An Assortment of Abstractions

December 18, 2019

 

In a shift from working with landscapes, I love exploring the color possibilities offered by soft pastel. When working with these pure colors (nothing more than pigment and a bit of binder), reducing the image to abstraction allows the focus to be more simply on the colors and their interaction. When I am working on them, these pieces have a life of their own and require me to be fully engaged with what is happening on the paper.

Here are a few small (4″ x 6″ color studies) done in preparation for larger pieces. If you are interested, you can see them as well as other soft pastels at the Open Studio this Saturday, December 21, 1-5:00. Comment here if you want more information.

 

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Small to Large

December 16, 2019

The newest landscapes are the smallest ones, only 3″ x 3″, oil on paper. Here are three (the first is not available):

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The largest landscapes I have posted before, but I will share them again here. The one below  is  the largest:  22″ x 30″ (image size), oil stick and graphite on paper, framed.

 

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Edge of the Day

 

This one is 18″ x 18″ (image size) also oil stick and graphite on paper, framed.

 

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Still Place

 

If you would like to see these and more in person, stop by the Open Studio on Saturday, December 21 1:00-5:00. Comment here if you need details!

Clouds

December 15, 2019

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These are a few recent small drawings, oil pastel or oil stick, framed and ready to hang. If you would like to see them in person, the studio will be open this coming Saturday, December 21, 1:00-5:00 and by appointment this week. If you would like more details, leave a comment, and I will get in touch.

Look for more posts through the week!

Landscape

June 3, 2019

Sharing a few landscapes here. All are oil stick on paper. Enjoy!

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Thin Place

 

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Edge of the Day

 

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Half-mown

Crow #1

Crow #1: The Dark of Black

 

Crow #2

Crow #2: Still Point

 

Crow #4

Crow #4: Shimmer

 

Thanks to a few unseasonable days of warmer weather, I was finally able to photograph the rest of the crow series of small soft pastels in natural light. So much dark and black can be tricky to photograph accurately, and how these images appear here depends on my camera, my screen, and your screen. The process of making these drawings was an engaging bit of research on blacks, darks, and the effect of a slight shift in color or value on the light in the piece. To read more about this group of drawings (and see the missing crow), just scroll back a couple of posts. It’s always best to see the work in person!

 

Crow #5

 

Crow # 5: Sheen

 

Crow #6

Crow # 6: A Measure of Light

 

It’s All in the Dust

January 28, 2019

 

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Light and Shadow

 

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Of  the Mountains

 

Soft pastel is pure pigment held together with a little binder. The medium is the color; the color is the medium. What could be more satisfying than laying down a film of pure color and then layering another on top, each veil changing forever what had been put down before. Or that color dust can be rubbed and pressed into the paper with the next color applied on top – rubbed in or not.

 

There is no going back with soft pastel, only change and moving forward. Even if a section is removed, swept off with a stiff brush (like a small broom sweeping up the dust), it is never possible to go back to a clean surface; some of the color remains as a record of what has been and also a ground for and part of what will come.

 

Art making has always offered me a model for life, teaching me useful lessons in an accessible way – a sort of experiential guide book. For a few examples, drawing with soft pastels shows and reminds me: not to lament the parts that are lost, to be open to surprises, to pay attention and respond to what is happening in the drawing, to take joy and delight in the richness resulting from the evolution of the drawing process (which was most surely difficult or painful at times), and on…all easily more than lessons for art making alone.

 

Soft pastel drawings can be strong, rich, and solid and their color even bold, but the dust is fragile and potentially transient. Even a fixed drawing will dust off a bit over time. This is certainly a reminder that I am not in control. And I love the thought that even after I have finished my work, a drawing will continue on to have a life of its own, changing and evolving, however imperceptibly, over time.

 

The difficulty of soft pastel is in the dust, the messy dust that covers studio surfaces, me, and everything I touch when I am working. But that dust is the essence and beauty of the medium. It is what makes it so pure, direct, elemental, and appealing.

 

The drawings in this post came from a need to work larger than the 8” square Crow series as well as a craving to bring in more color while still making room for the mystery and depth that the blacks and darks allow for. The drawings from this group are all around 12” by 21”, and these were the first two.

New Flock

January 22, 2019

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Crow #3: How Much Light Do We Need Against the Dark

 

I’m playing a bit of catch up here, posting recent drawings that haven’t yet been out in the world. After a break working in other media, I got back to soft pastels last spring and decided to begin by returning to drawings based on birds and their coloration. As I have written before, I begin the drawing using colors based on a particular bird and also keeping in mind other characteristics of that bird that might be helpful. But the demands of the drawing take priority, and the finished work may not be such an obvious reference to the bird that inspired it. For this new batch I decided, with some initial hesitation, to work with the crow. If you check out crows carefully, you will see that everything about them is black: feathers, beak, eyes, feet. The color comes in with the purple/blue gloss on those shiny black feathers. While this was a bigger interpretive challenge than my other choices, I was curious about what might happen. Black is not a color I use often or much of, but with the first drawing I was immediately hooked on the blacks in my box, the variations, and how I might create subtle shifts and relationships by adding in other darks and, in some instances, even soft graphite. There were six crow drawings that arrived all together in that flock (perhaps more to come). And they led in their own way to the next series that I will begin to post soon.

 

While I was working on these, I picked up my copy of Sean Scully: Resistance and Persistence, Selected Writings, as Scully has been a big influence on these pastels. His thoughts (page 36) on color and darkness resonated with me, so I want to share this bit here:

 

Thinking about the colour in my work, and its darkness…I often think about how the light in my work – the light produced by this colour, which is so emphatically attached to its own body weight, it own gravity – has a tendency to fall back into the painting. The painting has to be opened up.

             The colour, of course, could be opened up. Red could be bright red. Yellow could be the colour of flowers. And green could be leaf green. This would make the painting more immediate, more obviously communicative, more readily available…and less burdened by the issue of interior content.

            My painting, however, is a compression: a compression of form, edge, weight. And colour participates in this density. The painting is immediate since it is painted aggressively, by hand; yet it is difficult because it is compressed. The light in the painting has to be opened up, pulled out.

             And it is exactly this difficulty that gives the work its interior life. It is an incarnation, not an explanation.

 

The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. is showing Sean Scully: Landline until February 3. Hopefully the doors to the museum will be unlocked in time to see this powerful work before then! But, that’s another subject…

 

To wrap this post up, I want to share a more poetic name for a flock of crows that I learned this morning; it can be called a ‘murder of crows.’  Who has heard that before?!