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.