Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Joy of Art

Joy Schultz is aptly named! She loves her craft and encourages her students to find joy and be playful with whatever media they choose to use. I just finished a five-class series as part of the Arapahoe Community College Community Education Program called "A Dip into Art".

This week Joy invited us to experiment with acrylic paint. She gave us the three primary colors and some white. She suggested we use a stiff, angled brush. Following her example, we first added color and blended it with other colors directly on our paper. We tried different brush strokes and experimented with using a palette knife. We were then directed to recreate a pear she had on a handout. We were encouraged to use any color we liked, but as she modeled her painting, Joy talked about the merits of juxtaposing warm colors and cool colors to add dimension to the painting.

At the outset I decided I wanted my pear to be a bit more abstract than paintings I have done so far. I started out with purples and pinks. I played with different colors for the background and added colors to my pear. I used glazing techniques with the background to cover a color I was not particularly fond of. I was pleased with the outcome. In the end, my pear isn't all that abstract!

50 lb sketch paper approximately 12" X 12"

Next, Joy gave us a print of an oil painting by Louisa McElwain. The original painting was similar to this:

44" X 44" oil on canvas
Louisa McElwain

Joy demonstrated and talked us through recreating the painting. Our time was running out so she took our work away from us after 35 minutes, and displayed our paintings for comparison and critique. I wish I had taken a picture, as it was great fun to see the variety in the not-so-finished products!

Here is my rendition of the red rocks of the west:
140 lb cold press watercolor paper approximately 12" X 12"

I liked how I was able to create such bright colors with only the three primary colors. I found it interesting to see how the rocks could come to life by simply using large blocks of color. With more time I would have added more grass detail in the foreground and I would had added some pink and purple to the underside of the clouds.

The sequence of classes with Joy Schultz have run their course. However, the instruction I received has left me many things to focus on over the next weeks months!

Some of the "take aways" that will provide me with direction going forward include:

  • Charcoal is a great medium by itself, or mixed with others, because it is 'movable'.
  • When working with charcoal or pastels, work fat over lean. Begin with a thin layer and build on top of it.
  • Keep in mind the variations that can be achieved in changing the value of the color you are working with.
  • Intense colors move forward, while cool colors go back.
  • You can mix cool colors together to form a warm color. However, you can not make a cool color from warm colors.
  • Adding the third color of the primary colors to two other colors will neutralize the color. 
  • Surrounding an object of any color by other colors will change the quality of the object. Using a neutral color will cause the object to pop.
  • Look with your eye, not your brain.
  • Water colors are like children. You cannot control them, but you can appreciate them
  • The principles of working with water colors include:
    • work wet to dry
    • work big to small
    • work light to dark
    • work soft edges to harder edges
  • The objects in your work must have a relationship with each other. This might be accomplished through color.
More of Joy's work can be found at: The Joy of the Work


In my second art class, instructor Joy Schultz presented us with the "invitation to a whole new perception of the world." She reiterated her comments from the previous week about truly seeing what is before us, not what our brain fills in for us.

Joy introduced us to pastels. She talked about the nature of 'soft' pastels, explaining that they are pure pigment and that they come in a range of hardness. The smaller the pastel is in diameter, the harder. 

Next, Joy talked about color, describing hue, value, temperature and intensity. She explained that cool colors recede and intense colors move forward. We were told that surrounding a color with a neutral color will make the first color 'pop'. 

We were given a container of pastels and a large piece of white drawing paper. We were encouraged to try making marks with different colors. I didn't particularly care for it. Working with pastels is very messy (don't get me wrong… I am not one of those neat sort of people - but I didn't care for the dust everywhere and my marks, lines and shapes didn't do a whole lot for me.

Once we had played around for a bit, Joy let us pick a picture of a pastel drawing from a selection she had taken from magazines. We also had a choice of colored pastel paper. I loved the bright orange paper and found an image that would work well with that background. This is my first pastel.

13" X 9" tinted pastel paper

I liked how the fall colors popped. I was pleased with the dimensionality of the mountains and the sense of puddles on the little dirt drive. My sky was a bit darker than the original, but it doesn't seem to detract from the picture. Several folks actually thought my rendition had more life in it than the original.

Although I didn't particularly care for working with pastels, I figured it couldn't hurt to try a few more. I had a 50% off coupon for a chain craft store so I marched myself down there and purchased a small box of soft pastels. I stopped at an art supply store (my new favorite place to browse) that usually has better prices than the chain stores and picked up a pad of colored pastel papers.

Since imitation is the best sort of flattery I went to the instructor's web site and selected a giclée print as a model for a pastel of my own. (Here's another new thing I learned; giclée prints are those printed on special inkjet printers. The term, giclée, was crafted from the French word, nozzle. It was coined to take away the negative connotation of creating art copies using a 'common' printer. Also of interesting note, giclée is also the slang term for male ejaculation - oh, no! Apparently the artist who coined the term (Jack Duganne) was not aware of the double entendre of his word choice!)

"Feeling Groovy" by Joy Schultz
18" X 24" giclée print of pastel painting

I have a friend with several black horses, and decided to make Joy's image my own by changing the color of the horses. Here is my almost finished pastel:

12" X 16" tinted pastel paper

Although I am pleased with the outcome, I see so many areas that aren't the way I'd like them to be. For example, the lines of the splashed water are not blended as well as I would like. I struggled with the sky as I made it too red, thinking going over it with white would soften it enough. It didn't. I now understand more about the 'tooth' of the paper, as in trying to lighten the sky the paper just wouldn't hold more of the pastel pigment. Perhaps if I had used a stiff brush I could have removed enough of the pastel to 'find' the texture again. 

Sticking with the black horse theme, I ventured on to create a pastel inspired by this photo my friend took when her horses were living at my house.

#22: Racing the Sun
12" X 12" colored card stock

What I like about pastel #22:
  • I was pleased with how I was able to bring more color into the picture and still give the impression of a foggy morning. 
  • I was also pleased with the 'lay of the land'. I think I created a feeling of hillsides. 
  • I enjoyed using the colored paper and letting some of that color come through. 

What I might do differently:
  • I should have added more color to the snow coming up from the horses hooves.
  • I was torn about whether to put a haze of grey pastel in the background and over the four trailing horses to give more of an impression of fog. 
  • It might be interesting to use much larger paper to allow for more detail with the horses. 

What I learned:
  • I bought some fixative, but discovered that it darkened the colors significantly. 
  • On each of the horse pastels I found things I wish I had changed after I thought I was finished and after I sealed the work. It might be better to give myself some time to study the end product and see what I might want to change, and be sure I really have finished.
  • I used clear polyurethane to fix the horses in the water. I went back to add some details. And resprayed. The details I added do not show up to any extent. I'll try it with the workable fixative that I purchased next time. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014


I discovered that one of the local community colleges offers classes for adult education. Only one of the art classes fit into my schedule. It is called, "A Dip into Art". The instructor, Joy Schultz, explained that we will have the opportunity to 'dip our toes' into different artistic media. Each week will focus on something different: charcoal, pastels, watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, and pen and ink.

In our first class we experimented with charcoal. Joy inspired us by saying that art is simply 'mark making'. We tried making marks with a piece of vine charcoal. We tapped it. We swiped it while holding the charcoal on its side. We tried dark marks, and marks that varied in intensity. We rotated the charcoal, and made long sweeping arcs. While making marks, Joy talked about composition, texture and value. Almost everyone drifted into making lines, then shapes and then creating something from our marks. 

Then Joy showed us some charcoal sketches by John Singer Sergeant. She discussed different techniques he appeared to use. I was getting a bit nervous, as I was already thinking where this might be going! She let each of us pick a picture, and draw it. Oh! Horrors! "I can't draw a face!" she explained would be our first reaction. "But," she went on to say, "don't look at what you think should be there, concentrate on the shapes you see, and their texture and value." 

I had (and continue to have) some difficulty with the proportions of the face. But, all-in-all, I was quite pleased with my first attempt.

My first charcoal portrait suffered a bit from being folded, but you can basically see what I accomplished. It looks OK… until you see the original:

Well, obviously I need practice! So… this week I have done just that. I have found a number of Sargeant's pencil and charcoal sketches to try to copy. I guess if I keep trying, I'll only get better. As we know, practice makes perfect!

Two attempts;
pencil and charcoal

My charcoal and Sargeant's charcoal