Plein Air Pastelist’s Survival Kit: Painting on Location in Soft Pastels and Living to Paint Another Day

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Big Bend Artist Lindy Cook Severns paints on location in the Davis Mountains

 

Plein Air painting is tinted with a mystique that all too often intimidates artists into never venturing outside to paint. It’s a big, scary world out there. It’s also a lovely, inspiring world, one just waiting to fill your senses. When painting on location, an artist willingly surrenders security and accepts vulnerability in exchange for a special intimacy with the landscape. It is WOW special.

Plein air painting can also be physically demanding, horribly uncomfortable, and dreadfully frustrating. I’m talking Biting Bugs. Slithering Snakes. Bears. (I must confess, I’ve never encountered a bear while painting in the woods, but I don’t keep an open jar of peanut butter beside my easel, either.) Wind. Rain. Hail (unlike bears, rather vicious hail stones have battered me at my easel at least twice. Lightning. (I do flee lightning.) Curious people. (If, like me, you prefer painting in silence, curious people who won’t quit talking can be more threatening to a finished painting than lightning.) Sunburn. Blisters. Aching backs…shoulders… hips…(ouch! Did I just step on cactus or barbed wire?)

You get the picture: To paint in open air, an artist must Get There, Stand There (wherever “There” is) Set Up There, and then, miraculously, Paint There. (It is a bonus if you produce a painting that pleases the eye.)

Plein Air painting is actually harder than I make it sound.

It is also one of the most exciting things an artist can do with her clothes on. So, let me share my tricks to make it more pleasurable.

Before you read any further, know this:

Unlike real estate, painting en plein air surprisingly isn’t about location, location, location. Plein air painting is about time. Time. TIME!

Choosing your location and carrying only select equipment with you into the field, over the river or through the woods can make all the difference in how much you enjoy plein air painting. Both can save or squander time, and time is a critical, highly limiting factor when painting en plein air. Including your set up time, you have three, maybe four hours, max, before the light changes so drastically, you’re no longer looking at the same subject. Myself, I plan on two hours, then leap for joy if I get longer than that, and I use most all of those precious minutes soaking up nature while painting.

Lindy’s Rules for Pastel Painting en plein air:

  1. Travel Light, Travel Fast

Pack only what you* can carry from your vehicle in a single trip.*If a willing spouse or friend accompanies you, you can add food, wine, photo equipment,  but  NO MORE art supplies.

2. Find A Spot, Any Spot, Then Make it Magical

Drive as close as you can get before you start walking with your supplies. If you can, stake out a painting spot beforehand. Once on location, be sensitive to the small things surrounding you rather than seeking a picture postcard view to paint. Hike less. Find the magic. Paint longer. An artist should be able to look in any direction and find something to paint.

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BREAKING THE DROUGHT  10″x 20″ pastel   Lindy Cook Severns

3. Practice for A Five Minute Set-Up, then, Do It

Learn to set up your easel and supplies indoors, where conditions are perfect. If you practice quickly setting up at home, you’ll find it much less frustrating and significantly less time consuming to erect your easel on a windswept mountaintop. (You will also experience fewer accidents.)

4. Use a Camera to Capture the Sense, Not the Image

The first thing I do after setting up my easel is to snap a photo of the scene I’m going to paint. This photo isn’t to paint from—for that, you have the landscape right in front of you. My Sense Photo bottles my initial inspiration. As I paint, I can pour it and drink from it again and again to remind myself why I’m painting what I’m painting.

A phone camera is perfect for this. As you paint, you can quickly pull up the Sense Photo with the landscape’s initial magic. (I love to paint thunderstorms building. A sense photo reminds me of the cloud’s energy as I first saw it.) Should you want to complete your painting back in the studio, this single photo will transport you back in a way conventional reference photos cannot. If you anticipate finishing your painting in the studio, take several reference photos as well, but be sure to use the first one as your inspiration.

5. Be Flexible. Be Forgiving of Nature and of Yourself and Enjoy the Trip

Stuff happens, and it happens quite often when you’re painting on location. Realize that this is part of the plein air process. Control what you can, then roll with whatever else happens. When I paint in the studio, I may discard one out of fifty paintings. Painting on location, I’m not sure I ever really expect to keep one–I throw my expectations to the wild west Texas wind, I paint fast and free, and I learn a lot. Painting en plein air is a journey, not a destination. Become a seasoned traveler, don’t stand in the same place every day and you WILL become a better artist!

(Next post, I’ll share my personal plein air pastel supply list with you. Until then, buy a timer and start practicing setting up that easel! Time’s a-wasting.)

To see my southwestern landscape paintings, please visit Old Spanish Trail Studio on my website.

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MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT ON THE RANCH  6″ X 18″ pastel panel  Lindy Cook Severns

For glimpses into my own inspiration for paintings, read my other blog,

Wanderings of An Artist, BigBendArtistBlog.com

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SketchBook Journaling in Pen and Ink Workshop

Sketchbook Journaling postcard collage

I’m teaching a one day workshop for the Museum of the Big Bend, Alpine Texas on creating a Sketchbook Journal in pen and ink. Join us for the fun! Saturday, Feb. 20 2016   9-4    $125  All supplies are included in the class fee. Contact maggie.rumbelow@sulross.edu to enroll.

Sketchbook Journaling in Pen and Ink with Lindy Cook Severns
Museum of the Big Bend, Alpine, Texas
The Workshop
Saturday, February 20 2016
9 am til 4 pm
at the Museum on the Sul Ross State University campus
Workshop Reception for you and a guest
Friday, February 19 2016
5 pm til 7 pm
Museum of the Big Bend
This one day workshop is suitable for artists of all levels.
Using pen and ink techniques, you’ll learn to create a journal in words and images.
Mainly, you will learn different techniques for using an ink pen to sketch and draw and doodle away
Learn design concepts for decorating pages that please the eye and add a little fun to even the most humdrum of drawings
Learn to create and use your own natural lettering style in an artful way, almost like those monks who illuminated ancient texts, except quicker and less fussy and actually, not as pretty. But YOURS.
Learn how to choose what to record in your journal, how to tell fragments of your own story on paper with drawings, words and precious scraps from your days
Learn to enjoy the freedom expressing yourself without interference from that harsh self-critic that keeps demanding perfection of you

 

All supplies will be provided.  They are yours to take home with you after class (yay!).
Bring a sack lunch, or go next door to the university center cafe (about $9)
Enrollment deadline:  Tuesday, February 10
To Enroll
Contact: 
Museum of the Big Bend
432.837.8730
Maggie Rumbelow, activities coordinator:  maggie.rumbelow@sulross.edu
or Mary Bones, Head Curator and Workshop Coordinator
Questions about my class? Contact me!
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Mixing It Up by Starting A Painting In Oils Instead of Pastels

I’m primarily a pastel painter, and I blog about that here.

But not always. I’m also an oil painter.

This summer, for a few weeks, I returned to my oil painting roots. Why (even temporarily) abandon my beloved pastel sticks? Because I’m an artist, and as an artist, I like to mix things up. Compelled to paint something different, I was browsing my photo files when my husband sagely suggested, “You haven’t done an oil in a couple of years.” Two years? Seriously? That long? What was I thinking, going two years without painting in oils? Jim, the forever helpful mate that he is, was likely worried I’d launch into some ill-chosen creative phase such as painting portraits of deceased pigs.  (Someone seriously asked me to do that once, which is among the reasons I don’t seek commissioned work.)

The thought of sniffing paint fumes got me so excited, I ordered boards. (My nearest art supply store, a hobby and craft nightmare, is 3 hours away. I order everything online, then, wait.) I use Ampersand Gessobord because it’s archival, and its consistently smooth surface allows the detail I put into my paintings. My masterful framer, Ramon Gonzales (Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland, TX) pointed out a handsome molding that complements my work, so I bought a large frame from him before I started painting. Sounds backwards, but it works– I call it “painting to the frame”, which simply involves being aware of color and making things match as I go along.

I dusted off brushes worn to a nub, shafts lacking bristles. Uh Oh. I ordered brushes, and more dollars seeped from my checking account. I’m not a supply-a-holic by any means, but sometimes, an artist’s gotta do what an artist’s gotta do.

No one can accuse me of not getting maximum use out of a brush. I'm sure I could use this single hair to paint, but frivolously, I replaced the brush instead.

No one can accuse me of not getting maximum use out of a brush. I’m sure I could use this single hair to paint, but frivolously, I replaced the brush instead.

Old Brushes and New Brushes

New brushes and the ones I replaced. Sometimes, buying art supplies is inspiration in itself.

No matter the medium, choosing a subject for a large landscape painting means deciding where I want to vicariously spend my next several days. Sweltering in mid-summer heat, I switched seasons by selecting a photo of a winter storm moving into the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park. Cool. (My photo files include about 4o images taken here this winter morning. While I don’t use all as painting references, going thru all of them helps me recreate the feelings I experienced as I stood there snapping shots. I usually choose two or three to paint from.)

Painting a different season can give an artist a vicarious vacation. I left sweltering Texas heat as I painted this winter storm moving into the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park

Painting a different season can give an artist a vicarious vacation. I left sweltering Texas heat as I painted this winter storm moving into the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park

A couple of weeks later, I finally had my supplies. It was time to paint.

Pastels are so immediate. Richly colored sticks rest in tidy foam cradles. Pick up a stick and touch it to canvas and instantly, you’re painting. Oils require daily preparation and clean up. I’d forgotten, for instance, how long it takes me to lay out a palette. Before I  started laying out my palette, I struggled with the glued-on lid of an old bottle of Liquin. (I use Windsor Newton Liquin as a drying medium and also, a glazing medium. Love the stuff, when I can get the artist-proof lid off.) Fifteen minutes later, I broke down and called Jim for help bludgeoning open the wretched lid. (With pastels, this wouldn’t have happened.)

I used a limited palette for my underpainting and initial sketch: alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, Titanium White, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow

I used a limited palette for my underpainting and initial sketch: alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, Titanium White, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow

What colors did I want to use? I tried to remember my old standbys. Most paint tubes had self-sealed themselves, creating their own colorful glue. Those required pliers. My trusty Ultramarine Blue was almost empty, and I found I had just three disposable paper palette sheets to my name. The thrill of new supplies already having been seriously dampened by paying my credit card bill, I rationed my deep blue paint, and scraped my paper palette clean after every painting session. (Who’d have thought that paper was so sturdy?) As I dug through tubes of paint, I struggled to recall which colors are opaque, which are transparent. And how to arrange them on my palette? There’s no “right” way, but I once regularly used a pattern I could lay out in my sleep.

I squeezed out paint, giving each primary color its own side on my palette, white in one corner, Burnt Umber in another.

The Bad Voice whispered, You don’t know how to do this anymore!

The Good Voice shouted, YES! I! CAN! 

I poured an inch of Turpenoid into a wide-mouthed jar, dabbed alizarin crimson onto the center of my palette.  Seizing a big bristle brush, I applied a thin turp wash underpainting. This is basically what I do when painting in pastels, but in pastels, I usually use hard pastel washed with rubbing alcohol. Because pastels are pure pigment, they’ll mix successfully with any other medium. So, I could’ve done a pastel wash as my underpainting, using either Turpenoid or water or rubbing alcohol. I’d have done this, had I been doing a portrait or something that required careful drawing, where pastel pencils and hard pastels would offer more control. Since my subject was a very simple drawing challenge, though, broad brushstrokes were the quickest way to underpaint.

I created my loose underpainting using a thin wash of Turpenoid and oil paint.

I created my loose underpainting using a thin wash of Turpenoid and oil paint. I let the wash run, which doesn’t hurt anything and often suggests contours and pleasing shapes I can incorporate into my composition. Here I’ve laid down four main shapes, sky, cloud, mountain and foreground. If this stage of a painting isn’t interesting, it will be hard to make the finished work hold interest.

I use underpainting to create an inner glow, and also to lay out the simple design elements of a painting. It looks loose and abstract, but starting with a few bold shapes instead of an intricate drawing helps me create a strong composition without getting hung up on detail too soon. As I put in these underpainted washes, I stayed acutely aware of the four points of intuitive interest created by dividing my canvas in horizontal and vertical thirds. Just like I do when I start a pastel painting. Something should happen at at least a couple of these intersections– a cloud breaks, a mountain peaks, a line points, a plant rises. It doesn’t have to be something earth-shattering, just something. And, the easiest place to lay the groundwork for those points of interest is at the start of a painting.

Here, the top of the peak roughly hits one high point of interest, and the point of interest  beneath that one is where the ochre tree line and the red mountain meet. On the opposite side of the composition, the high point of interest holds a dark spot breaking through the thick white clouds, and the lower point is where three design elements (mountain, tree line, cloud) meet. Small things, big impact in a finished painting.

I lightly blotted my turp wash with a soft paper towel so I could continue adding color before it dried. I mixed my sky color using Titanium white and Severs blue. The teensy touch of cad orange I picked up from my underpainted layer helps gray the brilliance of the blue. White clouds painted boldly pick up touches of the alizarin and ultramarine blue wash, and I use that to soften and blend clouds within clouds. I still haven't drawn anything, just used shapes of color to suggest form.

I lightly blotted my turp wash with a soft paper towel so I could continue adding color before it dried. I mixed my sky color using Titanium white and Severs blue. The teensy touch of cad orange I picked up from my underpainted layer helps gray the brilliance of the blue. White clouds painted boldly pick up touches of the alizarin and ultramarine blue wash, and I use that to soften and blend clouds within clouds. I still haven’t drawn anything, just used shapes of color to suggest form.

By the time I’d completed my painted sketch (above), I was in the groove. Perhaps not feeling as in control of my medium as I would with pastels at this point, but still in control of the medium, because I was in control of my composition and color.

I had laid down a strong foundation. All that remained was to apply color, let it dry, apply glaze, let it dry… monitor, adjust, add more color… and over a couple of weeks, I had me a finished oil painting.  (This took me about the same amount of painting hours as a pastel the same size would, but there was much, much more time when I couldn’t be painting because I use a traditional method of layering oil painting and it had to dry. I used that drying time to paint several oil miniatures so I wouldn’t waste the paint on my increasingly  tattered and stained paper palette page.)

Switching to a different medium for awhile was surprisingly good for me. I found myself analyzing color in new ways, thinking out composition with a brush in my hand instead of a stick of pigment. The strokes I use, whether I’m holding a brush or a stick of color are almost identical, but wielding a brush made me more aware of the way strokes of paint add energy to a composition. Oils are an old friend, and I enjoyed visiting them again. I won’t go two years without another visit, either. Just like a friendship, you can’t take old skills for granted, and I’d rather not go through those awkward first conversations again.

"Casa Grande Embraced By Clouds" by Lindy Cook Severns, a 20" x 24" oil on Ampersand Gessobord 2015

“Casa Grande Embraced By Clouds” by Lindy Cook Severns, a 20″ x 24″ oil on Ampersand Gessobord 2015

Years ago, my mentor Albert Handell asked me whether I defined myself as an oil painter or pastelist. Albert also paints in both mediums. I said, “I like whichever I’m painting with at the time.” Which is true enough. My teacher said, “But if you had to choose one or the other…which kind of painter would you be?” I didn’t have to think. “I’m a pastelist,” I said, not really understanding why I had to choose, or why I chose pastels. At that time, I was using oils and pastels for roughly the same number of paintings each year, and loving working in both.

I think I finally understand. Every artist needs a center, someplace you can comfortably navigate on autopilot, day in, day out. A pilot can be proficient at more than one type of aircraft. (Studies show that pilot proficiency remains equally high on two different high performance planes. Add the third type aircraft, however, and proficiency drops for all three planes. Interesting.) Like a pilot and her aircraft, an artist can be proficient in two different mediums, and switching between them offers the excitement of diversity. Choosing one doesn’t mean abandoning the other. It does mean not having to readjust your seat every time you climb into a cockpit.

I broke down and ordered a new tube of blue paint, and a new disposable palette. I owe myself those things. I’ll do without something less intrinsic to my well-being than French Ultramarine Blue. (Coincidentally, while I was breaking back into oils by painting this one of winter in the Chisos Mountains, I sold a major oil painting, one of only two oils that remained in my unsold inventory and I also sold two of my new oil miniatures. Is the Universe sending out smoke signals or what? It’s been a good summer to be an artist.

And what am I currently painting with?

Pastels.

Visit my website, LindyCSeverns.com to see more finished paintings, in oils as well as pastels.

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Conquering White Canvas Jitters, or How to Fearlessly Start a Painting

A blank white canvas (or board, or piece of paper) is clamped to your easel.

You’re an artist. A creative. You can turn that blank white canvas into anything. Anything! WOW! ANYTHING!

Oh, dear. Anything. At least for me, “Anything” is overwhelming. There’s a fine line between freedom and anarchy, between creativity and chaos. I like to build a corral around my wild imaginings, and for that, I need a starting point.

It took my husband and I an entire day to get this six foot tall sheet of Kitty Wallis Museum grade paper measured, cut and mounted on the new easel I had to buy just for this painting. Intimidating to start? Oh, yes.

It took my husband and me an entire day to get this six foot tall sheet of Kitty Wallis Museum grade paper measured, cut and mounted on the new easel I had to buy just for this painting. Intimidating to start? Oh, yes. “Sunset Paints Chianti” was certainly fun to finish though.

I’m not talking about putting that first mark on paper. (I mean, the first mark? On unblemished paper? Where would I put it? What if I put it in the wrong spot?) A face-off with a spotless white piece of paper can bleed an artist’s self-confidence quicker than you can say “eraser”. While some painters handle White Canvas Jitters better than others, no artist is immune. A blank canvas offers too many choices for magnificence, threatens too many chances at failure. The larger the canvas, the greater the jitters.

The larger the canvas, the greater chance of getting the jitters when you first face it on your easel. This one measures 4 feet by 3 feet.

The larger the canvas, the greater chance of getting the jitters when you first face it on your easel. This one measures 4 feet by 3 feet. “A Worthy Climb”

I’m a pretty bold painter. When I step up to my easel, I don’t take myself too seriously. Even so, there is always a moment when I look at a virgin white canvas and seriously doubt I can transform it into a painting. That’s when the White Canvas Jitters can step in. Over the years, I’ve developed a routine that gets a painting going as fast as it keeps the jitters at bay.

Put your subject in its proper container. Whether you’re painting from your imagination, from life, on location or from photo references, you must choose what to put in and what to leave out to make your subject fit into the container of the canvas you’ve chosen. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a common painting omission. If you’re working on an 8” x 10” canvas, your landscape “container” will hold entirely different features than if you’ve chosen a 7” x 14” canvas, and different features will say different things in a painting.

Give more than a passing thought to the relative dimensions of your subject and canvas before you start painting. The container, or canvas, you fit a subject into will take on a different feel according to that shape, and you certainly don't want to have to squeeze anything in at the last minute because you didn't plan well at the start.

Give more than a passing thought to the relative dimensions of your subject and canvas before you start painting. The container, or canvas, you fit a subject into will take on a different feel according to that shape, and you certainly don’t want to have to squeeze anything in at the last minute because you didn’t plan well at the start. “Riding the Fence” at 12″ x 22″ wouldn’t show the vastness of this ranchland the same way if I’d painted it on a square canvas

(Where you get in trouble is when the relative dimensions aren’t that obvious. Say, you’re working from an 8” x 10” photo on an 18” x 24” canvas— if you want to recreate the same relationships of objects spanning that photo, you must leave out something from the top or the bottom of your photo, or possibly, both.)

You can do the math, but it doesn’t have to be that exact. I like to judge the relative size/shape of my canvas by using the thumb and forefinger of both hands to loosely frame it. I carefully shift the frame my fingers have created to my subject, then move it around to see what goes in and what stays out.

This takes a minute or two, during which time, I’m doing something other than facing down that white canvas, and I’ve regained a morsel of control. Also, because of this final comparison check, I’m going to have a better composition.

Get some color on all that white! Whether I’m painting in oils or in pastels, I like to tone my canvas. There are lots of painterly reasons for doing this, but there is a tangential benefit for the artist’s timid psyche: tone your canvas, even part of your canvas, and Voila! It is NO LONGER PURE. Virgin Whitey is no more.

Red NuPastel applied lightly onto pastel paper (this is Pastelmat) then washed lightly with a brush dipped in rubbing alcohol will give my painting an inner warm glow, and the red won't blend with subsequent layers. It also keeps that white canvas from staring me down.

Red NuPastel applied lightly onto pastel paper (this is Pastelmat) then washed lightly with a brush dipped in rubbing alcohol will give my painting an inner warm glow, and the red won’t blend with subsequent layers. It also keeps that white canvas from staring me down.

The thing about toning a canvas is, you haven’t messed anything up. A tone, or wash, is simply a thin, transparent layer of color that you can either let show through or cover up entirely.

In pastels, I smear a hard pastel (Nupastels, etc) lightly over my canvas. With a large brush, I then use either alcohol or turpenoid or even water to wash the powdery pigment smears into my canvas. Once dry, this color will not blend into any color I apply on top of it.

With oils, I also use hard pastel to cover my canvas, then wash it with turpenoid, the advantage being that by using pastel pigment instead of an oil paint wash, I won’t have much drying time.

*For toning a surface, I like to use a warm color, orange, red, yellow, because I like an under glow. But any color works!

Divide and Conquer. Feeling better, now that I’ve already corrupted my canvas with color and liquid, I take a pastel pencil and lightly make an X to indicate the approximate center of my surface. Then I lightly draw lines dividing my surface into thirds in both directions. This grid gives me four points of intersection that I think of as “Points of Interest” for my painting. These are the points the human eye is instinctively drawn to.

In this pastel, I used orange to tone the sky and red to tone the ground, very loosely drawing in the horizon with my orange layer. You can see the faint grid lines and centerpoint drawn over these colors using a blue pastel pencil, blue just because I could see it on top of the warm colors.

In this pastel, I used orange to tone the sky and red to tone the ground, very loosely drawing in the horizon with my orange layer. You can see the faint grid lines and centerpoint drawn over these colors using a blue pastel pencil, blue just because I could see it on top of the warm colors. I call the intersections of these lines “points of interest” and try to put something interesting there, however subtle.

Rubbing alcohol is a convenient liquid for washing pastel pigment into pastel papers that accept liquid because it doesn't change the colors and it dries quickly. I use a large, cheap housepainter's brush because the sanded paper will ruin the bristles.

Rubbing alcohol is a convenient liquid for washing pastel pigment into pastel papers that accept liquid because it doesn’t change the colors and it dries quickly. I use a large, cheap housepainter’s brush because the sanded paper will ruin the bristles.

(One of these may be my Focal Point, but maybe not. But I want to compose my painting so that something interesting happens around at least a couple of these points of interest. Maybe the highest peak in a mountain range pokes up there, or the clouds break to show blue sky, or a tree trunk bends… this is fodder for a lesson all its own!)

Tell it Like It Is, or Like You Want it to Be. Now I have color and marks all over my canvas, and I’m feeling pretty bold, so I sketch in my subject. I use pastel pencils of different colors to indicate different layers of cloud or mountains or trees or whatever. For instance, maybe the farthest mountains are light blue, the next range forward darker blue lines, the closest are purple lines, and the trees are brown or green or whatever. Doesn’t matter what color, because I will paint over my lines completely. If I need to correct my drawing, I can use yet another color so I know that’s the revision. (I don’t erase!)

How involved a drawing should you do? That’s up to you. How much do you need to do to render your subject correctly as you start to paint? I usually do very little drawing for a landscape painting, just indicate my horizon and the basic outline of forms. But if I’m painting a portrait, or an architectural subject, my drawing will be much more intricate.

Let there be Dark. Using one or two colors of hard pastels, I color in the darkest areas of my subject as geometric shapes. This gives me a pattern of darks that I can keep or adjust as needed later. Usually, I will then apply a careful alcohol wash over these dark shapes. If I need to adjust my drawing, I do so now.

Watch out Color, Here I Come. I pick up a soft pastel stick. Starting at the top, more or less, I now apply real color. And more color. And more…

*By starting at the top, my pigment dust falls downward, onto my canvas below. And that’s okay, because there’s nothing down there yet. (This also sort of keeps my hands clean, because I’m not resting my palms on layers of soft pastel.)

I have so much stuff on my canvas now, my jitters are no more! My painting may or may not be a masterpiece, but I’m painting now! And I’m painting on a carefully composed, lightly toned canvas that already glows with color. The world at my easel is good. Colorful, and also, corralled. What I do with it is still up to me, but I’m not facing the chaos of a white void anymore.

Happy Painting!

To see more of my paintings, visit my website OldSpanishTrailStudio.com

And I blog about specific paintings and the places I paint at Wanderings of An Artist, BigBendArtistBlog.com

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Updates on My September Pastel Painting Workshop

A Very Good Year 9"x12" pastel by Lindy Cook Severns 2015 | I did this small, very detailed painting on Premier #320 paper. While the sanded surface was almost too rough for details this small, it allowed me the layering necessary to create the shimmering water and multi-colored cloudy sky. This is near our home in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas.

A Very Good Year 9″x12″ pastel by Lindy Cook Severns 2015 | I did this small, very detailed painting on Premier #320 paper. While the sanded surface was almost too rough for details this small, it allowed me the layering necessary to create the shimmering water and multi-colored cloudy sky. This is near our home in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas.

The September 25-28 2015 workshop at the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, Texas is full, bursting with artists! If you didn’t get in (it filled almost overnight, so don’t kick yourself too hard for procrastinating about signing up) consider putting your name on the museum’s waiting list. Contact Activities Coordinator Maggie Rumbelow maggie.rumbelow@sulross.edu  because with four months to go, there’s always a chance of a vacancy or two. If you’re interested in next year’s class, email me! I’ll send you information and give you a chance to sign up before we publicize the class. (That’s what happened with this one–it quickly filled with former students and with artists on my email list.) Meanwhile, check back for upcoming blog posts. I’ll be starting a series on “how-to’s” of starting a painting.

Happy Painting!

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I’m Teaching an All-Level Pastel Painting Workshop in Alpine, Texas September 25 – Sept 28 2015

I teach two pastel painting workshops annually at the Museum of the Big Bend in scenic Alpine, Texas. That seems to be all I can manage and still have time to paint and travel and pretend to cook. My spring workshop (the first weekend in May, 2016) is generally limited to artists who’ve studied under me previously. For my fall workshop, I teach to artists of all levels, those who want to jump into painting in soft pastels and also, those artists who with experience using pastels. My three day fall workshop for beginners and artists of all levels seeking to expand their pastel techniques will be held all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday September 26-29 2015, with an optional wine and cheese reception and easel set-up on Friday evening, September 25. The Museum is now enrolling artists for this fun, information packed class. ($350)

Outlaw Pastelist Lindy Cook Severns (that's me) 2015.

Outlaw Pastelist Lindy Cook Severns (that’s me) 2015.

The Museum is a comfortable, well-lit venue on the lovely Sul Ross State University campus, and they take terrific care of us, including hosting the Friday night get together for artists and a spouse or friend, and furnishing snacks, coffee, tea during each day.

Each artist is furnished with a table and an easel, and you may sit or stand to paint. Contact me if you’re interested and have questions; email maryb@sulross.edu to enroll, or call the Museum (432.837.8730)  Tues-Sun. and speak to head curator and workshop coordinator Mary Bones, or to her assistant, Maggie.Rumbelow@sulross.edu

The folks at the Museum can also suggest lodging options in Alpine. (A new Holiday Inn Express is almost right across the road, but there’s also a historic hotel and several other places to stay in this small, popular tourist town.)

The Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, Texas sponsors this pastel painting workshop in the spacious, well-let education room

The Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, Texas sponsors this pastel painting workshop in the spacious, well-let education room.

I’ll furnish a supply list to enrolled painters, but basically, you’ll need soft pastels, hard pastels and pastel pencils. I ask that you use a multi-media pastel paper for this class, as I’ll show you how to do pastel washes using rubbing alcohol, how to correct areas and how to develop layers of unblended color by fixing areas of your pastel to the paper with liquid. I recommend Uart, Pastel Premier, PastelMat and Pastebord, and I’ll have all of the papers available for purchase by the sheet, as well as a small selection of individual pastel sticks. (If you’ve never used pastels before, contact me before you spend a lot of money on a set. I can recommend a few ways to save as you build your pastel palette.)

Morning lectures and painting demonstrations give artists new tools to use at their easels each afternoon

Morning lectures and painting demonstrations give artists new tools to use at their easels each afternoon

My workshops start at 9 am with a lecture, lesson and demo each morning, break for lunch on your own at noon, then resume at 1pm for artists to paint at their easels until 4 pm. Each artist chooses their own subject and paints in their own style while I float around the room (okay, by the third day, I’m limping around the room but by then, I love my students so much that I don’t care how tired I am!). I won’t touch your painting, but I will give you specific help and advice on how to achieve the vision you have for your creation.

An opening wine and cheese reception at the Museum for artists and their guests is a fun ice-breaker for the class, and gives artists a chance to set up their tables with their supplies before class begins the next morning.

An opening wine and cheese reception at the Museum for artists and their guests is a fun ice-breaker for the class, and gives artists a chance to set up their tables with their supplies before class begins the next morning.

Each evening, we get together for happy hour and or dinner, and spouses or friends are encouraged to join us. All social events are, of course, optional, but those who attend them leave feeling like they have a new extended art family, and many students keep in touch not only with me but with each other.

Visiting with workshop artists, their spouses and guests is fun for Jim and me, and these informal evening events give students a breather from the intensive days of learning

Visiting with workshop artists, their spouses and guests is fun for Jim and me, and these informal evening events give students a breather from the intensive days of learning

If you’re interested, I suggest you also read through some of my earlier Outlaw Pastelist blogs to get an idea what I teach and where I’m coming from. Besides specific “how to’s” using pastels, this workshop will cover composition and color (I can’t teach these two elements enough!), pastel supplies and suppliers, and much, much more. I work with each artist according to their individual needs and goals. We target this class for 8 artists, with an absolute maximum of 12.

Want to join us?

“Waiting for Lemonade” by Lindy C Severns 2015 is an 11″ x 14″ pastel on PastelMat, partially completed, then finished as a workshop demo painting

Using demo paintings in various stages of completion, I show you how to layer color and how to pull the viewer into your composition in different ways

Using demo paintings in various stages of completion, I show you how to layer color and how to pull the viewer into your composition in different ways

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Continuing in Pastels Workshop May 2-4 2015

An Artists Eye view of me demonstrating painting in soft pastels during a Museum of the Big Bend workshop in Alpine, TX

An Artists Eye view of me demonstrating painting in soft pastels during a Museum of the Big Bend workshop in Alpine, TX

I’m teaching another workshop for artists who’ve studied with me before (or those with a working knowledge of soft pastels), Continuing in Pastels. This intensive 3 day painting course returns to the Museum of the Big Bend this spring, Sat/Sun/Mon May 2-4, 2015. (Okay, May 1- 4 if you count our popular opening reception Friday night before the workshop starts on Saturday.)

As usual, I’ll cover new ground, plus review material I’ve taught before, and for this one, I encourage my students to request things they’d like me to include. (So far, those requests include painting flowers so they don’t look “ugly”, how to arrange a growing collection of pastel sticks, still life painting, and how to survive painting a foreground, plus a few painting problems that scare even me.)

A sketch showing values for a small pastel "Timeless" by Lindy C Severns helps teach artists to break a landscape into lights and darks before starting to paint it in color.

A sketch showing values for a small pastel “Timeless” by Lindy C Severns helps teach artists to break a landscape into lights and darks before starting to paint it in color.

I’ll emphasize ways to put distance into a landscape painting, aerial perspective and broken color in my morning lectures and demos. Each day’s demo is designed to teach a different aspect of pastel painting. Afternoons mean another short lecture before the artists go to their easels to paint whatever subject they want to work on, with one-on-one instruction.

"Timeless" 9x12 pastel by Lindy C Severns depends heavily on the contrast between light and dark values, as well as composition.

“Timeless” 9×12 pastel by Lindy C Severns depends heavily on the contrast between light and dark values, as well as composition.

Spouses, sig-others or friends are invited to join us in all after class social gatherings, including Friday night’s 5-7 pm wine and cheese reception at the Museum.  We usually go to dinner one or two nights, and sometimes visit a local gallery for a private happy hour tour. Many artists enjoy staking out a table and easel on Friday night; the Education Room at the Museum will be locked each evening, so artists can feel comfortable arranging and leaving their supplies at the end of each painting day.

Visiting with other artists is a valuable part of the workshop experience

Visiting with other artists is a valuable part of the workshop experience

This class is already approaching capacity (we can accommodate a maximum of 12 artists)  with my previous students, and the registration deadline is April 2. If you’re a pastelist interested in taking but unsure whether or not you qualify, contact me. There’s no test to see if you’re “good enough”, (creating is about enjoyment, not perfection) but I assume that enrollees in this one have used soft pastels before, so I don’t cover materials and supplies as much as in my Beginning in Pastels workshops.

The museum provides tables, easels, chairs, and furnishes the class with coffee and snacks each day. (No meals are included in your tuition. There’s a university cafe next door where you can lunch for about $10. In nice weather, many artists enjoy getting a box lunch at the cafe then picnicking on the shady Sul Ross campus.)

Artists should bring whatever pastels they use. I love and highly recommend Terry Ludwig Pastels.

Artists should bring whatever pastels they use. I love and highly recommend Terry Ludwig Pastels.

You should bring whatever soft pastels you already use, a set of hard pastels (NuPastels or such) and a set of pastel pencils, and a sketchbook of some sort. Jim and I always haul extra pastel sticks, assorted pastel papers, foam core boards, tape, pencil sharpener, alcohol (for washes and toning paper) over from my studio. Should you want to try a new paper, need a special color or just don’t want to carry too many assorted supplies with you, there will be some pastel supplies available for purchase all thru the class.

I’ll email you a suggested supply list on request.

Here’s a link to the Museum website’s page, where you can scroll down to find my class schedule and the contact information. http://www.museumofthebigbend.com/learn/adult-workshops/   

(Or email maggie.rumbelow@sulross.edu for information or to sign up.)

Tuition is $350

9-4 each day, Saturday May 2 thru Monday May 4 ; We break for lunch from 12-1 each day.

(plus our optional 5-7 pm Friday night shindig and set up)

You can learn a bit more about my workshops by visiting my website https://www.oldspanishtrailstudio.com/workshops.html

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