Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Mystery Painting Revealed

Marshland, approx. 22x32, pastel on Herman Margulies Board. Jan Blencowe, copyright, 2012
Click on the image to see it larger.

From 2000-2005, I worked exclusively in pastel,  My first award,  in a national show, an honorable mention, was for a pastel of Chamard Vineyards, a winery near my home. That was back in 2002.  From there I journeyed to water soluble oils for a very brief time (Yuck! Though I understand they're better now.), then back to what I was trained in, oils. In late 2007, early 2008 I switched to acrylics. Love them. However, with my daughter working in pastel for almost two years now and my current obsession with drawing I have been slowly pulled back into the world of pastels.

I gave my daughter all my pastels. I have been slowly over the last year purchasing very specialized sets of pastels that match the poetic and tonal sensibilities of my current working aesthetic.

I have most of the Elizabeth Mowry, pastel set. Mowry's books and work were a huge influence on my early pastel work. I have select Nu-Pastels and Cretacolors, several Pan Pastel sets, and just today I purchased the Sennelier Plein Air Landscape set.

 A Moment Till Twilight, Elizabeth Mowry

During my five years of working in pastels I worked on many, many different surfaces from good old Canson paper to Pastelbord, ColourFix Paper, Wallis, LeCarte, velour, and a number of home made surfaces.

This piece is a departure from my old pastel style and it is 100% based on the surface I am working on and it represents an entirely new and exciting direction for my work.

The board is very unique. It was created by Herman Margulies, (1922-2004) a brilliant pastelist whose work I first saw in 2003 the year before he passed.  Margulies is a Holocaust survivor and his work was filled with passion and pathos. 

 Herman Margulies, Winter Impressions, 2001

This board is black and I also have dark gray. The surface is incredible for layering and texture. When I posted the details here and on Facebook I asked people to guess what the medium was and several people guessed wax, like in an encaustic painting. I was glad to see that because that what the pastel looked like to me on this surface.

I have been told that one of the ingredients in the surface coating literally explodes the pastel, shatters it as it adheres to the surface creating many times more facets of pastel pigment to reflect the light. I believe it. This piece is incredibly vibrant yet it was done with a very limited palette of basically earth colors, all  very dull and muted and yet the resulting painting literally glows.

The secret recipe for making this surface went to the grave with Herman Margulies. There are a limited number of boards still in existence and I have a source for getting them, but there are not many left. That alone I find very exciting. I will be working on more pastels using this very special board and hope to have a strong body of work when I am done. This is a kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity and I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do this!


Terri L. West said...

Pretty cool!!!

Roxanne Steed said...

Beautiful work, and interesting story of Margulies surfaces, too. Yes, Mowry was one of my favorite pastelists too, I have always admired her work & found her very inspiring back when I was working in pastels. Her landscapes have this wonderful sense of calm (and I don't know how else to describe it- but there is that certain something about those places that simply - grab you!).