...serenity in pastel

q & a

1. How do I choose what to draw?

Subject matter is dictated by the collectors.  Whatever I sold last tends to be the subject of the next painting.  If there is something that I want to draw for fun, I won’t let myself do it until I have replaced the last painting that sold. I started painting the trees because I was fascinated by the way the light of the sun changed the leaf color so dramatically.  I paint waterfalls because I was mesmerized by the color patterns in the water. I will sit and watch the white highlights as they move creating form and shape to the water flow.  I see form and depth but the fascination comes from trying to see how to change it from 3 dimensional to a 2-dimensional rendering. Translating it from real to a flat surface so someone who has never seen it, can experience it miles away.  That is what art does.  It communicates to someone who can’t be there, what the artist saw or felt at a time.  I don’t really want it to be a photo-realistic rendering, I want it to share my experience at the time.

 

2. Where do I get my material?

Material for my artwork comes from everywhere.  I do have to be careful where the images come from.  Any image is owned.  That means if you took the picture of anything, you own that picture and can ask for a portion or all the money made from art created off your picture.   Ultimately, the best place to get your material is to lace up your shoes and go take your own pictures.  No one can claim them, and you control who uses them.  The other problem with using photos that you come across, other artists might use them too.  One artist talks of painting a photo from a magazine.  She set up at a show and 3 other artists had painted the same photo.  She never did that again.

 

3.  What does it take to be a professional?

Everyone talks of the dirty truths of their profession. Here is the Ugliest truth about being an artist, you have to treat it like a job.  You must give yourself deadlines and hold fast to them.  You have to hold yourself accountable.  Being a pro is harder than holding a job because if you fail, it is your fault your art business fails. Success isn’t about talent and people confuse that a lot.  You do have to have some talent to be a professional artist but mainly it is about your drive to succeed.

 

4. Why did I choose to become an artist? 

I was raised by a professional artist. I saw how others did it and succeeded.   Doing art shows isn’t the only way to be a pro  I carried a sketch book places but I didn’t sketch the world around me, just pictures I took.  I also carried a camera and snapped pictures too.  I learned techniques to take better photos through classes but I never wanted to sell my photos.  I would give my sketches away but I didn’t want to have the pressure to create all the time.  I didn’t actually start in pastel, no it wasn’t until I inherited my grandparents art materials that I finally held my muse.  When people talk about pastels, they are thinking of the long hard sticks that everyone can buy anywhere. When they talk about what I use, they call it chalk.  It isn’t.  I work with something referred to as Dry Pastel.  As you can tell, I became fascinated with pastels and eventually created enough paintings that I felt I should start hanging them somewhere to sell them.  That led to local co-ops and eventually local shows to now. I am not a success yet but I do sell my art and I enjoy doing it.  I work to create at least one painting a week.  I go back through my old artwork now and either re-work it or just get rid of it.  Some of it is so bad there is no point and some of it comes out even better than I could have hoped.  A professional looks at their work all the time and tries to be pragmatic about it.  As you learn, you can apply new techniques to your old pieces.    A professional learns that criticism teaches us.  We will only learn from it if we maintain objectivity.  You must grow a thick skin as a pro, that is hard to do.

 

5.  What is the difference between a pro and a hobby artist?

Professionals look at deadlines, look for venues and ways to sell their art.  They aren’t doing work to keep but doing it to keep the business going. They look beyond the piece they are involved in to the next original.  They design paintings to be turned into marketable goods like prints, mugs, shirts, cards, calendars…… They look at selling their art alternative ways  Pros push themselves constantly.  They look at who is successful and ask themselves why.  Why is that artist in Hallmark and I am not.  Why is his art being used for puzzles?  Do I want to jump through the hoops of being that kind of recognizable?  People who do art as a hobby only sell in local co-ops or one to two local craft shows and nothing else.  They aren’t really interested in making it a business.  They don’t seek out promotion, never develop a mailing list. But, they get the joy of just creating period (lucky bastards). The other side to being a hobbyist, there is no push to succeed.  Hunger is an excellent motivator so are the bills that pile up.  If you don’t have show deadlines, you don’t worry about keeping a stock of work to sell. Keep in mind, sometimes; having pressure pushes us to greater achievements.  All of this leads us to the next question…

 

6.  How do you become successful?

First, you should define success.  My mother is incredibly talented.  She could have become a house hold name but she chose to be a local celebrity. Given the different levels of success, she chose to be someone who could pay her bills not an artist that had a mansion on a hill.  It takes more sacrifice and dedication to be a mansion owner and you might spend more time away from the mansion than in it.  I think I would like to be able to carry my share of the financial weight in the house hold.  I am going to define my success as being able to make enough money to do that where I pay the expenses that I create and have enough left over so that I contribute to the overall financial wellbeing of my family.  With that said, I’m not even close yet.  I was told once, it takes 5 years to prove a business is solvent.  If it lasts that long, it has a good chance to survive.  I am going to say it takes a lot longer to prove success as an artist.  When I started, I could tell that I wasn’t ready.  Am I ready now? I am ready to face the reality that I could fail but, I am good enough to succeed.

 

7. This isn’t Chalk? 

Nope, chalk is a loose binder with minimal color or pigment in it.  Sidewalk chalk is made from Calcium Sulfate. We used to use chalk for boards in schools.  70% of the people alive today remember that, the rest of you are up and coming and are used to white boards.  Board chalk is made from calcium carbonate.  Both are made to be short lived mediums easily wiped or washed away.  Sidewalk chalk has much more pigment in it than the board chalk and makes bolder colors on the cement surfaces.  Rainbows on sidewalks were pale and vague in my childhood.  Dry Pastels are more color or pigment with a binder made from a component of tree sap called gum Arabic or gum tragacanthin. Other additives can be added by the manufacturer but they are closely held secrets and trademarked.  There is also oil pastel which is more permanent because the oil binder will dry into a permanent support of the pigment, not unlike oil paint itself.  Dry pastels are mounted under glass as the pigment wont permanently bind to the surface like oil and can be damaged by touching the surface. There are different variations in dry pastel the texture of the drawing material dictated by the ratio of pigment to binder. Hard pastel sticks have more binder making them good for drawing lines or creating directional line texture.  Many artists try the harder pastel and never go back not understanding the creamy texture that the very soft pastels create.  I call it “drawing with a stick of butter” and find it satisfying beyond measure.  If you are going to use the different types of pastel on a surface it is best to start with hard and work your way to soft. Some interesting effects can be created by scraping down through the soft to the hard pastel underneath or even down to the drawing surface entirely.

 

8. How do I become an artist? 

First, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do with your art.  We learn through experimentations and observations.  It never hurts to ask, “what happens when”.  Don’t be afraid to re-do things and don’t be hurt by what people say.  Your art is something that you create, it isn’t really you.  I know that is hard to accept, you put your effort and time into it, there is emotion and care but IT IS NOT YOU.  You are the person who created it.  Your art hangs on the wall, you can walk away.  If someone doesn’t like it, they don’t.  Art doesn’t appeal to everyone.  If they stopped to look at it, then you piece was successful.  It elicited a reaction. You made them stop and look.  Bad art, no one will look at.  Keep trying to create.  Artists are making things all the time.  Nails, furniture, graffiti, tattoos…… it is all taking mental and emotional energy to create.  I have one friend who creates figurines, fursuits and paintings.  She is always pushing to try something new.

 

9. Do you teach classes?

Yes I do.  I currently offer classes through Spokane Art School.  I can also arrainge to hold workshops in your area.  Please contact me if you are interested in having me visit your area.

 

 

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“Artists are generous, I have had pastelists gather at an art show and pass around their sticks of pigment. One of my favorites artists, Judy Fairley; brought me over a brand new box of Terry Ludwig pastels to play with.  She took it back; I so wanted to keep it, but she did share it.”