girl then eh)!

3rd Prize Winning Smocked entry by Dianna - oh the patience that must be needed to do this!

One of Dianna's entries.
Another pretty little dress from Dianna

Dianna's First Prize Winning Dress

Waterproof jacket - First Prize Winner by Dianna

Well, that's all for today (thanks Rosemary for a fun and exhausting day).  Cheers.