I've wrapped up the final week of my Portrait Project! With this self-created project, I completed six pastel portraits in six weeks. With each one, I allowed myself the freedom to push it in the direction I felt compelled to go. I was bold with color, I was bold with mark-making, and I learned so much more than I ever hoped.
THANK YOU to all the participants! I am extremely grateful for the trust you gave to me. You are amazingly brave people to hand over your photographs and give me the freedom to create. I hope the results bring you joy! While painting these portraits, I, myself, was full of joy. In fact, I frequently felt myself smiling for no real reason except that it made me so happy to feel a connection to each soul I was painting. Thank you!
During the final week, I surprisingly didn't do all that much to the portraits. I thought I would still have a lot of finishing touches to complete, but when I placed each portrait on my drawing board, I realized there wasn't much to add. I'm glad I gave myself the extra time to stand back from each portrait and absorb how it looked. Doing so allowed me the room to not fuss or over-work them.
And now, at last: Here are the photographed, finished portraits!
They are all 11" x 14", soft pastels on sanded pastel card.
As you may remember, Savannah and Penelope are sisters. I intentionally painted their portraits as a set. I'm pleased with how the opposing background and clothing colors work together. Here is how they look side by side.
Portrait work continues...
I have three more portraits on the docket that I consider to be an extension of this project. The twin boys, Noah and Jonah, and another adult, Melanie. I will add an additional blog post to my Portrait Project category page revealing them when they are complete!
If you're interested in having a portrait or another subject commissioned, I invite you to see the information on my Commission Request page and get in touch with me. I look forward to hearing from you!
This week I found out that I will have to wait on painting the twins' portraits due to some challenges with getting reference photographs. Their portraits will come eventually, but they won't be part of the six week time period. I anticipated this happening last week and added another portrait (Abigail) and officially decided to include Matthew's portrait in the group of six.
During week 5, I added more details to Savannah's and Penelope's portraits. I also finished or mostly finished Henry, Matthew, and Abigail.
Here are some detailed photos of the six portraits at Week 5.
All of these portraits will get wrapped up during week six. Then I'll photograph them and I'll reveal the completed set in a week. I'm excited to show you!
Side note: I've added more finished paintings to my portfolio page. Take a look at them here.
My studio is filling up with faces and loads of color! It is truly a joy to be in this space during this snowy-white winter we're currently experiencing in Minnesota.
This week I changed my plan a bit since I wasn't able to start the final two portraits of my Portrait Project as I had hoped. So, while waiting for photos of the twins to arrive in my inbox, I added more details to some of the portraits I already have in progress.
I also chose another subject to add to the project since I was getting antsy without a portrait to start! So, here's my progress on Abigail this past week.
What comes next?
I'm also considering what my next step will be after this Portrait Project comes to an end. I definitely don't want to stop making portraits. I think I'm learning quite a bit, discovering my style, and getting into a groove. I especially love to see the faces as they emerge from a black page.
Please let me know if I can make a portrait for you!
I'm halfway through my Portrait Project! I've discovered that one of my favorite parts of creating a portrait is working out the contours of the face. It's like putting together a puzzle. I feel compelled to keep working on it until all the pieces come together just right -and click!- I've created the likeness of the person. It's very satisfying and challenging all at once.
This week I started two portraits! The two girls are sisters and I want to be sure their portraits work together as a set. It's been a fun challenge to be sure their color schemes jive and their compositions work well as a pair when placed next to each other.
Penelope (and Savannah)
As I mentioned last week, I'm going to hold off on finishing each portrait until the final week of the 6-week long Portrait Project. I want to be able to bounce from one to the next and back again, so I can learn from each one as I go along.
This coming week I'm hoping to start on Jonah and Noah, another pair of portraits! This time the duo is not only siblings, but they're identical twins!
Yes, I'm taking commissions!
Sometimes the pieces just seem to fit together so well. That’s when I know I’m on the right track!
I started my 6-week long Portrait Project just as I was figuring out a new routine that would allow me to include both pastel painting and textile art in my daily schedule. It really was the ideal time for me to get to work on a pastel project! Was it kismet or am I getting really good at hearing my intuition? Whichever it is, I’m glad it’s working for me.
Two weeks into my project of 6 portraits in 6 weeks and I’ve started two. My goal for this project is to use it as a learning experience, a way to discover how I want to work as a pastel artist. (By the way, thank you to the participants who are allowing me to create portraits for them as part of this experiment!)
Since beginning, I’ve already determined that I want to keep each portrait unfinished until later in the 6-week process. It seems to me that the portraits should work together as a group. I want to be able to bounce from one to the next, so I can learn from each one as I go along.
Here’s where I am now.
Other Pastel Work Continues
In the meantime, I continue to work on other pastel pieces to learn, grow, and refine my techniques. Here are some of the other portraits I’ve completed for practice - and because it's so fun!
In the next two weeks I'll start on Savannah and Penelope. Check back for my progress!
The Portrait Project is full! Thanks to everyone who signed up to participate. If you'd like to follow along, please see my Instagram feed. If you'd like to find out more about requesting a custom portrait, go here.
I’m about to start a 6-week long portrait project and I’m inviting you to participate!
You’ll help me to build up a body of portrait work in my own style, with a variety of subjects. In return, you’ll receive a creative, original work of art at a reduced price of about 50% off!
I plan to take on only five portraits for this project, so if you're interested contact me soon, or purchase your spot in the portrait project now. Find all the details below.
Details of what to expect
Each portrait will be of a single subject (one person per piece). I'm requesting full creative license for this project. You’ll need to be okay with letting go and perhaps getting something slightly unexpected.
What Mary will choose:
Price to participate is $150 per portrait (plus tax and shipping, if applicable).
This offer has ended.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have, I'm more than happy to chat with you!
I'm looking forward to working on a wide variety of portrait subjects!
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!
Although I've always loved creating art, I feel stiff and scared whenever I try new art materials. I have a fear of not knowing what I'm doing and I worry that I'm doing it wrong and it won't turn out. In fact, I haven't tried any new art materials in quite a while. I think it's because I have this preoccupation with the final result.
Currently, I'm researching creativity for my grant project and I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject. In the book Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, author Shaun McNiff urges us to be playful with new art materials. He wants us to simply see what the materials can do without an expectation of the final result.
He says, "We do not have to know where we're going at the beginning of the creative act. People who control the work in advance are pushing against the grain of creation, so no wonder there are feelings of inhibition and emptiness."
The other day my son dropped his pristine set of chalk pastels and was utterly devastated. In that moment, I had a flashback to my own childhood urges to keep everything perfect. I thought, what was the point in keeping all those art materials looking new?
So I asked my son if I could use his broken pastels.
I found some black paper and I sat myself out in my backyard. It was a lovely summer evening and I sat for a minute and watched the bumble bees buzzing on my coneflowers. My daughter's interest was sparked, and she sat down next to me and asked for paper. We both started drawing. We chatted. We broke the pastels even more.
It was just right: she was without self-consciousness and I felt the same. We were in the moment and it was playful and relaxing.
I can already see that during the process of this grant project I'm going to be doing more than creating fiber art. I'm giving myself permission to let go of expectations. I'm going to explore new art materials and simply play.
I may even break things more often.
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.