I’ve set up the pastel corner of the studio and decided to try out my new idiom in that media. My new effort is centered around allowing information to accumulate: marks that describe color and volume coming together over the entire surface of the work. I’ve been working at this in oils for a few months and it makes a kind of perverse sense that it is an easier thought process in chalk.
Frenchboro, Wharf with Fishing Gear, 18 x 24, pastel on board
Now that I have the studio set up to work with pastels it seems only logical to start getting my hands dirty. . . this is a piece from our recent trip to Grand Manan.
6 x 18 inches, pastel on board
Our new studio has been a wonderful influence on my work – improved space and light, ventilation, and the separation of my job and housework from the meditative mental space that is so helpful for painting. A lovely room is not strictly necessary (and I know because I worked in a hallway closet for years) but it is helpful. Now that I have the painting rig set up to my satisfaction I thought I might add pastels back in to rotation. I worked solely in pastels while our son was small and only moved back to oils two years ago. This weekend I retrieved work surfaces and boxes of chalk from storage and got to work remembering how to draw with colored sticks.
This is the east wall of the new set-up:
There is still plenty of room for contemplation and storage. I’m stockpiling some pieces for a show at the Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor opening on August 14th.
I use Rembrandt pastels, very handy to have the box trays with this set.
And this is the full-summer view from my front porch. . . milkweed, Joe Pye weed, monarda, meadowsweet, ferns, and buckwheat and goldenrod coming along to feed the bees in September.
This summer I’m trying out new techniques and a change of vision, inspired by looking at the Masters up close and personal in Paris a few months back. There are matters of scale and structure that never translated very well for me from textbooks. Now I have a laundry list of issues and a garden full of still life material and just need a few more hours in the day.
Zinnias and Cherry Tomatoes, 20″ x 16″, pastel on board
Dandelions and Bergenia in pastel on board, 24″ x 18″. Maple twigs, pink bergenia, and a dandelion pulled up by the roots – just what’s in the front yard right now.
I’ve been doing studies of Flemish masters lately, and reading about their techniques and working methods. Some things will remain out of my reach – I can’t see coming across a stash of real parchment – but the ideas about what color ink provides the widest spectrum of tones for landscape drawing (sepia, enhanced with brick dust) and a visual vocabulary of marks with a bamboo pen have been interesting and useful.
Several sources suggest using fixative at regular intervals. I’m finding that it does indeed make the surface more uniform and prevents incidental damage from my dirty fingers as I work. It also means extra time lugging the drawing and an easel outside on a lovely spring day, but sometimes we have to suffer for our art, right? This is a collection of early spring flowers; red maple blossoms, bergenia, and dandelion, in a tarnished silver pitcher, about half-way to finished.
From time to time it’s instructive to do studies from the Old Masters. You don’t really know anything about a work of art until you’ve copied it.
Pieter Brughel the Elder painted The Parable of the Blind in tempera on canvas in 1568. The original hangs in The National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples (very pink – I’d love to go someday). My copy is 20″ x 28″, pastel on board.
Zinnias (till I figure out a catchier title? On the other hand, “Sunflowers” worked just fine for VG.) 24″ x 18″, pastel on board
Pastel on board, 6 x 18″, Light Snow on the Bass Harbor Rd.
And my first landscape in a long time.
Deer Isle Causeway, 18″ x 24″, pastel on board