Over 750 pastel enthusiasts attended the IAPS 13th Biennial convention which was held in Albuquerque, NM from June 4th to 9th. What an amazing event this is for pastel artists who travelled from around the world to attend. Artists from China, Russia, Australia, France, Canada and many more countries were there to revel in all things pastel.

I arrived in Albuquerque on the 4th expecting to swelter in the heat but was instead greeted by a thunderstorm! It didn’t last long though and soon the heat that Albuquerque is known for returned. Overall though, it didn’t seem to be as hot as it had in years past. But it was hot enough to enjoy a drink and dinner with new friends that I met, including PAC member Anu Vedagiri.

I Was Here
Yes, I was there! Can you find my name?

On Wednesday I attended the President’s Forum as President of PAC. The focus of the current IAPS board is to live up to a big part of their name – International. Over the past few years, pastel societies from Russia, Thailand, China and other countries have joined the membership ranks of IAPS.

Richard McKinley and Shirley Anderson gave the presidents an update on work they are doing with the ASTM around lightfast ratings for pastels.  Shirley is the IAPS secretary but is also a chemist by profession so brings that background with her into this work.  While they still have a ways to go, it is a vital part of bringing the pastel medium on par with other mediums in terms of standards.

Along with the presidents from 5 other international societies, I was asked to give a presentation at the forum of PAC’s mission, goals and challenges. Although it wasn’t surprising, it was interesting to hear the same hopes and concerns expressed by the other associations. Recruiting new members, retaining current ones, encouraging volunteers, public education and providing opportunities for members were common threads around the world.  It was a great opportunity to see how others were trying to handle these challenges as well as to talk privately with a few of them. 

President forum presentation

Thursday was Brian Bailey’s demo day. Brian’s work is stunning, especially his draped figure paintings.  It wasn’t a surprise that the previous night his painting, “Listen” was awarded the Prix de Pastel grand prize award in the 5th Master Circle exhibition. 

Brian works large, very large! On BFK Rives printing paper no less. Brian works very meticulously building up layers of Rembrandt pastels so as not to damage the surface of the paper. He layers color over color in small areas at a time until he achieves the level of detail he is after. While he uses a charcoal pencil to lay in initial values, he doesn’t use pastel pencils.

While the amount of painting he was able to accomplish over the 3-hour demo wasn’t very much, when you see his work you understand why. Perfection takes time!!  He was very generous with sharing his knowledge and techniques and it was a very enjoyable demo.

Brian Bailey

On Friday I attended Tony Allain’s demo. Man, what a difference in technique and speed comparing Brian’s approach to Tony’s! In a 2-hour period, Tony completed 6, yes I said 6 paintings. Including 2 full sheet paintings. He would start the painting with a very detailed drawing – just kidding – he would draw 2 or 3 lines and then just start painting.

Tony would lay down broad strokes of color and just leave it alone, moving on to the next shape and color. But boy, when he got to those strokes of accent colors, the paintings just leapt of the sheet. Totally amazing.

Tony Allain

Saturday was Lyn Diefenbach’s demo.  Before the demo started, I got an opportunity to view a couple of her unframed paintings up close and personal. I was mesmerized by the detail and beautiful blending in those works.

While the demo painting was already partially started, she informed her audience that she thought she would be able to get 2 to 3 paintings completed in the 2-hour time allotment.  While I was skeptical, given her level of precision and detail, I gave her the benefit of a doubt.  While she didn’t get to the second or third painting, every minute she spent on the one painting was worth it. 

Like Brian, she doesn’t use pastel pencils either. She lays in the mid tones, darks and lights and then delicately blends the edges of those, working towards smaller details. Her demo was very entertaining and enlightening.

Lyn Diefenbach

You can’t talk about the convention without raving about the exhibitions. The work in both the 34th Juried exhibition and the 5th Master Circle exhibition were absolutely stunning. There were 126 paintings in the 34th juried exhibition and 76 in the Master Circle exhibition.

The amount of talent on display in the gallery was phenomenal. Every subject matter, every style, every painting, was exquisitely executed proving the versatility of the pastel medium. Canada was well represented in the exhibitions with works from Cathy Cullis, Patricia Lindley, Anu Vedagiri and myself having work hanging with other pastel artists from around the world.

34th Juried Exhibition
5th Master Circle

The Friday night Fiesta was a blast! All the societies were asked to participate in the event that included Marilyn Munroe – well at least a Marilyn wannabe. This was the event to promote your society to attract new members.

All us Canadians dressed in red (how original!!) and handed out I Love Canada buttons to interested artists but I do think some of them were just interested in getting something, anything, free!  Everyone had a great time though.  It also gave some of us Canadians a chance to get together for dinner and get to know each other a bit better.

Taking turns maning the PAC table - MJ Robertson, Lauren Spilsbury, Anu Vedagir and me!

Last, but definitely not least, The Candy Store. I was so proud of my self control on Thursday and Friday for not giving into the temptations of buying everything in sight!  Each day I wandered through the trade vendor area and only once was there any kind of calm going on in there. Most of the vendors were lined up 2 to 3 deep with fellow pastel addicts.

Sennelier, Schmincke, Holbein, Terry Ludwig, Jack Richeson and others were there, blinding the unsuspecting artists with their brilliant colors. LaCarte, Art Spectrum, Ming Art Paper and UART were all there too with incredible prices. Need to trick yourself out for plein air painting – no problem. There were 3 to 4 vendors with everything you’d need and more!.

But I wasn’t destined to leave the Candy Store unscathed. On Saturday, just as the vendors were starting to wind down, I passed the Mungyo Pastel booth for the umpteenth time.  Their set of 200 hand rolled pastels had been tempting me but I couldn’t justify the price considering what I had already spent.  Plus, they were in a wood box, which I really didn’t want – that fact completely mystified the vendor!  My resolve broke down when they offered me a rock bottom price, which when converted to Canadian was still a fantastic deal. I didn’t realize how fantastic of a deal it was until I got home and compared the price that it was available for at Jerry’s Artarama! But no good deal goes unpunished! The weight of the wood box resulted in my checked luggage being over the allowed weight!

Mungyo Warms
Mungyo Cools

The IAPS convention is an event that all pastel artists should experience at least once in their life. I would strongly encourage everyone who has considered attending to start planning and saving now for the next convention in 2021. You won’t regret it!

I hope to see you there.