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? 😄
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.
I realize that I haven't been at all outspoken about the body of textile art I'm currently working on. Lately, I've been thinking about what I want to say in my artist statement for the upcoming exhibition of my work. It seems an almost impossible task to get down all the thoughts I have while I work into a one-page, 18-point-font statement!
Yesterday I wrote down a sentence I heard Joshua Johnson say on the radio: "How you see the world depends on where you look." It's a timely quote for me.
I'm interested in viewpoints, and humanity, and creativity, and how we're interconnected, and how we each see the world. Thoughts about these ideas float through my head while I work. I take little notes about things I hear and read, and somehow, they all seem connected to a larger idea I have forming in my mind. It's hard for me to put these ideas into words, so I put them into my art.
Everyone sees/experiences/understands the world slightly differently. I don't know if there is a right way or a wrong way to see things. I think maybe there are just different ways. Together, all these different viewpoints add up to create the world of humanity.
Personally, I think we probably need them all. Who is to choose which ones we don't need? Everyone has a different viewpoint. Everyone has a different opinion.
Maybe, instead of thinking one way is right and another one is wrong - if instead we're open to the 'other' - that is the best way. Listen to other people, learn from their experiences of the world, ask them what they see, what they notice; hear their opinions, respect their viewpoints, be curious. If you can be open to the other, your world can only expand.
I invite you to see my textile art in person at the exhibition "Orient, Disorient, Repeat". The opening reception on May 23rd starts at 5:30pm with artist remarks at 6:00pm.
I hope to see you there! I'll be more than interested in hearing your viewpoint.
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!
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!
I broke things.
It didn't seem like something I'd do. But it felt right.
Since late summer I've been experimenting. Drawing and painting, trying new things, and reveling in the freedom of it all. I've felt this amazing ability to let go of the guilt one usually gets when not doing what one is "supposed to be doing".
I’ve felt taken over by creativity, and I’ve allowed myself to let it happen. It's been a gift.
But, I've got responsibilities, timelines, goals, and a Fiber Art Project Grant. The free-wheeling can’t continue indefinitely. Which, I'm not going to lie, has been a tough fact to face.
Fitting the Broken Pieces Together – in a New Way
For a while I actually thought I would have to give up on my textile art. It was simply too hard to pull myself away from drawing and painting with pastels. That amazing feeling of flow that I’ve been experiencing when I draw and paint, has been a true siren call.
I reminded myself that it wouldn't be in my own best interest to not complete what I had set out to do. Also, did I really want to give back the $5,000 I received for the Project Grant? Did I really want to tell the wonderful people who awarded me that money that I was giving up?
Not at all.
What I needed to do was pick up all the pieces I broke and figure out a new way to put them together. A way that would work for me now, in my new place.
I got serious and wrote down a daily routine for myself that would allow me to fit in all the parts.
The Ah-ha! Moment
Writing it down was the easy part. As I struggled to start my new routine, I realized something huge. The fiber work was feeling really hard. Not because I didn’t like it anymore. No; but because in my mind it felt scary. Unlike when I created textile art in the past, this time the stakes are high: I have a Grant, an upcoming Exhibition, and Very Important People to please and impress.
The pastel work, on the other hand, is just for me. It has an experimental feeling and there are no stakes.
I realized that I needed to take the pressure off my textile work. I didn't want to get started on it again because it felt so risky and I was having a fear of failure. So, using what I learned from my research on creativity – in fact, exactly what got me started on pastels – I decided to re-frame things in my head.
I told myself, the next textile piece I made would be a warm-up. Like when you’re learning a new card game and the first round you play is just to get the rules figured out. No pressure; just explore. Plus, you know that Picasso quote: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” I needed to get to work.
And what do you know. For two weeks now, I’ve had my new routine working. That first week, I created a piece of textile art that I don’t know how I feel about. It’s not so great – but who cares, it was only for practice. The real point of that piece was that it helped me get into the new routine.
I’ve started to realize these seemingly disparate undertakings are all part of my year-long Jerome Project Grant. All of it: researching creativity, breaking my routine, experiencing the freedom of the pastel work, the challenge of getting back to textile work, discovering the necessity of a new routine.
Actually, sorting out all of this has accomplished exactly what I wanted when I originally wrote my grant proposal last May:
I’ve gone through all of this to discover my new studio art practice. Wow.
I'm starting to settle into my new routine. It includes both textile art and pastel painting. Things are flowing easier. I’m feeling inspired by both mediums. In fact, every day I feel like pinching myself because I can hardly believe I got what I wished for: a studio art practice.
It feels good.
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.