The past year has been one full of amazing student art in my online art school. Students tackled a variety of challenges, workshops and courses and the results are certainly worth showing off! Some students focussed on one particular course or medium, while others took on the monthly workshops. In our online forums there are also weekly challenges so students can pick and choose whatever they fancy.  And some of the results can be seen in this online exhibition below. 

I have asked all my students to submit one piece to our End of Year Show (here in this blog post). They were free to choose whichever piece they wanted. Perhaps a piece in which they had a break-through, or one that they are particularly proud of, or one they just liked. I then asked them to say something about their piece; perhaps why they chose it, or how this piece has helped them move forward.  You can read their words underneath each artwork. 

There is a large variety of work this year: some landscape, portraits, pets and still life. This reflects the variety of subjects we tackle in the art school as well. There is a heavy representation of pastel - simply because we all adore soft pastel in the Art School! But we work in oils as well and some pieces are in oils.  

I hope you enjoy scrolling through the exhibition and reading the artists' words. Do leave a comment below, it would mean so much to all the artists who have worked so hard!

Enjoy.

Marie Lebens, My Precious! pastel on Pastelmat, 12x10"

About this piece

I created this pastel painting in the 2021 Pets in Pastel workshop. I chose it as it was such a challenge to create such a variety of textures in one artwork.

J.R., View of Mont Ventoux, pastel on pastel mat, 12x15.5"

About this piece

This piece was created start to finish over five days of the "Landscape in Pastel" workshop. With almost no previous "art" experience or training in pastels, I had lots of questions and needed help from Sophie, particularly around color and value. And the atmosphere of encouragement from fellow students gave me the energy and confidence I needed to keep going through some major challenges. 

Martin Barge, Portrait in Primaries, Limited palette Rembrandt soft pastels on 'Off White' Fabriano Ingres pastel paper, 50x35cm.

About this piece

My objective with this painting was to achieve skin tones using only 5 colours: permanent red, ultramarine deep, light yellow, white and burnt umber. I also wanted to practise the techniques I'd learned on 'The Pastel Place' and 'Classical Portrait Drawing' courses at Sophie's Art School. I was very surprised and delighted to discover that such variety of skin tones could be achieved with such a limited palette. For me, this was an important learning experience.

Nikki Alford, Rembrandt Copy, acrylics on canvas board, 12x16"

About this piece

I didn't believe I coud do this, but I tried to emulate some of rembrandt's techniques and I surprised myself.

Cheryle Virtue-Richards, Soft Tarts, pastel on Hahnemuhle Velour, 7x8"

About this piece

This still life setting was set up on my dining room table to develop skills in understanding how light falls and where shadows appear. 

Diane Ramsay, Brynna, pastel on suede mat, 11x13"

About this piece

Brynna is our nine year old Portuguese Water Dog. Painting a dark coloured animal is challenging, especially when developing a realistic portrait, I wanted to incorporate her vibrant and energetic personality in this portrait as well. I love the contrast between Brynna and the calming green background and how it compliments the colours that I used to create our girl.

Lynda, Still Life - Coloured Bottles, pastels on Uart, 10x10"

About this piece

This is my favourite piece from the past year. It is the one I did for the complementary colours exercise in the Pastel Place course. To me, it represents the time when colour theory started to click in my brain, and I love the way it turned out. The vibrant complementary blues and oranges, the challenge of representing glass effectively, and the interesting reflections were all fun to play around with.

Barbara Alsko, Teacups, pastel pencils on Mi-Teintes paper, 9x12"

About this piece

I created "Teacups" as part of the Pastel Place course in Sophie's Art School. This particular lesson was about detail-- when to paint it, when to merely suggest it. The cups and saucers had a basketweave pattern that I wanted to suggest without having to render in full, which would have been overwhelming and less interesting than having a few places recede and a few remain prominent. I struggled with all the ellipses in the piece, but once I had that figured out I was able to focus on the goals of the lesson. I was pleased with the result and with the piece as a stand-alone piece of art (and my first time working with pastel pencils!).

Mitch Barrett, Water Glow - Azores, pastel on black paper, 9x11"

About this piece

I was struck by the intense light at this waterfall on Riberia Salga. The contrast of the white waterfall against the black rocks along with the stunning brown/yellow/green of the water below it gave the entire scene a heavenly feel.
This was perhaps my third attempt with the new Rembrandt soft pastels I purchased and I only had smooth black cartridge paper. I really liked how well both the composition and the colors worked and that was enough to send me back to Jackson's Arts website for more pastels and paper. The exercises in Sophies Art School on hatching and tickling were invaluable and I am hooked.

Christine Alison, Young Girl (After Liotard), pastel on paper, 22x22cm

About this piece

I am fascinated how skin tones can be achieved by layering colour. I have been exploring the works of Liotard and Carriera as well as other artists featured on the Pastel Course and feel that I am now beginning to understand how to achieve credible skin tones.

Cynthia Davidson, The Harbour, Seahouses, pastel on Fabriano Tiziano paper, 35x28cm

About this piece

The fishing boats were a perfect subject for the complementary colours exercise in The Pastel Pace .

Terence Michael Jones, A Copy of The Girl with a Pearl Earring,  pastel on paper, 29.7x30cm

About this piece

There were so many challenges. Fine detail with pastel was quite enough , but together with the discipline imposed by a copy it was for me the most difficult piece of work of the year It was also the most rewarding. It combined colour theory with value , it also reminded me why masters have earned their title.

Helen, Underpainting!, pastel on Pastelmat, 25x35cm

About this piece

This is my underpainting exercise from the Pastel Place. I had never done an underpainting before and I found the process enlightening- pastels aren't just for sketches but can be layered and made to look like like paintings- now the possibilities seem endless. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I've done since I joined and since this picture but this was my watershed moment.

Barb Ryan, Ted D. Bear, Oil on linen panel

About this piece

Teddy has been around a very very long time we’ve had some interesting conversations in years past. He has always watched over me and still watches over my special things.

Jane, It's a Dog's Life, pastel on pastel mat, 26x25cm

About this piece

I joined Sophies Pastel workshop to learn how to paint in pastel, having never done a portrait , animal or otherwise. Six months down the line I am so pleased with this painting which was created during a Pets in Pastel Workshop. Thank you Sophie !

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About the author

Sophie is an artist, art historian, tutor, author and blogger. She writes on oil and pastel painting, art history and the life of an artist. She paints portraits and still life and specialises in painting drapery and lace.

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  1. Fabulous works, loved the "Teacups" with the artists focus on implying detailingnwithout painting it! Also, the still life featuring complimentary colors in the glass bottles. Excellent works everyone!

  2. Wow, what fabulous paintings, and a testament to the artists and also to Sophie and her art school! Hopefully next year I'll be organised enough to submit one too, though my fellow artists have set the bar extremely high.

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