Back when I would travel the country doing demonstrations at shows and art groups, I would show off just how good the pastel pencils can be. I loved this part of the job because of the audience reaction. The “oohs” and “aahs” were actually audible in the crowd, they were seeing pictures magically come to life..
When we choose projects for our students, we have to think about how the subject material will translate to a course.
Would it make a good lesson?
Would the student be able to do it?
We’re delighted to reveal a brand new section to Colin Bradley Art: Demonstrations
With Demonstrations I am truly showing what the Pastel Pencils can do and more importantly, how far you can take them.
In truth, I have surprised myself with the work I have produced. I didn’t intend for people to follow them as a project as they are very difficult. It’s more to show you advanced techniques and the results you can achieve with the pencils.
If you have read my art story then you will know I am an avid fan of John Constable’s work. In this first demonstration I will show you how I did his picture of “The Cornfield” with pastel pencils. Here it is:
The demonstration is approximately 4 hours long and is available to ALL IN members of the site today.
To watch a 2 Minute Time-Lapse of the picture, see below:
About the Picture
To hear behind the scenes of why I chose Constable, the materials I used and what’s to come. Then have a listen to our Podcast below. There is a transcription of the episode if you want to read the show too.
Pictures and Audio:
Stephen Bradley: Hello and welcome to Colin Bradley Art Cast, I’m Stephen Bradley
Colin Bradley: and I’m Colin Bradley
Stephen Bradley: this is a very special show, people don’t realise what’s coming up but this is something that we’ve been planning for a long time and it’s really exciting to be able to talk about it finally and reveal it.
Colin Bradley: I’ve been chomping at the bit as you know with the last podcast we’ve been doing.
Stephen Bradley: and we have been teasing…
Colin Bradley: hold back Colin
Stephen Bradley: we’ve been teasing people a little bit as well, haven’t we?
Colin Bradley: yeah
Stephen Bradley: throughout talking about PastelMat, talking about this and that, well finally we can reveal what it’s all about and what’s to come. So, we’re launching…we will talk about it in a moment throughout this podcast but in a brief summary we’re introducing a new section on the website for ALL IN members only called “demonstrations”, and these pictures are in one word stunning, it’s unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. No holding back, this is incredible to watch. So, let’s start because the first picture which people would have hopefully seen by now, it would be on the website, it will be on the Facebook page, you can check it out while you’re listening to this. We’re going to talk about the first demonstration which is “Constable’s -”, what’s the actual?
Colin Bradley: The Cornfield
Stephen Bradley: So why constable? Why did you choose this demonstration of the Cornfield from Constable and why him?
Colin Bradley: Well, first of all why constable, well as people would know if they’re regulars and have known me a while I’m a great Constable Fan and I started off in the National Gallery as people know from the art story, I saw his work there and was bowled over by it and I remember thinking of myself at the time one day I would love to do that, not realising I was practical not realising I would never would be able to, but one day. So, it’s really come full circle…why Constable? he’s a great artist and there’s nothing about his work that you can look at and think yeah well that’s okay but, his skies were great, his trees were phenomenal, his characterisations were out of this world and one of the things I remember looking at his pictures in the National Gallery, I got as close as I possibly could to the picture and I didn’t understand how he can create a character with just splashes of a paintbrush, that’s all it was, twist here, twist there and he had a character. But I realised that that’s where the mastery is, that’s where the true artist comes from, it’s something that you having inside you that you can see and understand exactly how you want that character to present themselves to be alive.
Difficult to explain, you’ve got to see it. So this is really why Constable…his animals were great, a lot of his work was impressionistic in terms of it didn’t put every blade of grass in, he didn’t put every leaf in but it looked like he did. That’s the difference between him and a lot of the other impressionistic pictures who didn’t worry about so much Monet particularly didn’t have…worry about that, but still they were still great artists in their own right, so that’s why Constable fitted me like a glove.
Stephen Bradley: and you can really see the influence in his style in your work.
Colin Bradley: you can.
Stephen Bradley: it’s very much you’re the John Constable of pastel pencils.
Colin Bradley: I think you’re probably right there, well I wouldn’t have certainly wouldn’t have been presumptuous or enough to say that, but now you said it yes probably right. I have been influenced even was being influenced since from the beginning and still am. A lot of the work, but I never even dreamed the pastel pencils could produce the kind of results that people would have seen in this picture.
Stephen Bradley: that leads on really nicely to the next question. So with this demonstration which materials did you use and why is it so different from your other work?
Colin Bradley: right, well if I had been sticking with the ingres and restricted to the colours that I have in the Faber range, I probably couldn’t have done it. It’s because when I decided to start a new demonstration section, I thought okay, this is a demonstration only we don’t expect the people to do this picture. However, as you know I’m giving them a line drawing if they want have a go they can, but they’ve got to remember that this is going to be extremely difficult to do, however it’s there as a demonstration to show how good the pastel pencils are if you broaden your range which is what I did, the range I had was the normal Faber range and I introduced some Cretacolor and some Swan Stabilo CarbOthello pencils, they’re the only three makes but people when they look at the picture and they have other makes, they couldn’t put the colours, suitable colours in. It’s just that I wasn’t going to restrict myself, had I done I wouldn’t be able to produce the picture, it’s as simple as that.
So that’s the first thing, so you’ve got to expand the range. I decided having done…well I must have done about a dozen pictures before I tackled this and you’re going to see them all on the website eventually. So that gave me practice.
Stephen Bradley: a dozen pictures on PastelMat
Colin Bradley: on PastelMat
Stephen Bradley: so the key difference with this one and the ingres is the pastel…the difference the PastelMat has made.
Colin Bradley: the PastelMat made yeah. PastelMat, and I found the colour that suited me best was the dark grey for some reason, I used the green and I’d use the blue and I think they worked very well but this particular picture needed the dark grey and armed with that, it was…it worked really well it meant I could lay the colours one after the other on to the PastelMat and create a depth which I probably wouldn’t be able to on a lighter colour, so this is the reason I chose the dark grey and the other reason is that, I used the white tracedown that we have, now with the dark grey you can’t…you can but it doesn’t work if you use the graphite.
Stephen Bradley: you can’t really see a pencil line on it.
Colin Bradley: you can’t see it for one thing, you’ll be lost completely and so the white tracedown work really well but here came another problem, you can imagine how intricate the picture could have been with the Cornfield, is so much detail in there and trying to draw it as you would draw a picture and you’ve seen me do animals and landscapes before where I put a lot of detail in and then erase it slightly so that I can fill it in and not have the graphite affect the…pastel can’t do that with pastel that and the white trace down, what you get is an outline only just the outline, so you have to do a lot of creativity and a lot of thought has to go into each section of the picture you’re doing, you can’t just go round fill in the detail.
Stephen Bradley: Yeah
Colin Bradley: you fill in the lines, so you’ve got a lot of work to do but that was an advantage. So really I was going back to what Constable would have done originally, he would have produced wash on and it would have been a darker wash on his canvas and then he would have used a paint brush I’d expect or charcoal whatever he decided to use to give himself outlines. Now, once you put oil on top of the outlines you can’t see it anymore, it’s gone.
Stephen Bradley: yeah.
Colin Bradley: so you have to be creative within that…
Stephen Bradley: because you can’t do that with pastel pencil
Colin Bradley: no
Stephen Bradley: you can’t just layer it and it’s gone
Colin Bradley: well actually I was doing that. One of the advantages I had by having the dark grey though, if I was doing say a face for instance I could leave traces of the pastel paper or the PastelMat showing through so I could see where my lines were, in other words put the white on then I’ll put a darker colour for the stronger tones, I don’t have to explain it, you can see that later on.
Stephen Bradley: definitely you will see it.
Colin Bradley: when you see the demonstration but this change the way I worked and as soon as I started I realised this was going to be hard for people to pick up because you have to have a lot of experience really to understand it. However one of the other things that I found when you’re doing clouds for instance, I mean, people have seen my clouds, people say wow you can make a good job of clouds but you’ve got a restriction on the ingres. I know I’ve done sunsets and darks and clouds before but the clouds on Constable’s pictures need a lot more intensity and this is where I thought okay, PastelMat will give me that, it did.
Stephen Bradley: why is that? Is because you can put more pastel on?
Colin Bradley: yes you can put more on although you still got a restriction, you still cannot keep putting it over and over and over like oil or acrylic you can do that, it won’t work and you have to put base colours on to…people think oh, you don’t need to do that anymore, you do, you do need the base colour needs to go in and then the colours subsequently on top, so you still work from light to dark.
Stephen Bradley: pastel pencils are still translucent
Colin Bradley: they are
Stephen Bradley: they are still the same medium, doesn’t change the medium.
Stephen Bradley: it just changes the application
Colin Bradley: no, however what happens is the effect that you see almost immediately as soon as you start putting it together you see immediately something different about it. Now if you’ve got the experience then you can manipulate, that’s the best word I can go, you can manipulate the pastel pencil to work like oil and when you see a close up… when I’m doing the trees or the foliage and the branches and all the other bits and pieces you’ll see it looks like oil actually when I finished it. So, you’re getting the same kind of effect but it has to, if you want to produce the Cornfield like Constable does you’ve got to make it look like oil which it does and that’s only because we have the combination of those three things. We have the pastel pencil range which is extensive. You’ve got the PastelMat paper the dark colour and you’ve got the white tracedown which gives you the three ingredients really that go to make it up, the only thing that we can’t give you is the skill.
Stephen Bradley: that then nicely brings on to the next question, so these demonstrations are designed for (if you’re going to follow them) for a certain skill level. What was your reasoning behind doing these demonstrations originally because demonstrations that you’ve done in the past out on the road, in the art groups and such, it has been a demonstration they have not followed you, they’ve just been watching what you can do.
Colin Bradley: absolutely
Stephen Bradley: and feel inspired
Colin Bradley: that’s right
Stephen Bradley: is that the focus that you are coming out with this?
Colin Bradley: exactly, that’s exactly it. The idea is that I wanted to show how good the pastel pencils were, when I used to do my demonstrations at the shows and the art shows and all over, I was there to sell the idea of the pastel pencil and this is what I’m doing again. I want people to be inspired to see how good they are, they’re not just throwaway medium, well yeah they’re only a pencil, no longer they are not, now they are a force to be reckoned with and I really don’t think there is another medium that could other than oil that could have produced it, okay you say well yeah but if I got oil paints, will I be able to do it? No, you won’t. To do oil painting to the level that we have in Constable I couldn’t do it, I really couldn’t do it. If you said to me they are Colin, all the oil paints, here is your brushes now go and produce a Constable like the Cornfield I couldn’t do it. I would have to have lots and lots and lots of practice, even then I don’t think I could have done it, the sort of colour mixing for one thing which you got to master before you even begin, so no you couldn’t do that, and so I think this is the only medium that could have produced a Cornfield like I did.
Stephen Bradley: now, when people are…say if people just want to watch this, the techniques that they’ll be able to watch you use and the effects that you’re able to produce are really going to be something different to what they’ve seen before.
Colin Bradley: I would say not so much different but a different way of utilising the same thing, it’s like someone cooking a really fantastic meal with a set of ingredients and if you are a master chef that is going to taste fantastic, if you’re someone who is just started it’s not going to taste fantastic at all. So what you’ve got basically is all those ingredients I have put together but you have to have a certain understanding of how that’s put together, but I would say that if you’re inspired by this you could use some of the techniques that I’m using, you could use them on your PastelMat paper even on your ingres. I don’t think it’s going to be wasted, the idea though is to inspire, you used the word inspire and this is what I want to do, to inspire people to say gosh one day like I did many years ago, one day I’d love to be able to do that. Because you know I started from nothing, I did no experience at all and my first efforts were very poor. Now I’m producing pictures to the standard that I am. It’s only because I’ve worked at it and I love the work that I do and I love doing these pictures because for what… for the first time really I’ve been let off the leash.
Stephen Bradley: Yeah, that’s lovely. So let’s talk about the pictures that are going to be coming up, let’s whet people’s appetites with revealing the Constable, people will be able to see that demonstration, where did it go from there?
Colin Bradley: well, although we had the good idea of doing this, I didn’t really at that time when I did the Cornfield I didn’t realise just how much enthusiasm I would have to continue with it. I thought this is in fact when I looked at it today my first thought was I don’t know, I don’t know and I looked at it… I don’t know, shall I and then I thought well why not, let’s have a go with it. Because it was quite an undertaking. As soon as I started I knew that I was going to finish it because I was loving every minute I was doing it, I really enjoyed it, now having got that far and seeing the end results I showed to people, friends and family and everybody was just bowled over but there was no explanation and I remember your sister’s partner, he looked at it and he was just absolutely lost for words…I can’t believe he said, and he’s seen my work before.
And this kind of reaction is what I would expect people to see and say goodness you didn’t do that with pastel pencil, no way. So, that inspired me to think right if I can do a John Constable Cornfield that people know and love and can go to the National Gallery because it’s hanging in London in the National Gallery and see for themselves, can I do it with others? Then we talked about the idea of doing this…extending it, not just as a one off demonstration but as a series and from then onwards the next one I did was the Gainsborough, “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews” if anybody knows about it. I did that because I wanted to do a portrait but I wanted to do a portrait in the landscape. The portraits were…although I’m not knocking Gainsborough at all, I wouldn’t dream of that but some of his pictures weren’t that great and really wouldn’t be inspirational for people to do, but “Mr. or Mrs. Andrews” was, it had everything in it, that lovely sky it had the landscaping, it had the two characters- central characters and had a dog and it had some sheep, what more do you want?
So that inspired me while I was looking for was pictures that inspired me if and I want to do them, so that’s where we moved on and then we moved on from there to the Renoir. I love Renoir people know that, we’ve done a couple haven’t we already and I think they’ve gone down very well so I wanted to do one a little different, completely different in fact from Constable & Gainsborough. So it was very impressionistic and that came out really well, very colourful. And then after that we did the Monet the poppy field, well people know that, everybody knows that it’s a picture that I was going to do another Monet a less popular one that people may have seen or may not have seen, but I thought no, let’s do one that people know just like the Cornfield, they know this picture and that came out well, didn’t it? And I’m doing another one which is Vittorio…
Stephen Bradley: Reggiani
Colin Bradley: and I did a picture, people may remember actually years ago I did a picture and showed it on the website, on the member site of lace makers, remember? And I did…there is still a demonstration on the website showing the…
Stephen Bradley: lace
Colin Bradley: …satin, the lace yes or the satin dress. So I want to do a bigger one and I’m a quarter of the way through that and it is absolutely stunning. If I were to whet your appetite these three ladies are in the foreground, beautiful dresses obviously they’re beautiful women, he wouldn’t paint anybody who wasn’t…and I’m following his picture quite closely but I’m still putting my take on it as I have done with the others, but on the back cloth there’s a marble pillar, right, and even I was stunned when I finished it, I looking back and I thought…you haven’t seen it yet Steve but I’ll just show you later. How can that possibly be it looks like a marble pillar, so there you are.
I think I have whetted your appetite enough
Stephen Bradley: there’s so much to be looking forward to everyone and, I mean, we can’t wait to start showing these and showing how far you can take the pastel pencil medium, it’s very exciting and we really hope that you enjoy watching them and as always, let us know your feedback of how you found it and what you think of the demonstrations, but we’ve got some really as you’ve heard some really exciting pictures to come.
Colin Bradley: And also Steve can I butt in and say that if anybody’s got any particular favourite, we’re talking about masters now, we are talking about not some obscure artist, it’s got to be someone who is recognised and well known and if you have a particular favourite artist or you have a particular favourite picture that could be universally accepted let us know.
Stephen Bradley: yeah do, absolutely. Well, if you’re an ALL IN member then you can start watching that demonstration if it’s not already out by the time this podcast comes out, they will be out very soon after, so check back on the website and we can’t wait to see what you think, so thanks everyone for listening I’m Stephen Bradley.
Colin Bradley: and I’m Colin Bradley
Enjoy your week! [Both saying in unison]
If you want to learn more about our membership and how you can get:
- Access to ALL our courses
- Feedback on your Artwork from Colin
- Access to this new Demonstration
- 80 Written Instruction Packs (Worth £239)
- 10 E-Books (Worth £29)
- 33 Exercise Sheets (Worth £26)
For those that are already members we hope you enjoy the Demonstration and look forward to more subjects coming soon.