Renowned pastel artist, and former President of the International Association of Pastel Societies, Liz Haywood-Sullivan, spent five days at Artable Studio’s pastel art immersive workshop with a group of students in Kingscliff Australia. As well as conducting both Plein Air and studio workshops, Liz was extremely generous with her time and advice outside of painting time. She kindly agreed to the following Q and A after a day visiting the Tweed Regional Gallery and painting outdoors.
Q: At what point did you think - I’m ready to leave my day job to pursue this?
A: Probably about 20 years before I was able to! You raise your family, you pay a mortgage, you do the things you need to do. When we had our daughter, she came first. At some point we were able to close the business my husband and I had together and he started another business. I had the option to keep my design business going but I wanted to become a fine artist, so I put my head down and started. That was in 1996.
Q: What do you enjoy most about creating art?
A: I just have to do it. I think you ask most artists and it’s just part of their being.
Q: What does the year ahead look like?
A: Next year I will be back at the IAPS Convention (their thirteenth biennial), and I will be doing something very interesting - the Philadelphia Watercolour Society asked me to be their judge and to do a workshop for their national event. I said ‘you know I’m a pastellist’ and they said ‘well we’re branching out into works on paper’, so I’m going to be showing them my underpainting technique with pastel which they could easily interpret into watercolour.
Then I’m doing a workshop next October that I’ve wanted to do for years which is sketching in Venice, Italy. It’s a six-day workshop where we’re going out with our sketchbooks and doing drawings and sketches. People are staying in a renovated convent so we’ve got studio space to do painting there. As well, the Venice Biennale is on so we’ve got tickets to the Biennale, tickets to some of the art museums, we’re going to go see works by Rosalba Carriera - one of the first artists to do work in pastel here - a Venetian court painter. So it’s another type of immersive experience around the sketch book.
Q: What do people most love to buy from you most?
A: I do landscapes and I don’t know that there’s any one thing in particular. People do love my skies but a lot of people love my snow scenes - it’s what resonates with them and reminds them of something that’s personal and important to them.
I had Steven Tyler from Aerosmith approach me. He’d seen other painting of mine and the light in this painting, that had sold, reminded him of the light on a rock in his property in New Hampshire - so he asked me to paint this subject because it reminded him of his kids when they were growing up.
Q: Why do you prefer underpainting to other techniques?
A: It helps me get my painting closer to finish, and it allows me to lock in the colours, the composition and my focal point. It stains the paper a colour I would like to have underneath and I get the tooth of the paper back. It’s not like I have layers and layers of pastel on it. When I wash it down, the tooth comes back.
Q: Is there a particular piece that gave you great joy to paint?
A: There are a number of them and they are the easy ones to paint. If I want to be painting it and it’s been in my mind, and it’s been talking to me and I’ve had time to think about it - when I finally get time to paint it, those pieces just flow out and land on the canvas or paper. People say to me ‘how long did it take to do a painting?’ And I’ll say ‘35 years!’ first of all, and secondly you can’t quantify it. The ones that you struggle with that take longer to do - at least for me are not always my better pieces.
Q: What do you think are the benefits of doing an immersive art intensive workshop?
A: The benefits are that you can’t run away. You can’t quit. We all work alone in our homes and our studios and when you hit a road block, if you don’t have the energy, or you’re not in the mood it’s so easy to walk away from it. When you’re in a workshop you can’t. You’ve got to keep facing it, you’ve got to keep working through and I’m here to coach you through it. In a workshop you also feed off each other’s energy.
Q: Where is your next workshop?
A: I have six workshops coming up in New Zealand.
Q: If you could only give one piece of advice to Pastel students what would it be?