Sunday, 15 April 2018

ICAN 2 Pastel Inspiration-Maintaining your creative ideas for paintings

This is my 2nd instalment about ICAN, and the second workshop I will be teaching at the Pastel Artists of Canada national conference, (known as ICAN pastel). I'll be giving a lecture on maintaining creativity Thursday May 31st. The conference is being held at the Aurora Cultural Centre in Aurora Ont. For more information or to register for either of my workshops there, go to and follow the links to register. 

El Vestido Rojo, pastel, which won the creativity award at the Pastel Society of Eastern Canada Intnernational exhibition, Montreal. 

Over my years as a teacher, I’ve discovered many students who struggle with keeping themselves motivated to create over the long term. I’ll be talking about creating a work environment and practise, where artists can encourage themselves to create on an ongoing basis, maintaining their inspiration, using many creative tools. In this 2 hour demo, I will talk and create continuously, while having the conversation about managing your creative time fruitfully.

 100 winter project 
one object:100 ideas

I’d be showing several ideas of documentation of ideas for future work, a reservoir of
ideas for days when you feel directionless, how to inspire yourself. I’ll be taking only a few ideas ( or even one), and show many possibilities within the use
of only the one image, working one idea in a fairly small format.
I want to demonstrate how to set yourself up for the creative expressions possible within one idea, but also how to manage your creativity. 

studio soul space; my bulletin board, with photos, art pieces, sketch book etc.  

Because pastel is such a versatile, spontaneous medium, it naturally lends itself to the initial creative visualization. Some variables will be paper colour, value and type of paper, underpainting, lighting, composition and pallette and value variation. I’ll talk about the difference between the right paper/colour choice, and the effect that you are trying to create, as one example. I will also talk about pastel as the seminal medium for experimenting with composing, why it is the perfect medium to start every piece art artwork with, regardless of following it up in another medium or staying with Pastel.

Ruffles in the sun, pastel, 5" X 7" from my A Time to Dance series, 2009

The follow up larger version, Ruffles in the Sun, 2009

Many of my students can attest to hearing me say if you don’t have any creative ideas for paintings, ones can be provided for you. 
Many creative people are constantly experiencing ideas for paintings, any time of day. How many ideas do you document, file and save for a rainy day?
Our creative inspirations don’t always match our time in the studio, so it’s part of our job as artists to document ideas as they come to us, and save for the some time ahead. 
How does this happen? How can we increase the chance that we’ll be able to express an idea, and get it back at the beginning of our studio time?
Creativity is an open ended phenomenon, leading to a multitude of possibilities. 

1 cup

many views

endless possibilties

Over my years teaching plein air painting, I find it's so important to spend a ton of time looking for ideas. The following pieces are all pastel, fairly small, and represent effort put into finding worthwhile paintings in many different subject matter. All these images are from Morocco. When I come to a new location to paint, I take my time, and allow myself to spend loads of time, looking for interesting compositions. If I come away with more ideas and less paintings, I know I'm on the road to huge creative output, through exploring many ideas. 

camel against the Atlas Moutnains

laundry day

architecture that speaks about colour choice.

more about light and geometry

stark light and fullness behind the white wall

perspective, depth, texture

Take the emphasis off of production and onto idea collecting, and rather quality idea collecting. I hope to see you at my presentation. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

ICAN National pastel conference

The Pastel Artist of Canada are hosting their third national conference for Pastel artists.
 I am proud to say I taught at the first two, and will be teaching at the third as well, this coming 
May 28th- June 1st. It's being held at the Aurora Cultural Centre
handy for GTA, and accessible to everyone. I really recommend this conference. Aurora is a sweet little town, with many old buildings surrounding our venue. The size of the centre is not too big, just perfect for the pastel Artist of Canada. There'll also be a national Juried show, held right at the convention, to offer participants another educational opportunity as well as enjoying seeing pastel work from all over Canada. 
While there will be teachers offering interesting workshops from all over Canada, I have two themes for my workshops that I think are relevant for my students. 

Pastel Minis                Monday May 28th, 9-12

                                           Grounded and graceful, pastel, 4.5" X 6.5" 2009

In 2009, I took a sabbatical from teaching for 9 months. The "painting a day" movement was just coming on strong in the States. My friend Margaret Dyer suggested I do one miniature a day during that time, first thing in the morning. The thinking being, that you can have a finished piece pretty early in the day. The psychological benefits of having a piece under your belt before 9 am. was not lost on me, and a huge series was born.

From that time on, I have understood the benefits of working small, as in Grounded and Graceful, one of 100 pieces executed in 2009, in pastel,  all miniature. Not just psychological benefits either :

-working small has helped me really hone my compositional skills. You have no choice but to see    how every stroke affects the entire picture plane.
- the ease of working out ideas in small format to gage their viability for larger work
- simplify your composing skills, paring down to the most necessary elements only.
- accumulate work produced and feel good about this accomplishment.
- appreciate the charm of small work

Barbs' Koi pond, pastel, 5" X 10", 2017 

One of the greatest things I really appreciate is all my Ottawa students who get together and paint every Thursday, plein air. I join them when I can. This is a scene at Barb Dicksons' place. Thanks for the lovely scenery Barb!

Musical Whimsy, pastel 4" X 8"

I work small on location wherever I go, for practical purposes. This was done at a music festival, where this beautiful woman wore scarves on her body and a feather boa in her hair. Whimsy. 

Stone at Serrania , pastel, 4" X 9"
Since 2008, I have conducted almost 18 international painting trips. Working small is a wonderful thing when you have many ideas to work through. This was a stone pillar on Mallorca, Spain. I wanted to try and capture the feel of flagstone, while the late afternoon light gave some definition and good split to the picture place. I've been taking students on painting trips for 10 years now: France, Italy, Costa Rica, Spain, Peru, and coming up in 2019: Guatemala, March 2019, and Portugal, November 2019. 

Working small whenever I am lacking direction is a regular part of my creative practise. This winter, I made many small studies, letting these give me direction about what I want to paint next. 
To register for this class, just go to and follow the links to the conference. 
Hope to see you there!

Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will be about another challenge many people face: staying creative, organizing your ideas, and never being out of the groove. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

surfacing for air, living quietly, and travelling around the world

Hello my followers. Greetings from the cave. I've been incognito for a while now, living quietly. I've hardly done any teaching, though some is coming up. One thing I have been doing is clarifying my ideas for paintings, for series I want to do, and for individual paintings as well. Many ideas, no studio.

thinking of some large landscapes,.....

Here is Barrie the closest thing to encouragement I have got from other artists is that studio space is very expensive, and I should find someone to share with.

I'm still looking, and may land somewhere further away than I had planned. Whatever happens, I will keep you informed.

               However, I am still life drawing, no matter what,....... I'll be drawing the figure/portrait.

WHERE DID go?, my beloved website for about 20 years, is no more. With my move, I did not renew my yearly fee for my website, as the invoice went to my old e-mail address. Thus, unbeknownst to me, there is this whole process a company goes through when someone doesn't renew their web address. It's a ridiculous game of monopoly that favours other it companies. Thus a company, (to which I am not allowed to know the name of) could purchase my web address, as soon as it goes back on the market. I tried to as well, but I am no techy.

This company bought my web address for $9.95 usd, and now wants to sell it back to me for $500.00 usd. I won't do it, just based on the principal of the big guy, taking advantage of the little guy. Rip-off! I'm telling you so it doesn't happen to others! The enemy is a company from Massachusetts, called sedo. They are an intermediary, who is selling my web address on behalf of whomever bought it.

For the time being, I won't have a website, but will list workshops here, and if you have a question, or want to be in touch please e-mail me at
I'll be just a pulse, for a while, can't say how long, I don't have it all planned out.

In the meantime, I'll be back in Ottawa Feb. 10-March 5th, so stay tuned for possible workshops then.

Painting Peru FULL! waiting list:

My next travelling and painting trip is to Peru this coming June. The trip filled very quickly, but please be in touch if you'd like to come to Peru with me another time. For this years trip itinerary, just for interest sake, click here:

Travelling the world, ......
                                          from the comfort of a table in the laundry room,....I have been creating, and dreaming about our miracle of existence on this beautiful planet. Just some thoughts:

I guess any animal you are not used to seeing seems magical. These camels are so darn tall! Camel rides being offered on our hiking trip in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco. 

watercolour underpainting, with pastel done in our kayak while dave fishes, this past summer. This is Carthew Bay, just south of Orillia.

From the bottom of the Ocean,....

                                                     To the serene skies of Costa Rica, .....

from quiet street in Italy, 

to the gentle breezes of San Jose

There's quite a bit more, but you get the idea. Quietly busy. More to come! Stay tuned for the announcement of my next international painting trip, 2 Ferraro workshops at a national pastel conference, and more. 

Margaret Ferraro Artist

blogging at and e-mailing at 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

I've never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music,............

It all started with Gaudi.
 He was my inspiration going to Barcelona. Sagrada Familia was the priority, and it did not disappoint. Gaudi was a devout Catholic. He wanted this church to be a spiritual experience for anyone who entered. I've never seen anything like it. Some of his other buildings, with curvacious walls in light stone reminded me of Douglas Cardinal, our own Canadian genius architect. 

Interior view of the ceiling inside Sagrada Familia, Gaudis' crowning piece of architecture.


Ciutadella Park reminds me of the Tuilleries in Paris. Very stately beautiful park. Barcelona is walkable, with exciting things to see and do at every turn.

When you don't have time to paint it, photo it for later reference. A nice walk through the University of Barcelona.

Arco de Triumfo de Barcelona. Stately, huge and different, but just as gorgeous as the other one.

We enjoyed flying as a group to Palma, Mallorca. Here's the view from the plane of the Tramuntana Mountains, which became our cloud and sun covered friends every morning as we collaborated with the great outdoors. 


This retreat center was very well designed, equipped, a pleasure to enjoy for our week of painting.

Here's some captures of Le Serrania by my students:

One of the very old out buildings on the property. Cypress trees everywhere!

After the rain, the walk to everyones' rooms, kind of like adobe. 

Nice welcoming to the front entrance. Beautiful stone and plants everywhere. Someone has put a lot of time into some artful gardening here. 

Liz has captured those curvy lively tress on the property. 

St. Vincent, the photo
I couldn't write this post without one picture of the incredible BLUE of the Mediterranean. This was out first painting location, St Vincent. 

St. Vincent, the painting
Although I usually teach pastel, anyone is welcome to use any medium they like on my trips, and it isn't unusual to have a watercolourist or two in the group. No problem!

Some nice renditions (last 2) of same scene, St. Vincent

The Mountains of Mallorca were SO incredibly deep, layered and just beautiful. Awe inspiring. The Meditarranean is just beyond the last layer of mountains. 

These incredible rock formations got bigger and bigger as they got to the coast. No shortage of spectacular coastal scenery here!

We visited Cap Formentor on the windiest of days. However, I think it's always windy here, and not a great painting locale for practical reasons (wind!!!!), but what scenery! Lots of pics!!

Here's Miriam finding a great spot to paint near Coves de Campanet. Note the nice light/shade set up here. 

The results. 

Victor is inspired and writing away after Wendy divulges her latest poem. Wendy is my poet is residence on many of my trips.  

Betty mid-creation. practical, with apron and hat. 

Liz, getting her thumbnails down pat, and multi-tasking as she also soaks up the sun.

Barb, hard at work. Gorgeous scenery in the background, and everywhere you looked!

Who could forget the Paella demonstration, or eating it! Absolutely delicious. 

One day we hiked up this hill opposite the town of Pollensa, and had many breathtaking views to paint. If I ever get the chance to go back, I'll definitely plan to spend a whole day up there, with 365 degrees view of the surrounding area.  This photo is just one viewpoint of many.

Imaginative use of colour on these old, old stone buildings. 

Barb has perfectly captured the day, the light.

Pastel by Ferraro, from Coves de Campanet. Cypress trees abundance abound. 

Janet paints one of many grand doors, seeking the texture of different surfaces. Also painted at Coves de Campanet. 

A very breezy day by the sea, the usual suspects. Thank you to everyone who came on this wonderful trip. Also thank you once again to Angus and Tania of Chirriposa Retreats, who planned, lead, cooked, drove and just generally took such good care of us. 

Where next? Costa Rica January 28- February 5th, and then back to Tuscany in August of 2017 with Angus and Tania!! Stay tuned for more information on this. 
Check it out here: