A Pastel Landscape

Axminster Art Society welcomed accomplished pastel artist, Lynda Kettle, to their February demonstration meeting. Lynda has been a pastel artist for 25 years alongside an interesting career as an artist in the world of theatre and television and her demonstration was enlivened by stories from those days.

Lynda told the meeting that every artist has a different style and hers, today, was going to be quick and easy. She started with background information about the materials she uses. The right sort of paper is critical, it must have a good tooth for successful pastel work; Lynda uses Fisher 400 and passed samples around the audience, but she also described how one could make one’s own by treating cartridge paper with a purpose made primer. Lynda prefers the softer pastels, in spite of their high price, and she carries a huge range of colours. She acknowledged the different schools of thought on whether or not to use fixative to seal the finished work but is firmly of the opinion that this is important even though it may darken the original colours – she likes dark paintings! She demonstrated the way to apply fixative and also advised that hair spray would do the same job. Lynda frames her work with triple mounts, one hidden from view to catch excess pastel dust – adding that this is advisable even if fixative has been applied.

Lynda had prepared her paper with bands of an acrylic wash to complement the final colour scheme, pointing out the “rule of three” and the planned focal point; she had also sketched in the basics of the design. She was then able to go straight in with the pastels. She works from the top of the paper down to avoid smudging and assured the group she would make the half way point before the tea break. She outlined the tree trunks in dark shades of blue and purple (“trees are never brown”), pointing out the light and dark sides to reflect the source of light, and then worked the canopy of trees at the top of the page in short strokes in a variety of blues. When she turned to the grass she used a straight movement, rather than the flicking movement she had used for the leaves, in sympathy with the structure of grass, starting with lighter shades in the distance gravitating to darker and thicker strokes in the foreground. Finally Lynda brought the picture to life with carefully placed poppies and daises, the complementary colours and the brightness of the white giving the whole picture a real lift.

Lynda will be following up the demonstration with a workshop on Saturday 3rd March and she described the format the day will take. Only two spare places were left by the end of the day!