Still Life in Pastel Demonstration
Lorraine Wigcraft, 19 March 2022

Report by Colin Browne and Kelly Grace

A big occasion as we tried ourselves out in the new Hub. A good crowd of about 45 arrived to the arena which had been well-prepared by the WAA committee. A double room with two linked screens gave everybody a good view.

WAA President, Fiona McVilly, introduced Lorraine
Wigcraft, who as many members would know, has been teaching at WAA for many years. She also had some beautiful examples of her work on display. Lorraine has been the recipient of many prestigious awards over the years.

Still Life Subject

Today’s subject was to be a still life. On the day before they made the set-up, including a dragon fruit, two pears, purple flowers and two jars. The tall jar provided a subject that involved a strong light on the top shading to dark at the base. It was quite a challenge.
A spotlight had been set up overhead to give a strong contrast. Six ladies, including Lorraine, had argued for two hours about the set-up. It can take longer.

Lorraine had chosen to work on an Art Spectrum
Colourfix surface in dark olive. Colourfix is a paper with a surface prepared especially for working in pastel, having a texture similar to fine sandpaper which can take many layers of pastel. Lorraine had prepared a foundation sketch of the still life in charcoal to save on time. Lorraine said she likes to use charcoal for the underdrawing, as it is easy to rub off if you make a mistake. However, she said she doesn’t always start with charcoal, sometimes she uses pencil, or pastel pencil.

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Once started on applying colour she said that there are always many colours in what looks like a plain area of colour. With a colour in your hand look around the picture for other places you can use it. That way you create links of colour that result in a cohesive composition. She said that everything has more than one colour, due to the way light or shadow falls on it.

When asked if there are names for the different strokes
Lorraine said , “Yes, but not really.” Meaning there are
different strokes, but they are not called by specific terms. You can use the broad side of the pastel to sweep over larger areas or use the tip to make fine strokes or details; use cross-hatching, or scumble the pastel over the top layer to create depth and texture. Start out with light-strokes, building up to heavier layers, as you don’t want to fill up the ‘tooth’ of the surface too quickly.
Lorraine was a fount of knowledge and shared many
tips, such as how it is important to step back from your
work regularly, to reassess; and if you half-close your
eyes, or squint, it is easier to see the main values of your painting. Try to observe the colours of things, note how the light falls on it, how the shadows change it. Charcoal mixed with green tones things down, and it softens the green to make it look more natural. Another tip is you can use a kneadable eraser to lift mistakes; but you can also apply a bit of white gesso to brighten up an area.
Lorraine showed us how she lightly rubbed the pastel
with her fingers in the direction of the curve of the bottle, to indicate the contour of the rounded shape. She said she doesn’t hold with the ‘rule’ of not touching your painting – she gently rubs or blends where necessary – “Do whatever makes the painting” – just have a light touch and don’t overdo the rubbing, or you will end up with a muddy painting.
She had many tips about managing pastels, such as
cleaning them with rice flour. Soft and hard pastels were used more or less at the same time, though it is often best to start with the harder pastels so the softer pastels can be on the final layers – again so the tooth isn’t filled up too quickly. Experience told her what effects each offered. They were applied lightly. Lorraine sometimes likes to challenge herself by using a limited palette of colours, forcing her to create the colours she wants by combining unexpected colours.
By afternoon tea she had colour on most of the main
objects. Afternoon tea was an extravaganza! What a
feast! Thank you members who brought food.