Pastel art course in Catus, scenes of everyday life

Pastel art course in Catus, scenes of everyday life.

March 2017

The theme of this course: ‘scenes of everyday life’ in pastel, I planned to work with the students on the particular problem of integrating figures into scenes; interiors, landscape and townscapes.

In order to start with energy I asked Julie Stierer, to come and pose in a corner of the studio with her hand-made baskets. I wanted to impose the importance of simplifying the ‘whole’ image. To make a successful picture all areas needed to be considered: the problem of interior/exterior with the window behind, the shapes that the baskets made and equally the negative forms which were created as part of the overall rhythm with in the image. It helped in a way that Julie was moving, working on her baskets as we painted, and her face was silhouetted against the light.

,First I asked people to do a colour in pastel to understand and really simplify the image, limiting their colour and squinting to see the tonal values.

Annie did a lovely little pastel which illustrated what I was looking for. She has considered the composition and related the tones even down to the shadows, so that there is a real sense of light coming in through the window.

pastel par Annie Patelli

In the afternoon I did a demonstration from a photograph I’d taken a few years ago in a bar in London on a sunny day. I liked the forms created by the curves of the chairs and the shapes of the waiter and clients back lit by the window.

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On the second day of the art course, we continued working in the studio, making a more worked up pastel from photos and the studies of Julie. On a larger scale it is easy to loose the integrity of the initial image and become too involved in specific details, particularly the face. My objective was to encourage the students to maintain an ‘over-all’ view of the subject, building up the image progressively, not loosing track of the initial patterns of light and dark as well as keeping the colours coherent.

Even in the south of France, the weather is unpredictable in spring, but by the afternoon of the second day, the rain had lifted and we were able to work outside on the balcony of the mill. Mathilde came to pose. I’ve recently been doing a series of pastels of her wearing this suede coat which I like very much. This image was a difficult challenge for the students, particularly in relating the colour and tone of her head and hair to those of the distant hills and trees. When there is little sunlight and therefore timid shadows, volume is harder to translate. The scene was flattened out, but the colours were soft and muted.

stages de pastel midi pyrenees stage de peinture à Catus stage de peinture à Catus

 

Friday we were all set to meet at Prayssac market as the weather forecast was good for the whole day. Markets are wonderful places to paint giving a wealth of opportunities for scenes of everyday life. We had carefully organised our pastel equipment the day before, limiting colours down to the essentials and working on 23x30cm pastelmat paper.

Heading into the market I looked for a good place to set up, where we could sketch relatively un-hassled, (against a wall) with a view which had a basic unchanging structure. I chose a corner where the red parasol of a stand overlapped the wall of the church and it’s curving door. Once this structure is laid down it is easier to deal with the moving elements as people come and go. Fortunately for us the young man selling beer was quite accommodating about returning to his place in between making sales.

For lunch we ate in a lovely, well priced little café close to the market: Plaisir des Sens after which we took the road back towards Catus, stopping in the village of Labastide du vert to set up the easels once again. This village is famous in the region as having been home to the impressionist artist Henri Martin who’s oil paintings can be seen in the museum in Cahors and the Prefecture in Toulouse.

A hundred years later the village has hardly changed. It was a pleasant spring afternoon with no traffic and only the primary school children and a few families working on the allotments by the river. Everyone chose a different spot but each person focusing on the bridge made famous in the paintings of Henri Martin.

 

By the last day of the pastel art course we had worked through the tiredness. The day was spent back in the studio again, finishing the pastels from references and photographs. The morning passed quickly and François made us an excellent Pot au fer at midday. One last project after lunch gave great results. François posed for some quick pastel sketches, like a man who may be passing in the market place. I encouraged the students then to try to trust their memory and their imagination to think about building up a scene around a figure or a group of figures. We become so reliant on photos that we can easily believe that they represent the sole reality and loose touch with our own ability to interpret the world around us. With not much to loose I saw a couple of the students really move forward as they invented a scene and saw that it was possible. Children do this all the time but I suppose we have a fear of being child-like.This was a truly productive and exciting four days. I’m grateful t have such co-operative, talented and enthusiastic students!

stages de peinture midi pyrenees

pot au feu à midi

 

 

Marché par Annie Bessonie

 

pastel cours Cahors

catus art

finished pastel at the end of the forth day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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