Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pastel Painting Workshop

Tracy Wilson demonstrated her pastel techniques to a full room at the Lakewood Arts Council Gallery on Friday.  An accomplished oil painter (who also teaches oil painting workshops), Tracy, some years ago, decided to try pastels.  Once she realized that they couldn’t be treated like oil paints – they have their own unique characteristics, she began to enjoy the process of working in this new medium.  Like many of her oil paintings, her method for pastels employs chiaroscuro, an Italian term meaning light and shadow.
Before starting the demonstration, the basics were discussed, and even though non-beginners might find the information redundant, Tracy apologized, as one student pointed out, repetition can be very beneficial. 

 Varieties of pastels were listed and the differences of hard and soft brands.  Hard pastels are more controllable and have a sharper edge due to a higher proportion of binder.  Soft pastels contain more pigment creating more intensity of color.  Different types of paper give different results: Wallis sanded paper can hold twenty layers of pastel, while Ampersand Pastel Board allows for ease of framing.  Basic safety issues were also addressed.  Pastel dust can be inhaled, and toxic pigments can be absorbed through the skin.  Methods for eliminating those concerns were presented.

With the basics covered, Tracy explained her demo procedure, “The first thing we look at in art is the last thing the artist did”.  So she likes to proceed step by step, but stop before too much is done, so as to allow the student to start working on their own piece, with the first few steps still clear in their minds.

Even though Tracy usually works from real life, she also points out the benefits of working from photos.  “At least your plants don’t die before your work is finished,” she jokes.  The students are then given photos of a strongly shadowed apple and watch as Tracy begins drawing her subject, filling in the dark background, defining shadow areas, then begins applying color – underpainting, blending and glazing.

Individual help is then offered the students, as she circulates the room to aid those in need.  The students follow her steps, creating their own works of art.  Snippets of advice gleaned from her counsel aid in producing a rewarding result.  “Always check your fingers before you blend” – a damp paper towel at your workstation is a must.  “Shadows tend to be not only darker, but duller.”  And to emphasize the look of chiaroscuro, “use more details in the lighted areas, less detail in the shadow areas, even if those details are evident in the photo or still life”.

Enthusiastic students, or those of you who weren’t able to join Tracy for this workshop are in luck, as she will be teaching another pastel workshop on November 9 at the LAC Gallery.  But sign up soon, as her popular class fills quickly!  Tracy’s work can be seen at her website

Sunday, September 23, 2012

So Much to Do!

Working in the gallery last Friday, I had a number of people come in and show such delight at either just finding out about the Lakewood Arts Council Community Center and Gallery, or they were making a return visit looking to find new art to enjoy.  Newcomers, I steered to our table full of fliers detailing all the events that take place at the gallery – from workshops and classes to musical performances and soup-tasting events.  LAC membership forms were tucked in purses to be filled out later, and an invitation was issued to peek at the amazing results of the students taking Slawa Radziszewska’s portrait class.  Very impressive I might add!

The Spotlight on Colorado Artists was the next stop for gallery visitors – some came in to view the work of a friend, some were just curious to see the show.  It was also my first time to view the exhibit as I’ve been out of town.  The award winners were worthy, demonstrating so much talent – but the rest of the exhibit entries were equally inspired.  I marveled at the whimsical nature of the bird’s nest and the shaggy dog made of newspaper strips.  What fun!

When my gallery sitting was over for the day, I returned home and opened the mail.  There was another envelope stuffed full of fliers from the LAC offering more enticing events:  Introduction to Creating a Website,  Getting Started with Mosaics, Pastel and Watercolor workshops.  I’m also looking forward to the upcoming Holiday Fine Art and Arts and Crafts show, and Recycled Chair Project, which is sure to be a seat of creativity.  The colorful Upscale/Resale Boutique and exhibit in Purple, Blue and Green is coming up October 1, with a reception on Thursday, October 4. 

There is always something new and exciting to do at the LAC.  Schedules and entry forms can be found on the website.  And if you know someone who is not familiar with the LAC, let them in on the fun.  The more the merrier!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Second "Art & Music" Event

 A group of about 15 people attended the second of our "Art & Music" events at the LAC Art Center on Sunday, September 16.  This series teams a well-known artist with a local musician to provide an afternoon of enrichment and enjoyment. This event featured June Davis working in pastels and Rick Weingarten performing on the vibraphone.
  June did a beautiful pastel painting of a white ceramic pitcher set against a dark background. She explained her process as the group watched her still life painting progress.
 LAC Events Co-ordinator Melinda Fiscus introduced musician Rick Weingarten.
 Rick explained about the different parts of the vibraphone then entertained everyone with a selection of lovely melodies - from Hawaiian to Costa Rican themes, with even a little Elvis thrown into the mix.  He is a relaxed and personable performer who provided us with a wonderful afternoon. 

Whether it was the wine, cheese and chocolate treats, the lovely art demonstration or the soothing music - everyone went home feeling good and ready to face the week.
Submitted by Kathy Berls

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts on Teaching Art

The Lakewood Arts Council offers many types of classes in many different mediums.  For the beginning student just starting out, to the accomplished painter wanting to perfect their skills, or the eclectic artist wanting to try something new, there is a class to suit their needs.  Whether it be an ongoing class in oil painting, watercolor or basic drawing, or a one-time workshop in mixed media, accomplished teachers inspire, educate and make it fun to come to class.

With new sessions just starting, I decided to question these instructors on their methods and goals in order to gain some insight on what to expect as a new student.

When I asked the LAC instructors for their thoughts on teaching, there was a general consensus that not only should the students have fun, but the whole experience of teaching art has been fun.  “It is a tremendous amount of work…but also fun.  I admire all the instructors who stick with it,” says Kathy Berls.  For Kathy Cranmer, “Painting should be fun and I always try to remember that in my classes.”  Heidi Snyder, who is teaching an upcoming colored pencil workshop at the LAC Art Center with Dorothy DePaulo, stresses how art is “not only fun, creative, and at its core intensely personal, but a great healer and equalizer and a wonderful medium for telling stories.  It enables the artist to reach audiences otherwise inaccessible and convey messages in a manner which defies other means of communication.”

Having fun in class with a teacher who obviously enjoys his or her work and like Dorothy DePaulo, who finds that ”by teaching what she knows about the art making process and wants to pass that happiness on to others”,  would be good incentive to sign up.  But what about the student who is a bit hesitant to register due to lack of confidence?  “Just have fun with it,” says Loraine Miller.  “Remember we have all been beginners at one time or another.  Don’t expect success the first time, keep practicing, practicing and more practicing… and keep it simple.”  Kathy Cranmer stresses how important it is for beginner and intermediate watercolor painters to learn good painting fundamentals, making it easier to achieve satisfying results.  Barb Tobiska also adds that being placed in the correct level class for one’s ability is important. With so many classes, levels and instructors to choose from, it should be easy to find a class that fits each individual.  “Try a lot of classes and a lot of different teachers until something really clicks for you,” says Kathy Berls. 

When asked about teaching methods – traditional vs. experimental, most instructors tended to stick with traditional, but with a few novel techniques or materials incorporated occasionally.  Barb Tobiska, having been a multi-media artist, has been known to employ glazes, sand, cloth, spray paints and other materials into her oil painting lessons.

The LAC’s instructors are always learning.  Many have a college degree in Art Education or have taught in schools.  But all agree that taking workshops themselves and like Loraine Miller, who finds the most helpful source of information has been the  “many, many books and other instructors she has taken (classes) from.” This allows her to stretch a little and then teach these new things to her students.  Dorothy DePaulo also learns by doing.  She approaches each painting as a puzzle that needs to be solved.  She learns from her peers by looking at others’ art and seeking out how they have solved their art puzzles.  She also stresses that “the most important thing in being a good artist is to be a part of a community of artists.  Often time, the classroom is the first step in joining a community of artists.”

What have you learned from your students and what is the most surprising thing you’ve found about teaching art classes, I asked.  Loraine Miller has learned to “think about the process of painting…how to put things into words that I sometimes think is so automatic.”  Most teachers agreed with Heidi Snyders’ sentiment that “everyone can do art, and do it well.  There is no pass, fail.  And the beauty of that approach is that there is no bad art: the technique might not be polished, the experience lacking, but the art which equals the concept, the idea, the personal input, is always good, because it always reflects the individual.”  Every student will come up with their own unique take on a subject and are always willing to be open and learn.  Embrace this uniqueness, as does Dorothy DePaulo.

The knowledge, creativity and enthusiasm that these art teachers convey are what makes the classes offered through the LAC so enjoyable and educational.  If you haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity, it’s time you did.  Check out the class schedule at and sign up soon, as spaces fill up quickly.  And thank you to those instructors named above for your inspiration and teachings and for taking the time to share your thoughts for this article.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Spotlight on Colorado Artists

"Spotlight on Colorado Artists" is currently on display in the Loft Gallery at the LAC Art Center.

 On Thursday, August 30, a large crowd gathered for the opening reception of the new exhibit which will run through September 28. Artists and their friends gathered to enjoy this diverse show which includes 110 works done by 53 artists.
The awards were presented by President Barbara Benik and included (from left to right) Best of Show winner Katy Haas, third place winner Kathy Thaden, and Merit Award winners Barbara Tobiska, Ellen Masters, Arlene Krogstad and Kathy Berls.  Ellen is also the featured artist in the LAC Members Gallery downstairs.
  Juror Carol Cook provided the following comments on the award winners. Thanks Carol, for all your hard work in jurying the show for us!
Best of Show: "Orange Glow", acrylic by Katy Haas - "A show stopper! Excellent command of the medium.
Second Place:  "Native Vessel", wood  by George Diller - "Beautifully crafted with intricate detail" 
Third Place: "Ghost Ranch", mosaic by Kathy Thaden - "Unique use of glass in a landscape. I liked the contrast of the shiny glass with the matte finish of the background."
Merit Award: "The Red Bow", watermedia by Arlene Krogstad - "The contrast of lights and darks as well as the contrast of textures was very dramatic. A very professional piece."
Merit Award: "Up There", oil by Barbara Tobiska - "The soft colors, along with a variety of textures in this mountain scene is what drew me to this painting. I want to go there."
Merit Award: "Sunflower Patterns", oil by Kathy Berls - "The strong use of color and pattern, combined with the subtle reflections in the coffee cup made me want to look at this painting again and again.
Merit Award: "Peony Pride" watercolor by Ellen Masters - "Composition, color, value, along with the knowledge of the medium, all came together to make this a beautiful watercolor.
Article and photos submitted by Kathy Berls.