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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!

Pearls from artists* #498

Barbara working on an interview. Photo: Maria Cox
Barbara working on an interview. Photo: Maria Cox

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

“The first time I ever went to a meeting where they discussed any of my books academically,” she chuckled, “a Canadian Scholar was going to discuss The Left Hand of Darkness. He didn’t know that I was going to be there. When I walked in, he was appalled. He looked at me with a savage look on his face and said, ‘Just don’t tell me you didn’t know what you were doing.’ That’s a basic thing, actually, between scholars and artists. I think, ‘Oh, is that what I was doing? Or Is that why I did that? and it’s very revealing. But the fact is, you cannot know that while you’re doing it. The dancer can’t think, Now I’m going to take a step to the left. That ain’t the way you dance.”

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Last Interview and other Conversations, edited and with an introduction by David Streitfeld

Comments are welcome!

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