Friday Night with Margaret Ferraro – October 13

{Written by Hanifa Mamujee}


It was a perfect Friday evening at the Don Valley Art Club – everyone gathered to hear Margaret Ferraro speak about her passions – life drawing, pastels and acrylics.  This evening she was demonstrating underpainting and pastels.

There are many approaches to underpainting – her preferred method is using opposite colours underneath the pastel layer and to extend the range of value having the darker value underneath shifting from dark to light and from hard to soft.  Choice of paper being used matters – for her demos she used printing making paper (hot press) for one and a 140 lb. water colour paper (cold press) for the other (note 90 lb. water colour paper is too light and would have hills and valleys grooves in it that would impact the quality of the pastel artwork).

Part of the prep work for the demo included soaking the papers in water and stapling the paper to the board to stretch and dry out.  This step prevents the paper from having ‘bubbles’ in them and provides the right type of surface to work with.  Another step is to have several layers of newspaper underneath the paper as it is important to work on a soft surface.  Other tips included:  no hard edges to the value areas and rather than blending them together, have them meet each other in a friendly play over each other; composition is important; mixing paint and gesso for the underpainting creates a good base for pastel art; and, getting a feel for using hard and medium pastels for thumb nailing and soft pastels for the detail work.

Margaret currently lives in the Barrie area, teaches art classes in Toronto and hosts one to three plein air trips to countries such as Costa Rica, Peru and France.  She can be reached at if you’d like to get on her mailing list. You may view her work at