pastel playtime

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Art Classes, pastels | 4 comments

I closed out my favorite month with a gift to myself: a 3-day pastel workshop with Terry Ludwig, renowned artist and the maker of Terry Ludwig pastels. Hosted by the Boothbay Region Art Foundation, the workshop was held above a gallery in Boothbay Village. I was joined by BFF Kim Traina, and made new friends during the lively and inspirational class.

Terry began by saying the first item on the supply list is a sense of humor. His self-deprecating wit and wise-cracking manner put everyone at ease, even though I felt under-equipped without an easel or an armload of pastels. He frequently circulated the room offering pastels like confections in a candy box. Values, Contrast, Keep It Simple Stupid, Shapes, Squint, and No Crying in Pastels were our choices, in more ways than one.


I sketched him while he did a demo of his technique.


He answered questions about how he makes his pastels, which includes a step in processing the pigment paste with blades “to tear the snot out of ’em.” It came as a relief to many that Terry Ludwig pastels are not toxic; he doesn’t use any cadmiums. Calcium carbonate, the main ingredient in Rolaids, softens the pigment. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is available. The making of pastels is more like “home ec than chemistry” he told us. After the dry pigments are mixed with distilled water and mixed in a Hobart mixer, they are rolled out with rolling pins, dried in a food dehydrator, and sanded with drywall sandpaper on 6 sides for crisp edges.

He demonstrated how to reconstitute a broken pastel.



We began on our own pieces, working from photographs, given the chill air outside. Kim made this lovely piece, below right.


I loved seeing everyone’s stash of pastels. Better than Halloween candy!


He roamed the room asking students to stand back from their work. “Where do you want me to look?” he’d ask. He gave us honest feedback. Here he is with Lisa, who took his comments with a sparkling laugh.


These are two I started.



When we left the gallery on Friday, we waded through trick or treaters winding along Townsend Avenue before spying a marvelous sky, perfect for pastel.


Day 2 brought more demos and more dust. Here he stands back with Kim.


Lunchtime was a break for fresh air.


When Terry works, he chooses unexpected colors in an off-hand way, fascinating to watch.


I fell in love with the nearby coffee haven.



With our permission, Terry made marks on our work, using bold departures of color to show us how to drive a focal point. He showed me the way with my pastel, below.


What a stash of Ludwig gifts! He said there couldn’t be any “heartless pastelists in Maine.”


A blessing of this workshop was staying at Kim’s. We are kindred spirits in color and motherhood!


Day 3 brought snow.


The power went out before class even began. One student had stayed home, one left when the lights went out. We had a critique of our works by the window. Keith did amazing work!


I wanted to draw the snowy rooftops, but everyone was getting a bit restless about the storm.


Nothing was open.


Terry did another demo. Honestly, I could’ve watched him all day.


We knew we needed to call it quits when a limb fell on Lisa’s car. A blizzard had blown through town while we were all playing with pastels.


Even though the driving was treacherous, I could still see a pastel forming over Portland on the way home to Peaks Island.


Thank you, Terry, for opening my eyes to daring color. And bravo to all my fellow playmates in pastel at BRAF. Now I’m back to the drawing board, armed with my buttery Terry Ludwig sets.



  1. Fantastic!

  2. Thanks for “bringing me along” on your magical workshop. Terry Ludwig seems like a treasure… You made your own pastels? How wonderful! Do you apply any fixative to finished pastel drawings before framing? I did that once a long time ago… As soon as I sprayed, all of the life and vividness was gone! It killed my drawing! Just curious as to your recommendation. As always, I so enjoy your art and your storytelling! Thanks for this look inside your workshop with this amazing artist, Terry!

  3. Oh, Jamie, this was superb. Loved this illustrated diary of an intense learning and loving weekend. I could taste the cappuccino at the coffee hose, and loved both photo essay and pastel passages. Thanks for sharing this delight! Sarah

  4. Wonderful post and perfect timing as I too, have “treated” myself to an upcoming pastel workshop ( next week- can’t wait ). Despite the snow, it looked like a great class, filled with energy & inspiration ( how could it not be, with Terry Ludwig at the helm ), warm camaraderie and cozy coffee time. Thank you so much for sharing these three very special days with us; I hope your new set of pastels bring you much happiness!

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