Category Archives: pastel

pastel studies of lotus flowers

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The weather was so nice this morning. I stayed in the garden for a couple hours and wasn’t even hot!

I want to do one more sketch in plein air then I can paint at home. I’m getting set up to try again painting with my brush taped to a yardstick like Matisse. First I need to do charcoal sketches of my flowers and leaves larger with my charcoal on a stick. After I get some larger looser sketches I’ll be able to plan a composition of flowers, buds and leaves.IMG_2088

This lotus is wilting. They move a lot in the wind and sun. They’re never the same from one day to the next.

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Lotus flower / pastel

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This is the tall kind of lotus with the big leaves. I should make this leaf twice this size if I do it in oil paint. I didn’t take the right color pastels. It’s a narrow path and I took some pastels in a baggie instead of my whole pastel collection.

It’s getting too hot for me to enjoy standing around outside to draw. I have to get to the botanical garden when they open at 9 or forget about it because I’m not going out to draw when it’s over 85. At least I can get the zen vibe of drawing in for an hour or so in the morning if I get out early enough. Today the heat didn’t get to me until I was ready to do the leaf. It becomes impossible to concentrate when you get too hot.

I’d like to do more lotus studies and try to paint like Matisse again with the paintbrush on a yardstick. That was fun.

another pastel study of ruby spider lilies and some advice on mental health for artists

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Art. It can be sublime. It can be transcendental. This sketch might not show it, but to me this is an example of my attempts to rise above the things in life that had me whipped. It’s not about the finished artwork. It’s about keeping at it and going through a process.IMG_2069

I’m not an expert on mental health. I can only talk about my own life and I try not to focus on the negative. I can’t talk specifically about how bad it was for me. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say I slogged through that black tunnel with no light in sight for years. I don’t trust doctors so I didn’t take drugs for it which only mask the symptoms but don’t solve the problem. That’s not to say I didn’t self medicate, because I did. These days I feel ok. I still get bummed some days but not as bad and not as often which makes me feel like it might be over and now I might be immune to anymore depression.

Why are so many artists depressed? We can blame it on hormones, genetics, modern life, I don’t know. But if you’re a girl and your Dad was depressed then hormones isn’t the reason. I’m one of the younger baby boomers. Now I’m retired and it’s good. I think about the talented people who commit suicide and it’s a shame that those people don’t get to enjoy life’s rewards because they killed themselves. If you knew in advance that your depression would last fifty years and in all those years happiness would be fleeting but depression would last, would you hang in there for peace of mind in your old age? Don’t you deserve peace of mind even if you have to wait so long for it?

It’s possible that depression is part of the human experience for the reason that if we were all happy and satisfied with our lives we wouldn’t be motivated to improve our situation. The world today is better than it was throughout history. We live longer than out ancestors. Why? Because they were unhappy about disease and did something about it. We need to carry on for the next generation because, as I see it, there is no purpose to life except to continue. Yes. Life’s only purpose is to continue. There is no meaning.

There’s something we can do as artists that non artists can’t do. We can leave the world with our best artwork when we die. Making art will cause your brain to temporarily click over to a different frequency from your depressed state. You can get into the art zone every day for a few hours which is a relief, and then later look at the progress you made. If you do that over the course of years you see an improvement and that can be encouraging even though in the real world you’re still a loser. You can be a lonely social outcast and you can give beauty to the world. If an artist has an easy life their work is just so much fluff. If you suffered you don’t have to continue to suffer for your work to show your soul. you’re work will always have that because it was a part of your life and it will come through.

If I can do it you can too. Stay alive. Do the best you can. Stop being so hard on yourself. Distract your sad brain with art, music, literature, travel, games, anything you like, until you feel better. You’re not the problem. It’s the world. It’s not you, it’s those people. Living better without them is the best revenge. When you get older and have time to examine your life you might find it easier to understand and accept.

And when you do find something that gives your mind a break, savor it like fine chocolate. Go back to the good thing every day for a little while. Take your time there.

That’s all for now.

Ruby Spider and Yellow Day Lilies / pastel studies

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I think I’m getting the hang of drawing these flowers. This piece of paper didn’t even get smudged with suntan lotion or sweat. Hell, I didn’t even bend the paper! It must be getting easier for me. šŸ˜‰

It is getting hot and humid out there today. In fact I broke a sweat standing still but I was in the sun. These are some of the problems of your plain air artist. Nice life, huh? Yes it is if that’s the kind of problems I’m facing.IMG_2063

The thing about pastels is that no matter how many you have you’ll never have the exact color you need so you have to blend a couple Ā colors together and just try to get the right value if you can’t get the exact color you want. The first few times I take my pastels out to sketch I want to take all of them. I load up my beach cart because if I leave any at home, those will be the ones I need. Then after I’ve sketched it a couple times I can narrow the colors down to fifteen or twenty and I put them in a baggie in my backpack with my water bottle instead of lugging the whole heavy box of pastels, but the beach cart makes it possible for me to take them all out if I want to. I like to spread them out on the grass to pick the ones I need comparing the colors to the real flowers.

I’m not happy with these colors for the yellow flowers and I won’t be able to use this sketch for my painting but I don’t mind showing you my not so great sketches. It’s another step to planning my painting. If any step of the process doesn’t look good, scrap it and try something else.

Mistakes help me find my way. Being lost on the roads in my newly adopted city helps me learn my way around without using the GPS in my car. I don’t want the car telling me what to do. I don’t like a talking car. The same thing is going on in my head when I’m working on sketches. Some work and some don’t. When I’m drawing I’m making a file in my mind of what works. When I’m ready to paint I’ll have already made the hard decisions. Eventually I’ll be able to find anything I’m looking for in the Virginia Beach / Norfolk area without a map and won’t need the GPS. When you depend on technology to remember things for you your brain gets lazy and you forget. If you burn a path in your brain for drawing or driving you never need the technology to answer questions for you. But, I’m PA Dutch, so, I’m kind of old fashioned anyway. Hey, I have a car and a computer, air conditioning etc. Just so you know I’m not living in the dark ages, I just prefer the old natural ways.

Ruby Spider Lilies / pastel study

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Today I went back to the garden thinking I’d do more sketches of Chicks Dig It, but when I saw these spider lilies I was no longer in love with Chicks Dig It. I’m fickle like that.

That means I’ll have to sketch these a couple more times for my painting because each variety of lily has different shaped petals. Good thing I didn’t start transferring my sketch of Chicks Dig It to the canvas. I like to take my sweet time doing a painting, actually. Sometimes I wish I could just go there and go home with a painting but I never learned exactly how to go about painting in the fast way. Then sometimes I’m glad I’m slow to decide simple things like which variety of lilies to paint because I’d rather have a dozen sketches that I can throw into a flat file and one finished painting, even if it takes me weeks to do it. There’s not enough room in my small apartment for hundreds of canvases but I could find a place for hundreds of sketches. And every time I move, which has been frequently in the past fifteen years or so, I throw away a lot of paintings and give them away.

It seems like in the art world oil paintings are looked at with more respect than other media, but to me the sketching and drawing that leads up to an oil painting is necessary and just as important. And drawings or dry media of any type should be valued equally to an oil painting. But that will never happen.

Chicks Dig It / pastel study

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The name of this variety of lilies is Chicks Dig It. Isn’t that a fun name?! I scouted the garden for lilies budding a couple weeks ago and saw the plaque with this name on it and thought it would be real pretty. Every day or so I’d check on it to see if it was blooming and today it is! My sketch has a few smears, it doesn’t matter. These flowers are only my reference for a painting.

I had to stand in the sun to sketch but that’s ok, I got there earlier and took breaks to sit in the shade. This is the lily I want to do in my painting. Now I have to sketch leaves and buds and a few more flowers but I’m almost ready to plan my flower layout. Finally making a decision on the type of lily is a big step in the project. I can fit maybe 7 or 9 flowers on the canvas that I have tinted and I want to put in a lot of buds too.

I like the wilted flowers they call “deadheads”. Gardeners are so quick to pull off deadheads. They probably don’t like me to paint them but I like the shapes they make so if there’s any for me to sketch I’ll try to get them in my painting too. I feel like if I’m going to paint flowers, leaves and buds why not paint the deadheads too?

orange lilies / pastel

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I love my kneeded erasers. I have one in my hand all the time when I’m sketching with charcoal or pastel. It makes blending less tiring on my hand than a blending stump. To start with, I blob in a color in the general place and size I want my flower to be. Then I use my eraser to push that first layer of color into the paper. As I’m working on the general shape of the flower I’m erasing the extra pastel to define the edges of the petals and adding more color where the petals need to be larger, continuing to blend it down with my eraser. Then I go over the flower with a darker color to put in some shading. Then go back with a lighter color to add the light sides of the petals.

Yesterday it wasn’t supposed to rain until afternoon and I went over to the garden to draw. The sun came out for a little while and I thought I had enough time to finish a sketch before it rained. I didn’t get this sketch finished because it started raining before 11.

That’s ok. This is only flower drawing practice, like a color rough. When I do a finished piece I’ll have to do my background first and put the flowers on top of leaves. Since these flowers don’t look the same two days in a row I might have to work on the painting at home. If I do a painting at home the more sketches of flowers I have the better.

I still haven’t decided which variety of lilies I want to use for my painting so I need to do more sketches first. The more the better so I can get a plan worked out and arrange them for a good composition.

pink lilies / pastel

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I don’t know the name of these lilies, I didn’t see a plaque. It was nice standing in the shade of the magnolia tree to sketch them. It’s getting hot and muggy out there this afternoon but I got started at 9:30 and it wasn’t bad standing still to draw.

I worked on this for 2. I/2 hours and took a few breaks to sit down on a shaded bench. I’m more comfortable standing up to draw because I can concentrate better on my feet and sitting down to draw makes my back tired. It’s harder to hold my sketchbook comfortably sitting down, since I don’t take my easel when I’m using my small sketchbooks.

I spotted two more places in the shade where I can draw yellow day lilies and some reddish ruffly oriental lilies. After I get those two varieties sketched I’ll pick the one that looks best and do a painting.

Eastern Redbud / charcoal chalk and pastel / with photos

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Here’s a strappy young redbud for you, appropriately planted in the childrens garden. It looks like it had a growth spurt last year but didn’t fill in yet.

I filled in the background with pastel on this study because I had some smears that wouldn’t erase all the way, and also to make the light on the tree show up more on the light paper.

It’s fun to spot these redbuds when you’re driving. They’re out there by the side of the road all wild and crazy. They don’t get very big but they’re bright and cheery when they bloom. Then when the flowers are down they blend back into the underbrush and you can’t see them again until next spring.

Some other trees of interest are in the photos below.IMG_2020

This tree has roots that have been formed into a circular bench all the way aroundĀ  for people to sit on or kids to climb on. I wonder how they got the roots to take that shape.IMG_2021

Can you see in this photo how they criss-crossed the stems of these crepe myrtles to make xs? I like the window pane effect of it. And some of the trees look like they merged together into one at the places where the stems cross. Isn’t that a cool thing to do with crepe myrtles?

Korean Rhododendron / pastel

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Loving a rhododendron. This week it’s the rhododendron. Next week it will be a red bud tree. I’m fickle like that.

It caught my eye because the flowers seemed to float over theseĀ  graceful stems. The flowers were so bright with the dark green evergreens behind them. And the branches crossed to make odd shaped window frames with lines of sunlight and shadows.

The day I found it I tried to sketch the branches in my sketchbook. My sketch didn’t work but I wanted to try to draw it larger, because I find it more difficult to draw small. When I went back with this larger piece of sanded pastel paper the next day I sketched the branches with charcoal again and it looked better. I blobbed in violet to save places for my flowers and picked some colors for my background.

I simplified the background a lot. There’s more of these bushes, more trees of different kinds, more plants on the ground, a path, etc. All I wanted to see was the dark green behind my flowers and dried leaves on the ground with shadows, and a line of lighter green grass behind my rhododendron. Even though I simplified the background, it was still time consuming because I like to build up layers of pastel until the paper won’t hold any more color. I do an underdrawing and blend it down into the paper. Then I can put heavy coats of pastel on top of that. It takes a lot of time but a pastel can have a solid look if you fill in the tooth of the paper.

I was in the garden working on this 4 times for and hour or 2 each time, but then I worked on it for hours at home on 3 or 4 different days. So, over 20 hours in it, I guess.My hand was getting tired by the end.

The reason I’m excited about this drawing is because I didn’t know if it was working till the end when I drew the branches. To me, it looks feminine and strong. ( and I didn’t have to draw a vagina! ) hahahah ( sorry for mocking feminist art )

I hope you get the feeling of fresh spring air blowing through the branches and moving the flowers.