Adventures in Pastel Painting
How is it possible that I started working with soft pastels just a short five months ago? I feel such an affinity for this medium. I've been drawing and painting almost continuously since I first asked my son if I could use his broken pastels!
Starting a New Habit
When I began, I decided I'd try to spend about an hour a day getting into the habit of drawing, just for fun, nothing serious. But, silly me, I had no problem starting; instead there were many times when I felt that I couldn't stop. I felt this incomprehensible urge to just keep drawing. It was an amazing feeling; like coming alive again.
Click on the photos below to see each finished piece.
I love this line I heard a while back: "There are no mistakes, there's only data collection." If you look at life as a learning process, you're simply collecting data with each thing you do, and there is no such thing as a mistake. Use what you learn and build upon it, one step at a time. Step one isn't a mistake, it's just the necessary foundation for step two.
So, after creating many scenes of nature, a subject I've always felt comfortable with, I decided to keep an open mind and try drawing people. In the past I never felt comfortable drawing people, but, when there are no mistakes, just learning, there's nothing to lose in trying!
A Commissioned Painting
After my return from the One of a Kind Show in Chicago, it was wonderful to have a commissioned painting waiting to be started. This particular request was very meaningful: it would be a very special Christmas gift for a woman who is honoring her 50th wedding anniversary, five years after the passing of her husband.
What a feeling to be trusted with such an important task. My heart was filled with gratitude and I couldn't wait to begin. The photos I received of the couple showed them dancing at their son and daughter-in-law's wedding nine years ago. I could see such love and joy between the two of them in the candid photos, I immediately knew the painting should impart those feelings.
To accomplish this, I decided the dancing couple would be the whole focus of the painting. I did this in two main ways. First, I highlighted the dancing couple by having the two of them be the only element in the painting that continues into the foreground. Everything else fades away into the background.
Secondly, I decided to include a photographer who was off to the side in one of the reference photos. Including her in the painting worked to my advantage. The viewer's eye first gazes upon the dancing couple at the center, then the viewer's eye is drawn over to the photographer with her camera, which in turn leads the gaze right back to the dancing couple. I love the effect.
The blurry twinkle lights, the guests clapping and watching the couple dance, and the dark night outside the windows, all offer an ambiance of magic to the painting.
I'm pleased to report that the gift was well received! The daughter-in-law sent me this note, "I wanted to let you know the pastel was a success! There were lots of tears, mostly good ... We got a text after everyone had left [on Christmas] letting us know that she will treasure it forever. Thank you again for everything!"
I already have two more commissioned pastels to work on in January. What fun! I will also continue to create textile art, as I am working toward my Jerome Grant Project exhibition in May.
I am really looking forward to the New Year ahead. It is promising to to be a year filled with art and learning! I hope your New Year is wonderful, as well!
One of a Kind Show, Chicago
My Biggest Show Yet
Two weeks ago I was in Chicago, at the One of a Kind Show + Sale. This show had been on my art show wish list for a while, and I'm really proud that I accomplished it this year! About 70,000 people shopped this holiday show and over 600 artists exhibited.
I hadn't felt ready to apply for this large, well-known show until this past spring, when I figured, why not just apply and see if I get in? And, what do you know? I got accepted! Which was thrilling! Even so, I had a hard time deciding whether to go for it or not. It has a very expensive booth fee, and I was still waiting to hear if I received the grant for which I had applied. In the end, my "nothing venture, nothing gained" attitude pushed me to do it.
There were many times over the past six months when I felt that I wouldn't have enough time to make all the items I wanted to bring with me. And I certainly didn't make everything on my to-do list. (In fact, I spent quite a bit of unplanned time learning to draw and paint with pastels. Whoops!) But, it turns out, knowing I was going to do this show so far in advance gave me plenty of time to prepare. I had more than enough inventory with me.
One Week Pre-Show
The best decision I made was to take an entire week before the show to do prep work. Hesitantly, I set aside the remaining partially-completed purses on my work table. Instead, I spent that final week packing and prepping my products, preparing for my booth set up, and accomplishing tasks for my time away from home. It was wonderful; I arrived feeling calm and stress-free. And I didn't encounter any of those "Oh no, I forgot to do/bring " moments.
Top 3 Things I Will Do Again
3. Have a final day sale.
Personally, I do not like sales for handmade products and art. It doesn't make sense to me to have sales, because I try my best to give a quality product at the best price I can, always. And honestly. it can be hard to turn a profit as an artist.
Even so, I felt that a final day sale at a 4-day long show made sense. I wanted to reduce my inventory to take home and I wanted to turn last day lookers into buyers. Since it was just a one-day thing, and only for in-person sales, I felt okay about doing it.
And last, but not least... Thank you to all the kind and friendly people who visited my booth. I am exceptionally grateful for my wonderful customers, new and returning! Your support allows me to keep doing what I love. Thank you!
See you next year, Chicago!
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.
I also enjoy reflecting on the human condition.
In my blog, I write about my musings and my art.
Find my bio here.
American Craft Show
Art & Craft Shows
In The Shop
Jerome Project Grant
Mary Pow Handbags
Poetry & Writing
The Art Business