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

 

Version 2

Light and Shadow

 

Version 2

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

crow #3

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?!

 

Flown the Nest

January 21, 2019

It seems right to start the New Year with some updates about the work and images of new work. I am happy to say that a few more of the small pastels based on birds have found new homes including these three:

 

Flicker

Flicker

 

DSC_0451

Chickadee

 

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Indigo Bunting

 

 

There are still a few more perched on the wall, so give a shout if you want to see images or if you are interested in stopping by to see them in person. And check in here soon for a look at the newest work in the studio.

Birds Continued

December 6, 2017

DSC_7681

Cedar Waxwing

 

DSC_0451

Chickadee

 

These are two more of the soft pastel drawings based on birds. Both of these are 4 1/2 inches square. Stay tuned for more work to be posted soon@

Tiny

October 24, 2017

morning

 

It is time again for tiny art!!! The artspace biennial, ThinkSmall 9, is opening this Thursday, October 26 (preview gala) and Friday, October 27, 7:00-10:00 both evenings. I have been working on some small oil paintings on panel and paper, and the one pictured, Morning, is in the show. It is oil on paper and the image measures 3″ x 3″. There will be lots of work in the show, all available for purchase. This is a fund-raiser for the gallery and your purchase will help support gallery and artists alike. Drop by at zero East 4th Street in Richmond’s Manchester district for a feast for eye and soul. The show runs to December 17 and all are welcome!!! More information at the link above.

Double

October 19, 2016

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It has been a while since I posted any new work here. I’ve been busy working on a couple of large landscape paintings for a friend (stay tuned for those), but there are a few small pieces that have  happened along the way. This one is a small (6″ x  11″) oil pastel that began as a demo for one of my classes to show different ways that oil painting medium can be used with oil pastels. I started with the two images on the same piece of paper in order to demonstrate two different  techniques side by side. Although I hadn’t intended to complete this demo, after the class I couldn’t resist continuing. In the end there was something I especially liked about the juxtaposition of the two  images.

This drawing will be among the offerings at the annual Artists Support ChildSavers Show which opens this Thursday, October 20, 6:00-9:00, hosted by Glave Kocen at 1620 W. Main Street and continues through October 21. Check out the link for more information including a list of participating artists. Purchase of the work at this show will help support ChildSavers, an organization that serves mental health and developmental needs of children, especially those who have experienced trauma in their lives.

 

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This small (6″ x 8″) oil stick nest, Reverie, is another new piece that will also be at the ChildSavers show. If you stop by the show, and it isn’t on the  wall, ask the ChildSavers folks to check the back stock work. The impetus for this piece was a series of ink drawings that I worked on in preparation for a contribution to the  Artist’s Coloring Book, Volume 2 organized by Chuck Scalin (Look for a post on that soon!).