Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Surprise Art Materials

After all my years of art it's not often that I find myself with a medium that I'm not used to and didn't really expect to use. But a chance remark at a gallery opening led to a Christmas present of some oil pastels.

I can't remember how long ago it was I last used them but I know it was a VERY long time ago. Nonetheless I'm a bit rusty from the holidays and experimenting with the oil pastels seemed like a good way to ease back into picture making.

There is something about oil pastels that is appealing, for instance their rich colors. But there's something also I don't like: the difficulty of making sharp lines. Once you start using the pastel the shard edges become blunt. Regular pastels have this problem too but I've always found a way around it. So I can still make sharp lines when I want to. i find it harder with oil pastels. Maybe that's why I haven't used them in such a long, long time.

The drawing above is based on a photo of a Belted Kingfisher seen at Morris Arboretum this fall. I often sketch them from life at Morris. But there's always something more to learn, something that I need to learn because the bird flies before I'm able to get it all down. I think if I knew the bird better, for instance the size and shape of the bill or the relation of the flight feathers to the coverts, I might be able to sketch them in after the bird has flown.

I often feel, particularly in winter when it's harder to be outside sketching, that it's worthwhile to sketch from photos and try to get down all of the details that I miss in my field sketches. So that was the start of this: a fairly detailed drawing that I then covered over with the oil pastel.

It's very small, about 6x8 inches I think. I can't say I'm thrilled with it but it is acceptable. You can always learn something by working with new media. Sometimes that's the way you fall into the perfect medium for yourself.

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