Material Honesty is a term I learned while studying architecture at the University of Washington, Seattle. They were very big on teaching us future architects how to be true to our building materials.
Although I'm not designing buildings now, I do think about material honesty quite a bit while I work. I've come to love the idea of hinting at my process and using materials in the way that works best for them.
Using the idea of Material Honesty in my art
If I'm using pastels atop a colored paper, then when I'm finished I feel that one should be able to determine that I used pastels and a colored paper for the piece.
Here are some ways that I accomplish the idea of material honesty with pastels, illustrated with details from my artwork "I Dare You".
Being expressive; not photo-realistic
For me, my art is about expressing a mood and getting at the heart of what inspired me in a subject in the first place. For the painting shown here, I had taken multiple photos of my model. In one of the photos, her eyes really drew me in. They seemed to be almost daring me, the viewer, to take her on. I absolutely love the strong, determined expression on her face. Of course, the gorgeous sunlit hair only added to my desire to paint the image.
I'm not interested in creating a photographic replica with my work. It's much more interesting to me to express myself and the media I'm using. For this piece, I used a specific set of colors and very expressive mark-making to get those original inspirations down on the paper. In the end, I do feel that I captured the ideas that prompted me to paint this image in the first place.
With each new piece I paint, I'm learning more and more about pastels and their specific abilities. I hope to continue to add to my list of ways to use them honestly.
Of course, the best thing about art is there are so many different ways to approach it! What do you think? Do you think it's important for artists to be "honest" with their materials? When is it fun to fool people by being "dishonest" with materials? 😄
Having a portrait painting commissioned is fun and exciting. The process shouldn't be stressful! If you'd like me to take photos for you, I offer a convenient photoshoot option for Standard Portrait Commissions. If you'd like to use your own photos, here are some helpful tips to make choosing a reference photo easier.
How to choose a Reference Photo for a Portrait Commission.
1. It is best to choose a photo where the subject looks most natural.
2. Look for a photo where the camera caught the subject unawares. A natural expression when the subject looks most like themselves is best.
3. Do not choose a photo where the subject is smiling "cheese!" for the camera.
4. Consider a photo where the subject is not facing the camera straight on.
5. An angled face, an interesting expression, and good lighting is great.
6. You do not need a perfectly framed head shot. I will crop your photo and change the composition.
7. Most importantly, be sure the subject is clear and in focus. Zoom in on the face to be sure that it is not pixelated or blurry.
Let me know if you have any questions about how to choose a reference photo! I'm happy to help. Contact me here.
If you're interested in having a portrait commissioned, perhaps you'd like to try my new Artist's Choice option. You'll receive an original work of art - and maybe a bit of a surprise, too!
What is Artist's Choice?
Artist's Choice is a portrait commission very similar to a Standard portrait commission, except with less client involvement, and therefore, a lower price!
Artist's Choice gives the artist (me) much more control over the work of art. The client (you) has much less involvement. If you like a deal, you're okay with surprises, and you feel comfortable giving full creative license over to an artist, you'll love this!
What makes it different from a Standard Portrait Commission?
With a Standard Portrait Commission, the client submits a specific reference photo to be used or we start with a photoshoot (the photoshoot option does not apply to Artist's Choice). The client receives updates and is able to give feedback along the way. The client can request a certain color scheme and has the last say on the finished piece.
What is Included in Artist's Choice?
Artist's Choice Portrait Commission includes:
How does it work?
It's easy! All you need to do is purchase the Artist's Choice Portrait Commission listing.
When I receive your order, I will email follow-up instructions to you and we'll get started!
What you will need to provide:
I look forward to creating a work of art for you!
Step three - and very importantly! - I've got to purchase a tent. It'll happen soon. I'm doing research.
Edina Fall Into the Arts
And so! This September, I'll be at the Edina Fall Into the Arts Festival. This will be my first ever outdoor art fair! I'll have a tent full of my new work in pastels, both originals and prints, along with a nice selection of my textile art work. I'm very excited. I'm hoping for nice weather and a great crowd!
Examples of the work I'll have at the festival
I hope to see you at the Edina Fall into the Arts Festival this September!
Find more of my upcoming events here.
I find that I'm drawn more and more to painting people. I've been inspired by a number of photographs taken by friends and family and have used their photos, with permission, to create artworks. However, I believe it's time for me find willing subjects (my own kids really don't like getting their photos taken!) so I can have a variety of my own photo references to work from.
I'm looking for models!
Being a model is fun and easy. Here are some things to know.
If you, your kids, or someone you know is interested in being subjects for my art, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I put the final touches on Jonah's portrait today. So, now my Portrait Project "Addendum" has wrapped up and my Portrait Project is officially finished!
Twins Noah and Jonah are a coordinated set of paintings, meant to be framed separately, but displayed together. I focused on capturing their two different personalities, while also having the pair of paintings still match. They are twins, after all!
I kept my mark-making loose and free with this pair. Preteen boys are endlessly growing and changing, and always active. I feel that this loose look showcases the idea that these paintings capture but a moment in time.
Thanks to all of my Portrait Project "Addendum" subjects!
The Portrait Project may be over, but I will continue with portraits. Contact me if you're interested in having a custom portrait painted.
If you'd like to take a look at all of the portraits together, see them in my portfolio.
I'm back at work on my Portrait Project, working on the twin boys! It's going really well and I'm having a wonderful time with them. I'm sure I've said it before, but I have to say it again - I never would have guessed that painting portraits would be something that I'd enjoy this much. But it's true; I love it!
I also finished another portrait in April! So, here's Addendum, Part 1 to my Portrait Project showing my in progress work on these final three.
Noah & Jonah
I should have an Addendum, Part 2 with the finished portraits in about a week!
If you want to find out more about having a portrait commissioned, please contact me or view my commission request page. I'm always happy to chat!
I made it halfway through my goal of 10 pastel paintings of my neighborhood lake before Spring hit me full on - and I took to my garden. :)
Five finished pastel paintings of Lake Nokomis. March 23 - April 24.
All winter I've been planning a huge DIY landscaping project to overhaul my backyard and it was time to start! I love to design, I love to grow things, I love to be outside, and my kids are now old enough to handle themselves for long periods of time, so not much could stop me from getting to it. And after I finished my work for my art exhibition "Orient, Disorient Repeat" - I couldn't focus on anything else but my garden!
Now I've finished most of the planned landscaping and the summer heat has set in, so I'll be back to this pastel project soon. I have three more photographs of the lake in my queue, which will bring my total to eight. Two images short!
These are the next three photos of the lake I plan to paint.
I had wanted to include a sunrise and a sunset image, but now if I do there will be a big gap between the dates. I haven't even been on a walk around the lake since May 20th due to my yard work giving me plenty of exercise!
Oh well, I may just take some photos for those two a bit later than planned. Then I will have my 10 view of Lake Nokomis.
What's new in my studio this spring?! While I've been a bit quiet on my blog lately, I actually have loads going on behind the scenes...
Pastel Painting Challenges
Last month I finished 6 pastel portraits in 6 weeks. When I finished that fun challenge, I immediately decided to start another! I zeroed in on one that would allow me more practice with painting landscape scenes. 10 Views of Lake Nokomis is the challenge I settled on; each week for 10 weeks, I am taking a photo of my neighborhood lake. Then, I paint the scene in my studio, using the photo as a reference.
I've completed views 1 & 2, but have gotten a few weeks behind on the paintings. Photos of views 3 & 4 are still waiting to be started! I will continue taking my weekly photos and I hope to eventually get to all 10 views. The 10 paintings will portray the transition from the beginning to the end of Spring.
Textile Art - Jerome Project Grant
I've been working on my Jerome Project Grant since last summer. Now, in 4 short weeks, the exhibition of my work will be opening! This grant has been a journey: challenging, joyful, confusing, boundary pushing. I feel that it has really gotten me to grow creatively and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to do so with this grant!
The exhibition, entitled ORIENT, DISORIENT, REPEAT, opens May 23. My work, along with two other grantees, will be on display at Textile Center's Mondale Gallery through the end of July. Find more event information here.
Mary Pow actively investigates the creative process through her methodical cut-and-sewn color block work where she explores the multitude of viewpoints contained within the world of humanity.
Mary Pow Handbags + Accessories
Good news! You'll be able to shop my collection of textile handbags + accessories at Textile Center's gift shop during the exhibition. I'm not doing many shows this year, so this is one of just a few opportunities to purchase my work!
Pastel Paintings - Recently Completed
I am continuing to love love painting with pastels! Here are some of my recently completed works. You can find more in my portfolio. I've discovered that commissions are one of my favorite things to do! Contact me if you have something in mind.
Thanks for reading!
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!
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.