AP Studio Art and Grade 10 Art students had the opportunity to work with acclaimed pastel artist Nancy Slaght this week, as the former University of Victoria instructor came to SMUS to share her expertise on this rare medium, which uses chalk-like soft pastels to create pieces similar to paintings.
“I love paper and working with my hands,” says Ms. Slaght. “My hands are like my brushes.”
Creating soft pastel pieces involves using dry sticks of pigment to create layers of different colors. Artists can use sticks, their hands or other tools to blend the colors to form an image. Ms. Slaght, whose pieces have sold around the world, says that part of what makes the method unique is that it’s quite different from holding a brush, yet pieces resemble paintings.
“Some of the Senior students really loved the medium,” says Ms. Slaght. “The results were fun – they enjoyed the colour, how quickly you can add on and the different ways you can add to your piece.”
The SMUS students were eager to use their fingers to spread color over paper of various textures and shades. The Grade 10 students used authentic stuffed birds, on loan from the Royal BC Museum, as models, sketching them and filling out their drawings with pastels. The AP Studio Art students were challenged to create a piece in each of the three classes Nancy taught them, with each piece being a variation on the same theme.
“The idea was to start with a design, change it each time and end up with three pieces that are similar but different,” explains Ms. Slaght. “It’s an efficient way to explore the medium and some of them might end up with a piece that can be used in their portfolio.”
When she was a student at the Victoria College of Art, Ms. Slaght completed her entire graduate portfolio in pastels, because she was so enamoured with the medium. Since then, her work has been shown at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Winchester Galleries and The Avens Gallery and she has gained world-wide recognition for her work. “Pastel pieces can be abstract or detailed and realistic,” she says. “There are no limitations.”