Tag Archives: plein air

Pastel Dust…Quick Draw/Quick Finish | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog

Pastel Dust…Quick Draw/Quick Finish | Bonnie Zahn Griffith – Blog.

You get anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 or more hours to complete a piece of art.  It is adrenalin producing, energy charged time for the artist and a smorgasbord of art options for the collector.  Lots of art centers and other art venues host these as part of their fund raising activities.  I love them.  I like the challenge and I like the interaction with the collectors!  The quick draw usually indicates that the piece of art with be completed in total during the given time frame.  The Quick finish is just that…a piece of art is started before the event and then just finished at the event.  Sometimes artists will complete the entire work during the quick finish, however.


A favorite, challenging quick Draw is the event held in Miles City, MT. where the artist has the challenge of completing a piece of art on 30 minutes that is then auctioned in a live auction in a downtown city park.  Another is a more leisure 1 1/2 hour QD at the Festival of Arts at the Joseph, OR that is held in their community center amidst all the art from the festival and with live music and a silent auction of the newly created work.  Added to these two great events is a new fave…the Art in the Beartooths to support the Carbon County Art Guild.  I was invited to participate in this event this July 11 and it proved to be a grand time.   We painted  anywhere on the property of the center from 9-2.  Your choice of a start from the scratch approach or applying the finishing touches To an already started painting .   I decided to paint from beginning to end and with abundant time, it was pretty stress free.  This venue, being in the destination spot of Red Lodge, MT is a gem.  The setting, in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains, is inspirational in of itself.  The staff was delightful to work with and were most attentive to artists’ needs.  The QF culminated with a benefit dinner and live auction under a big tent in the park beside the art center.


My creation was done in pastel…I think the only pastel at the event.  I decided on painting some favorite things…Creekside willows in the early spring when they are this incredible orange color, still snow on the ground in places and streams running free of ice.  I worked about 3 hours on a 24×12 vertical painting that gave me the feeling I wanted to project.  I had plenty of time to visit wth old friends, students of mine and new acquaintances.  As a result, we are looking at a workshop three next fall (2016) to coincide with the opening of my solo show there opening September 2.

And “March Willow” sold well.


Next plein air painting in the Columbia Gorge Plein Air event AUGUST 3-7 in Hood River, OR





Pastel Dust in Landscape

No b lack Sheep in this Family

What makes a painting happen?  In my world it starts with something that triggers my interest.  Painting happens nearly every day…at least some sort of sketching or drawing if not a painting.  If I am the passenger on a car trip, I might be sketching.  I have my iPhone or camera handy also when driving to record – not a specific scene to paint, but a chance to shoot a reference photo of something for a future painting…I am always looking…

So Saturday I had to deliver some work to Vintage Vine in Roslyn for the next show that opens the first part of July.  I decided to make a day of it and spend it scouting around the Cle Elum and Roslyn area for painting spots for the upcoming Fresh Air Festival paint out event July 14-20.  I have the opportunity to teach a workshop in pastel (July 17-19) and also do a demo (Monday July 16) as part of the event, so finding some good spots to take artists to paint and also spots for my own work was on my list of things to do.  We drove the streets and backroads and found some good spots with a variety of scene.  I shot a lot of images and enjoyed watching the weather change from bright and sunny to a dark clouded rain storm.  But  – leaving home early, about 630 a.m., driving the Walla Walla valley had the most impact on my eyes…and it reminded me why it is so worthwhile to get up early and go out and paint.  The trees that follow the river and the fields next to them planted with wheat or peas or potatoes or onions were cool greens of various values and the early sun cast a soft light on the terrain.  The distant hills were a soft lavender, a bit hazy in the early morning.  There were many opportunities for a great, tonal painting in the peacefulness that presented in the landscape.  I shot some photos, but none render the actual beauty seen with the human eye…it’s why we paint en plein air!  So paint when you can from life…it makes a difference!

Pastel Dust en Plein Air…

The last post talked about the trip to Whidbey Island, WA for the Northwest Pastel Society annual Paint Out and included some of the photos I shot of the island. But the main reason for going was to actually paint out on location of choice!

I like to be surrounded by all my props usually.   That way you are never without a color or particular paper, etc.  In other words, there isn’t much excuse to not get a painting done.  Well, then when plein air comes into play…it requires you hauling your supplies and equipment out in country, set up and paint.  Whoa!  I can’t possibly take all my “stuff. ‘ So I condense things, take my full size French easel, another bag of necessaries, like the extra pastels the art box won’t hold, paper, gloves, apron, board, etc.   And a chair.  Ok, with this load I am not going to venture too far from base.  The easel is a torture…there is always something coming undone and flopping and dragging.  So in this instance, if you are really lucky, maybe you can drive to the spot you want to paint and on Whidbey, you can do that at many sites.  One site we painted was in a state park and there was a picnic table.  Heaven!  The light was great and I painted a trail leading into the forest         Another day we found this beautifully landscaped rhodie garden which had many more varieties plants than just rhodies.  All fairly easy spots to get to.  So then I decided if I am going to paint plein air then I best quip myself with a manageable pack.  So that is what I have done.  I scrapped the French easel for a compact Daniel Smith 5# one that holds your pastel box when set up.  It carries easily and then with one bag and fold up chair (optional, depending on where and how long I am going) I can at least get out of the parking lot!

So plein air takes some extra effort, but there is nothing like getting out there and painting without the aid of a photo.  You need to take into consideration the ever-changing light, the elements, narrowing your field of view into something manageable and have the props you need with you. A well done plein air piece just stands out from the crowd!

Happy painting…             

Pastel Plein Air Dust…

Another trip to Montana in mid July to just do some photography and paint “en plein air”…

My son and family came to WA for a wedding the first part of July and Chris’s schedule required him to return to  MT afterhis week of vacation while his family stayed another.  So he and I loaded his car with pastels, paper, hats, insect repellent, etc. – all things to occupy me in my quest to paint MT.  We spent the first 3 days in Billings – where I used to live – visiting with friends in the evenings, but spending the days scouting the area for places to set up an easel and paint and take reference photos for future use.   It was hot and dry til late afternoon when the thunder clouds rolled in, which meant you had best be under cover with the pastels all tucked away.

So I got a few paintings done.  Southern Montana had more than it’s share of rain this spring and a lot of snow melt which caused some major flooding through several areas.  One such spot showed the water still standing in some fields…the object of this painting…

I have been using some of the Pastelmat paper for paintings and liking how it takes the pigment and the colors of the paper.  I chose a neutral color and sketched in the basic layout with a piece of charcoal.  Beginning with some basic sky, I get that color on the paper, then working down to the distant landscape.   There is some hint of rain showers in the distance, so I want to convey that in the painting.  Less is more when painting such an impression…you don’t want a huge amount of pigment to  fill the tooth of the paper.  A note about this paper…it is quite “velvety” in feel, and it will hold a good amount of pigment, workable fix for texture…but you don’t want to use a heavy hand and fill the tooth up immediately!  Once the distant landscape and sky details are completed I continue my painting, adding the tree line and while I am painting the background trees, I add some of that color into the lower part of the  painting for reflections that will be established in the water.

     And with water and reflections…again, keeping a minimal amount of pigment on paper adds to the “look” of the water.  A gentle stroke with the side of a soft pastel stick gives the water a nice, soft look with some of the background peeking through the water’s surface.

The pastels…I used a mixture of Unison, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig and some Diane Townsend.  Great darks in the Ludwigs…good texture with the Townsends…often for the shimmery last stroke for some special detail, Sennelier 463 and 179 for my base for trees to create depth…

As a note about this paper…I bought a pad of the paper for traveling and doing plein air painting in the field…1) because of the ease of transport and the size; 2) because it is inter-leafed with a protective sheet of Glassine or some other type of paper that aids in storage during travel.  One thing I have found is this paper says it is 9×12 inches; it is a little shy of that…so that can cause a problem if one is trying to put that painting directly into a plein air frame without matting…I use a lot of the stock Plein Air frames sold by Jerry’s Artarama and have not had a problem with other pre-cut paper…so something to keep in mind when you go to frame the work when using this particular paper.  I do love the feel of it, however and it does come in other larger sizes, which I love.

So enjoy some painting time out in the field…and try some of the great papers available now…I love the Pastelmat!

Happy painting…

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