Gabrielle creates portraits in pastels which are completely different to what you usually see. She uses dynamic mark making, and builds up layer upon layer of colour to create a dense yet animated surface.
Gabrielle began by talking about the supports she uses. She uses paper primed with pastel primer. Schmincke pastel primer comes in a bottle and it has the colour and consistency of quicksand. You can tint it with acrylics in any colour you want. You paint a couple of layers evenly on to your support and it gives an excellent tooth and holds the pastel really well, meaning you need very little fixative.
Gabrielle takes her own photographs of her subjects. She grids them up and then sketches in the essential details using Conte pastel pencils. Then she describes the planes of the face in light and dark tones. She “narrows it down”, correcting the shapes and colours. She doesn’t blend, she layers. Her technique is based on cross hatching.
Gabrielle chose pastel as her medium because of the intense colour you get – the colours are so vibrant because there is nothing in a pastel but pigment and a little bit of binder. Pastels also come without issues you get with acrylic and oils of the drying times not suiting the way you want to work. Pastels are very forgiving, you can keep adding and adding without overworking the picture, or having problems with cracking.
When framing pastel paintings, they must be framed behind glass rather than Perspex, because the Perspex has a static charge that actually pulls the tiny pastel fragments off the paper.
Julia Gorman 2014