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Learning new skills & rediscovering old friends…

Updated: Mar 8

Recently I invested in an online portrait workshop offered by Alain Picard. It was a fantastic experience.

The focus of the workshop was on portrait painting with pastels. Portrait painting and figurative work in general has long been something I was repelled by. However a confluence of events has brought me closer to enthusiastically enjoying the process of painting the human form.

It all started when I stumbled upon a brilliant British series called The Portrait Artist of the Year. This series features both amateur and professional artists engaging in a head-to-head competition to see who can do the best job of capturing a surprise celebrity sitter's likeness in the medium of their choice. Their work is judged and ultimately the season-long tournament style competition unfolds with one person being named "The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year."

It is really rare for me to voluntarily binge watch a series on my own but this series has captured my attention.

The second thing that has played a role in my drive to try my hand at portrait painting is the Alain Picard workshop I recently attended. As mentioned it was a fantastic experience that exceeded my expectations in every way.

The third event fueling this newfound enthusiasm for portrait work is the incredible discovery of a classic book called "Drawing the Head & Hands" by Andrew Loomis. This discovery came as a result of a recommendation Alain Picard made during a special Q&A and critique session he held following the workshop.

The book was written in the 1940s but it is phenomenal.

Loomis takes the reader through well researched, time tested processes for drawing the human head and hands.

One additional element in all of this which has amplified the growing drive to create portraits is that through the workshop, I've rediscovered my love for pastels. Life unfolds, we get busy and it is often easy to forget the things that brought us to where we are at the present moment.

The past twenty-five years have been personally a period marked by great change, periods of hard work and sacrifice and quite a few misguided attempts at one thing or another. It has also been a period of wonder and amazement as I've watched my younger brother, younger cousins and our own children grow up. It has been a very busy period for a lot of people for all kinds of reasons. All of this and more has dulled my recollection of how I was able to find time to create throughout this period. Pastels played a key role in the effort to remain connected to the painter in me.

Here are some of the pastel paintings I have made over the past 25 years. Most were made somewhere between 2005 and 2017.

Most of these were made at our dining room table, early in the morning or late at night while I was stressed out or struggling about one thing or another. The process of creating them brought some peace and served as a quiet reminder of the good stuff that was going on. The process also kept me in touch with the creative drive I have always had and laid the groundwork for me to quickly pickup additional skillsets (i.e. oil painting, watercolor painting, etc.).

This all may be evidence supporting the old adage that not all who wander are lost? Who knows... I am grateful for having the opportunity to learn and grow as an artist.

I am grateful I have enough slack in my schedule, after two and half decades of working long hours often at multiple jobs, to create regularly. I am also grateful to have the means to share my work regularly and find it reasonably well received!

I am grateful for the pathway that led to where I am as an artist for it has been one rich in experience, that has allowed just enough connection to my creative drive to sustain me and keep me in tune with the somnambulant painter within.

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I remember some of those works. I especially like the one of the twins in their winter hats. Don’t sell yourself short on your portrait prowess, it’s especially difficult to capture young children! You did so beautifully!


Nancy Dann
Nancy Dann

OK - I had to look up somnambulant and that would be a great description of me most mornings... I'm awake, but am I? I also chuckled at the use of the word repelled! The heads and hands book looks incredible. I've always had a fascination for both. Great work nephew!


Your Bob Marley pastel is simply amazing! On another note, my mom, who was also an enthusiastic and serious artist, always told me that hands were the hardest part of the body to get right.

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