Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Haliburton 2016

Haliburton 2016

From my High on Halliburton series,....pastel, 5" X 8"

I finally have the time to write a bit about my Halliburton experience, 2016. It was a great week, a very big class, teaching two levels at once. First, I'd like to thank all my very patient and understanding students, who allowed me to float back and forth between beginner and advanced. If it wasn't for the fortunate collective karma of this group, I certainly wouldn't have been able to manage quite so well. What an amazing talented group I had this year.

 Learning how to overlay one colour on top of another, mixing right on your paper, one element that makes pastel different from any other medium. 

The first two days of my 5 day Intro to Pastel starts out a little heavy on the information side of things. It's a lot of standing up and continually talking for me, and quite a bit of letting go, sinking into colour, and self discovery, exposure to many pastel paintings and developing taste in terms of application techniques.
While this is going on in the beginner side, my intermediate students are 1) reviewing application techniques but using them in small studies, 2) reviewing their inventory of pastels and their personal arrangements of such 3) making 2 painting of the same image, one with a very limited palette where you ahem to mix all the colours right on the page, and another of the same image, using an expanded palette. then we compare the two and decide which process allows for the most creativity, which one was most enjoyed. No right or wrong, just different ways of doing things, and choices.

Independent study, this one particularily about hard and soft definitions, when to define and when to suggest.  

By the third day of this 5 day workshop, everyone is working independently, so although it's still quite busy, it gives me more room to address everyones' needs, beginner or intermediate.

The following 7 images are examples of copies my students did during the week. I don't condone copying other peoples' work when you can't come up with you own ideas. This point of this is to keenly be able to analyze how a pastel painting was constructed, replicate the same strokes/techniques, mixing of colours, and good compositions.

It's a very positive exercise, which gives students can see their own potential.

I ask students to pick out at least 5 images they like, and I talk to them one on one about their taste, what techniques they'd use, and whether the piece in well within their drawing ability. 

We spend much time together as a group now, discussing a broad subject: what king of pastel paper, and what colour to use as you ground. Many students came up to me at the end of this day and said how much they learnt from slowing down into the process of planning their work out. No rushing allowed! Fall in love, with what you are doing. 

Once the pics are chosen, grounds (paper choice) ready, we analyze the palette and techniques used. This piece above is an excellent example of replicating effective contrasting techniques. 

I hope this student doesn't mind, but she blew my mind! At 84, this student showed unending energy. patient and well drafted drawing, and an accurate account of how the colour was put down on this piece. Excellent!

This student wasn't confident about her ability to draw, but with just a few directives, she easily had the horse in proportion ready for detail. 

My intermediate students made underpaintings,with more planned out images from their own stores. This one was done with pumice and brush marks showing. The wonderful thing about working with Underpainting is the capture of colour on colour. I so loved watching the piece evolve as the pastel covered this gorgeous underpainted palette. 

This piece was done on board, with a gesso/pumice/pastel underpainting. The texture that came out was superb, and added so much interest to a simple, yet powerful subject. 

Thanks again to everyone who took my class this year, it was an absolute pleasure. Stay tuned for announcements about teaching in the Toronto area in October-something that was discussed in class. 
Happy last days of summer everyone!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Dog Days of Summer,..........

Hey! Hello out there. It seems like such a long time since I wrote anything out there. In these dogs days of summer, I have just now come to a place where I can write something.

Pastel, The Painting Medium: Studies in Underpainting

This was a piece I have had in mind for quite a while. Theunderpainting is acrylic. I started out with more pure colour, purples, greens and blues in the middle, and shades of yellow around the main shape. I have a vision of what the finished palette will be. But the layering involved is a trial, observe, stand back process. Hopefully it will look very different when I am done. I was too busy teaching to work on this piece in class, but it is slowly taking shape this week. 

The first two weeks of July were very busy here. Week #1-Pastel, the painting medium: Studies in Underpainting. Every time I teach this class, I tell my students I wish we had a month. I do my best to cover not just the basics, but give as broad a base as possible to the choices you can make within Underpainting. The theory can get a little,…complicated. But like all creatives, we learn to just go with the flow.

One of my students pondering her next move. Working with an underpainting is like doing a puzzle. You put the pieces in you know, and then see what might happen next.

One of the more untraditional approaches to Underpainting, this students work in the middle of process has some pastel down, the foreground red has yet to be worked. This piece was a gradated two tone underpainting, working out perfectly in this piece.  

Many times, someone will come up to me and ask me if compliments are the way to go in an underpainting. This based on seeing this as an example in some instructional magazine or online.The truth is that colour contrasts many ways, and anything is a possibility. So this is how I try to approach it. 

I like to show pieces worked just a bit.  Enough to get an idea of the imagery, but with a lot of the underpainting still showing. The constant question is, how much do I cover up? Covering up the underpainting as the piece develops is half the fun. 

This piece is more finished. However, you can still see the red underpainting, and how it has an important function in the sky. The texture is amazing. 

In this workshop, we paint many underpaintings in the morning, and everyone pastels independently in the afternoon. By the end of the week, you have created several art pieces, but you also leave with many extra pieces for future use.  

Here's a more traditional approach to Underpainting. It's a monochromatic underpainting, laying out the plan for the whole picture plan: light, medium and dark. This piece is a good example of how a monochromatic underpainting provides a unifying quality to the whole piece, as you can see the burnt sienna in every part of the image.  

Acrylics: Thick and Creamy

Layer #1: a gradated underpainting using 2 colours, blue to orange. Tape is used as resist. Layer #2: Orange to blue, but the opposite way. 
This piece is not finished. Anything can now painted on top. 

The second week I was teaching my Intro to Acrylics workshop. I love the projects in this workshop. So much fun! And such a nice group of students!

The simple resist of masking tape. Who would have thought it would be so easy!

The way this workshop is set up is that some of the products are included in the price of the class. This is because acrylics, probably more than any other media, has so many different products associated with it. When a student who doesn’t know much about product goes to the art supply store to get their acrylic supplies, I can understand being completely overwhelmed. 
So I get students to just buy the absolute basics, things they are most likely to use again, and I provide the rest. That way, you are not spending big bucks on a  whole lot of specialty items you will never use again. Who says artists aren’t practical!

I call this project wet on wet. We paint right on a freshly gessoed and very wet surface. The paint slips and slides around. You can't control it. You must work with it. 

Acrylic is such a great medium, with much forgiveness built in to it’s make up. If you don’t like something, it’s fairly easy to paint right over top of anything.
It does take a bit of experience to know how it works, and to have some control over what I call paint quality. 
Acrylic is very transparent. Layering is necessary. We also get a lot of experience managing brushes, maximizing their use, manipulating edges, adjusting values through layering. 
Much to learn.
Thank you to my two full classes. I couldn’t have fit one more person in. 
What else have I been up to? A little plein air with my peeps, and some top secret art as well! Stay tuned,........

Happy summer everyone, Margaret

Friday, 13 May 2016

La deuxieme renaissance de la vendeuse des fleurs

While in Tuscany last year, I checked my Facebook one day, and saw that Ottawa artist  Pina Rennick had posted a photo of this wonderful sculpture. She was on vacation in Paris. Co-incidentally, I was  just ending my Tuscany trip and travelling shortly to Paris, to visit my friend Hana, whom many of you have seen in my paintings. I immediately e-mailed Pina to find out where she was (the flower seller), and got her location easily-Montmartre Cemetery, only a short walk from Hanas' apartment. How lucky! 
Thank you Pina!!
This was the first week of November, and there were golden maple leaves everywhere. I sat down and did some sketches, and took many photos. Passerbys gave odd  looks, as if it's weird to be sitting in a cemetery drawing these gorgeous mausoleums and sculptures. What?,  I say. 
When I first saw this sculpture I had an immediate hit to the heart,  she touched me. Her forlorn-ness, her grace, and her beauty. She intrigued me, and I felt compelled to know more about her life. That's the thing about history though. Will we ever know as much we'd like? Mystery will remain, regardless of how much I find out. 
I had to know more, and I knew instantly that this would turn into a painting for me.  

Gustave Guillaumets' flower seller, 
It didn't take much research time to find out all sorts of interesting information about this girl. The sculpture is the gravestone of artists Gustave Guillaumet, 1840-87. Noted: many charcoal sketches, in many public museums. In the last few years I have done many charcoal drawing/portraits, etc. 
Guillaume attended the Ecole national superieure des beaux Arts - Paris, and in 1860, applied for a scholarship to study at the academy of France in Rome. but was turned down. Instead, Gustave travelled to Algeria to paint. He would return to southern Algeria 10 more times, fascinated with the desert people and their way of  life. As soon as I heard Algeria, it immediately explained the clothing of the girl. At first I had though middle-eastern, but Algeria? OK.

The sculpture itself is credited to Louis Ernest Barrias, a contemporary of Gustaves, who studied at the same school. Where the story gets interesting, is upon Gustaves death, his wife commissioned Louis, to create a sculpture for Gustaves' tombstone using the study of  a young girl from Bou Sadda, Algeria, (see Gustaves' sketch just above) as inspiration. 
As a little gossipy aside, Gustave left his wife of many years, and his son, and moved in with his mistress who was many years his senior. A few weeks into living together, after an argument, Gustave shot himself in the lower regions, but didn't kill himself! He contacted his wife, and he returned home, dying some weeks later of complications to do with his wound. Still, his wife honoured him with this tombstone - an elegant beautiful sculpture created by a contemporary colleague of Gustaves', inspired by the sketch of the flower seller. 

Gustave was an artist, who was inspired by the young girl of Bou Sadda. She experienced her first renaissance from Louis, who raised her arms, and threw flowers on Gustaves' grave. Then I found inspiration from Louis' interpretation, and she lives once more, in her second renaissance, as per the title of my painting. The title is french, in honour of where the gravestone exists, in the Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, France.

And now for a little on the process used to create my painting. 
First of all,  I started with a full sheet of WC paper, and drew out the flower seller in charcoal. I couldn't wait to get to her tilted head and face. The gravestone itself, I wanted a little off centre, so as to not have a symmetrical composition. There was much detail in the background, which I would simplify to just a few trees. 

The line drawing, decisions on relationship of gravestone to sculpture to negative space. Love drawing hands and face.

Starting to add in value, charcoal and black pastel.

On the way to a full traditional monochromatic study. 

Without the complete detail, but enough of a block in of the light, medium and darks. I am ready to underpaint/overpaint. First, I use Lascaux permanent fixative, and let dry.  

Before I underpainted, a lot of imagination and thought went into what will remain in pastel, on top of the underpainting. What kind of an effect am I trying to achieve and how can the right underpainting help build depth and the desired contrast, that will enhance the effect I am trying to achieve? These are my thoughts on all underpainted surfaces. 
In this particular case, I knew I wanted a warm underpinned colour in the sky area, as the predominant finished surface would be quite cool. 

And now, I start with pastel. I found yellow maple leaves were everywhere, and the colour was a great hit of pure hue contrast with the mostly very cool and lower key palette. Also, as the painting is titled "renaissance", I decided the flowers in her hands should have some colour, adding to the harmony of the pallette, and bringing her flowers, somewhat back to life.  

As I move through the layering of the pastel, the colours and values are adjusted in smaller and smaller increments. 

In finding my voice as an artist, every once in a while, you have a moment. As it was with this piece, where the grace and elegance of this young girl encapsulates the feeling of what I would like to bring to my viewers. Peace and beauty. Elegance, my deep love for drawing, with an understated sense of colour. 
Thank you for listening. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Another Amazing Venue on the OSA,...and MARTINE!!!

Hello everyone,

                              My amazing partner in everything CostaRica is Ottawa native, Martine Racette. Martine went on vacation to Costa Rica 10 years ago and never came back!! She fell in love with the country, and is a veritable encyclopedia of information. From the animals and plants, to rainforest, politics and economy, Martine knows it all. She exudes so much love and enthusiasm for what she does, one cannot help but be affected.

The famous Duo, M&M, Martine and Margaret
Explosives in action

                               Martine is now managing Laguna Vista, an eight villa resort,  dotting the hillside leading down to the Ocean.  My group enjoyed getting to know our surroundings at the resort, by painting anywhere, having sunset drinks at each others decks looking over the Pacific, doing Yoga around an absolutely spectacular pool, or simply taking our stools to any location that provided a good composition for painting.

Room with a view,...Lagoon, and ocean view from all our decks. 

Best pool ever. We enjoyed cooling down in here and looking up at the stars every night before bed. But the best part of this is the sharing and support of being around other artists. 

Each villa graced with plunge pools to keep you cool in the jungle rainforest. Used whenever you want. Cooling, and lovely.

One of my students using a view finder to create your picture plane

                               Our Casa Grande provided us with some artifacts to paint, flowers of course, but also great vistas of the rainforest, long views of beach meeting ocean, meeting sky and many combinations therein. I did our first demo there, using local fruit and colourful placemats. I find this a great place to start because what we drew was very easy to draw, allowing us to utilize our time with more focus on pastel application techniques, and colour. I found individuals personal statements through colour came out loud and clear. Whether you are an experienced pro or a beginner, we have all been discriminating, and developing our own personal taste in colour all our lives. It is no wonder that it comes out when we truly have enough time to relax and play.

                               The local fruits that we celebrated are so beautiful too- limes (green on the outside, and a beautiful orange on the inside), pineapples, watermelon, papaya and mangos. We ate them in the morning (SOOO fresh and delicious) then painted them in the afternoon. Our paintings were already saying "Costa Rica". We're having fun, and painting becomes a pleasure, because we paint with no fear, and no judgement. That's what I teach, and where we are headed for at least.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

 Costa rica 2016 On our way to the OSA


The best way to describe our trip to Costa Rica this year is terrific Karma. Everything has gone so smoothly, the people in my group are a dream come true, and Martine and Jason are as awesome as ever.
We started our adventure 2016 in San Jose, eating the first night at Chelles, an establishment that serves typical Costa Rican fare, and has been for over 100 years. San Jose is very prettily situated in the bowl of surrounding low lying mountains. The thing I have always looked forward to and remains consistent is the perfect temperatures and gentle breezes that make SanJose so pleasant. 
The next morning started very early, off to the airport for our plane ride from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez, the frontier town before riding off into the wild. We fly at 6000 feet, very low, allowing for a birds eye view of the mountains, rivers, farms and towns that makes Costa Rica so fascinating, such a jewel. From Puerto Jimenez, we drive approximately 2 hours, through many rivers, under rain forest Canopy, with periodic amazing vistas of where mountains and ocean meet rain forest.

Our hotel in San Jose. Nice little nook.
We finally arrived at our destination and home for the next week, Laguna Vista. We’re right in Carate, facing the Pacific Ocean. We hear the constant roar of the ocean, but it’s just far enough away to be a lovely lull for sleeping. The ocean breeze cuts the humidity, and keeps us from melting.

Any physical activity happens early morning, then it’s back here, to paint the rest of the day, a couple hundred feet above the ocean, completely open to the Pacific, the jungle, and a lagoon, right at the foot of our retreat, before you head on out to the ocean.
So far, we’ve gotten to know our general local environment, and spent most of our time going over my techniques for Painting in Pastel, and Plein Air on location. I have such a terrific group of women this year, and can’t wait to see what gems we will create. 
This morning was absolutely awesome. We got up early and trekked into the jungle, to a 3 tier waterfall as our destination. Within the first half hour, we saw all four types of monkeys that are native to this area. White faced Capuchins, Spider Monkeys, Howlers, and Ti-tis’. After all the trips I’ve done to Costa Rica, this is only the second time I’ve seen Ti-tis. They are very small, orangey-caramelly creatures, flying through the trees. Lucky day today!
Martine was her usual encyclopedia of everything OSA, while guiding us perfectly, and timing us to get back here before the real heat of the day.    
Now it’s our time to sink into artwork. When it’s too hot, or we need a break, it’s into the pool, then back at it. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

My name is Margaret Ferraro, and I am a life drawing-aholic

I'm not ashamed to tell you that I have an addiction. It's a passionate affair. It's that one time when I lose all consciousness about what's going on around me. It's deep meditation. It's the one thing I know I can do very well, and take pride in. I simply love to draw. Drawing the human form is not easy, but like anything, if you put the necessary effort into it, you can achieve a high level of skill in anything. Practise, is the key. If you love what you do, the effort is very easy. So simply find what you love, and just do it!

Many people ask me how I started teaching life drawing. I remember very clearly. I was reading an art magazine article, when the author mentioned that all BFA graduates want to teach life drawing. At this point in my life, I was well established in my love and passion for the sport, but had no plans on where it was going. But as soon as I heard that all BFA graduates wanted to teach this, I instantly also wanted to teach this. You see, I have no degree or formal education in such. Mine is the trial and error kind of education. Yes, workshops, a mentor here and there. But I basically taught myself. 
My decision to teach others what I do was not only instantaneous, it was heartfelt, an aggressive push from within that I cannot explain except to say I am full of passion for my sport. 
So I sat down at my kitchen table and said to myself, Self:  How, will I teach other people what I do? I know many teachers base their lessons on exercises from books. I also know the best teachers give from their well of experience and expertise. So instead of planning my workshops around Betty Edwards' Drawing on the right side of the brain, or some such other well known books, I starting writing down what I do. Consciously. How do I Draw? First, second, third. Then I formed this into a plan for incremental, sequential, logical, learning. I never looked back. Workshops formed, I kept on enhancing, changing, expanding what I already did. I still operate this way. It's been 20 years now, since I started teaching here. Unbelievable. 

Particularly with my life drawing classes, I have always felt that it was such a privilege, to do what I love, and teach it to others. 
With a few exceptions that I will note as I go down the list, this work is mostly from 2015. 
Thank you to everyone who has ever taken a life drawing class from me here at my home/studio. Many amazing experiences, amazing people, fantastic drawings, passions shared. 
Much meaning, much love. 

I think this one if from 2014. The wigged and the hidden. Graphite, 50 minutes.

How can I not include my most loved grandmother. 2014, from a photo, standing beside her Harley, 1940's. This was a studio piece I worked on over some time. 

My Mom, also from a photo, 2014. My guess is she is a teen, but it wasn't marked on the photo I did it from. Also a studio piece, not sure how much time went into it. 

You might recognize this well known Ottawa (now living in Toronto) model. It's Nicole, in conte. From 2015, 50 minutes.

Mesmorized by the long thin face, accentuated further by the bun of hair on top of his head, conte and charcoal, 50 minutes. 2015

This women is very tall. When a tall model does a standing pose, I often do a compositional cut. That means I do only part of the figure, as a compositional intent. 2015, 50 minutes

A young man I have drawn a few times,....Conte, 2015, 50 minutes

The well known Janine. Charcoal with past highlights. 2015, 50 minutes.

This girl got faint under the hot light, and the pose was cut short. I like the unfinished quality of it. Conte with pastel highlights, 20 minutes, 2015

Portrait commission, from a photo. Sorry, I don't keep track of how long studio pieces take me. It's charcoal, 2015

Nicole again, this time in oil. 30" X 36" on canvas. This piece was done over 4 sessions, 3 hours each. But it did not take me 12 hours. Much less. 2015

A quick draw, hands need work, but I love the hair on one side and shadow on her face. Conte, 25 minutes, 2015 

I often choose to do a portrait when I am not crazy about a pose. Conte, 25 minutes, 2015

I love having enough time to address an imaginative colour for the background as a mid value, in charcoal, conte, and pastel highlights. 45 minutes, 2015

Conte, with pastel highlights, 50 minutes, 2015

Many studies go unfinished, but I like the light on her face, and the way the face is more finished,  but the body is barely rendered. Your drawing doesn't have to the same level of finish everywhere. Many artists skillfully have one area more finished (the focal point), then another. 50 minutes, charcoal and pastel highlights. 2015

Capturing the actual volume, and length vs. width of the torso, is everything to having a reference point for the proportions of the rest of the body. Playing again, with the paper colour as mid-value. Charcoal, with pastel highlights. 50 minutes, 2015

My advice to you is always nail down a draft out of every part of the body before you explore value. I am a little disappointed in this piece. It's tight, and not flowing with the "life" that should be in life drawing. However, I do like the tones on her back. Goofing around a lot this year with charcoal. Love it! 25 minutes, charcoal, 2015

This was just down a few days ago. A lot of models don't understand well, or know how to use their imagination, while just being themselves up on the stand. Others, just do it naturally. I love the challenge of unusual perspectives. Conte and pastel. 25 minutes, 2015

There are many more, this is just what I pulled out for you. One point I am trying to make is that if you want to achieve anything with your life drawing, it's pretty simple. You must practise. Find a teacher you can relate to. 
To that end, I am happy to say I am starting to teach life drawing again in January! It'll be up on my website shortly after Christmas. If you want to know more now, just shoot me a line ( and I'll send you my new list of classes. 
In it for the passion of it!
Life Drawing in 2016.
See you there!