June 18, 2013

Dancers with a Touch of Color

I arranged two cut outs of sketches I had made of Degas’ small bronze statuettes of dancers on a clean page and traced them. I then made designs around them in sater soluble oil pastels. I hated this design so I proceeded to scrape it down, leaving a pale watercolor background as a basis for a new design. For the new design I used soft pastels.

People have admired my pastels from time to time, but I rarely do them. I’ve never been comfortable using pastels. I don’t really use them “correctly,” but wield them more like pencils and brushes. It is how I have to use them. I used to tell my students that everyone uses drawing and painting utensils with a certain touch as individual as a fingerprint. I believed that this touch was usually educated out of art students and it was up to the savvy instructor to help the student regain that personal connection of brain to hand through the media and on to the paper.

The way students are taught to use pastels might be correct but the layering techniques never seemed natural to my particular touch. My lines were harder, sinuous and tended not towards massing or layering. To get comfortable with a pastel I sometimes had to do the unthinkable and sharpen it like a pencil. I would use that to draw with or roll the pastel around its edge to get a fractured line, all the while thinking why can’t a pastel be more like a pencil? When my pastels resisted becoming a mass, I would smear the whole thing flat like a watercolor then draw lines on top of that - odd for a pastel work but more conducive to my touch.

I used these maverick pastel techniques for my two rollicking dancers - not very standard but I’m not unhappy with the results.

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