Tag Archives: pastel

Magnolia in the Wind / with some thoughts about inspiration

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This flower is too sexy for my blog. Too sexy for my blog.  Too sexy OMG.

Oh well, I draws em like I sees em.

Inspiration. Where does it come from? I can only talk from my own experience here, so feel free to opine, as always.

I think it comes from outside myself. It’s nature or other art, or a good teacher, or music, literature, everywhere you see something that grabs you. When I was young and worked full time and exercised every day and had a house, husband and kid, I wasn’t into drawing and painting. I still had a lot of ideas but when you’re young and you have a lot of obligations and distractions it’s easy to put art on a back burner. I always knew if I lived long enough a time would come when I could concentrate on art. To me art and craft are the same thing. Back then I was inspired to take a pottery class or two. I was inspired to make gingerbread houses and carve pumpkins among other things. Is the inspiration to sew or cook something special less than the inspiration to paint? I say it’s all the same. If I don’t feel like painting it’s because I’m on something else.

I had a lot of stress back in those days but I don’t think stress kills inspiration in my case. It’s that there’s only 24 hours in a day and I like to sleep too. There were a few years when my mind was in a turmoil. Art gave me the chance to” live in the moment”. It’s a good break for your mind if you’re under stress. I think all that advise you read about living in the moment and giving up the past, whatever is eating you, is too idealistic. It’s not like you have switches in your brain where you can just turn off thinking about that bad thing. When you can spend a lot of time alone you have to go back over it again and again until you figure it out. Then you can get some peace of mind. There’s a lesson to be learned from whatever your mind is fixated on. You have to face it. Masking the problem with pills won’t stop it from coming back. Plus the meds could suck the spirit out of your work, if you’re an artist, by numbing your brain.

The main thing about inspiration is that it requires time alone to work for me. It helps to eliminate some things from your life if you’re a very busy person.

About this drawing: It was so windy that flower was blowing all over the place. I drew a moving target. It was real good practice because after drawing so many magnolias I had to work faster and observe then sketch and observe again when the flower blew back. I had to work faster and it wasn’t too bad because charcoal doesn’t show up on this paper anyway, so, just skip it. With flowers, if you get it wrong no one knows.

 

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Magnolias getting floppy / pastel and chalk

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These flowers are huge. I’m sketching them life size on 9 x 12″ paper and they’re running off the edges. When I do a painting of this next year I’ll have to paint them smaller but drawing large is easier than painting small. These are for practice.

Vine charcoal doesn’t work well on this dark paper so I have to skip that step and block in the general shapes with pastel and chalk. The more flowers I draw the easier it’s getting but these sketches still took around two hours each.  For my painting I need about three times the number of magnolia studies I have. Then I can eliminate the ones I don’t like. The tree has some buds so I might be able to get a couple more sketches in before they all turn brown and fall off. I’ll have to go back next year and do more. IMG_2232

Spring has sprung around here.

Magnolias wide open / pastel and chalk

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Last time I saw this tree all the flowers turned yellow overnight. It still had a lot of buds. Now all the second buds are open and it looks like the cold didn’t damage them. The tree is more beautiful than before. I hope I can get more sketches before they wilt. But it’s pretty even when they get yellow.IMG_2227

My next apartment is on the other side of town from the botanical garden so I want to get flowers sketched until I move. Then I’ll be hanging around at the ocean front more. I’ll still go to the garden but not as often.

 

Magnolias / pastel

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These flowers are so big when they open that only one will fit on this size sketchbook paper. If the weather holds up I’ll go back with more paper next time.

If I do a painting of this tree I’ll only do a few branches not the whole tree. Maybe next year. I’ll put a piece of glassine paper over this sketch to save it. Most of the time I just put the sketch back in my sketchbook and they get smeared.

There’s also some lichens I want to sketch before it gets crowded at Seashore St. Park. I love their texture.

And I have a great plan to produce a video of a conceptual art piece on the beach. It’s still too cold for that but I’m excited about this movie I want to make. It’s a secret. You will freak out. My daughter said she’ll help me with it.

Chinese Paperbush blooming / pastel study

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For some odd reason, dirt was falling out of the tree behind me. I was glad I had my hat on but I couldn’t keep my paper clean. That’s Mother Nature for you, dropping mud on your head. How does she do it? 😉

Finally, I can finish my painting of the Paperbush. I’ve waited all year for it to bloom. A few years ago in the winter I followed a sweet smell to a Paperbush in Richmond. At the time I was working on a painting and didn’t want to start on the Paperbush. I thought I could do it the next year, but the next year I searched for the bush and it was gone, sacrificed for a big landscaping project. I was sad. Then I moved to the beach and was so happy to see another Paperbush in the arboretum next door, but once again, I had another big project in the works. So, this year I planned to paint the bush and it feels like a long time in the planning and now it’s going to get done.

I’ll practice sketching the flowers again tomorrow if the weather holds out, then I can finish the painting. Today I sketched the flowers close to life size but I’ll have to paint them smaller and won’t be able to get in much detail. That’s ok, if I practice drawing them life size it will be easier to paint the basic shapes later.

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.

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. 😉

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  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.