Q: How long did it take you to discover the properties of pastel? (Liliana Mileo via facebook.com/BarbaraRachko/)
A: After I moved to Alexandria, Virginia in the mid-1980s, I began taking classes at The Art League School. I was extremely unhappy with my career as a Navy Lieutenant. I worked as a computer analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and was searching for something more meaningful to do with my life.
I began with a basic drawing class and liked it. I enrolled in more classes and decided to spend two years working exclusively in black and white media, such as charcoal and graphite, before advancing to color. Fortunately, early on I found an excellent teacher in Lisa Semerad. I remain deeply grateful for the strong foundational drawing skills she imparted to me during this period.
After two years I tried water color and soon discovered it was not for me, a perfectionist who needs to refine my work. Then I tried etching and found it extremely tedious, the antithesis of instant gratification.
Finally I began studying soft pastel with Diane Tesler, another gifted teacher, and fell in love with this medium! At The Art League School I also completed a one-week workshop with Albert Handell, who introduced me to the archival sandpaper that I have been using ever since.
While I fell in love with pastel three decades ago, I continue to learn about its unique properties. I am pushing pastel to new heights as my techniques continually evolve. This is a lifetime journey of learning. I hope to never know all there is to know.
Comments are welcome! Ask anything and I may answer in a future blog post, as you’ve seen here with Liliana’s question.
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A: At the age of 33 I was a Lieutenant in the Navy, working as computer analyst at the Pentagon. I was very unhappy with my job. I began looking for something else to do and discovered The Art League School in Alexandria, VA. I enrolled in classes with Lisa Semerad, then spent the next two years developing my drawing skills using black and white media (charcoal, pencils, conte crayon, etc.).
After that I moved on to color media and began studying soft pastel with Diane Tesler. During this time I was still in the Navy, working the midnight shift at the Pentagon and taking art classes during the day. I was a very motivated student.
After three years or so I was getting quite proficient as an artist, entering local juried shows, winning prizes, garnering press coverage, etc. Prior to my career change, I worked hard to develop my portrait skills. I really didn’t know how I could make a living other than by making commissioned portraits. I volunteered to run a weekly life drawing class at The Art League School in Alexandria, VA, where I made hundreds of figure drawings using charcoal.
I spent a semester commuting between Washington, DC and New York to study artistic anatomy at the New York Academy of Art. I spent another semester studying gross anatomy with medical students at Georgetown University Medical School. Over time I became skilled at making photo-realistic portraits. In 1989 I resigned from the Navy and have worked full-time as a visual artist ever since.
Comments are welcome!
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* 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 generally need privacy in order to create, and as I’ve noted, what constitutes adequate privacy varies by person and time. Solitude quickly becomes isolation when it oversteps one’s desires. But most artists need to feel that they and their work won’t be examined prematurely and, certainly, won’t be ambushed unfinished by ridiculing eyes. You might go out and invite various people to critique a piece in progress, even knowing they’re unlikely to view it with sympathy, exactly because you feel there’s necessary information in their opinion. But, if you’ve invited them, however unpleasant the response, your experience is likely preferable to what you would feel if they impulsively offered up the same critiques unsolicited.
Someone making art needs privacy in part because the process of creation makes many people feel vulnerable, sometimes exquisitely so, particularly since the work frequently emerges in a jumble of mixed-up small parts that you can only assemble gradually, or in a wet lumpy mound that requires patient sculpting. When people feel prematurely revealed or exposed, they often experience great discomfort and find themselves babbling apologetically, seeking to reassure by laying out the distance they have yet to travel. It is in part this babble-as-smoke-screen to cover exposure resulting, distracting, unhappy self-consciousness that privacy seeks to shelter.
But even more significantly, privacy grants us permission to turn our attention inward without interruption. As I described earlier, in order to concentrate, think, and fantasize, we need to feel we’re in a safe enough space that we can lower our vigilance, stop monitoring our environment, and allow ourselves to refocus on the happenings within our own minds. There are times interruptions feel merciful, but many more when they disrupt our effort to flesh out an inchoate notion.
Janna Malamud Smith in an absorbing errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery
Comments are welcome!
Posted in 2014, An Artist's Life, Art in general, Art Works in Progress, Black Paintings, Creative Process, Inspiration, New York, NY, Pastel Painting, Pearls from Artists, Photography, Quotes, Studio, Working methods
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