2008-12-12 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

'Gifted' Till 14; KidsmART Painting And Photography Classes; Pastel Pleasure
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

Pastel Pleasure:

Though I consider myself primarily a watercolorist and pen and ink artist, the last couple of years I have taken classes in soft pastel. I adore the medium. It is luxurious. As with oil, pastels allow the artist to build up color and images, and to be very spontaneous, because you can always go over what you have done with more color, once you set it in with a fixative. Like charcoal it has a sculptural aspect. One feels one is carving into the pastels, shifting and manipulating their physical presence.

Check out the website of the Pastel Society of America (PSA) (about which I was clued in by RAA members Denise Rolland and Jeff Berman). Visit them at: www.pastelsocietyofamerica. org. The organization sounds very interesting. Founded by Flora Baldini Giffuni, it is the oldest pastel society in America. Among its services to pastel artists, it offers classes, workshops and demonstrations. It also organizes an annual international juried exhibition in New York City and regional exhibits. Roland has informed me that photographs she took of a PSA member exhibition event in Clifton, New Jersey appear on the Society's website. These same images were recently published in their magazine and include

pictures of Berman and his work.

Giffuni writes about the medium on the PSA website. Pastel is powdered pigment that is rolled into round or square sticks and held together with a non-greasy binder known as methylcellulose. The medium can be blended with a stump, or that good old standby, the finger (or whatever is your blending tool of choice). Alternately, it can be left with visible strokes and lines. The ground is usually toned paper. But sanded boards are also used (a very interesting ground), as is canvas. Personally, I have used cold press and rough watercolor paper, on occasion. Makes for some challenging effects. Giffuni writes that if the ground is completely covered with pastel, the work is considered a pastel painting. If much of the ground is visible, it is termed a pastel sketch. According to the PSA's founder, when protected by fixative and glass, pastel is the most permanent of all mediums, because it never cracks, darkens or yellows. Artists began using pastels in the 16th century. Many artists since have used the medium to create finished work, not just for preparatory sketches. They include Delacroix, Manet, Hassam and perhaps the greatest champion of the medium, Edgar Degas. Giffuni writes that Mary Cassatt, friend of Degas, introduced pastel to the United States. Explore it.

And explore "Gifted," RAA's member exhibition, in its final weekend, at sTudio 6 Gallery in RoCA at Fort Tilden. On view through Sunday, December 14, it includes a splendid example of a pastel painting by Ludmila Vaynberg, "Catherine." Check the gray box for exhibit details.

Another fine artist in "Gifted," Madeline Braisted, is displaying her work in "Celebrate!" The member show and holiday celebration of the Long Island Artists, Inc. runs through January 31, 2009 and is located at 5-46 50th Avenue, Long Island City, just west of Vernon Boulevard. Gallery hours: Tuesday-Friday 2-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12-5 p.m. The closing reception is Friday, January 30.

General meeting news: Congratulations to the reelected members of the RAA Board of Directors: John Grillo, Martha Killian, James McKay, Jan Nebozenko and Joe Rothenberg, who though stepping down as vice president, will remain on the board. In addition, congratulations to Joe for a much deserved award he received for his service to RAA. The award is a beautiful hand painted palette by Geoff Rawling, picturing Joe with his sax and camera. The holiday party consisted of great people, great food and great music from Hudson's Hope, Dennis Guiney, Guy Nevers and a gentleman on the didgeridoo (wind instrument of the Indigenous Australians of northern Australia).

(If anyone knows his name, send me an email through the RAA office. Thanks.)

RAA CONTACT INFO: Phone: 718-474-0861; Fax: 718-474- 4373; e-mail: rockart116@aol.com; website: www.rockawayartistsallian ce.org

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