09 November 2011

Getting to know Pastels

A Gray Stillness with Pines

It's been a long time coming, my getting to know pastels. A kind of last frontier, you could say. I've written about this before -- the dust, the white shorts, the sense of clumsiness and frustration.

It's not that we all don't try to extend ourselves beyond the comfort zones we've come to know and love. It's just that, for me, there has always been this sense of embarrassment.  I think in today's society, we tend to believe that "if I think it" or "if I study it" long enough, I have mastered it. Reminds me of the Holiday Inn Express commercial: because you stayed there, you are now capable of performing brain surgery or running a touchdown for Notre Dame. Pretty funny but probably truer than at first glance.

For several years now I've visited and admired other pastel artists' sites and blogs, marveling in the rich mixtures and nuances of pastel painting -- Casey Klahn is one in particular, another is Debora L. Stewart's abstract pastels.  So I decided that whenever I travel, I will take this little box of pastels and a small 5" x 7" Strathmore Visual Journal sketchbook with me. Nothing can melt. Nothing is wet and sloppy. No squeezing tubes or dealing with smelly pseudo-turps. Here's what I've discovered (as if no one else has ever -- ha!):

pastels are immediate and they offer deep rich color or delicate mists --

they are fun to smudge -- like being back in the sandbox --

one is often tempted to eat them they are so yummy-looking (but I wouldn't recommend that -- every time you burp, you'd be sending out puffs of colored pastel dust) --

pastels seem to love the smooth surface of bristol paper --

spraying fixative really does work -- I've always been a skeptic of rules and guidelines --

yes, pastels are messy but a pack of baby wipes does wonders (and smell so good) --

So I think I have found my travel medium, my most satisfying sketch medium -- and maybe someday I'll progress to paintings on a larger scale.  But one step at a time.  For now, I've moved beyond the messy white shorts stage -- finally.   Here are some sketches I did last weekend in my travels up to the last big quilt show up in northern New England:

Glow on the River

Road into the Berkshire Mountains


Jann Gougeon said...

I've been thinking about pastels lately! I also noted your "open studio" above right (Hartford). I lived in CT for 17 yrs . . Farmington . . have been in MI for the past 7. I wondered where your studio is.

Kelly M. said...

small world!!! know Farmington well! temporarily my "studio" is in the ArtSpace building for this event; after the holidays i'll be seriously hunting for a true art studio -- can't wait!