On Friday and Saturday 8 and 9 November, 15 Australian Society of Miniature Art (Tasmania) ASMA members and colleagues participated in our annual workshop in Bicheno. I am currently the Secretary of the Society.

This year our topic was Pastels and our tutor was the fabulous Leoni Duff from Launceston. Leoni gave us special tuition in still life and the benefits of painting from real life. We had special guidance in flowers, ornaments and delicate lace. She reinforced the importance of critical and careful observation.

Leoni taught us that the key to portraying complex flowers or floral arrangements is to simplify, simplify! (For instance, she spoke in terms of flower shapes such as discs, tubes and cylinders). Her personal inspiration re florals was from Pat Moran.

We also learnt the importance of the background colour to our final painting and the mood it sets (she likes backgrounds like Elephant and Australian Grey). Leoni also gave some advice on the issue of backgrounds and maintaining some transparency in the application of pastels (where the temptation is often to fill the tooth quite extensively).

She also discussed colour theory including the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black)) colour wheel which is used in colour printing. Apparently a pure magenta and cyan makes a divine purple!

We also learnt the importance of hue, value and chroma and the key strategy in achieving form. We also learnt to map out our painting in the tones of dark, mid tone and light to produce a “grisaille” (a method of painting in grey monochrome, typically to imitate sculpture). The lightest and very dark accents or highlights are left to the very end. Contrast was key (i.e. light v dark, cool v warm).

We also learnt to draw commencing with gesture strokes to give paintings flow and an appealing composition.

Leoni also showed us a gallery of some of her works and demonstrated the importance of having a story and evoking emotion or an element of mystery (including adding small things such as a nail for hanging something on a piece of wood, a key or a piece of lace).

Many of us tackled the challenge of creating beautiful sunflowers from Leoni’s beautiful reference photos. The braver ones took on clusters of daisies or a complex still life photo complete with lace, hydrangeas, secateurs and a statuette!

Leoni also shared some tips and tricks about tools, techniques (such as glazing with pastel pencils) and various pastel brands and types (including the transparent Russian Yarka Sauce which I must try).

I have included my sunflower rendition in this post along with some of Leoni’s demonstration pastels.

I now feel the urge to go out and expand upon my collection of pastels and substrates (including an innovative local board using egg tempera which can be fixed with a quick spray of water allowing multiple layers of pastel, which enrichens the colour and adds a luminous glow to the finished piece). I also want the second set of Terry Ludwig dark intense pastels and his Maggie Price collection of greys in various values.

Overall, this was a very beneficial and enjoyable two days. There was such diverse talent in the room.

A big thank you to Leoni and Alan for a great workshop.

Our next workshop will be by much loved ASMA member and internationally recognised Miniaturist Joan Humble OAM on water and seascapes (in any medium). It is scheduled for Bicheno for 23 and 24 May 2020. I certainly have those dates in my calendar.