A: I have been devoted to soft pastel for more than thirty years. In this blog and in countless interviews online and elsewhere, I continue to expound on its merits. For me no other fine art medium comes close.
I have developed my own original methods for working with soft pastel, pushing this venerable 500-year-old medium to its limits and using it in ways that no one has done before. I have created a unique science of color in which I layer and blend pigments. When viewers (including fellow artists) see my work in person for the first time, they often ask, “What medium is this?”
My self-invented techniques for using soft pastel achieve rich velvety textures and exceptionally vibrant color. Blending with my fingers, I painstakingly apply dozens of layers of pastel onto acid-free sandpaper. In addition to the thousands of pastels that I have to choose from, I blend new colors directly on the paper. Each pastel painting takes about three months and hundreds of hours to complete.
My subject matter is singular. I am drawn to Mexican, Guatemalan, and Bolivian cultural objects—masks, carved wooden animals, papier mâché figures, and toys. On trips to these places and elsewhere I frequent local mask shops, markets, and bazaars searching for the figures that will populate my pastel paintings. How, why, when, and where these objects come into my life is an important part of the creative process. Each pastel painting is a highly personal blend of reality, fantasy, and autobiography.
Comments are welcome!
A: During the several months that I work on a pastel painting, I search for the best, most eye-popping colors, as I build up and blend together as many as 25 to 30 layers of pigment. I am able to complete some areas, like the background, fairly easily – maybe with six or seven layers – but the more realistic parts take more applications because I am adding details. Details always take time to perfect. No matter how many pastel layers I apply, however, I never use fixatives. It is difficult to see this in reproductions of my work, but the finished surfaces achieve a texture akin to velvet. My technique involves blending each layer with my fingers, pushing pastel deep into the tooth of the sandpaper. The paper holds plenty of pigment and because the pastel doesn’t flake off, there is no need for fixatives.
I consider a given painting complete when it is as good as I can make it, when adding or subtracting anything would diminish what is there. I know my abilities and I know what each individual stick of pastel can do. I continually try to push myself and my materials to their limits.
Comments are welcome.