Pastels on the Plaza is my favorite of Arcata’s yearly events, and this year was above average. The weather was pleasant, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the event, the music, and the farmer’s market.
This was my tenth year doing the event, and as always, I was doing a square for the best landscape designer on the north coast, Genevieve Schmidt.
I like to use the event as an excuse to try out new ideas and tools. For several years now, I’ve been wanting to try something more impressionist, and this year, I finally just dove in and went for it. I ditched my usual tame color palette and my small blending tools in favor of using every color in the box, and a full size, 8″ bench brush as my paint brush. My mom also drove half way across the state to help me out and was instrumental every step of the way, not least by doing all of my lettering so I could focus on other things.
I didn’t push things in the foreground quite as much as I had intended because the navy and purple pastels were a bit too drab and crumbly.
When a business donates to Northcoast Children’s Services, the get either a 3×3′ square or 3×6′ (usually actually 3×5′) landscape. I really wanted to do something in a portrait orientation, so I moved the text area from the bottom to the sides, and I think it worked out well. I continued the black border a bit at top and bottom, which really framed it and took it out of the fray.
Leah Vaughn did the square next to me for Holly Yashi jewelry. I love how it came out. It manages to have a strong subject in the masterfully done hummingbird, and also fade smoothly into a whole different kind of design around the edges. The grey background really left a lot of open color palette for the rest, and probably saved a lot of frustration transitioning between foreground and background.
Stencils seemed to be the innovation of the day all around the square. Getting perspective and spacing to look right can be really hard in this format, with the big horizontal space and ever changing lighting. I don’t think Casey Vaughn’s perforated paper method worked out as planned, but luckily, he’s got enough lettering skills to freehand it anyway. He was working on behalf of Pizza Gago, a local woodfired pizza maker.
Due to some scheduling conflicts, I didn’t get to do my usual afternoon walkaround to see all the finished squares, so this year, we’ll go with more of a look at things in progress.
This guy was doing a fun square using a small brush and spray bottle. It’s a technique that didn’t work out for me when I tried it, but maybe I’ll have to revisit it. It seems like it helps to fill in the crevices and make solid color areas, which I could have used to get my black areas darker.
Cafe Mokka is a great little local coffee shop with hot tubs and saunas. Their artist did an impressive job of translating an iconic design, and getting an extremely smooth, crisp look on the concrete, which may not come through in the picture because it was in the dappled shade of tree branches.
I didn’t get to see the artist working on this piece for the Siren’s Song Tavern, but I think they must have perfected some kind of template technique.
This lady really had her system worked out, with her muffin pan mortar and pestle, and Yuban water. They don’t really make tool sets for sidewalk pastel, so we have to come up with our own.
Mike Craghead did another big black and white of an awesome locomotive with Buster Keaton.
The Alibi has a great pastel every year. Their artist has an impressive ability to get their logo perfect with just a picture, a fistful of bushes, and a ruler.
One last shot for a bit of context: