*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Far from offering an escape from the world, the arts present one of the most difficult and hard-fought ways to enter into the life of our time or any other time. What the artist must first accept is the authority of an art form, the immersion in what others have done and achieved. Once the artist has begun to take all that in – it’s a process that never really ends – there comes the even greater challenge of asserting one’s freedom. It’s the limits imposed by a vocation that makes it possible to turn away from the pressures of the moment and think and feel freely – and sometimes, give the most private emotions an extraordinary public hearing. If art is the ordering of disorderly experience, and I don’t know how else to describe it, then the artist must be true both to the order and to the disorder. These are the trials of the artist and the artistic vocation. They shape the experience of anybody who reads a novel or looks at a painting or listens to a piece of music.
Jed Perl in Authority and Freedom: A Defense of the Arts
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Artists will, in their long education of sifting through what they like and respond to and what they don’t, find they “see” an artist’s work in the environment. They see a Corot or a Hopper. They know then that they have found a good subject because of the similarity of poetic attraction. They see with a set of limits or conventions that speak to them.
But as time goes on and you continue working, you find you do not consider those subjects any longer but they still register. They belong to someone else. You have found other affinities. Or perhaps more importantly you have found your own. You respond now to your own internal song. Art is about art as much as it is about nature. Everything we respond to has passed through our filter of artistic influences.
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision
“Myth Meets Dream,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 47″ x 38,” 1993
A: I see continuity in subject matter and in medium, surely. For thirty-three years I have been inspired by foreign travel and research. In addition, I remain devoted to pushing the limits of what soft pastel can do and to promoting its merits as a fine art medium.
Here and there I see details I would render differently now; not exactly mistakes, but things that maybe could be done better. Fortunately, I think, all of my work is framed behind glass or plexiglas, making it extremely difficult to attempt revisions.
Perhaps most important of all, I see the long personal road that has advanced my work to its present state. Each gain has been hard-fought.
A: It is as difficult to explain the meaning of my art as it is to interpret the meaning of life! I am invested in and concerned with process: foreign travel, prodigious reading, devotion to craft, months of slow meticulous work in the studio trying to create an exciting work of art that has never been seen before, etc. I love making pastel paintings! Many years ago I challenged myself to push the limits of what soft pastel can achieve. I am still doing so.
I leave it to others – viewers, arts writers, critics, art historians – to study my creative journey and talk about meanings. I believe an artist is inspired to create and viewers ponder the creation. I would not presume to tell anyone how to react to my work.
For many years I have been devoted to promoting soft pastel as a fine art medium. There are excellent reasons it has been around for five hundred years! It is the most permanent of media. There’s no liquid binder to cause oxidizing or cracking over time, as happens with oil paint. Pastel colors are intense because they are close to being pure pigment. Pastel allows direct application (no brushes) with no drying time and no color changes.
I use UArt acid-free sandpaper. This is not sandpaper from a hardware store. It is made for artists who work in pastel and allows me to build up layers of pigment without using a fixative. My process – slowly applying and layering pastels, blending and mixing new colors directly on the paper, making countless adjustments, searching for the best and/or most vivid colors – continually evolves. Each pastel painting takes months to create.
A: I work on each pastel-on-sandpaper painting for approximately three months. I try to be in my studio 7 to 8 hours a day, five days a week.
I make thousands of creative decisions as I apply and layer soft pastels (I have thousands to choose from), blend them with my fingers, and mix new colors directly on the sandpaper. A finished piece consists of up to 30 layers of soft pastel.
My self-invented technique accounts for the vivid, intense color that often leads viewers of my originals to look very closely and ask, “What medium is this?” I believe I am pushing soft pastel to its limits, using it in ways that no other artist has done before.
A: Mine is a slow and labor-intensive process. First, there is foreign travel to find the cultural objects – masks, carved wooden animals, paper mâché figures, and toys – that are my subject matter. If they are heavy I ship them home.
Next comes planning exactly how to photograph them, lighting and setting everything up, and shooting a roll of 220 film with my Mamiya 6 camera. I still like to use an analog camera for my fine art work, although I am rethinking this. I have the film developed, decide which image to use, and order a 20” x 24” reference photograph from Manhattan Photo on West 20th Street.
Then I am ready to start. I work on each pastel-on-sandpaper painting for approximately three months. I am in my studio 7 to 8 hours a day, five days a week. During that time I make thousands of creative decisions as I apply and layer soft pastels (I have 8 tables-worth to choose from!), blend them with my fingers, and mix new colors directly on the sandpaper. A finished piece consists of up to 30 layers of soft pastel. My self-invented technique accounts for the vivid, intense color that often leads viewers of my originals to look very closely and ask, “What medium is this?” I believe I am pushing soft pastel to its limits, using it in ways that no other artist has done.
“Us and Them,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 47″ x 38″, 1993
A: I am pushing soft pastel to its limits, using it in ways that no artist has done before. I want people to see what is possible to accomplish with this medium. Because I have experienced unspeakable heartache – the loss of my husband on 9/11, onboard the high-jacked airplane that crashed into the Pentagon – when viewers learn about my life story, I hope to serve as an inspiration to keep forging ahead regardless of what tragedies life may bring. These are the main reasons that I wrote my eBook.
A: Regardless of what medium I am using, I am first and foremost a colorist. Everything I create is vibrant with color.
The Navy taught me to be organized, goal-oriented and focused, to love challenges, and in everything I do, to pay attention to the details. Trying to make it as an artist in New York is nothing BUT challenges, so these qualities serve me well, whether I am creating paintings, shooting and making photographs, or trying to understand the art business, keep up with social media, and manage all the tasks required of a busy artist with a New York studio, a business, and two residences to maintain. It’s a lot, but it forces me to continually learn and grow. As Helen Keller famously said, “Life is an adventure or it is nothing.”
These days I am rarely bored. I thoroughly enjoy spending long, solitary hours working to become a better artist. I am meticulous about craft and will not let work out of my studio until it is as good as I can make it. My creative process is more exciting than ever. It’s thrilling and energizing to continually push soft pastel to its limits and use it in ways that no other artist has done before!