Playing with pastels

I learned something this week: I don’t hate working with pastels.

For the longest time I’ve had a box of oil pastels in my supply cabinet. I haven’t known what to do with them. I have always been amazed when I see the pastel work of other artists, but I never had much success when I worked with them.

This week I played with them on a piece of paper that I had done a “blind” acrylics painting on. I just started fooling around with them trying to find a shape hidden in the abstract splatter of acrylic paint. I had also been using caran d’ache on the paper and thought the whole thing had been lost because it all seemed to turn to a muddy brownish color. Once I started to mark the paper with oil pastel sticks—not caring what was about to happened—the figure truly emerged.

I love the result. I love learning something new about what I’m capable of if I relax and just play around.

Creative fire

While in Vermont at a Geryunant creativity retreat this weekend (see post below), I worked on a painting that began as a blind drawing in which we were asked to close our eyes and use materials on paper. We then did a second drawing/painting that took something that we wanted to carry over from the first drawing/painting. (I saw a bird on the edge of my first drawing when I opened my eyes. So carried that over.) Finally, we did a third drawing going even further.

Each of these was done in less than about 10 minutes. It was a way of let our intuition drive the creative process, rather than our minds.

I really enjoyed it and would love to try to do more of this type of exercise. After I returned home, I took one of my paintings and developed it even further, using acrylic painting and oil pastels.(The bird and flight imagery became flight, and the flight became flames as I thought about the workshop.) I wanted to honor the four sisters who led this retreat and fueled my creative fire, which is in keeping with this month’s theme for Creative Every Day.

Playing in Vermont

Play. Such a small word. As adults we don’t get to use it much, as in, “Let’s play.”

Remember when when we were kids and someone said, “Let’s play,” how electrically charged the air would become with possibilities. Play what? Who knew? It didn’t matter because we  knew it would be fun.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I got to “play” in Vermont at a creativity retreat, courtesy of my husband, who understands and supports my artistic cravings. I attended “Let’s Play,” a weekend of creative play led by four creative sisters at Geryunant in West Dummerston, Vt.

Geryunant is a retreat center that offers all sorts of wonderful workshops centered around focusing and artistic expression by Helen Hawes and Gena Corea. Helen’s three sisters joined her in leading “Let’s Play.”

I had no idea what to expect. And there was no way to anticipate the imaginative ways of approaching creativity that these talented and inspiring women came up with for the 13 of us during the weekend.

I have to admit that I struggled to resist my own reluctance. As I admitted to the group, I am a control freak. Well, “freak” may be too strong…no, I am indeed a control freakazoid.

I constantly need to control things and I need to know exactly where everything is heading and what the outcome will be. It’s my way of keeping order in the world. Letting go is difficult. That is my challenge as an artist, too—tucking away that need to know exactly what my creative efforts will yield. I have paintings framed in my mind before I even start the canvas.

Once again, at this workshop, I was reminded of something that is critical to being creative:

Art is a process, not a product.

Taking part in the Creative Every Day Challenge has been helping me with this concept, as well. Even as I write about art as a process, I’m realizing the activeness of the phrases—being creative, making art.

I won’t go into all the details of this weekend (including the fact that the item above is an object I chose from a table of the most intriguing objects I’ve ever seen. Each participant was asked to select something that served as a metaphor that we explored in various ways for three days.)  I’ll just say that “Let’s Play” was an important experience for me. It took me out of my comfort zone and made me view creativity from many different perspectives that I would not have taken on my own.

And it was so touching to see how a group of people who had never met each other before the weekend could allow themselves to be so open, so vulnerable, so trusting and so giving. Inspiring, really.

And what a lovely thing to spend a weekend in a quiet home (thanks Gena) surrounded by woods, where the dominant sound is the wind whispering in the trees and the brook babbling by. No cell phone. No TV. No computer. Just permission to do “nothing” and focus on self and creativity…and breathe.

Did I mention that there was a personal chef? Every meal was so carefully prepared and presented that it felt like love—all organic, fresh eggs from the chickens raised by the chef (artist Tim Allen); zucchini from his garden; plenty of grains. We had edible flowers in our salads! If I could have packed up that man and put him in my suitcase, I would have brought him home.

I hope I can hold onto all that I took in this weekend. I hope that I can remember to let go, to breathe and truly embrace that being an artist is a process.

Of course, I could always go back and get a refresher. 🙂

Painting into corners

In Progress
In Progress

Have you ever started working on a painting or mixed media piece with a vision and suddenly—or not so suddenly—find yourself in a corner wondering where to go next? Well, that happens to me more often than I care to think about.

This piece has been sitting in my studio now for about two months. I began with a very distinct idea of what I wanted to create. I had a great drawing in my sketchbook that I wanted to turn into a painting. I decided to do it in mosaic pieces. However, when I put the figure on the canvas she was too small and out of proportion. So I began to cover her over with geometric mosaic pieces.

…and then…the corner. What now? I keep looking at the piece trying to figure out what I want to do, but I don’t know yet. Part of me really likes it so far and I’m afraid I’ll “mess” it up–even though I don’t even know what “it” is yet. Crazy, huh?

Come on, my creative people. Tell me what you think of this piece and offer some ideas about where you think I might want to go next. Or tell me how you get unstuck in situations like this. I would really appreciate the input.

In Progress (detail)
In Progress (detail)

Random acts of art

I had the most beautiful weekend with my husband and 11-year-old son. We spent most of Saturday at the birthday party of our neighbor’s 90-year-old mother. It was so sweet to watch her family celebrate her life. The fact that they included us in the celebration made us feel very honored.

Sunday was spent at the Newport Jazz Festival, which has become almost an annual tradition for us. It is great to expose my son to such wonderful music (Herbie Hancock, Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck and one of the most amazing vocalists I had never heard of—Lisa Fischer). The day was perfect—sunny, but not too hot. And all I could do was just sit, relax, enjoy the music and play in my sketchbook—not a load of laundry or dishes in sight! YAY!

So above is one of my random acts of art for the day. I began by trying to draw something related to the Creative Every Day theme for the month—fire. I envisioned fire as a woman and came up with a figure that seems to be some sort of creative sorcerer. The next drawing is a version of the same woman, but I drew it when Herbie Hancock was on stage playing one of his wild jazz fusion pieces. Therefore, the drawing—the fire—is wild.

Below are some random drawings I did in pen on scraps of printer paper. You know how you try to print out a photo and it is way too big to fit on the paper and you get these strange shapes? That’s where these sheets of paper come from. I decided they were perfect inspiration from some pen play. Enjoy.

Reach for the Stars

I’m very excited! The ceramic dessert plates that I was asked to design for the “REACH for the Stars” fundraiser have been fired and are ready for bids. I really like the way they turned out. It is hard to tell how the colors will look once fired, but I love these.  I can’t wait for the event on November 4. The money raised supports REACH, which helps victims of domestic violence. You can see my plate and others, and read about the auction here.

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