Tag Archives: pastell artist

Thirty minutes to paint

Quick draw events are fun, frightening, sometimes furiously fast and often rewarding!  Many are an hour or two in length which is not a lot of time to execute a painting but easier compared to the 30 minute events.  In a 30 minute event there is no time to ponder.  You need to have pondered and made choices in the preparation stage!  You need a limited palette and a distinct plan of action when the horn blows to begin your work.

So goes the story of the popular quick draw at the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale sponsored by the WaterWorks Art Museum held every May as part of the world famous Bucking Horse Sale that brings thousands of spectators to the town of Miles City.  Only a few (25 or less) artists participate in the Riverside Park QD at the culmination of the annual parade.  The QD is sandwiched in between the parade and the Grand Entry of the sale and horse races and once the 30 minute draw is complete, the artists have 10 minutes to get their piece framed and the live auction of art begins.  It’s fast and furious and the crowd is filled with art collectors and spectators.  The QD is strategically timed to be certain those spectators can get to all the BHS activities and maximize the crowd attendance for the auction that is a benefit to the WaterWorks Museum and Art Center.

This year I lived on the dangerous side…I decided to paint a larger than normal piece, 26×12 vertical pastel.  (Most works are less than 16 inches square.)  I prepped my paper by gluing it to a foam core board for stability, then selected a very limited palette of pastel sticks.  I planned a painting of buffalo from a photo I shot on my way to MT via Yellowstone Park.  The day before the event, the preparatory chores were done. (I could have saved a little stress by doing this 3-4 days earlier!).  I did numerous pencil sketches arranging my composition, as the photo was a horizontal format and I was painting it as a vertical.  In my sketchbook I made lines of quadrants and adjusted the subject to best fit the format of the proposed painting.  I “roughed-in” focal points and large shapes to make what I believed to be a good composition.   I put all my supplies – selected pastels, 91% alcohol, sponge brush, Workable fixative, wet wipes, paper towels, gloves and framing equipment in my backpack.  I had a plan and felt I could make it happen, but knew I would have no time to spare.  Before the event started I found a place to paint…in the park’s gazebo  where there was some protection from some gusty winds (not helpful when painting is a tall piece!) and a place to sit if one wanted to before and during the event.  And I was able to tone my painting  with one color – a mix of dry pigment and alcohol before the QD began.  Doing an underpainting like this assists one in pastel application by speeding up the process.

The QD begins with the sound of an air horn…now it’s time for autopilot.  Your colors are laid out and you instinctively apply them, not second guessing your choice.  Large masses are painted carefully noting that  the values are where you want them.  When someone says “you have 15 minutes left, you want to be at least half way thru your painting.)  I am, but there is no option to make changes.  I stick to my plan.  Once the landscape is satisfactory to my eye, I draw in and paint the buffalo.   As I put the final touches in the most distant animal, the horn blows signifying the end of the QD.  Hands go up (no more pastel to the paper), I am satisfied, pleased to have finished what I had planned and the framing begins.  I had hoped to get my piece in the auction so it would be auctioned somewhere in the middle, but I needed all the time allotted to get the framing accomplished, so the painting was in the last spot on the auction docket.  Not my favorite spot to be, but as it turned out the auction was  a surprise.  One know there is not always a predictable outcome to auctions and this one was not an exception.  Early pieces were sold  from $200-500. Then one sold for about $800 and another for $1700.  I saw a couple of pieces of work of popular artists sell for less than I have seen before.  Now I begin to have some anxiety.  It’s now the time for my piece to go.  I hold the painting up and the auction starts.  Bids start immediately and I hand the work to one of the guys on the platform to show.  Bids continue to be raised and my anxiety lessens.  The auctioneer worked his way to $1500 +.  I am relieved and happy to have completed a sought after piece of art and for sharing the sale with the museum.

So, when the opportunity arises to compete in a quick draw, do it.  The key is preparation and planning.  Then execute the painting in a confident manner, not second guessing palette and composition.  If you are an art collector and someone who appreciates the arts and the process…know what happens for these works to come to be!





Pastel Dust In Seattle

I am in Seattle for a few days to hang the NWPS Members Show at Kirsten Gallery, go to a board meeting and attend the Opening Reception for the show…and to enjoy some time in the city.

The Northwest Pastel Society holds three shows a year of pastel work…a member show, an open international exhibition and a signature member show.  For an organization without walls, getting venues to host shows is sometimes a challenge, but also a project that happens a year in advance of the planning and procuring venues and jurors for the work.

This year’s member show is being held at the Kirsten Gallery on Roosevelt Way in the University of Washington district of Seattle.  I first approached and met with Rick Kirsten a year ago to get the show on his gallery schedule.  The board of directors for the NWPS felt very lucky to get  show time in a gallery such as the Kirsten.  Thursday, 4 of us gathered at the gallery to hang the show.   57 pieces accepted into the show. 

There is a certain art to a show being staged well.  A while ago, I worked on a gallery committee of 3 and 4 people who was one of the best teams.  Dianna, M’Lisse had great skill in hanging and we could put together a show in a few hours. We hung a different show nearly monthly throughout the year; some were solo shows, some groups.  It was a fun process to make the show “work”, so that it flowed well and invited the viewer to keep moving through the exhibit.  I ended up leaving the group due to other work, but always treasured our time working together. 

Kirsten Gallery has subtle room dividers that break up the flow – which is great because a juried show typically has a broad variety of work styles, color, subject matter,  etc.  My goal was to establish a strong entry that would invite the viewer to come further into the gallery to see more work.  The quality of work was no barrier.  There was not one piece that shouldn’t have been in the show.. . All strong, gorgeous pieces.  So in the entry we placed several strong landscapes that played off of each other’s values.  The next area has the least wall space, but we placed stong pieces of varying subject matter throughout that area with invitation to keep moving through the gallery space.  There were some little nooks that lended well to some unique, small works that desevered their own space.  

So initially we did a layout of the work; all the painting were placed  leaning on the walls where we thought they would work best.  Because of the broad variety of size, framing, subject, etc.; our goal was to make the work “flow” and not to compete with each other…In the middle rooms there is more contiguous wall space and that allowed for more paintings to hang together…but with space built between to give the sense of some boundaries to show smaller groups of painting well.  So to create that, we would cluster  maybe three winter paintings closer together, then leave a bit larger space and hang another grouping. 

Once the entry and the first rooms were hanging we moved deeper into the gallery with the goal to make certain that we had strong work in each area and that no one room over powered another.  The last room has three good walls of space and we were able to make some great choices of the placement of work for that room. 

Ideally, if space were no object, it would be great to hang museum style with the paintings all at the same level, not one hanging above or below another or grouped, etc.  But in the real world, galleries don’t always have that option for space, so it required a gallery committee or hangers to be creative how the show gets to be displayed.  We approach that seriously and mindful that everyone who has a piece of work in the show is being honored as selected by the juror.   We were able accomplish installing the show in about 3 hours which was my unspoken goal!

So the opening happens on April 10 from 2-4 pm.  The juror has since gone through the gallery and given 10 or so awards and we wait, now, wondering which paintings will be given awards…

Perhaps in another blog I will talk about the Kirsten Gallery more.  They have this wonderful spot in a busy part of town and their gardens are wonderful.  I have some photos and perhaps with Rick Kirsten’s blessings I will write about the gallery.

So for now…happy painting and gallery visiting!

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