“Spring Trail” – 5.5×4.5″ pastel on paper
This week’s Youtube timelapse focuses on the power of a small piece and how effective it can be for learning, practicing, and for daily work in your studio.
I first began painting pastels with this small size. I painted one daily (sometimes two or three) for several years and loved escaping into my guest bedroom where I had a small set-up. I didn’t have a big budget to spend on supplies and honestly, was afraid of that big blank sheet of paper. Painting a miniature felt do-able, easier, and I didn’t feel it was wasteful if one didn’t work out. I was able to try many different color combinations and techniques and grew to love creating these small jewels. Even now, I feel at home with this size. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I don’t have the time for a larger piece. It gets my creative juices flowing and helps me to remain on top of my technique, while fulfilling that need to paint. Just getting something creative out of me on a daily basis is my goal.
Flash forward and now that “guest bedroom” is a complete home studio. We gave the bigger bed to my teenage son and I am painting much larger and more involved pieces. I am infinitely more confidant in pushing through the work. Because of those years spent sitting cross-legged on my then-bedroom floor, my paper taped to a piece of cardboard and a towel over my lap to catch the dust, I learned about value, composition, line, shape, edges, proportion, unity, balance, etc. I also learned to conquer fear and how not to give up too soon. I painted thousands of small paintings. Some were successful, some were….not. However, many times those successes were happy accidents. I didn’t know what I had done and had a hard time repeating it. The “failure” paintings taught me much more about trial and error in technique, even though I hated “failing”. I evaluated and critiqued the work constantly. I kept my paintings in a rotating gallery of sorts throughout my home. (I still do!) . I juried and judged them and painted every single day.
I hated the days work when my paintings didn’t work. I often felt like I was wasting my time and that I would never learn. I read books, studied the works of the masters, sought out a pastel society in my home town. I especially loved this book for the inspiration of daily work, this book for the encouragement from an artist, this book for teaching me technique, and this book for opening my eyes to community.
Large paintings have power. They command a room’s attention. If you’ve never seen a large Jackson Pollock, I would encourage you to seek one out. There is no denying the magnitude of standing in front of one. Russell and I witnessed this when we were at the MOMA in NYC this past summer. We were spellbound and speechless at the strength of the sheer vastness and complexity within the piece. I will never forget it.
Small paintings are no less special. While a large painting lectures at us from across the room, the small painting beckons and whispers “come here.” They invite us into a closer secret, a small glimpse into memory, emotion, and feeling. They are unexpectedly in corners, on shelves, tucked into hidden spaces meant to be discovered. They are inviting and mysterious. Truly small jewels of beauty…
I encourage you today, if you want to learn at a diligent pace, paint one small 5×5 or 6×6 everyday. Try new underpainting techniques, new marks, new colors. Play with value, with your edges. You will be forced to edit out extraneous details and tighten your compositions. The beauty of pastel is that it is immediate, fresh, and bold. There is a rhythm to the creation and when you practice daily, you can’t help but learn! Get out those large sheets of paper and don’t be afraid to cut them down! It’s freeing and emboldening.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
― Mark Twain
*This page contains Affiliate links