Monday, April 12, 2021

More Lessons to Learn

I’ve been struggling for weeks with the latest painting of Pele… and when I struggle with a painting, I tend to put off working on it. I hadn’t touched it since March 22.

It’s her whiteness. White is difficult to paint (and sometimes photograph, as I’ve found out with flowers.) This current painting is on a black textured paper. I layered gray and some yellowish-tan for an underlayer to her fur, but I am fighting to get the white to be white. Every time I try to smooth out the white (I like smooth painting, even with pastels), the white wipes off to the gray layer or it just turns muddy.

On Saturday, I decided to spray the painting with a fixative to see if I could then layer on more white to bring out the brightness. Yesterday, I found I could add a thick layer of white, but once again, when I tried to smooth it out, it turned gray.

I’ve never been to art school. I took art in high school and throughout my long years, I’ve taken occasional classes – oils, acrylics, watercolors, charcoal landscape drawings. The charcoal morphed into pastel painting six years ago, which I love, love, love.

What the lack of “proper training,” means is I’ve developed my own style and technique. It goes along with a lot of things about me – I’ve always followed my own path. I choose not to do what many others do.

But there are times when my lack of proper know-how creates hard to overcome obstacles. Yes, I read art books on pastel painting, but some things just don’t seem to click in my head.

Like values. I understand values are dark to light tones, and I’ll even print a grayscale version of the photo to see that. But, for some reason, the minute I pick up a pastel or charcoal, my hand just starts moving, almost like something else takes over. I call it the picture painting itself.

Now I’m finding with painting a mostly white cat, it isn’t just about white. There are other colors underneath, especially in shadowy areas. For some reason, my eyes don’t see those other colors until someone else points them out to me.

For the most part, I work through obstacles, and most the time, I’m pleased with the final result. (Yes, some finished paintings are just so-so and go in a box.) However, seeing my better paintings hanging on the walls makes me happy. When matted, framed, under glass, and seen from a few feet away, they’re stunning. (Even if I do say so myself.) And yes, if I look too close, I can always see something that could be fixed… but I know many other artists who say the same thing. And why most art is viewed from a distance.

So, now I’m stuck deciding if I should quit or if the painting can be fixed. I have to get past the point where tears fall over it and I'm not feeling sick to my stomach that I've failed her.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Discussion on Writing Long Sentences

I was thinking about the issue of reading long sentences. I even see sentences so long one sentence takes up an entire paragraph. This always bothered me; even in reading books and such, so I want to write/talk about it. Not just from a newspaper standpoint but in regular reading, too.

But I don't want to sound like I'm being ignorant or insulting to other writers. I want to promote ease of reading and understand. (Consider: The longer the sentence, the harder to understand the point.)

Is it because writers think long sentences make them seem smart or do they just get rambling? (I’m guilty of rambling.) Yes, I know in college theses and such, it is appropriate to write long, convoluted sentences. I sometimes wonder if the intent is to purposely confuse the reader to somehow prove how intelligent the writer is.

Do people write like they think and/or speak? I know if I wrote every word my brain was thinking, I'd be going on and on and on. When my brain is on fire and I’m thinking too much, sometimes I lose track of my original thought processes and the words get all turned around in my head.

Also, the brain and actual speech don't provide punctuation or proper grammar which is needed for the written word. I always say, “You can’t write like you talk,” unless you’re writing dialogue. Speech does ramble but the written word needs grammatical breaks for comprehension.

Or is it because writers don't think about making the story easily readable? They're just busy telling/writing the story. My writing often makes perfect sense to me, but in the re-reading/editing, I start catching things which don’t make good sense. And sometimes I don’t catch some of these things and another editor or proofreader picks them out. Or maybe I’m just getting old, and my brain doesn’t comprehend as quickly.

Whatever the case, all I know is if I need to keep going back and reading the sentence over from its start because I lose track of what’s really being said, I get bored and will tend to skip sections.

‘Course, I can’t do this when I’m editing for the newspaper, so I have to keep going back and re-reading. I figure, too, if I get confused, will other readers be confused? (I was told from the start when I began with the InterTown Record to write like I’m writing for eighth graders. Not because people aren’t intelligent, but because it makes it easier and quicker to read.)

So, the question is, do you want your writing to be easily read and understood? I’m sure everyone does. And no, most who write, don’t have to write for eighth graders unless they’re purposely writing a children’s book, but it’s important to write easily understandable passages.

Sometimes you want your writing to raise questions, but is it to question the meaning/confusion of the writing or is it about letting the topic inspire the brain to question things? Does the writing stir emotions? Does it want you to ask more, to know what happens next? Does it make you wonder about things you were taught to believe growing up as to whether that information is true?

I vaguely remember some rule years ago about putting in a comma where you’d take a breath (along with many rules about commas). However, too many commas, too many conjunctives in one sentence makes the sentence lose meaning.

Just a few thoughts in my quest to live wholeheartedly. To live whole heartedly is not only learning lessons for myself but to also share information and discoveries. If something I experience can help someone else be better at whatever they need, then that’s always a good thing.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Being Manipulated

I feel I’m being hounded and manipulated these days. I ordered five new tops yesterday and within an hour, I had multiple emails from four places offering discounts if I order more within the next five days.

And what is it about memberships? I feel not only being manipulated but herded. Grocery stores and gas stations are now among businesses promoting membership to receive rewards and discounts. Join this. Join that. Become a member. Sign up for… Hey, I have other things I’d rather do than “join” all kinds of retail memberships.

And if these places are offering all these benefits, do they raise their prices to everyone else. Are they making that much profit they can offer discounts to certain “valued members?” Does this make their customer service better? (Customer service, another term still used but has fallen by the wayside.)

It almost makes me feel by becoming a member to some of these things, my choices of where to go and where to shop become limited -- if I want to keep getting these wonderful (yeah, right) rewards. Sure, maybe I could save money here and there, but I don’t like this manipulation. I don’t want to have to shop at a particular place because I’m a “member.” I don’t like being forced to participate. (At least it feels that way to me.) And I don’t need to be a member of stores or businesses. I shop places I like. Why do I need to become a member? To prove my loyalty (really?) to a business?

Oh, I know the psychology behind it, and I refuse to play the game. I won’t buy (pun intended) into it. Marketing ploys annoy me. I feel they sucker people in. I see through the pretty words and promises. People believe what they’re told. They follow that “herd ‘em in” mentality. I refuse. While I still can, I want to think for myself (that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to suggestions when I’m indecisive.)

But this is just me. I know there are many out there who jump on the bandwagons, and that’s fine for them. Me, I walk my own paths. I have always avoided what the masses are doing. This is another aspect of how I’m choosing to live wholeheartedly.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Dressing for At-Home Success

Every night lately, when I pull clothes out of the closet for the next day, I realize how ratty they’re looking. My clothes are old. The material of my tops is worn and “pilly,” and some items are stained. The elastic on the waistbands of my pants is wearing through and inseams are getting thin.

I’m not ascetically good looking, but I can still look nice in my attire, which is important for my state of mind. I don’t want to feel I look like a bum sitting here. I may not get company, go off much, or see people, but I don’t need to dress like a slob, either.

I won’t wear clothes dictated by latest fashion trends.  I dress for my body type, age, and shape. I dress for comfort and ease of movement. There’s something about looking nice that makes me feel better about myself. I don’t need to dress fancy, just have tidy-looking clothes. Even in the evening when I change into a gown, it’s a beautiful, flowy piece which feels good to wear, especially the summery colorful ones. 

It’s hard to justify the purchase of new clothes when old ones are still wearable, especially when I’m a stay-at-home woman. Perhaps, though, in these times when I easily fall into sadness, it’s important to do something to bring my spirits up. Perhaps updating my wardrobe will help staying at and working from home remain a success. 

Also, maintaining a good, positive mental attitude is important in my goal to live wholeheartedly, and if a couple of new tops will help my overall wellbeing, then it’s all good.

So, I did.  


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Second Day on 'Waiting for Attention'

In between editing stints, I worked on Miss Pele. The pastels I used were Senneliers, Yarka, and Rembrandt with CarbOthello pencils for details.

First, I added some rusty color to the background which will match some of her calico-cat color, then I added more color to her back fur using gray and two shades of the yellowish-brown color.

I made the ears smaller which is a big improvement. The hardest part was getting rid of the lines from the previously sketched-in ear shapes, but I finally managed.

In the end, I brought in more white using some pencil and some Sennelier, but I wasn’t happy with the day’s work and questioned why I bothered trying to do her. I’m just not able to capture her expression and create the look I want.

However, this is still a work in progress. I have to remember, too, working on Colourfix paper with its texture is different than working on the smooth BFK Rives. Also, this is only the second time I’ve attempted to paint Pele, so I suppose I should give myself some slack.

PS: I went in the studio to get the notes I’d written earlier and ended up narrowing the right upper side of her face (left side of painting). I added more of a yellow-green to her eyes, too. And, after the initial not liking of today’s work, it is an improvement from the other day.

Time and Energy Wasted in Indecisiveness

Ironically, the days I need to wear my editing hat are the days the creative muses are most active. I weigh the choices – do I do my art first or the newspaper work?

 “Do me first!” my creative muse cries.

“No, do the deadline work first!” my logical, responsible mind demands.

And it’s a standoff between them with me being mentally torn. My fear is I’ll be behind with the editing if I do my artwork first. Then I make mistakes when I hurry to finish the editing on time.

I waste a lot of time trying to make decisions. The indecisiveness is time spent doing neither when I could be using that time in doing actual work, whether it’s editing or painting. The overthinking is also a drain on my energy.

In a way, it’s not about work time. There is enough time to do both (at least on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, I do need to do the newspaper first.) It’s about my own thought processes and allowing myself to get stuck on a what-to-do spiral. If I wait to do the newspaper work, it’ll still be on my mind. All the while I’m painting, the editing work will be knocking at the edges of my focus and disrupting my concentration.

“Oh, look what we can do with these colors,” the muses whisper enticingly. “Let’s try this angle with the painting.”

“Come work on me,” the editing calls. “You have to get this done in time.”

Yet, those days I go in the studio first, I do feel much better. When I don’t, the muses continue knocking awhile, but eventually fade away and might not return soon. If I don’t give them attention when they are here, they’ll go give their inspiration to someone else.

The lesson: Don’t hem and haw. Don’t use up precious time in worrying about which to do. Make a decision and go with it. Choose one! Jump in! There’s time to do other later.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Starting Another Pastel Painting


"Waiting for Attention," 8 1/2 x 12 inches on black Colourfix paper using various pastels. Back in November, I originally did a light tracing to get the general shape and eye placements. 

What drew me: The look in her eyes I haven’t yet found words to describe. Her little face pulls my heartstrings. I just want to scoop her up and cuddle her. I’m drawn to the glint in her eyes, the roundness of the pupil and iris. Her face is so full of expressions sometimes.

After a couple days of not feeling well, I wanted to paint, and decided to tackle this Pele painting. I taped the paper to the drafting table and sat to work.

For once I started with the focal point – her face – with white Rembrandt, then a black CarbOthello pencil, white, green, and a rusty color.

The eyes are a challenge. Even with a sharpened pencil, sometimes I struggle to know exactly where the point is when I touch it to the paper. And, looking at the inspiration photo, doesn’t make it easy.

How can I trace a few outlines and still not have the composition right? Will it fill out once I get all the fur done? I’ve already made the ears smaller, and they still look too big.

The black background of the paper needed some texture, so I used black Sennelier and pan pastels to add layers. I’m not quite sure yet what I want to do with the background.

Next I added black, gray, and some rust-color to her body. I’ll need to do a lot more body work before I finish the face. I only hope I can create that pointy-look face of hers.

I’m still not sure about working on papers with a rough surface. The pastel eats up and just falls off.

This is the photo I'm using for inspiration: