James - California, USA
to pastels. Do you paint all the way to the edge of the paper or do you
have to leave a margin? If so, how much?
I always paint to the edge of the paper
which makes it a little harder for my framer when applying the matting
Leaving about a 1” margin is a good idea if you choose to do that. It depends
on how your work is framed and presented. Some galleries actually prefer the
“floating” look where the entire paper is visible and basically sits on a back
Usually works done on a paper with a deckled edge are more appropriate
for this kind of presentation.
Eric - Washington, USA
don't spray fixative on your paintings. The painting must get bumped and
dropped a lot if it's going across country
and I imagine that this is a risk to the painting's image.
of the pastel fall off of the paper during the shipping process?
Because of my method of working, there is very little residual pastel dust on the finished painting
to begin with.
Consequently, my paintings ship very well. The only time I had problems with
any dusting on the inside of the framing glass
was the result of the painting being dropped from the back of a UPS delivery
truck. I cleaned the inside of the glass and did
a few minor touch ups on the painting and luckily, it was fine. Normal shipping and
transit has no adverse affects on my paintings
otherwise. A good rule of thumb that I use when shipping original work (I
typically use UPS) is to insure it for a minimum of $5,000.
Items insured this highly receive special “kid glove” handling and are kept in
high value “safe” storage areas, separate from most
other bulk packages during transit.
Lynn - USA
you don't like using fixative, so, how do you know that a picture framer won't
smear your work while framing it?
You have to be very
adamant about the fact that the painting is unfixed, especially when dealing
with a framer for the first time.
A framer who’s a trained & certified PPFA member (Picture Framers Association of
America) is a pretty safe bet.
The framer you deal with should also make it very clear to anyone else handling
or working on the painting how to handle the
unfixed work. I’ve dealt with the same framer for about 10 years for all of my
original works and she’s a gem.
Don’t be afraid to shop around until you’re totally comfortable in who you deal
How do you store your work?
store my paintings in large, sturdy, flat photo film boxes or shipping cartons.
After I’ve created a digital file of the painting I have matted using acid free needle
point board as backing material. I don’t always frame every painting immediately so the
matting keeps the painting flat and
somewhat protected, at least from a handling standpoint. It also allows for
convenient storing and minimizes the risk of
someone accidentally touching and/or damaging the work.
Michael - Rhode Island
First of all I
want to say I really admire your beautiful artwork.
You mentioned in one of your answers to a question that you
stored your artwork
in large flat photo film boxes or shipping cartons,
my question is where would
I purchase these?
Unfortunately, the large film boxes that
I use to store my unframed pastels appear to be going the way of the film
cameras. I used to get mine for no charge at commercial printers and photo
labs that used large sheets of film.
You may still find some but they’re
becoming scarce. Another alternative is to create your own which is a little
Cardboard “pads” can be purchased almost anywhere in various
sizes. Then it’s just a matter of creating a box that is 1-2” in
gluing or taping a 1” sq. frame of wood around the inside edges. Just make
sure you use acid free buffering material between the artwork and cardboard if
storing this way for any amount of time.
Is it alright
to use pure white in the shine or highest highlight in a portrait?
I never use white to create highlights on flesh tones if that’s what you’re
referring to. White doesn’t occur (at least naturally) on
human skin. I personally feel it gives a portrait an artificial or doll
like look. If the flesh tones and
values in your portrait are painted
correctly, you can use a VERY pale flesh or
yellow to creates effective and even striking
highlights. I only use pure white to highlight hair and
Stephanie - Oklahoma
Has there ever been an incident where a customer has contacted you about their
commissioned pastel painting fading?
No. The permanence of pastels is what makes
it such a great medium. I invite you to read more about it on
my website here.
Have you ever pastel painted on Suede Matt Board?
I can’t imagine
trying to use pastels on a suede surface, at least dry pastels, with my method
of working. I do a lot of
blending and layering so I need a paper with a certain amount of texture and
tooth to hold the pastels in place.
Jana - East Germany
What colors do you use for light skin tones?
use a bone white, pale yellow-white, pink, flesh and a touch of yellow
orange where needed. I never use
pure white as it gives the skin an artificial look.
Can you live
from the sales of your paintings?
I have made a living from selling, publishing, and licensing my paintings for
the last 10 years. Sometimes
it can be more difficult than others, but I always seem to get over the
JON - Skaneateles, NY
I find that it is very
hard to get such
detail to stay sharp as I smear it by accident while working on other
parts of the painting. (How can I avoid this?)
Try using a maul stick while you work. This allows you
to rest and steady your painting hand without
touching the surface of the
painting. You could also work from top to bottom to avoid trying
over areas you've already completed. It also avoids adverse effects of any
drifting pastel dust as you work.
What do you use for sketching before you use the pastels, and on what color paper, if
I use a pastel pencil
(dark brown) to sketch out the composition, and I always use white paper. For me
it's the perfect "color" which, of course, may not be right for someone else.
Never be afraid
to experiment with different colored papers. Because I completely cover
the surface of the paper, I prefer white.
as should any materials
that come in contact with the paper surface.
Do you do your own
I don't do my own
framing as it's just too involved, nor do I have the proper equipment. I
have all of my originals framed by
a professional framer with a membership in the Professional Picture Framers
Association of America (PPFA). These framers are located throughout the country and have to go through intensive training
programs before becoming certified.
Do you use foam
board at all for your support or in framing?
The backing that my
framer uses is called acid free needlepoint board. Even though it's a
cardboard like material, it's
extremely resilient and provides great protection for the back of my paintings,
which are done on paper. It should always be non-acidic
LARIAN - Australia
Do you experiment and
use other mediums with your pastels?
What you're referring
to in art terms is "mixed medium painting", which involves the use of
more than one type
of medium on a painting (watercolor and colored pencil / charcoal and oils for
examples). I have done some experimenting with
mixed mediums, but prefer to work exclusively with pastels at this point in
time. I feel that I achieve
with just the one medium.
PAUL - Red Bank, NJ
When you're painting, how often do you use fixative?
I never use fixative on my pastel paintings. The beauty of the raw, unfixed, dry
pigments that make up pastels, combined with the fact that there are no additives, chemicals, or oils that might cause
the painting to discolor, darken, or crack over time, make for a very stable and lasting look/work. Fixative can also cause certain colors to
change when it's applied. For these reasons, adding a chemical fixative is something that I avoid.
Do you work on an easel or in some
I work on a large drawing table adjusted to a vertical position so the painting
is parallel / perpendicular to my line of vision.
Painting this way prevents visual distortion, and subsequently distorted and
incorrectly drawn elements within my paintings.
How long does it take you to paint each picture and are you always pleased
with the finished work?
It depends on the size of the painting. I work in two basic sizes,
with the smaller sized paintings measuring 22 X 30". This size takes me an average of 10-12 days of actual painting time. My
larger paintings measure 30 X 44" and can take up to 3 weeks to complete.
not always completely pleased with the finished work.
However, the more I paint, the better the outcome. Creating quality work
is analogous to exercising...the more you work
at it, the healthier/better you are.
painted all your life?
No. I graduated from art school a number of years ago and became a musician
not long after (the lure of my youthful
seed sowing I guess), so
I have only been painting full time about 11 years.
Kansas City, MO
Do you always draw your paintings before
filling them in, or just start painting
I don't do finished drawings of my paintings, but rather outline, before I start them. Using
the photos I've taken as reference material, I outline the key elements for positioning
and composition. Once I'm satisfied, I basically approach the painting as
one would a coloring book, working from top left to bottom right
so that any drift from the pastels will not affect what's below it in the
painting. I also work from background to foreground, finding it easier to add
and build the layers of the painting this way.
Who was/is your biggest inspiration, and have you always
My biggest inspiration would have to be my mother in my personal life. She
always encouraged me at every turn.
Of course, I didn't always listen to her early on due to other youthful
pursuits, but I eventually realized how right,
and perceptive, she was as to my potential ability. Unfortunately, she died many
years before I had fully developed
my artistic skills. My dad, who passed away a few years ago, was able to see
what I accomplished as an artist.
I've always greatly admired the work of Vermeer, Ingres,
Rembrandt, Rockwell, and others, along with several of the French Impressionists. There wasn't one particular artist who inspired me,
rather a number of them during different phases of my own development. I've always loved drawing, which is what working
in pastels is a natural extension of. I don't enjoy oil painting as much, and I currently "paint"
exclusively with pastels, and do indeed love working in this great medium.
ANDREA - N. Andover, MA
How do you come up with the background
ideas for your portraits/paintings?
I think of my paintings as
narratives or stories, so a background is a necessary part of what is being
said. I would imagine my
approach isn't that much different from other artists who paint similar subject matter
and style. Rockwell obviously comes to mind, and was certainly a master at
story telling. I try to keep a more everyday look to my paintings and
still convey the message and story. Sometimes it works better than others.
How do you come up with your ideas?
More often than not, I get an
idea in my head and let it develop for while. When I see the same basic
idea the same way, then I know it's ready to
photograph. Setting it up with the appropriate people/models is fun and
challenging. The great thing about painting kids ideas is that there's
often a spontaneous
element that takes place during the actual shooting that often makes the idea an
even better one. From there, it's just a matter of taking the
necessary photos (sometimes 2 to 3 rolls and several different sessions) until I
feel comfortable that I have all the reference material I need to do the painting. I generally use about 5 to 6 of the best photos to work
TONY- Eagle, ID
What brand of pastels do you use, and which
do you find layer the best?
I use several brands of pastels,
including Nupastels, Rembrandts, Faber Castell Poloychromos, and a few others
not worth mentioning. I also use a few pastels pencils for fine detail, but usually I accomplish what I need to with
the Nupastels & Rembrandts.
Any of these brands layer/blend well, including with each other, which is important.
What kind of paper or support do you
use to get such intricate detail?
I use a hand made paper that I get from NY Central Art Supply in NY City called
Pastel Deluxe, and I'm pretty sure that this is the only location where it
can be purchased. The paper is key to layering and it depends on just how much
tooth it has. The heavier the tooth, the more layers you can apply. It also depends on how heavily the pastels are applied. Pastel Deluxe has
enough tooth to allow up to 3 layers of pastels, depending on how heavily I
apply it. Of course, everyone's method and style of working are different, so it's pretty
important to experiment with different papers and pastel combinations.