Saturday, 17 March 2018

Pastel and Charcoal: Just Get Messy, I Promise it's Fun!

It may be obvious by now that I'm a big fan of scribbles.  Fast and loose is my preference, at least for art.  Perhaps I love it because it's otherwise quite against my nature.  When painting, I am able to keep my method loose if it's an abstract but as soon as I have the intention to paint a thing I tighten up and try too hard.  It always seems to me that art is a metaphor for life and I'm sure there is one lurking within what I am attempting to articulate here.  Relax and let it happen...something like that.

I sometimes pin little pieces of my work on paper to this old louvered closet door I have propped up in the corner.   The piece on the bottom right is the first charcoal and pastel piece I made today.

Exploration is a good thing in art and in life and although my personal style is always evolving, I continue to explore and sometimes as I fall asleep at night I get an idea of something else that I want to try.  Last night I remembered my long neglected chalk pastels.  I remembered how I love their colours, the soft-focus effect I get from blending them with my fingers and how delightful it is to smear and smudge and get my hands all covered in dusty pigment.  I use pastels in the same way I use charcoal so why not combine them?

And I really do love mark-making.  I love lines and curves and playing with shapes that seem organic  and botanical and others which remind me of the human made lines we see in cities, power poles and lines, tall buildings, roof lines, the outlines of windows and doorways, the receding lines of roads and sidewalks.   

My set of pastels consists of some inexpensive sticks and some more recently purchased pans.  The pans are more expensive and so I haven't got a wide range of colours.  I use my fingers and then brush excess off the page with a soft paintbrush.  After applying the colour I made lines with charcoal, working quickly and trying not to think too much.  Two of the pieces are on a more heavily textured water colour paper, which impacts the glide of the pastel and results in some texture showing through.  The two larger pieces are on a very heavy but smooth mixed media paper.  I am not certain if I like one better than the other.  The results are just different.  My favourite pieces are the first and last one I did, though the first one is slightly damaged from the masking tape sticking too much when I peeled it off.

I sprayed them outside but it's a quick drying fixative so I can bring them in again immediately.  The smell does bother me and tends to cause a bit of a headache which is problematic though I am so happy making art I am inclined to put up with the headache.  Is that suffering for my art?  Does it make me a tortured artist?  

Don't you just love the colours of the pastels?  There is something about the primaries that hits me hard in the gut.  In a good way though.  I particularly love a combination of the blues and yellows with touches of green that results from the blending, but I've also noticed that whenever I sit down with paint or pastels I almost always reach immediately for red.  I have difficulty keeping red out of my work and use it so instinctively.  Red catches the eye and is ideal as a focal point in an image, so I tend to paint red flowers and to put red clothing on  people I paint.  

It seems to me that paying attention to my clothing pulls me away from making art and that having made the decision to express myself in art not so much in outfits, has brought me back to where I am happiest.  I don't think that's necessarily the way it would work for everyone; it's just how it works for me.  Perhaps it's because I have limited energy so I must prioritise my focus.  Or, perhaps it's just an aspect of my personality to prefer a more subtle outfit and more lively art.  

I'm exhausted, barely articulate, but I had to make some art today and I had to share my thoughts.  Now it's time to crawl back into my cave.   Friday is my busy day and Saturday is my relax and recover day.  I'm off to recover now and I hope your weekend is everything you want it to be.


  1. I like these, but have not felt an affinity for charcoal or pastels myself.
    I prefer inks and watercolours and acrylics.
    I remember once at a swimming pool while waiting for my kids, shutting my eyes and drawing what the water felt like. The result was unlike anything I could have done with my eyes open. Much freer and more expressive.
    Good luck with your adventures. I'm loving this series!
    xo Jazzy Jack

  2. I think that I like to smudge more than I like to drip. LOL I like to imagine you at the pool with shut eyes, drawing. I draw and paint in my head often when I am lying in bed. Perhaps someday I will succeed at transferring that to a canvas or paper. Thanks for your thoughts on this subject. I always appreciate your input. xo

  3. These colours really speak to me.


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