With this love of pastels, I find it fun to browse the internet for other pastel artists. I like to see what inspires them. I examine how they create textures and study their strokes. I don't want to BE like them, but I am always encouraged when viewing their work, and learn different techniques that I have not discovered. Not to mention the best part of art... getting lost in their creation as though I am being pulled into a story.
Jean-François Le Saint is one of those artists. I discovered his work on Imagekind, a website that I list my work for reproduction. He is a Master Pastelist located in Brittany, France.He paints children, people, some landscapes, and I am fascinated with the wonderful colours in the skin of his subjects. What I really have appreciated about Jean-François is his willingness to share his technique and any tips with fellow artists. I have learned about a variety of papers from him, as well as tips for applying pastel.
I asked Jean-François Le Saint if I could ask him some questions and blog the answers to my community of art appreciators. Thankfully he obliged.
How long have you been using pastels?
When I was in art school in Paris in 1990 we had to acquire various painting media, including the Carrés Conté, I was instantly taken by these and started sketching with them all the time, first struggling on white Canson paper until I discovered how much easier and more fulfilling it was to use them on Pastelcard (strangely called thus in france, while it is known as "La Carte Pastel" in the U.S.). Gradually I acquired proper pastel sticks and soon discarded the Carrés conté.
What is your favorite paper to use with pastel
For years it used to be Pastelcard (aka La Carte Pastel), but for the last couple of years I have been using almost exclusively Pastelmat. Now with PanPastel I have rediscovered Pastelcard. I have been trying them with various types of paper I have accumulated over the years, and I think that Pastelcard is the ultimate surface for use with PanPastel !
It is great on Pastelmat too, but then I feel I have to be more cautious, to apply as little pastel as possible at each step, otherwise Panpastel saturates the texture quite soon.
No such caution needed with Pastelcard. It seems to accept more layers, and even if you think you have reached saturation, you can still switch to pastel sticks and add more.
If you were to ask me what is my favourite paper, I would find it more difficult to answer. Pastelcard is quite delicate and can be damaged even with a single drop of water. Pastelmat does not have that problem, but I wish it were a thick board instead of being so thin. There are other papers which I rather love, but do not use. I think when you like painting with pastels it surely has to do with a love of paper itself. Fabriano makes a paper called Roma, which is a delight to handle, but as I said I don't actually use it, I just love having it around to feel under my fingers. Ruscombe paper mill also makes wonderful papers, and paper that is actually nice to work on with pastels. However, I feel you have to be quite cautious when working on uncoated papers, you have to know where you are going, whereas I usually feel my way forward rather than follow a given method. Pastelmat and Pastelcard are more suitable for this, because it is more forgiving. You can easily work over misleading layers without having to remove them first.
Can you tell me about your subject matter and why you enjoy painting what you do?
I usually paint portraits of children or scenes with children, The only other worthwile subject would be animals. When drained of energy I sometimes need to paint landscapes, that I find quite regenerating.
When painting modern day people the main problem is clothing, which is not at all inspiring like most modern day "achievements". I like to paint modern clothes only when they are raggedy. It was all well when I used to travel, but these days I generally gather my reference material in traditional festivals.
When asked if there was any artist that he would like to meet, Jean-François said this...
In person ? None, really. Leave it to providence to arrange meetings, it does very well.
When you read a book, it is sometimes like listening to the author's train of thought, is it not ? That way find yourself carrying near conversations with long dead writers. I feel the same way when admiring a painting in a museum.
In fact I have sometimes felt like I missed an appointment when I failed to see a painting that I had come to examine. Sadly it has happened to me several times, like in Naples when I went to the museum of Capodimonte to see one of Antonio Mancini's paintings only to find that section of the museum closed to the public. Or again in Madrid where the Museo Sorolla had been closed for months without my knowledge.
I believe strongly that it is necessary to make a clear distinction between the artist as a person, and their art. If you do not draw such a line, it will be difficult to enjoy the art of a person whose life you do not approve of, and that would be a shame, there is much to be lost that way.
I just want to thank Jean-François Le Saint for graciously answering my questions. The more I paint, the more I realize how much I have to learn. I look forward to asking questions of other artists and sharing their insight with this online community.