Over the past couple weeks I have been volunteering as a monitor for the Introduction to Pastel class taught by Sandra Gobar. This fall the class theme was ‘Sketching with Pastels in the Smithsonian Gardens’. As a monitor, I also have the opportunity to take the class, and it has been a great experience for me as an artist. Along with most of the students in the class, pastels are a medium that I haven’t had very much experience using, and so Sandra’s intro class was perfect for me.
Sandra is a wonderful teacher and generous person. In order to help the class experience the dynamic nuances of pastel, she brought in all types of different pastel brands from her own studio. She let each of us experiment with the pastels and paper she brought, from the more affordable pastels and paper to finer qualities, and even taught a demonstration on oil pastels. She also brought in books from her studio that she uses for inspiration and introduced us to many different artists who use pastel, the class favorite being Wolf Kahn. Each week we learn a new pastel technique and practice them as a class. A few techniques that we have gone over are side strokes, scumbling, feathering, and blending. From there, Sandra gives her students a lot of freedom to create whatever we want. She recognizes that each student is at a different place in their artistic journey and caters her lessons to individual artists of all ages and backgrounds.
Although Sandra doesn’t require it, she urges her students to take time outside of her class to further their artistry by spending each day doing a little bit of pastel work or simply some doodling. She treats art like it is a vital part of life and encourages us to take inspiration from all of our experiences. I have learned from Sandra to keep a notebook full of clippings, doodles, pictures that inspire me, studies, practices, and writings. She taught me to hold on to every part of my artistic journey, because it is important for the artist to remember where they came from.
I have thouroughly enjoyed taking Sandra’s Intro to Pastels class and urge anyone with an interest in pastels to take it. Students with skill sets ranging from novice to advanced all have something to gain from this class. Intro to Pastels will be offered again in January, this time focusing on still life and the figure. For more information on the class, visit http://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/reserve.aspx?performanceNumber=227481.