Saturday, October 26, 2013


After the great pastel workshop with Stan Sperlak a couple weeks ago, I was gung-ho to get back in my studio and start creating. But I kept procrastinating. I work full time, and by the time I got home and figured out dinner, I had no ambition to do something creative. Besides, my studio was a wreck and I didn't have any space to start something new. 

This morning, I had some time to get in there and try to clean it up. I have a habit of piling stuff on top of stuff and then you always need to thing on the bottom. I thought I had a good setup for storing my studio pastels, but then I've been buying some new, expensive handmade pastels lately and wanted a better way of organizing them. Although my Great American pastels come in a lovely wooden box, I never seemed to use them. The Terry Ludwig's come in nice padded boxes but they were on to the top of the pile and ready to get knocked off.

So, I started thinking about a new way of storing everything so they would all get used. In the past, I have made my own trays out of foam core (the bottom layers here show two of these trays), but I really wanted something better with covers - so when I needed to pile stuff up, at least they would be protected. 
I searched online at the usual pastel supply companies, but I didn't want to spend big bucks on wood cases. I thought about what I might be able to re-purpose. It dawned on me, that restaurant full sheet cake pans would be a nice size. I live only a couple miles from a food service supply company that sells to the general public so I hopped in the car to see what they had. 

I found two sizes - the full sheet cake size is about 18" x 25" x 1" and they had clear plastic snap on lids! Just the ticket! The pans were about $9 but the surprisingly, the plastic lids cost more than the aluminum pans at about $12. I had originally thought I needed two large trays to hold all my pastels, but when I looked at them in the store, they seemed HUGE, so I only bought one full size and one 1/2 size set. The half price set was on special at $5 for the tray and $7 for the lid.

I used to be a quilter, so decided to cushion my pastels with some cotton batting I had stored away. This brand is Warm and Natural and it has been needle punched to make it more like felt than cotton wadding. 

I got busy filling up the pan. I decided to snap the Great Americans (on the left) in half and leave some in the wooden box.

I also had some Mount Visions I added last, which helped to fill in the missing colors in the 'light' end of the colors.

Pretty much filled up the tray! I am sure this will make it easier to use all the brands and a better way of storing them all. 

I wasn't sure what I would use the smaller sheet pan set for, but luckily, all my hard pastels fit nicely without taking them out of their boxes.

Now, I need to finish up getting the studio cleaned up so I don't have anymore excuses! Now that the plein air season in Ohio is pretty much over with, I will have lots of Saturday mornings open now. In the colder months, I do work much more in the studio.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stan Sperlak Workshop - German Village, Columbus Ohio

I recently spent 3.5 days in a workshop with New Jersey artist, Stan Sperlak. The workshop was held in German Village, Columbus Ohio.

There are numerous YouTube videos of Stan, but this short one gives a good feel of his personality and how he works  I also like this longer one, showing him working in the field

It will be very hard to describe all that Stan teaches. He does not just show you how to paint with soft pastels, but gives a complete course - history, techniques, philosophy and emotions - all of which can be applied to any medium. We were truly immersed in art for the full 3.5 days, starting before 8am, and ending late - well after dinner each day. He is generous with demos and examples. He showed examples that I could finally "see". Many times, I have read technique books and thought I knew how to do something - but seeing his examples were much easier to understand and put into practice.

The workshop began with a get together and orientation on Friday evening. Stan packed a lot of great information into just a few hours. The full workshop began early on Saturday morning. We spent this day in the studio, getting acquainted with our setups and materials and learning some techniques.

With respect to Stan, although I took many pictures during the workshop, I will only being showing a few of his work. I will be showing you what I accomplished in this workshop.
We worked on value studies and perspective to 'roll' forms to give realistic turning of the mass toward the light source.

Checking the values in B&W:

We worked on a marsh painting from imagination using his guidance. I loved how my sky turned out. The subtleties are not really visible in this photo.
 This is my final photo of this painting. The marsh and water are not finished.

On Sunday, we went out in the field to Schiller Park. Stan did a demo of a tree and used exciting colors for the sky.

We then set out to work on our own. Stan regularly made the rounds to assist us. I painted an interesting pine.

After lunch, Stan did a demo of the willow on the pond:

I found a view that interested me and I really like how this one turned out. Hope you can see the interesting colors in the shadows of the bushes on my painting. I was trying to push the color away from greens and tried to put my own twist to the scene.

In the evening, Stan did a wonderful extended demo  in a darkened room with music. This was complete in less than an hour.

Day three began at 7:30am at Scioto Audubon Metro Park. The weather was clear, but a bit chilly with a breeze. Stan began with a demo of the distant treeline and the meadow, using complementary under paintings and using fixatives early in the process.

We were to complete a painting or two before lunch. I liked these cottonwoods.

I only completed one painting before we had to head back to the Meeting Haus for lunch and our final afternoon together. Stan did a nice slideshow and then we did critiques of the class work.

It was truly a wonderful workshop. I have to say it is the best I have ever attended. Stan works very hard in both his art and sharing his love of the medium with students. I would recommend his workshops to any artists, even if you work in other mediums, as what he teaches is a full experience. I learned so much and hope the techniques and encouragement to use my own voice will greatly improve my artwork. Thanks so much Stan!

And I need to add, that I am now the owner of this lovely demo which Stan completed in the workshop!