Art, Blog, Creative, creativity, Creativity and Art, hilary zaloom, pastel, pastel art, pastel drawing, pastel painting

There is a juried show of small works at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, MA, with the subject being the egg. Initially I wasn’t particularly intrigued by drawing an egg, although I liked the idea of tackling the incredible surface of the shell. There are probably hundreds of entries, so I have no idea if my piece will be accepted, but I didn’t really enter anticipating acceptance. Rather, I saw it as motivation for making another picture, and with a deadline. My inspiration came from a beautiful della Robbia-style egg cup that belonged to my maternal grandmother, Isabel Finley Bell. I say it is della Robbia-style because the flowers are raised and on a base of iridescent white and blue. I’m sure Luca della Robbia was not into egg cups (although you never know) but my Granny’s cup reminds me of his style.

My grandmother had a great love of Italy and of Italian pottery, something I inherited from her. I have many pieces of of pottery that belonged to her, all but two given to me by my mother, the other two she gave me directly. I love them all. When Jim and I went to Italy for our honeymoon we bought a few more pieces. It was hard not to pack entire suitcases with the stuff. My Granny had a few della Robbia reproductions that were my introduction, as a child, to the artist, not having seen any of the actual thing until I was much older. Her reproductions made an astonishing journey She would have bought them in Italy, where my grandparents met when my grandmother was on a Grand Tour with her mother — from Norristown, New Jersey, where she grew up — and where they lived, Naples and Genoa, after they were married. Much to my Granny’s chagrin, they moved from Italy to Hamburg, for my grandfather’s job with White Star Line, the ocean liner company with the ships ending in “ic”, Brittanic, Majestic, Olympic, and, yes, Titanic. He started with White Star as a clerk when he was young and moved up the ranks to various positions in Italy and finally to where he was running White Star for all of Europe in Hamburg. The della Robbia repros made it from there to Ruislip, England, during WWII, and then to the Garden City, New York, where my grandparents lived with us for a few years. So they were very well travelled, as was all the pottery that came my way from my Granny. (I don’t have the della Robbias, unfortunately.)

The egg cup is crooked, which made drawing it not-crooked a bit challenging. In real life, it is charmingly off-kilter. I felt I did more justice to the cup making it straight for it’s official portrait.

The spoon also came to me from my Granny, along with espresso cups and saucers. It is always fun drawing silver.

Egg in della Robbia-Style Egg Cup, 8×10″, pastel on sanded paper, 2022

I do want to find a different brand of sanded pastel paper. (This was done on LuxArchival.) Years ago I was lucky enough to use Wallis paper, but that hasn’t been available for ages and ages. It was almost every pastelist’s favorite, so why the production of it bogged down and eventually stopped, I have no idea. But this paper just doesn’t hold enough pastel for the way I apply it, which is thick and heavy. I love to put layer upon layer and smoosh the colors around. I never, ever, ever use fixative, which flattens the surface in a way I don’t like at all. This paper ran out of tooth, so when I tried to apply more color it ended up taking layers off. So I will be trying out some more papers. Or making some more of my own, with watercolor paper, acrylic gesso mixed with fine pumice, and acrylic paint for toning. I’ve been lazy about making my own, but that is probably the best solution and certainly the cheapest.

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