Most paintings are finished before the artist thinks it is. Knowing when to quit is a skill that even an experienced painter can have doubts about. The skill lies in knowing that not another stroke added to the painting will enhance it. As the painting nears completion, stress increases and a constant evaluation goes on ‘Is the stroke I’m about to add going to advance the painting or is it redundant, repetitive, or even moving away from completion’. I usually have to put it away for a few days or more, and then come back and view it more objectively. It invariably is more finished than I thought. This separating oneself from the emotional investment in the work can help prevent overworking it. The danger is that one can be so concerned with what others may think, that the painting is worked and reworked into ”acceptable” shape before it goes out into the world and all manifestations of individuality are edited away. As an artist becomes more proficient, a healthy bravado evolves that says, “Here I am. Take it or leave it,” and these touches of personality are what makes the work unique and special. However this takes a lot of confidence, knowledge and experience and even the best struggle with doubts. Degas himself, was known to sneak into clients houses and to take back his sold paintings so he could continue working on them. People actually chained them to the walls to prevent him. You certainly don’t get much better than Degas.
I am often asked if it’s hard to let go of a painting when it is sold. The answer is quite honestly ‘no’. Though many believe that art is a form of self expression, I think that in it’s most powerful and life affirming state that it is a form of communication. The art is incomplete until someone else experiences it and something very special happens when people react to the art in a real space and are able make a deep meaningful connection to the work. Those moments are why we do what we do. Before the spoken or written word, communication between humans was achieved through pictures and though such pictures human language began to develop. We communicate because we need or want to be understood, but communication is on many different levels. We are all too conscious of the physical world and of things, but there are realms of meaning beyond the material that spoken or written language can ‘t touch – a painting, or any true work of art as in dance or music allows you to go beyond the surface and explore meanings, emotions or symbols that can’t always be expressed with words. The beauty of a painting is that it’s immediate, you don’t have to spend hours as in reading a book – you walk into a room and you have it. People hang it on their walls because they like how it looks or how it makes them feel. Maybe it reminds them of something specific or maybe they are being nudged by something in the subconscious that they are unaware of. It’s all up to audience. Everybody has different life experiences and comes from different backgrounds and each viewer can receive different messages. Sometimes they see at once what I am hoping to achieve or can look at my work and experience something that I didn’t see or even intend which I find absolutely fascinating. It’s as if they are completing the work with me. Ultimately it is a communication of emotion and values , so I feel honoured that someone resonates with the work enough to want to live with it. I feel understood and validated on a very profound level.
As Leo Tolstoy says in his essay What is Art ...and it is upon this capacity of man to receive another man's expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.
I’m currently working on 2 commissioned pastel portraits. I love working in pastel and realize that it is a medium with which many people are not completely familiar .
Pastel does not at all refer to pale colors, as the word is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion terminology. The name pastel comes from the French word "pastiche" because the pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste, with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colors in the pastel palette range from soft and subtle to bold and brilliant. It is not colored chalk, which is a limestone substance. It is pure pigment-the same pigment used in making all fine art paints. It is the most permanent of all media when applied to a permanent ground and properly framed. There is no oil to cause darkening or cracking, nor other substance or medium to cause fading or blistering. Pastels from the 16th Century exist today, as fresh and alive as the day they were painted.
The manufacture of pastels originated in the 15th century. The pastel medium was mentioned by Leonardo da Vinci, and it was sometimes used as a medium for preparatory studies by 16th-century artists . During the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, Many famous artists... Chardin, Watteau, Copley, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Latrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Glackens, Whistler, Hassam, William Merritt Chase, Mary Cassett, just to list the more familiar names, used pastel as finished work and not just preliminary sketches. The 19th-century French painter Edgar Degas was a most prolific user of pastel and its champion.
An artwork is created by stroking the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the color in the "tooth" of the paper, sandboard or canvas. If the ground is completely covered with pastel, the work is considered a pastel painting; leaving much of the ground exposed produces a pastel sketch. Techniques vary with individual artists. Pastel can be blended or used with visible strokes. Many artists favor the medium because it allows a spontaneous approach. There is no drying time, and no allowances to be made for a change in color due to drying.
Care of Pastel Paintings
As with any fine work of art, photography or fine furniture, or photography it is advised not to place a pastel painting in direct sunlight. When under glass, the heat of the sun can create humidity, which could cause moisture damage to develop. Whenever transported or not in a hanging position, a pastel painting should always be face up.