I often sit down with my materials, curious where to start. No photo is jumping out at me. No inspiration to be found. Dry, grey, tired. I choose a photo and pick up some charcoal. The sketch is starting to awake some excitement. I move on to a little white oil paint with equal parts medium and start to paint around the charcoal. Oh, the effect is wonderful! I grab oil pastels, applying colour, I start to form a background. Yes, gentle background, the colours are gentle, building slowly in intensity as I move to the foreground. The water, formed of separate marks, I map out the water in areas of colour. These areas of colour are connected through the reflections that form. And now for the branches and tree that create the point of sight, the context of the viewer. I am back at the pond, where I once held a camera. I am staring through trees, watching the water’s movement, taking in the colours. Here I am. My process of painting is like the walk that I took to get to this pond. Although this journey is a little different, it involves a walk, a path, to get back to the pond. The pond is there, but getting there takes a little work.
There is a process of self-discovery in my art making. Not only am I learning more about my art materials each time I use them, but I’m also learning about the subject I am painting. The majority of my art focuses on nature as a subject matter. As I paint a spot in the forest, a view of the ocean etc, I learn more about the place I paint. I learn about how things are situated, where the light peeks in through trees or bounces off the surface of the ocean at different angles. I learn about the proportion of some plants, hills, mountains in comparison with other aspects of the landscape. I observe colours and the way they change based on light and seasons.
I love the relationship I form with my subject matter. It’s easy to fall in love with the places I travel in my art as I create. Art making is an intimate process. I take my time, stay with my subject, stay with my art, work with my materials. We experience a range of emotions within a piece, we work out challenges, see frustration and elation.
And then the reflection, I sit with my pieces and wonder. I analyze and sometimes wonder how we, the piece and I, got to this place. The pieces are a feeling, a thought, an observation, a piece of time. They are a communication expressed in a language, and in materials, and with tools.
The process of being inspired, creating and reflection is a process of self-discovery. Something unexpected, when creating art, is an understanding of how deeply I love this earth, nature, the trees, water, rocks, organisms that exist within it all. How I want a relationship with this earth, respect, care and co-existing with a consciousness that seems easily lost when living in a detached society. A reminder that I want to keep travelling through preserved areas of this earth and that I want to continue to create art pieces of these travels.
I use Canson pastel paper for my oil pastel pieces, most often. Occasionally I do an oil pastel piece on other paper or on canvas, but canvas eats pastels very quickly! I start my pieces with a charcoal pencil sketch, outlining main shapes and marking the paper like a bit of a map. I started my oil pastel landscapes with Cray-pas, and this is how I executed my Horth Hill series.
For my Ocean series I added Sennelier pastels to the mix. Senneliers are an indulgence, due to cost. Senneliers have a buttery texture in application, they don’t leave a crumbly residue like Cray-pas. Application can be thick and added a very luminescent quality to sky and water reflections in my Ocean series.
My River series was started out of an excitement of yet another line of pastels, the Gallery collection. The Gallery pastels added more opaque colours that were saturated with white and grey. This resulted in the leaves in the foreground of my River series to really pop up front, creating depth.
I have also added chalk pastels to my toolkit. When applied as a base layer, chalk pastels create a new texture for when the oil pastels are applied on top. Oil pastels applied over a chalk pastel base layer creates a mottled look that you can see as a background in one or two of my Floral series works. Chalk pastel can also add highlights of colour when mixed in with saturated areas of oil pastel.
I have not had success with fixatives for my final pieces, yet. VOC’s and obnoxious smells are a concern for me. I tried a natural casein product that came with a pump nozzle and it ruined one of my pieces- a good reminder to always try new product on a sample piece! So, I will continue my journey to find a good fixative.
Looking for a reference photo and finding inspiration is my first step. Nature is my go to. I am a keen observer in nature; sights, smells, textures, movement… nature hikes affect my soul deeply. Feelings, response, breath, thought… I leave reluctantly.
When creating my oil pastel pieces, I use a photo for reference. I select photos based on my relation to them: does the photo trigger memories, awake emotion, am I transported by this photo? I take many photos when on hikes and walks. I have to remind myself to just ‘be’ sometimes, to remember that nature will impress itself on my soul, and it’s this ‘being’ that I paint from.