Blog Archives

Q: Can you explain how you choose colors? (Question from Maria Cox via Instagram)

“Overlord,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 58” x 38”

A: I am wild about color! As I work to create a pastel painting, I apply a color, back up from my easel to see how it interacts with and affects the rest of the painting, and then I make revisions. This process necessitates countless color changes and hundreds of hours during months of work. I apply pastel using a meticulous layering process. Were you to x-ray one of them, the earlier, discarded versions of a pastel painting would be visible. All the while I carefully fine-tune and refine how the colors and shapes interact with each other.

The goal is to make an exciting painting that no one, especially me as the maker, has ever seen before. I have no desire to repeat myself, to make art that resembles work by any other artist, or to be forced into a niche.

I try to select intense, vibrant colors that are exciting to look at, that work well in relationship to each other, and that will grab the viewer. Sometimes I deliberately choose colors for their symbolic meanings. For example, I selected a dark purple for the alternating triangles (the ones with the pink dots above) in “Overlord” because purple denotes royalty.

I have been working with soft pastel for 37 years so I have a fairly intricate science of color at my disposal. No doubt, many unconscious factors are at play, too. More on that in future posts.

Comments are welcome!

Q: What’s on the easel today?

Work in progress
“Shamanic,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 35” x 28.5” framed

A: I just started a large 58″ x 38″ pastel painting based on the same reference photograph I used for “Shamanic,” 26″ x 20.” Sometimes ideas for new projects arrive in prosaic ways. I saw a mockup of “Shamanic” on my New Delhi gallery’s Instagram page. The mockup depicted my pastel painting as considerably larger than it actually is. I became intrigued with this unexpected format and decided to create a new one in a larger size.

For now I have turned Shamanic” to the wall so that it does not inadvertently influence my color choices. The two pastel paintings are already looking quite different.

Comments are welcome!

Q: What is your favorite thing about creating on sandpaper? (Cassandra Alvarado Oliphant via Instagram)

Ready to start

Ready to start

A:  Undoubtedly, I could not make my work without UART sandpaper since my entire pastel technique evolved around it.   I use 400 and 500 grit.  My favorite thing about it is its ‘tooth’ (i.e. texture or roughness). 

Over the many months I spend creating a painting, I build layer upon layer of soft pastel.  Because this paper is relatively “toothy,” it accepts all of the pastel the painting needs.  And as many people know, I own and use thousands of soft pastels!  

Many layers of soft pastel and several months of studio time go into creating each painting.  My self-invented technique is analogous to the glazing techniques used by the Old Masters, who slowly built up layers of thin oil paint to achieve a high degree of finish.  Colors were not only mixed physically, but optically.  

Similarly, I gradually build up layers of soft pastel, as many as thirty, to create a pastel painting.  After applying a color, I blend it with my fingers and push it into the sandpaper’s tooth.  It mixes with the color beneath to create a new color, continually adding richness, saturation, and intensity to the piece.  By the time a pastel painting is finished, the colors are bold, vibrant, and exciting.

Comments are welcome!           

Top Instagram Posts for 2019

New Year’s Day is almost here so I decided to depart from the usual.  Here are my most popular images posted on Instagram in 2019.  

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With Jenny Holzer – she’s waiving hello – at Rockefeller Center

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Photo: Izzy Nova

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Photo: Izzy Nova

 

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Photo: Izzy Nova

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More than 49,000 now!

Please consider following my work at https://Instagram.com/barbararachko_artist.

Comments are welcome!

Q: What art marketing activities do you put into practice regularly that work most successfully for you?

"White Star," 38" x58", ready to go to the framer

“White Star,” 38″ x58″, ready to go to the framer

A:  This blog continues to be a crucial part of my overall art practice.  Blogging twice a week forces me to think deeply about my work and to explain it clearly to others.  The process has helped develop a better understanding about why I make art and has encouraged me to become a better writer.

As far as art marketing, one crucial activity is to take my blog posts and repurpose them for posting on social media sites.  Several years ago I realized it’s necessary to put as much time and energy into getting my work seen online as it is to create it.  

With the help of my assistant I stay active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  I have sold paintings, in the 5-figure price range, through Facebook connections. Recently an art critic reconnected with me via LinkedIn and went on to write a scholarly essay about my “Black Paintings.”  In December she’s presenting a paper at Oxford University and will speak about my work.

I find online marketing to be a constant challenge, but it does yield rewards.  You never know what might happen.

Comments are welcome!        

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