How important is the quality of materials? Professional quality for beginners? Why could it be important?
THE HEAD GAME – Often while working on a painting I think of my grandmother on my father’s side, who passed at 94 about 20 years ago. She was an artist, who studied art at the university level, which was quite unusual for a woman at that time. She was , I would say a very “modern” woman of her day. My grandmother would often say, “You know, my dear, you get what you pay for!“ For the most part, I would tend to agree with her when it concerns artist supplies. I thought about her when I sent my child to school equipped with the best quality artist-grade colored pencils money could buy in his pencil case. I was more than surprised to be forced to defend that decision in an argument with a teacher who seemed to think that it was o.k. to bring expensive electronic gaming devices, cell phones, and designer sneakers to school, but by giving my child these exclusive colored pencils, I/my child would make the less fortunate student feel left out and sad on my child’s account. Needless to say my child quickly changed schools. To be sure there were other issues regarding this decision, but the thing that sticks with me after all these years about this particular moment and many moments since, is the lack of value placed on early and continued art and music education in the schools. (End of rant detour! 😉 )
There are still questions I ask myself before I can give-in to the notion completely that beginning with the best quality supplies one can afford, is in every case essential or benificial. The most important question for me is „What is my goal?“ If my goal is to enjoy the experience without having to worry about digging too deeply or honing my skills, then I believe that excellent materials will help me spend my limited time well with an acceptable result without major struggles with the intricacies of really knowing immediately what I am doing. Using great art materials from the beginning, perhaps offer a creative kick in the pants, because they are often quite forgiving. I have come to think that the most important part of using “good professional” art supplies even as a beginner, is that success gives us courage to continue and explore. It makes us curious to learn more about the intricacies we might avoid otherwise and not give aid to our primitive urge to drop anything we are not good at doing at the first signs of trouble. After finding the key to open that creative portal, using simpler materials which require practice, skill and endless refinement to achieve the desired result, should perhaps be more palatable. A skilled artist is able to express art on anything from a napkin to a cereal box with limited tools, just as a rehearsed actor can move his audience without scenery, lighting or costume. I am not so bold as to put myself in any such category, but I simply offer my hand at a painting on thinner (treacherous :o) pastel paper with a coarse regular un-sanded texture. The struggle was real!
My process pics… inspiration Artist Karen Margulis.
Making marks using nature’s endless exquisit forms as inspiration
Two of the many things I have become aware of while delving into my “new materials” are the variety of expressive marks possible and the bountiful inspiration that nature provides to use a small stick of pastel. Of course one small stick is never enough. Collecting them is quite addictive!!! If I keep “adding” to my collection of these lovely little sticks, we may be eating Mac & Cheese for a month : O ) No risk, no FUN!
Although is seems quite obvious that using more or less pressure and varied combinations thereof, will produce an enormous range of expressive marks, it is easier said than done! For example laying the whole pastel on its side or just using a tiny edge is another effective tool but the technical difficulties lie in decision making and not the mark itself. Choosing which mark to make to represent that which you intend, can be, let’s say, “more involved”. Like I often say to my singing students once they have established their material and tools, making a good plan which considers movement, direction and style is absolutely key to achieving one’s goals. : D
Here are my process pics from the beginning:
This was really a fun study which helped me identify quite a few new aspects of pastel painting. This project was realized and inspired by tutorial and reference photo from artist, Karen Margulis.
Here below, my painting process in reverse with lots of stopping and starting, walking (running 😀 ) away to step back out of the artist role.
As I began this painting, unbeknownst to me in any conscious way, I was already fretting about what others might think of my painting. Mind you, this painting, although finished in my head, did not yet exist on our physical plane. I was considering the “less helpful” things that artists are somehow predestined to think. I am not talking about how to lead the viewers eye around the painting, arrangement or focal point. I was not even thinking about suggesting forms and colours for the mind’s eye to recognize as familiar ordinary objects. I was spending a huge amount of energy on the one aspect completely out of my control. Will the viewer understand, “like” or the ultimate, be moved in some way by what they see. I am of course acutely aware that efforts in this direction are most completely useless and only enhance my regular battle with procrastination.
This unhelpful (yet so familiar) attitude often leads me to a form of selective censorship of my own work, which negates the ordinary (natural) human voice even before making my first marks.
In my ever constant effort to avoid treacherous territory and enjoy doing art, I offer the simple theory that it is perhaps not my artistic responsibility to make some “important” statement with art, but to invite the viewer in, to experience what they will, and move on. ; )
Thanks to Karen Margulis for great instruction and to you all for checking in today.
If art does have a flawed human voice, then we each have everything at our disposal to make art. The most challenging part is to embrace the „flawed“ and let the light fall where it may. Above, is the very same pastel painting shot in my studio with different light sources.
I would suggest that art doesn’t just appear miraculously at night when the world is asleep, but quite un-miraculously during the day, after work between doing household chores and walking the dog.
Again, many thanks to artist, Karen Margulis who makes every step seem so simple that I dare try it myself.
Thanks to all of you for stopping by to spend a few minutes with me.
After a good many attempts at this subject, I decided to call it “Mohn 2” A little play on words with the german name for “poppy”. “Mohn” which is pronounced a lot like the english word “Moan”. Something I did constantly while working on this pastel painting. Although I am quite pleased with the result now, it went through a number of awkward and less than beautiful stages.
I began with a study on less valuable and less sanded paper, which was more trouble that it was worth in the end. I had to use a fixative 3 or 4 times in between, because I kept filling the tooth of the paper with the very soft pastels and gave me problems with the layering process.
I got to the point that I was getting a bit frustrated, so I walked away and decided to come back to it the next day, with fresh eyes. I consoled myself with the fact that I had never done it before and I own LOTS of supplies to give it another whirl should it end in disaster! : )
After a number of do-overs I have arrived at the same conclusion once again. It is all about refining and not skipping any steps in the process from A to Z. It is about becoming better at the process itself and not imitating the last result.
If at first we don’t succeed, try, try again! I would like to send many thanks to Karen Margulis for her generous online tutorials.
I read somewhere recently (and I am paraphrasing) that „craft“ is something that can be taught and that „art“ is a magical gift of the gods.
This has taken about a week.
3 days – thinking about doing the pastel painting
1 day – observing the wonderful artist Karen Margulis demonstrating the „CRAFTing“ part (color palette, strokes, underpainting)
1 day – observing the „ARTing“ part (movement, style, thoughts about flow and personal artistic timing, rhythm.
1 day – Beginning execution of under-painting looked something like this : twice giving up and then starting over the 3rd time, finishing underpainting and walking away after a few strokes, leaving it over night and finally giving up once more to revisit the next morning .
And on the seventh day!!! -Deep breathes…push to end!
It is naturally impossible to copy anyone else’s work, but very easy to discern the diffence between craft, art and personal style (A little tough to free myself from the example because I am a good mimic . Which I often do, before digesting something, to be able to allow myself space for interpretation.)
As most of you know, I tend to relate nearly all art making to singing . It is a smoother process, as it is familiar to me .
I have only been working with pastels for a few months but it has been really so much fun. I can hardly wait to see what’s next!!!
I hope you enjoyed following my musings today. Thanks for taking a moment out of your busy lives to stop by and visit.
Just the look of all this color in front of me is so inspiring! It doesn’t seem to matter which art supplies or mediums I encounter, the colors and the variety make my heart pound and my imagination soar. Boundless possibility and endless choice. “Choice” is often the big crisis- causing element which stifles my roaring engines at the beginning of any particular project. Many artists encounter fear of the blank page and the procrastination paces. I compare this to the little child who does not want to go to bed and gets up 3 times to ask for a bedtime story, a glass of water and anything else to push back the inevitable. Unfortunately, this procrastination stage always seems to leave room for the doubts to creep in! The Should-a, Could-a, Would-a ‘s come to visit and screw up the initial time plan. With limited time for creative hobbies and endeavors, this can be a determining factor in whether a project is realized or not.
To get through this ominous, let’s call it “cloud of doubt” phase and bridge the abyss from inspiration to fruition, I have developed a few steps to trick myself into beginning without too many stumbling and delay maneuvers 🙂
1. Guilt removal- I clean any dishes left in the sink, fold clean laundry and answer emails.
2. Go to the loo! Amazing, how I have to “go”, as soon as I want to begin a project!!!
3. Prepare a bottle of water, coffee or snack to have at hand while working. Amazingly, I always seem to “need” something, when I do not have it, but completely ignore, if it is on hand!
Remove the “blank” from the page!
Take your favorite colors and scribble , paint, spray, wash all over your blank page and then find a way to deal with it or incorporate the mess…
Good luck with you next project and thanks for stopping by!
These gorgeous SU designs screamed „Mini Album“ ! So I did a Flip Flop album. Alexandra Grape a terrific Demo colleague did a great video. I still have not decided to whom I will give it. So I am leaving the pages undecorated until I decide to personalise my project. There are so many people I wish to thank for all of their help and kindness during these last months.
Hope you are inspired to use some of your stash… I know you have been hoarding!