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Friday, 24 May 2013

Chalkin' it Up (a short story long)

Maybe you've heard me mention that my mother is a landscape artist.  Her medium is soft pastels.  It's about the only other medium that I find easy for me to use.  I really, really suck at painting.  Chalk is easy for me probably because I grew up watching her.  She never used photos.  In fact my mother hated cameras.  She would tape her giant pastel paper onto a huge board and sit outside on the ground in the wind & the heat with her messy wooden chalk box at her side and do it 'live'.  She would work fairly fast because the weather and sunsets change constantly.  She'd get the sky down and finish the land or bush later in the house.  (Mom always puts trees in her work.) 

So - I chose not to work in pastels.  It was a matter of not wanting to copy.  More likely, it was a matter of not wanting to repeat my mother's work.  If I worked landscapes in pastels, it would look just like my mom's.  Think of the children of rock stars who go on to make albums.  They can't help it - they sound a lot like their parents.  Me - I wanted to be me.  I wanted my art to be uniquely mine.

Fast forward to my 20's.  A colleague of mine was an art therapist.  She passed all her sets of chalk pastels on to me.  Still, I resisted using them.  I tried oil pastels - YUCK.  That was not fun.  I started using charcoal and ended up sketching out a lot of self portraits.  One set of 12 were in the A.K.A. gallery with a group show!  (I bet you never knew that - December 1995.) 

In my 30's I unburied those self portraits to take a look and immediately thought, "Wow! Was I ever messed up," and I threw them out. !?  Yeah.  well...  I was dealing with some personal trauma at the time and no longer resonated with the images.  I did keep photos of them.

Fast forward to the next decade of my life.  The forties.  I still have the pastels in a box in my basement.  I never threw them out.  Good gosh they are TWENTY YEARS OLD NOW!  You know my dilemma with sketching before I stitch?  I've tried pencil, ink, watercolor (epic fail), and settled with pencil crayons (or not sketching at all).  THEN I went to Margot's house and asked her if she sketched before she stitched.  She pulled out her book full of soft pastel sketches!  I was dumbfounded.  How easy would that be for me!?  Why the resistance?   I can manage chalks, so why do I keep avoiding them?  I decided, "Hey Monika, it's time to get over it!"  I got home, hauled out the 20+ yr old pastels and did my first sketch in my pastel sketchbook.  (Yes - I actually have a pastel sketchbook.  Meant to be?)  It's like I want to, and I know I can, but I won't let myself.

I take a breath, let it go, and pull up this photograph.

photo I took from my mom's place last summer

I love that photo.  I love being up in that pasture.  When I tweaked the contrast, those pretty little blues popped out of the green grass.  I haven't stitched this out yet but it is most certainly on my to-do-list.  Why not chalk it up first?  I pulled out the painfully dry and brittle pastels and did my first pastel landscape sketch.  I taped my paged onto a board just like mom.  I went outside to sit & sketch on the ground... just like mom (even though I was working from a photo).  haha  I set out my chalks and away I went.

20 minute pastel sketch

Sweet!  I did it.  It worked.  BONUS - I ENJOYED IT!  It's now up on my design wall waiting to be stitched.  It made me so happy to sketching all the little grasses and blue flowers in the front.  It sets up exactly how I will place my threads.  I love dotting the chalk and then blowing off the excess - POOF - dust in the wind.  I feel like I'm channeling my mother, but that's okay right?  She was my teacher after all.

Fear # 427 conquered.  ; )  I actually look forward to making more!


Dahn said...

What a fabulous story. I had no idea you came from an artistic family--the talent is in the genes. Thanks for sharing this--I have things to 'dust off' and this is a great incentive to get started..

Flo @ Butterfly Quilting said...

Great work!
......does that mean that you conquered the first 426 fears already??

Jennifer Scantlebury Vienneau said...

Ah, to learn that resistance is futile! As a sign writer and a fabric artist, I have tried long and hard to develop my own style only to have people tell me they recognized my work because it looked like my dad’s in the case of my signwork, or my mom’s when referring to my fabric work. I just gave up and decided it was a complement. So glad you have chosen to finally embrace the inevitable and use the resources that perhaps others wish they had. You are off to a great start! Have fun!!

MariQuilts said...

I can totally relate....my mom is a weaver, as much as I love her work, I needed a different medium.

Juanita said...

Wow! It's a lovely sketch. We had a fibre art play date last week where we drew with oil pastels right onto the fabric itself. The idea is to add bits of fabric and stitch once the pastels are dry. I heat set it but haven't tackled the stitching yet.

Patti said...

I think when we are young we are always looking to define ourselves away from our parents and family. Do you remember Erma Bombeck's book "Family, the Ties that Bind and Gag",? And it comes full circle. When you finally discover who you really are you realize that part of you is a product of your parents. And not everything about parents is bad. (irritating maybe, but not bad, lol!). So embrace the talent and other good things you gained from the gene pool. And chuck the crappy stuff. Beautiful picture.

Josette Guerin said...

que de merveilles et des creations sublimes merci

HollyM said...

I understand not wanting to copy but I'm sure you will have your own style. It's a great way to map out your ideas. Beautiful! Good for you.

laura lok said...

what a great story to share and I think those pastels should stay out and be played with you did great.

Caroline Heinrichs said...

Monika, lovely story short! I too have had my mother influence my work. She gave me her old lady dresses and embroidery thread and showed me how to make a doll dress! I cut those dresses up, sized up my dolls and away I went. The rest is history!

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