Flashback to Saturday’s Demo

Last week, Susan Keale at the El Dorado Arts Council Art Space interviewed me in conjunction with the Sierra Pastel Society Winter Member Show.  She also took this photo of my demonstrating pastel painting last Satruday at the ArtSpace.  I thought it would be interesting to include in this blog.

Interview: Kaaren Poole – Pastel Painter

.by El Dorado Arts Council ArtSpace on Monday, December 6, 2010 at 9:45am.

Pastel painting is a drawing technique of sorts using pastels or chalks made from earth pigments. An artist using this medium rubs and blends the pastels on paper or treated boards to create a wide range of effects from soft and delicate to clear detail with brilliant colors and textures. Often the finished work of art looks more like a painting than a drawing.

Historically, pastels can be traced back to man’s early cave paintings of France and Spain. Sketching with red chalk was also common during the Italian Renaissance. However, the use of pastels in art became popular in the 18th century when Rosalba Carreira introduced colored chalks as a new medium. Europe embraced pastels and created masterful works from then until now.

In our own Sierra foothills we have many talented and accomplished pastel painters. The Sierra Pastel Society showcases and inspires artists in their mastery of pastels. Susan Keale of EDAC ArtSpace recently interviewed an avid pastelist and member of SPS Kaaren Poole.

SK: Where and when did you learn pastel painting?

KP: In January of 2009, Leslie Harrison did a demo at the monthly PAA meeting. Leslie is an accomplished and successful animal artist who works in pastel and lives near Jackson. I was greatly impressed with her work and intrigued by much that she had to say about the medium. So, I signed up for a workshop she was giving in July and ordered some pastels. I did a little experimenting on my own in the months prior to the workshop, including working with three or four different types of papers as well as hard and soft pastels and pastel pencils. Since I was used to working with pencil and colored pencil, I was most at home with the pastel pencils. As a person who likes fine detail, I was thrown by the chunky pastel sticks, but persevered and now find that I can get detail with them as well by carefully using the edges. Leslie’s workshop was wonderful – despite the 100+ degree heat in the room where the air conditioner had failed!!! – and I learned a lot. From there, I just continued working on my own, using my drawing and painting experience while striving to learn the ins and outs of this new medium.

SK: Why do you like pastels?

KP: I like pastels because of their rich color and that they cover large areas so much more quickly than pencil. Also, one can achieve some very soft effects which are great for animals, which are my favorite subject.

SK: What are your favorite art material brands?

KP: I like the Derwent and Cretacolor pastel pencils, the NuPastel and Derwent hard pastels, and the Rembrandt and Giraud soft pastels. For papers, I like velour paper and am now trying PastelMat which is taking some getting used to but which I think I will be very happy with eventually. I don’t like getting messy, so sanded paper and the super soft pastels are not for me!

SK: Favorite pastel books, DVDs, or magazines?

KP: Leslie Harrison’s book is now out of print, but my sister obtained a copy on e-Bay and it is wonderful. I have been learning pretty much by doing, and when I reach a snag I ask someone I know from the Sierra Pastel Society a specific question or research it on the internet which is a fabulous resource.

SK: What workshops have you attended or taught?

KP: The only workshop I have attended is Leslie Harrison’s, and I have not taught any workshops in pastel although I have taught in other media, including polymer clay. I am registered to attend the IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) convention in Albuquerque in June and am greatly looking forward to it. I will be attending a few workshops there. It seems like most local opportunities are for landscape work, which I don’t do.

SK: What pastel artists do you admire and why?

KP: I am more familiar with artists by subject matter than my medium. But among our local artists, I greatly admire Kathryn Hall. Her portraits are engaging, and her landscapes mesmerize me with their sense of place. She is also a very kind person who is generous with her support and encouragement. I also think Pat Aragon’s animal paintings are wonderful.

SK: What are your favorite techniques?

KP: I like detail work and building up color and texture through layering. I also like glazing, but sometimes struggle with this technique in pastel.

SK: What are your favorite subjects and why?

KP: Animals are not only my favorite subject, but pretty much my only subject. They are my favorite subject because I love them so much. It’s as simple as that!

SK: Anything else you’d like others to know?

KP: I love doing art because it is so challenging and there is always more to learn – it is truly a life-long pursuit, and, in fact, a lifetime is not long enough! I don’t have an art education and am sometimes mystified and/or turned off by the “fine art” world. Years ago, I turned to decorative painting, intimidated by the admonition that artists must “have a message.” I have now finally figured out that all the “musts” and “can’ts” are just silly structure imposed on something that should be simply a heart-felt journey. So I am now on mine, and very grateful for it.

Kaaren’s pastel paintings can be seen in the upcoming Sierra Pastel Society’s art exhibit being held at El Dorado Arts Council ArtSpace. The exhibit runs from December 6, 2010 to January 8, 2011.


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