New pastel pet portrait!

Here is a photo of the pastel pet portrait I just finished of Bear.  It is 14″ x 11″ and is a private commission for a Christmas present.

Bear, pastel, 14" x 11" private collection
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The Scream (or, Edvard Munch, part two)

Edvard Munch’s most popular work by far is “The Scream”.  It was part of his project titled ‘The Frieze of Life’, which consisted of roughly two dozen paintings that dealt with emotions and the human condition.  “The Scream” however, is very different from all of the other works in the ‘Frieze’.

First, all of the other works are painted in true Munch style in oil on canvas, as were most of his works.  He painted “The Scream” in tempera paint (a basic paint similar to poster paint) and pastels on a piece of cardboard, much like that which a box is made of.  These are not archival materials in any sense, but he managed to paint “The Scream” at least four times, each time on a piece of cardboard.  Do the delicate materials used represent Munch’s delicate mental state at the time?

Second, Munch was famous for working and reworking his paintings and making copies of them, or, tossing them if dissatisfied and starting over completely.  The other works of ‘The Freize’ have a finished look, one that took time and a more even method of technique.  “The Scream” on the other hand, is a much different style for Munch, painted fast and furiously, almost as if he could not paint fast enough to get the idea out of his head.  So, how did “The Scream” come to be?  Why add a piece that when compared to the others looks almost abstract in technique and subject matter?

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch, tempera and pastel on cardboard, ca. 1883-1889, collection The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway

Munch’s diaries and other notes of record indicate he and some friends were walking along a road near the water’s edge on a November evening in 1883.  When the sun set that night, it turned the sky a bloody red.  Already in a frail mental state, Munch froze, paralyzed with fear, while his friends continued on, apparently oblivious to the scene at hand.  What did Edvard Munch actually see, that would have such a profound effect on him?  Many theories are out there, but physicists Don Olson and Russell Doescher, along with English professor Marilyn Olson believe Munch witnessed the aftermath of a once in a lifetime event.

Earlier that year in May, halfway around the world on the island of Krakatoa, off the coast of Indonesia, a volcano began to vent from the pressure built up inside, resulting in activity on and off again for the next three months.  Finally, over a period of a couple of days in late August of 1883, two-thirds of the island were blown apart by the massive volcanic explosions, which were heard as far away as Australia.  The extreme force actually burst the eardrums of some nearby sailors, and the ash plume was reported to have risen as high as over 15 miles into the atmosphere.  The death toll was massive in the surrounding areas, due to the explosions as well as the resulting tsunamis.

The global aftereffects would last for many years.  Temperatures were colder than normal and by November, reports surfaced from New York, Norway, and much of the Northern Hemisphere regarding the magnificent, even spooky at times, sunsets.  The descriptions ranged from “blood-red”, to “alive with color” to “the sky is on fire”.  Many artists were inclined to paint the phenomenon happening daily around them.  Some art scholars have been quick to say that Munch did not paint this event, however, Munch himself recollected that it was an image he would never forget, saying it even drove him mad trying to record it in paint.  Did he or didn’t he paint the sky from life?  Did he ever even know of the Krakatoa eruption?  Munch wrote that he tried feverishly for years to paint his recollection of the evening stroll with his friends, which may explain why there are at least four versions of it and why they were painted so quickly that some of the cardboard even shows through the paint.

The final difference that makes “The Scream” stand out from the rest of  the images of ‘The Frieze’, is its popularity.  “The Scream” has been transformed into one of the most iconic images in the world.  It has appeared on nearly everything, from magazine covers and magnets to key chains, posters, and greeting cards, etc.  Even full-sized Halloween masks are replicas of the central figure in the painting.  What makes this painting so popular?  Do people connect with the artist or the image?  Do they feel the despair and confusion that leaps out of the blood red sky?  One thing is for certain, this most likely was an incidence of art imitating life.

Footnote:  While researching Edvard Munch and “The Scream”, I literally stumbled upon a book by Edward Dolnick titled, “The Rescue Artist” (copyright 2005, Harper Collins).  I was aware of course of “The Scream” and Munch, but this book enlightened me even more about the two subjects.  It is here that I found out how Munch came to paint “The Scream”, which led to even further research on that issue alone.  The book is a true story about the 1994 theft of the actual painting from the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway.  If you enjoy reading about art, history, and cops and robbers, I think you will enjoy reading “The Rescue Artist“.

Art and learning

Just arrived home from giving a talk to a few sixth and seventh graders about my art and the pastel/charcoal mediums.  Miss Emily’s class was a group of super kids, and they are all budding young artists, and very talented I might add. 

It is always good to see fresh young minds taking in a new idea or concept.  Their questions often spark more creativity and questions from those of us that are seasoned or have some experience.  It is a good thing for everyone.

I was impressed with the art program at Freedom Intermediate.  The students get to work with mediums such as clay, paints, origami, scratchboard, just to name a few.  I spoke with Miss Emily about how many schools do not get much funding for art.  She understands how fortunate they are in this aspect.  Art is an integral part of learning.  It is a release from the monotonous memorization and researching.  I look back on my school years and the ones that I had an art class in the mix were much better years academically and emotionally for me than those without it. 

Times are tight right now, and we definitely don’t need anymore taxes, period.  However, if you are able to help a school with money for art supplies, it would benefit many students.  Probably 99% of the students won’t ever become artists, but they gain an appreciation for the work that someone else put into creating something.   It is also an exposure to culture and history, and maybe even a hobby they can share with their children. 

Best of luck to the art students in Miss Emily’s class!  I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my art with you, and I hope you all excel in whatever you choose to do!

Should be fun

In the morning, I will be giving a talk to a class of sixth and seventh grade students about my art and the pastel and charcoal mediums.  This should be fun, as kids always push you to be better and to think outside the box.  Not that artists are in the box that much anyway.  I know it will get my creative juices going, and I hope I can be an inspiration to the young minds.  Should be fun!

Art History intro

I am a pastel artist, concentrating mainly in animal and people portraiture and landscapes, although I enjoy most every medium out there.  I am mostly self-taught, however the basic drawing classes I had in college have been invaluable.  I tried to take a couple of art history courses, but they quickly filled within seconds of opening the registration windows.  The community college I attended counted these courses as a social science credit, therefore many students thought they could get away with taking an “easy art class”.

I never did take art history.  I enjoy seeing the works of the masters and others, and the more I create art myself, the more I think of the techniques and abilities of those that have created before us.  The computer age should make us appreciate the work and abilities of true artists more than ever.  With the simple click of a button (okay, maybe a couple of buttons) one can manipulate images, photos, and other items in the blink of an eye.  This makes it quite easy to forget the true concept of art itself and how it is created.  Many in the younger generation, unless they have taken an art class, really have no concept of art other than going to the store and buying something “artsy” or downloading an image in a matter of minutes and presto!  Instant art!

While there is nothing actually wrong with this instant art (other than possible copyright issues, which is a whole other ballgame), there is much to be said about actual artists and their techniques, especially the masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt, et. al.

I am going to start posting about once a month a blog that explores artists and their techniques, even some of the mystery and history surrounding them.  For example, who were the artists that made up the famous Hudson River School?  Did some of the masters really use what is called the camera obscura?  If so, what is it?  Did Vincent van Gogh really cut off his ear?   What made some of these great artists go down the paths they did with their art?  Where did C. M. Russell and Frederick Remington live and paint?  It is their history that gives us the foundation of where art has travelled through the years to where it is today.

I hope you will like this new blog, and I will try to keep it interesting and helpful.  Let’s go on this journey and study small bits of art history together.  I sure some of these artists and their lives may surprise you!

(these art history blogs will also appear as a column in the ezine www.theworldfromhere.com)

What an end to 2008!

Well, 2008 is over.  It was shaping up to be a mediocre year business wise, and I thought with the state of the economy during the last quarter that sales for that quarter would probably be close to flat.  I was somewhat  surprised as by Nov. 1 I did not have a single order for portraits for the Christmas season.  I am usually very busy.  I thought this strange, but sometimes God knows when you need to be busy and when you don’t. 

 However, the week before Thanksgiving, it hit.  Three pastel portraits before Christmas!  Two were farm scenes with the animals, barns, etc. and the other was a donkey.  No problem, right?  The donkey got moved back to a birthday for January 12.  The farm scenes on the other hand, were rather interesting.  No one seemed to be able to decide on the compositions.  Finally, each party agreed on their piece, and I finished the first one the second week of December.  The second one was finalized one week before Christmas.  My husband was a nervous wreck byChristmas Eve, because we also had all of the usual Christmas gatherings, as well as preparations, gift buying, etc.  Plus, we also had the added excitement of the printer quitting in the early stages of trying to print out our Christmas cards.  Hence my excuse for not having posted anything on this blog for eons as well.

On Christmas Eve morning, the client came for final proofing.  They liked, I framed, and out the door it went!  I likewise finished the donkey in under a week.  (They are all viewable at the website, www.CustomPastelPortraits.com).      

The best thing about the entire experience is the fact that I learned many lessons from it.  First, I learned that I can deal with clients changing their minds (frequently, I might add) better than I thought I could.  Second, I am able to kick it into high gear when necessary and still produce the quality of art I am seeking.  Third, I am a more successful artist than I previously gave myself credit for. 

I am grateful for all of my clients, and the wonderful compositions they come up with.  I love that they push me farther than I might otherwise seek to take myself.  I love that with every painting I learn something new, as I will research what I need to complete the painting.  I am also looking forward to a fascinating 2009.  So many paintings and other wonderful things to do.  I wish you a splendid New Year and may God bless you in ways you never thought possible!