Saturday, May 19, 2012

Inside the Process: an Interview with Lyn Asselta

Watercolor under-painting

Last week we discovered the expressive pastel paintings of 
Lyn Asselta.

Lyn is the president and founder of 
First Coast Pastel Society and was the featured artist of A Brush with Nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum.

Arboretum Path, pastel on paper, ©2012 Lynn Asselta

Lyn's pastel painting workshop at the Jacksonville Arboretum was fun for all the participants. Lyn was so busy encouraging her students that her own painting waited to be completed until after the event. 

Today, we'll look at her finished painting and ask Lyn some questions about her motivations, her background, and her process.

Hello Lyn!
Since you are one of my favorite painters and a master of plein air painting in pastel, I'd love to find out more about you and your work. Thanks for answering some
questions for us.

What was the catalyst for becoming an artist and a teacher? 
Lyn: I think I've always wanted to be an artist, but I also wanted to share that with other people. So, I started out as an elementary school art teacher and then gradually transitioned into teaching workshops for adults.  I love being able to watch someone get excited about learning to paint or draw.

Has pastel always been your medium of choice? 
Lyn: I've worked with a lot of different mediums in the past.  I started out as a calligrapher, then did a little residential drafting, I created large, intricately-designed gourd vessels with pine-needle basketry for about 10 years, and then finally pulled my old pastel box out of the studio closet and discovered sanded paper...that was the beginning of it for me!

Why do you work outdoors?  
Lyn: Honestly, I work outdoors because I love it there.  There is nothing quite like standing next to my easel, hearing the birds and the wind in the trees or the water swooshing up against the shore.  It's peaceful, and I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be when I'm out there.

What location has been your favorite and why? 
Lyn: As for a favorite place, it's hard to say.  I recently took a trip to Zion National Park and fell in love with those enormous mountains, but every time I see a new place I tend to fall in love with it, so maybe the answer is wherever I happen to be!

What do you hope your students learn from you? 
Lyn: I hope my students learn to be excited about pastels and painting.  To me, it's the excitement that is the most important thing.  Whenever I teach, the very best thing for me is the look of excitement on a student's face when they've done something they thought they couldn't do, or when they love what they've painted.

Are you ever fully satisfied with your work? How do you know when you're finished? 
Lyn: Every so often I finish a painting and I'm totally happy with it.  But, more often than not, I continue to wonder if there is anything else I need to do to really make it special.  As a painter, I'm ridiculously critical of my own work. Sometimes I will go back and work on a painting after I think it's "finished". Other times I will stack it against the wall and hope that I feel differently about it a few months later.  I'm pretty particular about what I feel is good enough to go into a frame.

Knowing when to finish a painting is tricky.  With every single painting, there is a time that I realize I've begun to work more slowly and deliberately.  The marks aren't as spontaneous anymore and I realize I'm starting to evaluate every stroke.  I've learned to pay attention at this point.  When I start to slow down, I know that I'm quickly coming to the point where one more mark could disturb the integrity of the whole painting.  So, I try to stop before I make that one final mark.   

Thank you so much for this peek into the mind of an artist.

Note: In comparing the watercolor under-painting (done in complementary colors) with the finished painting, notice that Lyn allows the under-painting to show, not fully covering it. This makes the colors sparkle next to one another.
Using watercolors for the under-painting simplifies the process and dries almost immediately, so the pastel layer can be added.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Perfectly Pastel Kind of Day

The luscious colors of the day
I first encountered the sublime pastel paintings  of Lyn Asselta  last October at the Painting the Region paint out. Lyn was one of a handful of artists using the medium of pastel. Her work captured me - the incredible colors  and textures made me want to put down my oils and pick up pastels again.

One of many mediums I've dabbled with, pastel appeals to me because you essentially draw. I draw constantly, so it's a comfortable feeling to draw a painting.

Pastel painting is highly portable, doesn't need to dry and can be framed on the spot, all convenient attributes for plein air work. When I saw a workshop offered by Lyn at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, I jumped at the chance to participate and learn from one of the best.

Watercolor under-painting

Lyn starts her sketch

We learned so much from Lyn as we watched her demo. One particularly interesting step in her process is the watercolor under-painting in complementary colors - the step that makes the layers on top sparkle and sing.

Just as complementary colors bring out the best in each other, Lyn Asselta brought out the best in her students. If you have an opportunity to paint with Lyn, take it - you'll be painting with one of the best.

I don't have a photo of Lyn's finished painting. She may not have finished it - she was busy helping others. 
But here's my little effort on that lovely day in May.

Sunbathing 5x7 Pastel ©2012 Jaime Howard