In early May, 1997, five of our charter members met in Grand Rapids with the idea of creating an organization to further the pastel medium. These five members, Carl Forslund, Sandy Jackoboice, Kathleen Kalinowski, Nancy Liszewski, and Jim Markle, within about 3 hours made the decisions and took the positions that were necessary to create the organization.
It was determined in that meeting that the organization would be a regional organization and be called the Great Lakes Pastel Society (GLPS). By mid-May, the 501-c-3 status had been applied for and by October the organization had grown to 31 members located in 4 states. All members who joined by July 1, 1997 are listed on the GLPS letterhead as charter members. These 22 members still appear not only on our letterhead but in each newsletter.
One of the early objectives was to become a member of the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS). Sandy Jackoboice and Carl Forslund were able to attend the first IAPS convention held in Denver and came back with even more enthusiasm and organizational information for the fledgling GLPS organization.
Carl Forslund organized the first GLPS Exhibit at the Grand Valley Artists gallery in November of 1997. Each member brought a painting to the show and Master Pastelist Larry Blovits critiqued each painting. This was the Society's first meeting and our first exhibit.
From this early start in 1997, the Great Lakes Pastel Society has grown to a couple hundred members in a dozen states and we welcome new members at anytime throughout the year.
Pastels can be traced back to the 16th century. Its invention is attributed to the German painter, Johann Thiele. A Venetian woman artist, Rosalba Carriera was the first known artist to make consistent use of pastel. Chardin did portraits with an open stroke, while LaTour preferred the blended finish. Thereafter, a galaxy of famous artists....Watteau , Copley, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Renoir, Courbet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Whistler, Cassatt, Bonnard, Hassam, William Merritt Chase, Vuillare, .... just to list the more familiar names, used pastel in finished works rather than only preliminary sketches.
The French Impressionist, Edgar Degas was the most prolific user of pastel, and its champion. Degas eliminated most of the white addition that earlier pastel artist favored, used pastel in strong, pure colors and , allowed his individual strokes to part of the final composistion, instead of blurring them into the overall effect in a kind of imitation of light oil painting, which pastel can achieve quite easily.
Pastel is very important in the work of Mary Cassatt, as in that of Degas, her friend and mentor. The first really prominent artist to use pastel was also a woman, Rosalba Carriera, during the first half of the eighteenth century. For Carriera, as for other eighteenth and early nineteenth-century artists, pastel was a way to paint with full color on the full surface without having to wait for drying to see the final effect.