Tag Archives: art

Pan Pastels – Love Them, Love Them Not

pan pastelsRecently an artist friend recommended that I try pan pastels. She extolled their dustless virtues until I was itching to get myself a set. So when I came across a basic set on sale I jumped on it anxious to put them to the test.

I like the packaging and the way they screw together making a nice, neat stack. My set came with a few sponge applicators, but not handles for the sponge sleeves.

The consistency is creamy and they blend together beautifully. But dustless? They do have less dust than traditional sticks and of course it does make a difference what kind of surface you are using.

My first experiment was on  a lovely sanded paper. I did an under painting with the pans. Having just the basic set I felt very limited with the colors available. So I put in the basic shapes of boats, houses, mountains and trees. Then I resorted to my Sennelier sticks.

Leah Wiedemer, soft pastel, 6.5"x9"

Leah Wiedemer, soft pastel, 6.5″x9″

Yes, the sticks are much messier, but I don’t mind getting a little dirty when I work. I’m happy with the result but a little disappointed that I abandoned the pans in order to achieve the look I wanted.

For my next experiment I worked on Canson Mi Tientes paper on the smooth side.  I wanted to see if I could force myself to complete a painting using only pan pastels. First I laid in an under painting. The sponge applicators are great for blending and kept my fingers clean.

Under painting for Venice Rain by Leah Wiedemer

Under painting for Venice Rain by Leah Wiedemer

The colors looked like they were going to work. The pastels blended easily and created a minimal amount of dust. I continued working with the pan pastels indicating where I wanted the umbrellas, people and shop windows. Then when it came to final tweaking I again went back to my sticks. The temptation was just too great. I’m weak. I do love my Sennelier sticks and will probably continue to depend on them. There is something about the directness of stick to paper that makes me feel more connected to the work. Also I like an unblended swath of color here and there. I’ll use the pan pastels too, but only for backgrounds and under paintings.

Venice Rain, soft pastel by Leah Wiedemer 6.5"x9.5"

Venice Rain, soft pastel by Leah Wiedemer 6.5″x9.5″                                                  

What is your experience using pan pastels? Love ’em or hate ’em? I’d love to hear how you use them. Leave a comment to tell me what you think.


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5 Ways to Blow the Block

up against the wall

up against the wall

Every creative person experiences  dry seasons from time to time. The sooner you can get out of the desert, the sooner you can start your next masterpiece.  But what can you do to shake things up and start the juices flowing again? The following are some of the ways that I blow the artist block blues.

1. Learn something new. Take a class.  The wonders of the internet have made education very affordable. Nobody is cheaper than yours truly, but I will happily pay for a reasonably priced online art class. I’ve taken a number of classes online from Ken and Johannes Vloothuis through Wetcanvas.com . They are beyond reasonable and  informative. I always come away with wonderful nuggets of artistic wisdom to put into practice. If you can take an ‘in person’ class so much the better.

piles of tiles

piles of tiles

2. Try a new medium.  If you are a painter you could get some clay and try your hand at molding or sculpting. If you work predominantly with oil paints then give watercolor , encaustics, acrylic, scratch board or pastels a try. The unfamiliararity of a new medium can release your pent up creativity.

art show

art show

3. Visit a museum or go to an art show. Find out what other artists are doing. Look at the work of some old masters as well as some new cutting edge artists. Are there techniques you see that you can incorporate in your work?

4. Spend time with other creative folks. Art groups and writers groups are invaluable sources of creative inspiration and support. Find a group and get involved.

5. Try teaching a class. Every time I teach a class I learn a lot myself. It forces me to examine why I do the things I do and to pay closer attention to my processes.

These five practices for finding your creative sea legs again work for me. What works for you? I’d love to hear how you blow the artist block blues.

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My Right Brain Explosion

Over the past ten days or so I’ve been tuning  in to  a right brain business tele-summit hosted by Jennifer Lee of Artizan Coaching.  Some of the interviews were a bit hippy dippy, new age in nature, others were more practical. While I consider myself a right brain creative thinker, I’m not fluent in the language used by many self described spiritual folks. The minute certain terms are bandied about (ie. centering, the universe, and connecting with your inner source etc) my eyes glaze over and all I hear is Charlie Brown’s teacher – “Whaaa wha wha whaaa”.  In spite of that some truths have managed to penetrate my consciousness.   I have come away with a life changing paradigm shift.

Generosity and giving were running themes in many of the interviews. I do understand generosity and giving. They are principles that I have been taught since childhood and continue to grow in as an adult and christian. This is where the shift happened. I have always given out of my earnings so this wasn’t a new concept. My old way of doing business was that I sell something and give a percentage of that sale to a charity. But what if I think of my business as a means to give. By putting the giving first my whole perspective is flipped. I want to be able to give a certain amount to some of my favorite charitable organizations using my art work to fund my giving. So then it occurred to me that if I increase my giving percentage from ten to twenty percent my impact is doubled and I can really begin to give away significant amounts. Now I’m excited about my business making a contribution to more than just my personal bank account. Tell me what you think about this way of doing business. Maybe it isn’t an earth shattering revelation for you, but for me it’s truly life changing.  Thanks Jennifer.


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Can This Painting Be Saved – 2

Several people wrote that they couldn’t see my final photo of the repaired canvas well enough so I thought I would post a larger image here. I have continued to tweak this since yesterday, but I’m really trying to leave it alone now. I’m happy with the results and will put it in the frame sometime tomorrow. Hopefully this will never happen to you, but if it does at least you know all is not lost.

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DIY Mosaics

Have you shied away from artsy type projects thinking you just didn’t possess the creativity needed? Well, forget that thinking! Follow these simple steps and you can create a beautiful mosaic piece that will be the envy of all your friends. If you already are a creative type you can use your skills to ramp up the design aspects and really make something special. So let’s get started.

First, choose something you would like to decorate. I chose a very old, beat up dining table. It’s fairly large at a 45″x65″ oval, so if you don’t have a lot of time I recommend you start with something smaller. It could be a small table top,a flat picture or mirror frame or a wooden box. Just look around your house and see if you can find something that would be enhanced by mosaic tiles. Try to stick with something that has a flat surface. Round objects will be more difficult to work with.

my old table

A short disclaimer before I go any further. This is how I transformed my table. It might not be the proper way or even the best way, but it worked for me. So I believe it will work for you too.

I love the look of handmade Mexican tiles. The patterns and colors are vibrant, varied and will make your project uniquely beautiful. I purchased broken Mexican tiles through Ebay. For my project I needed 50 pounds of tiles. I ordered 40 pounds of patterned tiles and ten pounds of solid colors. So you can scale that up or down depending on the size of your object. Next you will need a good glue for porous surfaces. I used a large bottle of Sobo glue and it seemed to work fine. The grout I chose was an epoxy resin. It was more expensive than traditional grout but it is stain resistant. Since I was doing our dining table and spills happen this seemed the best option. If the object you will be tiling won’t be subjected to possible food stains or foot traffic feel free to go the traditional route. One negative about the grout I used is that it sets up very quickly, so that it took two of us working feverishly to finish before it was unworkable.

piles of tiles

Oh happy days! My tiles arrived and I can begin the sorting process. Some were smashed to pieces and others only had minor chips in the corners. Most were broken into about 6 shards. Also some of the tiles needed to be cleaned. Some had been taped together. I’m not sure why they did this when they were going to sell them as broken anyway, but it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. I sorted the tiles into color groups, separating the solid colors from the patterned. My plan was to guard against having all of the green in one area and blue in another. I wanted them all mixed together. I kept some of the intact tiles whole in an effort to lighten my labor. I planned where I wanted to place those. The remainder of tiles I sorted through, breaking some into smaller pieces with a hammer. They weren’t exactly surgical strikes. Then I had to tap any jagged edges carefully with my hammer to smooth them out. I decided to do a simple flower design on the two rounded ends of my table, so I planned that out ahead of time as well.

beginning to plan

That was a good few days work. Check back with me in a couple of days to see how we finish our table.

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Caution: Construction Site

In the old Star Trek episodes Doctor McCoy often said , “I’m a doctor Jim, not a ___________!”. Insert any random job. So, like old Doc McCoy, I’m saying “I’m an artist, not a construction worker!” Or am I? Said with my eyes rolled up to the top of my head and my index finger tapping my chin in an effort to appear contemplative.
So don your hard hats and safety glasses and we’ll get busy.

I’m often asked if I always use photographic references for my paintings or if I sometimes just paint out of my imagination. The answer is yes to both. I’ll use this painting as an example of how I usually ‘construct’ a painting.
On my recent trip to Tuscany I took my usual hundreds of photographs of the countryside and ancient streets in Tuscan villages. In one town we walked past two obviously lovingly restored antique Fiat 500s. So of course I snapped a picture. Our rental car was a new Fiat 500. I took a picture of that too. Back home in my studio I got the idea that combing the old and new Fiat 500s in a painting would make a nice composition. I then searched through my village pictures to find a street with the right amount of curve, angle and ancient charm to match my vision.
With my photo references chosen I was ready to begin construction. First I sketched in the street and buildings with thinned paint. Once I was satisfied with the perspectives I worked on placing the cars on the street to make them look believable and not pasted on as an after thought. This is the part of my construction project that took the most time. The lines and angles had to be rendered as accurately as I could manage, but also the scale had to be right

Many layers of paint later I decided to bring some people into my composition. The people were necessary to add life and keep my viewers eyes roving through the painting without getting stuck, bored or stagnant. This is where painting out of my imagination came in. Sometimes I have great figure references built right into my photo. This time that wasn’t the case, so I imagined people on the street noticing the cars as I had done a couple of months before. Once again I had to pay extra attention to placement and scale so as not to have my figures appear abnormal, but rather as though they belong in the scene.
A few more layers of paint on the sky and figures and I’m ready to include some foreground details. In house construction this might be paint, carpet and maybe decorating. Here I have added a suggestion of stone detail on the street foreground making it fade back in the distance.
You can take your hard hat and safety gasses off now and do a walk through. If I don’t see any immediate problems I sign my name and take a photograph. Sometimes I don’t notice a glaring defect until I look at the photo. Time to put the ‘For Sale’ sign out in the yard because I think this painting is truly finished. What do you think?

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I Paint Dead People

Margaret Waiting
Kind of creepy huh? The truth is that I also paint the living. The important thing (to me at least) is that they were captured on film revealing a bit of their personality as well as the personality of another era. I love to imagine what life was like for them in the early or even middle part of the twentieth century. Those old photos give me a glimpse at a life I never knew. Pictures of my grandparents first as children and then young adults seem to be strangers looking back at me. What are the emotions I see? What can I tell about their personalities? Were they happy? Scared? Weary? In love? In one picture there is a group of children standing in front of a house in the middle of nowhere. It appears to be around the end of the 1800’s and they all are wearing large hats and holding dolls. Hmmmm… I can’t begin to guess what that was about. In another picture I see my great Aunt as a young girl clowning around with a man’s hat. I didn’t know she had a sense of humor! Now I’m looking at two young men with their arms companionably draped over each others shoulders as they grin into the camera. One is smoking a cigar, the other a pipe. I like to think that they are best friends celebrating something. Maybe one of them is getting married in the morning. I have collected hundreds of these pictures from my parents and other relatives. I insist on snagging every photo destined for the trash bin as my parents prepare to relocate. “NO! I want that! I might want to paint it later!” Even if I never get around to painting half of them, it’s important to me that someone preserves our pictorial family history. It’s my pleasure to be that person. And besides, I will get around to using most of them as references in paintings eventually. If I live long enough. And if I don’t, maybe someone will paint my portrait from an old snapshot they find stuck in the bottom of a dresser drawer that they are getting ready to sell or throw out. Then the tradition will continue. They will “paint dead people”.

Have some old photographs you would like to have painted in either oil or soft pastel? Contact me at Leah@lwiedemer.com

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