Great pastel demo by Leigh Rust

Back in 2008 I had an exhibition that was opened by that great primatologist, Dame of the British Empire and United Nations Messenger for Peace Dr Jane Goodall. It was a joint exhibition with 30 pieces of art, mostly chimpanzee paintings and scratchboards by myself and Leigh Rust. Well, I’ve just had the privilege of having Leigh’s company again. He was booked by the Pastel Society of South Australia for a workshop and a demo and he and his family stayed with my family for four days. Damn nice people!!

I went with him to Victor Harbor, a lovely seaside resort in South Australia, where he did a demo of a koala using his own brand of handmade pastels “Rustytones”. He had two hours to show off his skills, honed from years of work in the studio and in the field and we weren’t disappointed. I heard gasps of amazement as he effortlessly created a superb piece of art right before our eyes.

As you can see from the image below Leigh has developed a palette to hold his pastels in just like an oil painter would hold a palette laden with paint, very handy and innovative. He sells all sorts of colours but has also developed specific combinations like his ‘wildlife’ palette, taking much of the guesswork out for someone wanting to try pastels but not knowing where to start.

The range is absolutely gorgeous with his pastels loaded with pigment. And the great things about them, you don’t have to break them to get ‘usable’ pieces and you certainly don’t have to rip off annoying labels since he doesn’t use any.

Leigh employs a technique which I’ve used quite a bit when sketching out the initial layout but he takes it one step further. I often look for ‘guidelines’ such as imaginary lines let’s say from an ear to an eye or from the tip of an elbow to the nose, building up a network of lines which act as reference points to get your drawing accurate. However, he actually draws these lines on his reference photograph. It was great to see him explain the rhythm of the lines, which create planes, and this can clearly be seen by the results below.

Back to the pastel demo – Leigh can talk and he spent so much time explaining his philosophy that I thought he wasn’t going to finish. And then, in no time, he finished! It was a great sight to see.

And now this lovely piece is on my wall!