BADAS Meeting June 19th 2018

The Weatherley Centre Biggleswade

Jane Rhodes ‘Water’  in pastels

Jane was born and raised in Bedfordshire and attended Kingston College of Art on leaving school. She stopped painting to have a family but once her children had grown up she started again and in no time it became an almost full time obsession. She is best known for her atmospheric depictions of seascapes, landscapes and more recently urban scenes. She works in various media but has always enjoyed the immediacy and expressive quality of pastels. She found watercolours ‘bland’ and prone to going wrong easily.
Jane has exhibited successfully in group and solo shows and has had paintings shown at the Mall Galleries in London with the Pastel Society and The Society of Women Artists. Her work is shown locally at The Norton Way Gallery in Letchworth.
She teaches classes locally and has a full programme of workshops each year in various media, details of which can be found on her web site :

Firstly she stressed the importance of carefully choosing which paper to work on depending on the effect desired, what the creative process is going to be, budget etc as this make a huge difference to the end result. She kindly circulated several papers to show what is available. When she first started there was a limited range and they were not very good, she has experimented widely and recommends others do the same. Pastel papers are now more ‘toothy’, holding on to the pastel layers so causing less debris and there is a huge choice of surface and colour. Colourfix is her favourite and is great for pastel, watercolour and oils…it can be washed off easily if needs be (not oils) to start again. Canson paper is honeycombed on the right side but she finds the ‘wrong’ side better to work on. She likes to under paint approx 70% of the time as it makes her work looser and faster. Underpainting allows you to change the paper colour in areas to get a diverse effect for instance she prefers to paint a red/orange backdrop for trees / greenery as this warms up the shades helped more by leaving flecks to show through. Jane uses gouache rather than acrylic because she prefers the chalky finish, it’s more compatible with pastel than the ‘plastic’, slippery acrylic surface. Sennellier papers are grippy/toothy but it mustn’t get wet, hence no underpainting is possible. Fisher papers are available in lots of different grades 200,400,600,800 to experiment with. With a pastel primer, various surfaces can be coated to use eg: mount board, cardboard etc. A smooth surface is better for detailed work whilst mixing primer with pumice provides more texture (Jane buys hers from Whitechapel Gallery in London )Even watercolour papers like Bockingford ‘not’ 140lb gives a pleasing effect.
Aluminium Oxide waterproof P500 softflex paper is a dark colour to begin with, unusual. Canson Mi-teintes pastel paper is best used on the ‘wrong side’ she feels. Pastel Mat by Clairefontaine, Royal Sovereign pastel board, Fisher 400 art paper and Colourfix by Art Spectrum are amongst others that she mentioned to try out.

As with work surfaces, pastels are many and varied…many sizes, shapes and textures, square ones tend to be harder, Sennellier and Sminke softer. Jane prefers to work with large, chunkier shapes as she has arthritis in her fingers and feels less pain over time with them. She uses soft ones for the main body of the work to go on and cover efficiently and the uses hard ones for details like eyelashes…she mentioned that hard ones would remove soft layers of pastel so be aware of this. She uses pipe insulating material, cut into strips to blend colours saves finger skin and is cheap, a good tip ! She never uses a fixative at the end of a piece as she feels it changes the colours and effects too much.
For our demo Jane chose a photo of a small cascade flanked by trees which she pinned to her easel. She stressed that composition needs to be considered carefully before starting to ensure an interesting format, enough paper etc .She had already prepared an underpainting to save time so proceeded to layer pastels on giving lots of tips and comments as she worked in front of an interested audience. She advises working on the element you most like to begin with, concentrating and focusing the eye. Good advice from Alwin Kershaw was shared….”paint as it grows or goes” ie think and use different, sympathetic marks not just horizontal ones for everything. Jane also admits to talking to herself whilst working , coaching and concentrating the mind. She encourages the enjoyment of all the colours, start with the photo but adapt it and create what you want it to be, you are the artist so enjoy!

Jane has two or three pieces of work on the go at one time watercolour, pastel, oils and moves between them checking, changing etc. This she says allows thinking time and space to step back and improve works. Another very good tip amongst many during an enjoyable presentation.