Monday, March 15, 2010

Back to the Sycamore with Bill James

I’ve been stalled, art-wise.  I got to a point where I didn’t know what to do next that would keep me growing. I felt like something energetic and emotive was beating on the walls from deep inside, but what I was doing was just not giving it expression. Did I need to move into abstracts? Did I need another couple media under my belt to have some choices in times like these? Did I need to scrap all my reference work and strive to collect only images shot in the dark with a slice of light piercing the gloom?

I bemoaned to my friend that I couldn’t believe established artists weren’t using the internet and Photoshop to reach and teach students coast to coast in a personal way that didn’t require expensive travel, or limit the student to local teachers. Then I discovered Bill James, master of three media, who offered just that.
I submitted my 4 best recent pieces for an overall review. The upshot was that I lacked dramatic lighting and attendant value changes, which would not only add focus and energy, but would also allow 3-dimensional form to be emphasized, adding depth. What I thought was bright light was just too dim.  What Bill did was SHOW me how to envision the life back into my own work. He digitally re-tooled one of my jpgs to show me what HE saw that was missing. This is even better than having a teacher ‘show’ you on your own canvas.

So, here are the Sycamore Branches from November 2009, re-polished.

One thing I confirmed from this exercise is that my Rembrandt pastels just aren’t cutting it. The brightest brights are just plain flat and true darks outside of pure black are non-existent. I was able to get the pop only after finding that a few of my Sennelier were applicable.

This has set me on the great search for better quality pastels. This is going to be a considerable investment, as you know. And I’ve never ever been okay with the 16 color crayon box. SO, I have ordered a few selected super-darks from Diane Townsend Soft Form and Terry Ludwig and some mid tones from Great American ArtWorks to see how these compare to Rembrandt and how they layer.

If I like them, the long term plan is to cover all the bases with a couple sets of Great American, selected Ludwigs, and mostly Unison. This also forces me into a ‘big box’ storage system for all the brands. I’ve spent many hours comparing every pastel storage system I can find….It’s looking like a Heilman box (gulp).