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.
I decided, the week after Christmas – the one week of the year when I don’t have to do anything and when I try to take the time for myself after the onslaught of the many have-tos of the season – that I would do a pastel per week. I am way, way, way too slow to do a drawing/painting a day as many people do. (A pastel that covers the entire page is called a painting but I still feel it odd to name pastel pieces that way.) So I thought one per week would be doable. So I started a painting of a bizarre set of Russian nesting dolls that accidentally came my way, but I just couldn’t get it to a point where I was happy with it. I kept trying to decide whether to keep working on it or abandon it. This took a lot longer than a week.
Then along came Valentine’s day. (So, yes, it was more than a month on the damned dolls.) So I thought I’d make a pastel for Isabel. A break from the dolls and an opportunity for something upbeat and fun. I thought it would take me 2-4 hours. It took a lot longer, of course – what did I expect from my egregiously slow self.
It’s been way too long since I’ve done any drawing. I did do a sketch this summer and have been to my neighborhood sketching group here and there, when it’s been warm enough to meet outside. But none of that really counts.
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My first reaction to being invited was, of course, that it is a great honor, especially when I look at my fellow exhibitors, and also a great responsibility. And then very quickly, not panic, that’s too strong a word, but the weight of having to come up with a way to present myself that felt true to who I feel that I am, not gimmicky (I hate what I think of as “gimmick art”), and allowed me to use pastel in the way that I love, with intense color, and so that, up close, the pastel application is beautiful on its own, as if each inch of the picture is a tiny abstract painting. All-in-all, a formidable task.
It’s time once again to start thinking about running in the dead of the Massachusetts winter! (On December 3rd this year.) This is my second annual Hot Chocolate Run. (Amazingly it went on for the first twelve years without me!) Part of my motivation for signing up is to keep myself running through the winter, but a huge factor is to support Safe Passage, a local organization that provides counseling, shelter, legal help, and more to victims of violence. In this time of feeling so helpless to do anything at all about rising hate and violence, I can at least do this.
So, yes, I am asking for donations. Please go to my Hot Chocolate Run fundraising page to make a donation.
Jim is not one for half measures. And Jim wanted to see the solar eclipse in totality – and without clouds. And see it we did, in totality, with a cloudless sky:
Neither totality nor clear weather were the conditions where Jim is currently working, in NYC, or at our home, in Western Massachusetts, where I started the odyssey. And the weather where Jim had originally planned for us to watch was for clouds and rain. It took some rather extraordinary measures to find and get to a place with the correct conditions, a testament to Jim’s perseverance and also his skill at getting around in unfamiliar territory.
So this little toy gun, and I do mean little, is marked “REPLICA”. Phew! I thought this gun, which is less than three inches tall, might be the real thing. (No, not really.)
It does beg the question of why someone would want a really tiny replica. Something to fit well in the hands of really tiny children? Something convenient to carry to scare off those accosting you, hoping they won’t notice it’s too tiny to hurt anything larger than a gnat? OK, I’m out of guesses.
OK, there are a few parts I like in this picture, in the shiny part on the front of the barrel, where the turquoise, gold, white, and purple-black swirl together. And on the base and trigger guard and body, in the front, where the reflections allow so much color in those tiny areas.
But I made this pastel, 9″ x 12″, struggling the whole time because the size is just too small to really allow me to have freedom with the pastels, to create beautiful, abstract areas of color within the representational picture. So I decided it would be a study, not a final product, a study for one in a series I have planned, American Still Life.
Today I gave up the charcoal pencils and two pastel pencils I was using, trying to channel Jim Dine, for my Sennelier and Girault pastels, still in just a few colors, yellows, golds, blood red, and black/gray/white. I’ve never been able to limit my palette before. I’m not sure I always want to do that, but I like it in this picture. I think it’s the Dine influence, still a bit there, letting me do that.
Pastel is definitely my medium. I just love its richness, despite the nuisance of the mess, it often feeling like I’m drawing with a broomstick, the difficulty of framing and preserving them, etc. The richness and texture and depth of color trumps all that. In the background of this picture it is thick enough, even on this Strathmore pastel paper – no grit – to let me smoosh it around, my absolute favorite place to find myself with pastels. People often can’t figure out why I use Senneliers, because they’re so soft, but they do that smooshing thing so nicely. I love them.
I have been struggling with thinking I should whip off drawings that have a freedom and life to them, particularly at the Sundial Still Life Sundays and for warming up and sketching in between working on fully finished pieces. Part of my motivation is that all the drawing books/classes/etc. say that you should do this, that it will make you a better artist. The other motivation is that I feel that I’ve had a very static, fill-it-all-in, pretty boring way of working in all but maybe one of the pieces I’ve done. But when I sit down to whip something off, I haven’t been able to do it. When I try, what I produce is just a sloppy mess; I hate what I’m doing, don’t think it’s worth any time, and quit drawing for the day altogether in total disgust and discouragement. I realize one thing I’m forgetting is that drawings that have the qualities that make them look whipped off might not be.