Pushing the Envelope
Playing with pure pigment is, for me, the best part of pastel painting. It's me and a soft stick of vibrant color, no brush or turpentine to interfere. Pastel sticks allow me to work in broad strokes, avoiding too much realistic detail. Instead, I show how it felt to be there. I'm not a camera, I'm an artist!
There's a certain amount of serendipity involved, and I prefer it that way. While some planning is required, I find myself resistant to doing much of it. Blocking in the large shapes – sure. Deciding which areas are the darkest and lightest – sure. Figuring out the horizon line and perspective – sort of. Once too much drawing and detail are involved, I lose interest. (For those familiar with the Myers Briggs, take a wild guess. LOL)
I like to try new approaches and figure out for myself why a painting is or isn't working. An article in New York magazine cited the advantages of doing things you're not good at, in order to build neural connections and improve brain function. Research shows that if you stick with it, employing a growth mindset ("I can figure it out") vs. a fixed one ("I'll never be any good at this"), you actually improve brain functioning.
I've done this intuitively and used to set myself the task of learning one new skill every year – feng shui, Spanish, billiards, sailing, etc. I do it with traveling, too, often going places where I've never been and don't speak the language. The trips end up providing great memories, stories, and reference photos for my paintings. So apparently activities like travel and painting are good for me on lots of levels. This painting, from the Canal du Midi in southern France, is an example. First I had to learn how to get a boat through locks, then figure out how to show the impact the canal bridges had on me.