An Interview with Frank Federico

Frank Federico "San Diego Fantasy"

Frank Federico "San Diego Fantasy"
Frank Federico “San Diego Fantasy”

Frank Federico, PSA, has been working in pastel for over five decades. He is a PSA Master Pastelist, IAPS Master Circle Member, past president of Connecticut Pastel Society, and holds signature membership in many other prestigious societies. Federico was the PSA hall of fame honoree for 2012.
There is an interesting and worth reading interview with Federico in PSA annual catalog for 2012. Below is the excerpt from the interview.
What qualities do you think make for a strong/good work of art?
Balance, whether symmetrical or asymmetrical. Interesting surface quality – this gives vent to adventures in surface. Some paintings can be deadly in their unappealing flatness; some can be over-surfaced, distracting from the content of a painting. A use of value that enhances the spatial qualities and depth to a painting. Color use that emulates nature but reflects one’s own persona. Recognizing and objectively using compositional tenets, whether it be the golden section, Feng Shui, or the seesaw principle of balancing around a central point.. This can help create well organized paintings or conversely open the door to departure from the stultifying aspects of the same principles.

Mark Leach Raw Colors

Mark Leach

Mark Leach
Mark Leach

It is hard to save this post under Old Pastel Masters category since Mark’s abstract landscapes are so very contemporary, but a category master would be very appropriate.
Mark Leach was a professional artist from Sussex, England. He passed away suddenly in the summer of 2008. He was a leading figure in the world of contemporary pastel painting with many prizes and publications to his name. A self-taught artist, Mark quit a successful career in computers and management consultancy in his early 30s to become a full-time painter.
As a young artists, he wanted to do something that had never been done before. He worked in impressionistic style in acrylics, incorporating some of the actual soil or sand from the landscapes into the paint. After some time he began looking for the essence and spiritual elements in his subjects. This led him into the abstract realm where he began using pastel to get down his thoughts quickly. He used pastels in a colorist way even though his palette was many times made of pale colors.
He painted neither an plain air nor from the references but rather from memory which holds the essence and not the details of the scene. That essence is what he wanted to communicate. Most of his paintings are in soft pastels as he saw pastels as the most efficient and most rewarding medium for satisfying his color needs. Mark’s favorite pastels were Unison, partly because he found the color range more subtle than many others and partly because of their size. He also used Sennelier quite a lot because some of the colors are really strong— blues, in particular. He used to prepare mountboard with a mixture of acrylic gesso and pumice dust, then paint it with acrylic mixed with yet more pumice to ensure a good tooth. These underpaintings were generally very dark blue, red or orange. Leach preferred to work from dark to light because of the vibrancy it can lend the pastels. His rule of thumb was that the underpainting should be at least as dark as the darkest tone in the final painting. In his book, Raw Colors With Pastels, the artist explains that he regularly exploits color psychology to communicate mood. As a result, many of his paintings are close to monochromes—shades of blue that convey peace and coolness, or reds that speak of heat and excitement.
Mark was elected to The Pastel Society (UK) in 1994 and was an active member and regular exhibitor. He was elected to the Council in 1997 and was already elected to be the president in 2009, but did not live long enough to claim that honor.

Download the Pastel Journal article about Mark.

“I therefore tend towards the abstract. If the work is too figurative, this well may detract from what I am trying to say. If the painting is being viewed primarily as a picture of something then the qualities of that object will get in the way of the painting itself. If the tree looks too much like a tree then it is just a tree: the painting will have little purpose. I want my painting to be a lot more than this, more than just a representation, more than just a clever representation, it must have its own unique beauty. A balance of the emotional and the physical.” …for more, read the manifesto on his website.

Mark Leach book “I do not use color to reflect what I see, but to express how I feel, or want to feel,” Leach writes in his book, Raw Colour with Pastels. “Although artists should avoid the formulaic, it’s broadly accepted that red conveys a sense of energy, passion and excitement; yellow optimism and joy; while blue speaks of hope, peace and calm. Of the secondaries, orange denotes warmth and honesty; green is the color of youth, energy and nature; and purple or violet can be both feminine and erotic, religious or spiritual.”

Paula Rego

Paula Rego Broken Promises

Paula Rego Broken Promises
Paula Rego "Broken Promises"

Paula Rego was born in Portugal, Lisbon in 1935. She grew up in a republican and liberal family, linked to both English and French culture, and studied at St. Julian’s School in Carcavelos. In the 1950s, her father encouraged her to pursue her artistic career away from the Portugal, and Paula enrolled at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London, aged just 17. She met several artists at the school, including her future husband, Victor Willing. In her earliest works, Paula was strongly influenced by Surrealism, particularly the work of Juan Miro. This manifested itself not only in the type of imagery that appeared in these works but in the method Rego employed which was based on the Surrealist idea of automatic drawing, in which the artist attempts to disengage the conscious mind from the making process to allow the unconscious mind to direct the image making. Rego began using pastels as a medium in the early 1990s, and continues to use this medium to this day, almost to the exclusion of oil paint. Paula Rego is claimed by many as one of the top figurative artists of our time. Her work Broken Promises (in this post) was sold at London Christie’s in February 2012 for over a million dollars.
Rego’s quote on this work: “[Broken Promises] started off as Madame Butterfly, in which a girl is abandoned by a man who much later returns to her, bringing his wife. My grand daughter Lola posed on the chair and then I put Lila on the bed with a toy that disgusts her and can’t really satisfy her. I wanted everything jagged and broke up all the umbrellas so that they would have their spikes coming out. In the end I added Saint Sebastian, who actually is pierced by arrows. What interested me was the jaggedness of the relationship and the actual physical look of it.”
Paula currently lives and works in London.

Paula Rego (b. 1935)
Broken Promises
pastel on paper laid down on board, mounted on aluminium
63 1/8 x 47 3/8in. (160.5 x 120.2cm.)
Executed in 2006
sold at Christies London for $1,142,055.17

Click on picture to see the large version at the Christie’s website.

Main Course by Don Judah

Don Judah "Main Course"

Don Judah "Main Course"
Don Judah "Main Course"

Don Judah‘s painting First Course (in this post) was selected as an outstanding pastel painting at the November 2011 BoldBrush competition. Here is how Don describes his art.
“Art has always been my first love. My formal education in art was limited to high school and college elective classes and a few excursions into available classes in the evenings when time would permit. After my retirement from forty four years in health care, I have had the opportunity to return to drawings and painting and continue my education in art. Over the last four years I have returned to the study of art beginning with the most elementary drawing classes available. In this beginning period of my education I was fortunate to find a life drawing class that has offered me an opportunity to continue to develop my artistic talents and move into pastel figure drawing. I have a love of pastel and enjoy the process of developing a painting from a simple gesture composition, into a charcoal value drawing and finally into a finished pastel drawing. Drawing the human figure is most challenging and the most rewarding experience. The most extraordinary aspect of painting the human figure is that it is ever changing. There is always something new to be found, some subtle form or transition from one shape to another. Every person and every pose is different. The continuing challenge is to attempt to capture that special essence of every subject you draw or paint. As you may assume most of my work over the last few years is focused on figurative art. I just finished transforming a small barn into studio at my home in Napa and I plan to continue to learn and paint and appreciate the opportunity to begin a new adventure in the world of art.”

Click on the image for the higher resolution.

Dominique Bisson Winner of Les Pastellistes International 2011

Dominique Bisson "Le temps des lilas"

Dominique Bisson "Le temps des lilas"
Dominique Bisson "Le temps des lilas"

Pastel Society of Eastern Canada 16th edition of Les Pastellistes International Exhibition selected by jury was held from November 4th to 13th, 2011. The top prizes were awarded to the following artists
1. Dominique Bisson, Le temps des lilas (see the painting above)
2. Carmen Caron-Lafrance, Artifices
3. Danielle Richard, Petite fleur
4. Siddick Nuckcheddy (île Maurice), Solitude sinistre
5. Mary Dorland, Here Come the Brides

Bill Creevy in PSA Hall of Fame

Bill Creevy "Red Caddie"

Bill Creevy "Red Caddie"
Bill Creevy "Red Caddie"

Each year the Pastel Society of America selects an outstanding artist to be included in the Hall of Fame to honor his or her special achievements in pastel painting. The artist included this year (2011) was Bill Creevy, a widely exhibited New York artist with over twelve solo shows.
Originally a native of New Orleans, Bill holds an MFA degree from Louisiana State University and a BA degree from the University of New Orleans. Bill Creevy’s painting style is representational and he paints still lifes, landscapes and figures. He is the author of The Pastel Book, a thorough guide to pastel materials and techniques, with many stimulating demonstrations. This is a must read for pastel lovers and if you are interested in the book, first read an excellent book review by Katherine Tyrrell on her blog Making a Mark.

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