Pastels have a luminous quality, a unique feel all of their own… so it’s no wonder some of the world’s greatest artists have favoured them.
From Leonardo to Liotard, Degas to Millet, pastels have offered the excitement of tonal exploration and colour experimentation.
The RBSA has its very own master of the medium in Marylane Barfield, an artist and Past President of the Society who uses pastels to great effect to depict her two favourite subjects, the human form and landscapes.
She has enjoyed a long and distinguished career, and ahead of an RBSA demonstration on 16 December on how she uses pastels, she agreed to an interview with ART BLOG…
What particular pastel techniques do you employ?
I begin with Rembrandt pastel for the early drawing. Then to establish light and colour I use Unison soft pastel.
I work on Cannon pastel paper. I never blend or rub out. I simply spray with fixative and work over the top.
How can interiors augment the “feel” of the work.
Interiors are important, especially in portrait as they can help tell you about the sitter. It can show his or her interests, lifestyle etc.
In a way, an interior alone is a portrait without the sitter being present, as it will give clues as to who inhabits the room.
There is quite a narrative feel to your work. Is that deliberate?
No it is not. It depends on what catches my interest. It also depends on observation and the inspiration of a given moment.
Colour sings out in your Study in Red and Black… and, indeed, in all your work in the current M & A exhibition. Can you tell us how you approach colour?
I love colour. When I see the paint or chalks spread out ready for use I get excited and can not wait to get started.
Colour is complicated and I could run a whole workshop for a week about how colour works. Colour sets mood, creates space, can create harmony and rhythm.
I could not put into a few sentences how I approach colour. There are many different ways depending on what one wants to capture or express.
What keeps you interested in portraying the human figure?
For me man is the measure of all things. The human is the centre of importance for me.
I am interested in the wonderful things humans can do: from dance, sport, to living life, and I’m constantly amazed at the possibilities of the human form and the enduring challenge it gives to the artist.
I never get bored or tired of drawing and painting the human figure. Each drawing or painting is new and exciting.
You are a Past President and hold an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Aston University. What advice do you have for emerging artists?
First learn you craft and all its techniques well. This takes years of study and hard work. Secondly, speak with your voice. Follow your vision.
Do not be influenced by fashion as that comes and goes. Strive for a universal truth. Be honest in your work.
Demo with Marylane Barfield PPRBSA, December 16, from 11am
Read more about Marylane Barfield’s forthcoming pastel demonstration… it’s free to attend and there’s no need to book.
The three works featured in this article are all on display at our current Members and Associates Exhibition, which runs until December 23.