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Start/Finish of “Sacrificial,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 58” x 38”

Start
Finish

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Pearls from artists* # 543

With “Impresario,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 70” x 50” framed
With “Impresario,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 70” x 50” framed

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

Although the struggles that I faced involved me as an individual, I didn’t feel alone. I was forbidden to travel, but this forced immobility didn’t adversely affect my work; instead it gave me sustenance. For me, inspiration comes from resistance – without that, my efforts would be fruitless. Having a real – and powerful – adversary was my good fortune, making freedom all the more tangible – freedom comes from all the sacrifices you make to achieve it. Limitations come only from a fear inside the heart, and art is the antidote to fear. I did not need sympathy, for courage itself is an aesthetic feeling, and it’s only when true feeling is transformed into something broadly understood that art can avoid drying up.

Ai Weiwei in 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

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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!

Q: What’s on the easel today?

Work in progress

A: I continue working on “Shadow,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26” x 20”

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Pearls from artists* # 540

“Wise One,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 58” x 38,” in progress

*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 Wise Old Man or Woman is a figure found throughout folklore and mythology. They possess superior understanding and also often a more developed spiritual or moral character. Frequently, such characters provide the information or learning that the Hero needs to move forward in their quest. In “Star Wars,” Ben Kenobi plays the teacher to Luke, introducing purpose and knowledge into the young Hero’s life. Where the Hero brings a drive, courage, and direct action, the Wise Old One introduces the importance of the opposing values of thought and questioning. Jung describes it thus: ‘Often the old man in fairytales asks questions like who? Why? Whence? Wither? For the purpose of inducing self-reflection and mobilizing the moral force.’

The Wise One may appear in disguise to test the character of others. In the second “Star Wars” film, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), Luke’s mentor Yoda does not reveal himself as such when they first meet. He waits, asking questions that test Luke’s motivation for being there. Jung associated the Trickster archetype with the Wise One, and the use of disguise emphasizes this correlation.

Gary Bobroff in Carl Jung: Knowledge in a Nutshell

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Q: What does it feel like when you dop off a pastel painting at your Virginia framer’s shop? Are you sorry to see it go? (Question from Caroline Golden)

Framing “Impresario,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 58” x 38” image, 70” x 50” framed

A: Actually, just the opposite since I have been looking at it on my easel for more than three months. Typically, I’m glad to say goodbye – temporarily – because I know when I pick it up in a month, I will have gained some distance and can begin to see and think about it more objectively. I can start reflecting on how this pastel painting relates to my overall body of work.

Comments are welcome!

Q: What’s on the easel today?

Work in progress

A. I continue refining and adding more details to “Disruptor,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26” x 20.”

Comments are welcome!

Q: There are so many instances in the art world where paintings are discovered to be fakes. Do you think this is a potential problem where your work is concerned? Can your pastel paintings be forged?

Start
Start of “Acolytes,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 38″ x 58″
Finish
“Acolytes” finished

A: For the record, a little-appreciated fact about my pastel-on-sandpaper paintings is that they can never be forged. To detect a fake, you would only need to x-ray them. If dozens of layers of revisions are not visible under the final pastel painting, you are not looking at an original Rachko, period.

My completed paintings are the results of thousands of decisions. They are the product of an extremely meticulous, labor-intensive, and self-invented process. This is the difference between spending months thinking about and creating a painting, as I do, or a single day. It’s highly doubtful that my rigorous creative process can EVER be duplicated.

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Start/Finish of ”The Mentalist,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26” x 20” image, 35” x 28.5” framed

Start
Finish

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Pearls from artists* # 526

"Broken," soft pastel on sandpaper, 38" x 58" image, 50" x 70" framed
“Broken,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 38″ x 58″ image, 50″ x 70″ framed

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

There are things that are not sayable. That’s why we have art.

Leonora Carrington quoted in Painting Herself, by Ruth Bernard Yeazell, in The New York Review of Books, May 12, 2022

Comments are welcome!

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