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Telling a Story with Pastels

Telling a Story with Pastels: An Artistic Dramatization by Carole Katchen

Tell a Story with Pastels

People think that storytelling is only done with words, but you can also tell a story in a picture.

To tell a story you need several elements:

1. A character or characters
2. A "plot"
3. A setting
4. A mood

The Character(s)
I generally start my paintings with actual people. Either I have a model in front of me or I use reference drawings from my sketchbook. I have found it extremely useful to keep a sketchbook with me at all times for capturing the features, expressions and gestures of people in public. Often the situation I am sketching will be enough to inspire a whole painting; at other times I look for interesting people and put them together in a narrative way.

For instance, I might start with one woman standing with a wineglass in her hand. Then, if I add two or more characters also holding wine glasses, I suddenly have a party.

In developing each character, I must consider facial expression, gesture or body language, placement in relationship to other characters, costumes and props. Each of these elements will tell something important about who the character is./p>

I decide early if they are young or old, beautiful or frumpy. If I want them friendly, I place them close together. If I want them happy, I give them big smiles. If I want them snooty, I stick their noses up in the air.

The Plot
Basically the plot is what the characters are doing. Say I have combined four standing figures. If I want my characters to be gossiping, I will place them close together and have them leaning toward each other. If I want them gossiping about someone else, I can have them all looking in the same direction out of the picture. If I want three of them to be close friends and one to be an outsider, I will put three close together and leave some open space between them and the solo figure.


The Setting
Where is my party taking place? If it's an art gallery, I put some pictures on the wall. If it's a living room, I add living room furniture like a sofa, an easy chair, some end tables with flowers, windows and curtains. For a more public event, I can add a crowd of smaller, abstract figures.

The Mood
Finally, I have to consider mood. Is it a happy occasion? Then I will probably make the painting bright and colorful. If I want it more dramatic, I can add light and shadows from a single light source. If I want it mysterious, I use dark colors with bright areas only for the faces and accents.

By the time I have finished the painting, I want to know, and show, who these people are, what they are doing, where they are doing it and how they feel about it. That way the painting brings life and vitality to any room where it's hanging.

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Step 1
I want this painting to be about people in public who are only involved with themselves. I start with a maitre d' with his nose up in the air.

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Step 2 - Size
Next I add a couple on the right, creating a triangular composition. I place them close together, but not paying attention to each other.

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Step 3
I block in values and colors, and define the negative space with flat color. I am concerned here with the overall design.

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Step 4
I complete the first layer of color and suggest a crowd in the background with abstract strokes of color.

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Step 5
I blend all of the initial color to create a more solid image. During the blending process, I lengthen the background figures to make them look closer to the foreground. I strengthen some of the colors, add final details, and the painting is done.

About the Artist
Carole Katchen's art is brimming with a gentle humor and sincerity that has charmed collectors all over the world. She brings a sense of humanity and personal commitment to her art, an ability to reach beyond the obvious and capture the people around her, the places they dwell and the environment that shapes them.

Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and featured in such prestigious magazines as American Artist, Southwest Art, Pastel Artist International and The Artist's Magazine. Her paintings have also been recognized with numerous awards including the Grumbacher Gold Medallion Award (Pastel Society of New Mexico National Exhibit,) Golden Mentor Award (International Association of Pastel Societies) and Master Pastelist (Pastel Society of America.) Her work can be found in private and corporate collections around the country including the Denver Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of Outdoor Art.

A professional artist for 30 years, Carole Katchen's paintings have appeared in exhibits and books on several continents. She was selected for World Who's Who of Women, Who's Who of American Art and Who's Who in the South & Southwest. She has written 17 books and sold over 1 million copies.

Carole Katchen received her B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1965. She has taught numerous courses in drawing and painting at colleges and museums throughout the United States. Her art is featured regularly at Gore Creek Gallery, Vail, Colorado; Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, Telluride, Colorado; Bryant Galleries, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi; Alpha Gallery, Little Rock, Arkansas; and American Legacy Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri.