*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
True art provides us with truth in a manner analogous to science. Its prophetic dimension – its knack for showing us the side of things that our interests blind us to – make it a source of knowledge, even though it is knowledge of a kind that instrumental reason has little time for. The psychologists who revolutionized our understanding of human psychology in the earliest twentieth century drew on two principal sources to build their concepts: the dream life of their patients and the great art of the past. Without this recognition of the primacy of imagination, Freud and Jung could never have drawn their maps of the psyche. Those who work for a better world would do well to follow their example and find the guiding patterns of life in the prophetic artistic works of the past and present. Only art can act as a counter-weight to that uniquely modern mentality that, wherever it becomes the only game in town, seeks to persuade us that the proper goal of human beings is to contain, dissect, and control everything – that even the most persistent mysteries are just problems to be solved.
J.F. Martel in Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action
Comments are welcome!
A: In the late 1980s when I was studying at the Art League in Alexandria, VA, I took a three-day pastel workshop with Albert Handel, an artist known for his southwest landscapes in pastel and oil paint. I had just begun working with soft pastel (I’d completed my first class with Diane Tesler) and was still experimenting with paper. Handel suggested I try Ersta fine sandpaper. I did and nearly three decades later, I’ve never used anything else.
The paper (UArt makes it now) is acid-free and accepts dry media, especially pastel and charcoal. It allows me to build up layer upon layer of pigment, blend, etc. without having to use a fixative. The tooth of the paper almost never gets filled up so it continues to hold pastel. If the tooth does fill up, which sometimes happens with problem areas that are difficult to resolve, I take a bristle paintbrush, dust off the unwanted pigment, and start again. My entire technique – slowly applying soft pastel, blending and creating new colors directly on the paper (occupational hazard: rubbed-raw fingers, especially at the beginning of a painting as I mentioned in last Saturday’s blog post), making countless corrections and adjustments, looking for the best and/or most vivid colors, etc. – evolved in conjunction with this paper.
I used to say that if Ersta ever went out of business and stopped making sandpaper, my artist days would be over. Thankfully, when that DID happen, UArt began making a very similar paper. I buy it from ASW (Art Supply Warehouse) in two sizes – 22″ x 28″ sheets and 56″ wide by 10 yard long rolls. The newer version of the rolled paper is actually better than the old, because when I unroll it it lays flat immediately. With Ersta I laid the paper out on the floor for weeks before the curl would give way and it was flat enough to work on.
Comments are welcome!