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Ariana Windle pastel demonstration, 20 Aug 2004

Ariana is an artist and tutor based at Burford College, Oxfordshire. She is associated with Art Profile, www.artprofile.co.uk, where you can see some of her work.

Ariana is also involved in painting holiday/weekend courses. For example, as part of "West Mill 2004" in Welcombe, Devon she will be working with sculptor Briony Lawson to give a 4-day residential course, 16 to 19 September 2004 (for more information contact Briony Lawson photos@andrewlawson.com or 'phone 01608 811483)

No formal write-up this time - just your webmaster's personal notes of a few of Ariana's more memorable comments.

Ariana's development of an imaginary woodland landscape provided a relaxed, informative and entertaining evening during which we were exposed to an artist's thought processes. Photos may follow.

Try doing several pictures of one scene using different media.
Think hard and long before painting.
Keep looking at your work from the distance you might expect it to be seen from.
Stop working on a picture if you become dissatisfied with it - put it to one side until you can see clearly what needs doing
Try using a "dead" pen (ball pen, fibre tip, anything) to dent or scratch the surface. With pastel, a dead ball pen dents the paper so that a fine line of background colour shows through when you work over it. With watercolour, paint settles in the dent making a fine line of stronger colour.

Working as she did, on a fairly dark paper, Ariana first does a compositional sketch. She likes to establish the tonal extremes very early on, from the lightest to the darkest (darker even than the paper). For dark darks, black by itself is normally a "no-no" but it provides an excellent base for colours to bring the black to life. She prefers to establish darks first, sometimes spreading and darkening them with a Pentel water brush but never, I think, once blending (smudging) with her fingers.

The lights are then built up with myriad touches of colour, using the same stick over many parts of the picture to give it coherence. Another aid to coherence is to keep out all the colours used, rather than putting them back in the box where they might get lost. Incidentally, Ariana's pastels were the cleanest I've ever seen - achieved by a combination of scrupulous separation of dissimilar colours, the maintenance of colour charts (so she could order exactly the colours she needed) and by occasional cleaning with rice and/or cloths.

I was surprised at how early she started to put detail, fine detail, into the centre of interest. Whereas I fear ruining the whole thing if a last-minute background doesn't work, she had enough confidence to know that with pastel at least, one can always continue working until you have exactly the right environment (foreground and background) for the most important and interesting parts of the composition.

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