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The Pastel Paintings of Christine Ivers by Deborah Secor
(from Pastel Journal, November/December 2012)
After four decades working as an art director, Christine Ivers has become comfortable working out a composition right at the start using a camera. Looking through the lens, she explains, is a huge part of her creative process. “The ingrained graphic artist in me takes over,” she says. “I’m often asked how I’m able to get such wonderful night photos. I’ve worked with photography for many years, and I know Photoshop, but I do something that many people overlook: I actually read the camera manual.”
Also, in terms of photography, the artist notes the resolution setting is critically important. She selects a high-quality resolution for each photo–one that will print clearly enough to be a useful resource.
A grid drawn on the photo and the board allows Ivers to translate elements to her board accurately. This is particularly helpful with architecture, which is often a featured subject in her paintings. “I draw the grid on the photo and then use a diagonal line to correctly proportion the photo to my board, drawing with a neutral pastel pencil,” she explains. Ivers then uses different colored pastel pencils to begin the work.
The photos she takes, whether by night or day, become more than mere records of a time and place. “I shoot on the fly and usually see stories in the photos later when I look at them,” she says. “The painting Empty Bed, for instance, came about when I was shooting in Boston one night. I started off in front of a gallery and noticed a man standing there watching the video loop playing inside. Forty-five minutes later, when I came back, he was still there. I decided it was because he had no one to go home to.”
Going for the Glow
Ivers approaches a nighttime painting differently than she does a daytime scene. Because the dark colors are so vital, she integrates five or six very dark pastel sticks of the same value range into the shadowy areas, alternating warm and cool temperatures, pulling the eye into the painting. “I use black. I have a bunch of huge Sennelier black sticks and every dark that any manufacturer makes,” Ivers says. “I’ve found that the two darkest sticks are the Ludwig eggplant and Rembrandt black.
“I love to play with reflective objects–cars, trucks, windows, poles and hubcaps,” she adds. “The little dots, dashes and streaks of color are like eye candy. Nupastels are absolutely wonderful for painting these little gems which create so much excitement in the painting with very little effort. I’m excited by tics of light bouncing on shiny surfaces yet serenely moved by the depth of many colors, warm and cool, that make up the voids of light.”
The aura of light piercing the darkness fascinates the artist, who describes the gleaming light around headlights, street lamps or neon signs as “addictive.” Ivers uses at least three to six values, keeping color temperature in mind, to capture the radiance. Beginning with the color at the center, she then scumbles lightly over it with a lighter color to keep the hard edges at bay. She may work out the entire light progression from center to edge, and then reverse the approach, working from the outside edges back in, going back and forth as many times as needed. “These glows are simple to paint with a little understanding of value,” she says. “Add the lost and found edges of night, the softness of color on people and vegetation, and the contrast of light and darkness itself, and I’m lost in the painting. I want my viewers to discover what they normally wouldn’t take the time to see.
“Finding what lies between the polar opposite values of contrast and temperature is what I love,” Ivers adds. “Life is yin and yang. The sun rises and sets. There’s an opposite for everything, and I love to explore both worlds. I learn from both night and day, and I bring what I learn from one to the other. I would be bored painting just one side of the universe, so I paint both.” ~DS
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