"Hillside Village, Northern Spain"-11"x20" Pastel-By Desmond O'Hagan

Desmond O'Hagan - Workshop Review

This is a re-post of a wonderful workshop I took in 2007.  I'm sure many of my blog readers missed this, and   would like to read about it...especially if you want to loosen up with your oil painting or pastels!

I had a fantastic and creative time at Desmond O'Hagan's three day workshop in June of 2007. Desmond paints both in soft pastels and in oils. Most of the participants in this workshop were pastel artists. The workshop was put on by NPS (Northwest Pastel Society). This will be short and sweet, mainly because I took limited photos (no WIP's), and also the fact that Desmond’s technique is a very simple one - work with Shapes, Light and Dark areas, with only Implied Detail.

First of all, Desmond is a very good instructor, and very "hands on" with all the students. How many of these busy workshop artists maintain there passion, is beyond me!

If you ever want to "loosen up", participate in one Desmond's workshops. If you are able to get out of your comfort zone, and really tackle his concept, your paintings will begin to be very impressionistic.

He works quite a bit from photos, and emphasized that you do not have to include everything that's in your photo reference. The subjects of market and street scenes can get very busy, so you must be selective with your composition.

Like many artists, he pointed out that the overall concept of your painting should be formulated in your planning stages. Desmond starts out making small thumbnail sketches, and value studies of his subject matter. This challenges you to make choices before committing your concept to the final surface.

He first defines his paintings with a light vine charcoal drawing, making sure all his proportions are correct. After that, he drops in the dark value areas, using black (yes black), dark brown, dark blue and/or dark green pastels – with this method he’s establishing the darkest valued shapes first. He then moves onto the middle values, and last the highlights. Always leave the light areas until last...this takes some discipline. He does a lot of warm over cool layers. He always tries to build the light to have balance in the painting.

Desmond uses varied pressure when applying soft pastel, and many times broke his pastels while attempting to get a heavy application. Letting the paper color peak through is one of the things Desmond says he likes to do with his work. If you go to his website, you’ll see many examples of “paper color peak” in his work. He uses very little layering, and it is amazing to see the results he gets with seemingly little effort. I think I remember him saying he uses the pastel brands Rembrandt, Ludwig, and Sennelier.

This next statement is the most important - 99% of his strokes are with the sides of the pastel sticks.  He hardly ever uses the point of the pastel.  Most of his pastel sticks were broken in half to achieve a shorter overall stroke. If you see a line in his work, it's done with varied pressure, and with the side of the pastel. Think in terms of "shape" and not "object". His paintings have very little detail. All images are implied, which makes the viewer seem to always discover something different when they come back to his paintings.

Avoid predictable direction in your strokes, even with water. Leave out the ripples...just suggest them.

You will have a lot of lost and found edges with this technique.

As stated on his website: It is important to him that each painting exhibit such artistic fundamentals as sound structure, exciting design, and harmonious color. His unique painting style has been evolving from a very young age and can be described as a style that enlists the viewer in the interpretation of details loosely portrayed. O'Hagan possesses the versatility to paint any subject, and the subjects he enjoys most to paint range widely from figurative and interiors to urban paintings and street scenes.

The following are his 3 workshop demos (Provided by Desmond). The last 2 are my workshop paintings. I used white Museum Grade Wallis. Desmond used various mid to dark colors of Canson. All the paintings posted here, including mine, where about 9"x12". What’s really amazing is that his demos took less then an hour each! Sorry, I don't have the reference photos for Desmond's paintings...the photos were very small…about 3"x4” in size. My reference photos are included to show how one doesn’t have to include everything that’s in the photo – artistic license at its best!

Desmond O’Hagan – First Demonstration Painting:

Desmond O’Hagan – Second Demonstration Painting:

Desmond O’Hagan – Third Demonstration Painting:

My First Workshop Painting:

My Photo Reference:

My Second Workshop Painting:

My Photo Reference:

I want to thank the wonderful artist Peggy Braeutigam for contributing to this article.

I hope you took away something helpful from this article.

David Patterson – email