Back in the Saddle

Feb 22, 2011

In:Art

I rode a horse, once.  I was in the 5th grade and with a friend, visited her family farm.  Even though I was intrigued by horses, I was nervous about sitting on top of one.  What if I couldn't control her? (I honestly don't remember if "she" was male or female, so let's go with female.)  What if she decided to run even though I was trying to tell her to stop?  Or what if she wouldn't move at all?  Fortunately an experienced rider was by our side.  That was somewhat comforting.

I remember the way the horse felt under me as we walked the perimeter of the farm.  And I remember the way I felt...so small at the mercy of this graceful and powerful creature.  After we finished our ride and pulled back up to the stable, I imagined trying to dismount the horse.  The thought was not exciting considering how awkward it was to mount her.  Apparently she had the same thought because before I knew it, my world was shaking.  Shaking?  It happened so quickly it was almost a blur, but I remember hearing the scream of my friend as I was catapulted into the air and onto the ground.  Fortunately I landed, ahem, where I was cushioned the most.  Nothing broken.  And at that age I didn't grasp the dangers associated with horseback riding, so fear wasn't a big issue.  I walked away a little stunned, but without any real damage.

To this day I have not ridden a horse again.  Not necessarily because of that incident, though I think of it from time to time.  It just hasn't been on my to-do list.  I still find them to be incredibly beautiful animals.  When I drive past a field of horses on my way home from work each day, I can't help but take a second glance.  So it's fitting that I'm finally drawing one.  I think she looks like a "she", too.

 

This past Sunday at church, our senior pastor Andy Stanley made a special announcement: the U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama was going to be in town on Wednesday speaking about her "Let's Move" initiative, and she requested that our church host the event.  Andy said the church was informed only 5 days prior but after discussion with other leaders in the church, they decided to do it.  On top of that, tickets were being made available to those interested in attending.

My initial thought was: Wow.  First Lady.  Here.  I wonder what security will be like.  And then my thoughts turned to: should I attend?  Do I want to attend?  And finally: what an awesome opportunity for our church...not only to host the President's wife, but to show the kind of love that erases political lines.

So I picked up a ticket and made plans to attend.  The day of the event, security was just as I imagined: everywhere...on the roads surrounding the church, in the parking lot, at each doorway.  For a few moments I felt like I was in one of the safest places on earth.

As we waited for Mrs. Obama to make her grand entrance, we were entertained with killer music fitting for the event.  And when she finally appeared, there were cheers, applause and flashing cameras.  A common sight for her, no doubt.  Her message was succinct and informational as she spoke to parents on ways to help their children lead healthier lifestyles through exercise and good nutrition.  Not surprisingly, she was an eloquent speaker.  When she finished her speech, she spent a few minutes shaking hands with those in the audience before she was brisked away by those whose mission it was to keep her safe.

As I walked back to my car, I felt a sense of pride.  Not because I had the honor to see the First Lady in person (though that was cool), but because I was proud of my church: what it represents and, together, what its members can accomplish.  One of the things they do best, Sunday after Sunday, is create irresistible environments so that those who don't like going to church, actually like going to church.  Wednesday was no exception.

I called my husband on the way home to share my experience.  He was on the road too, having just left the office.  I wondered out loud if the First Lady was still inside or if she had already left the premises.  Almost as a direct answer to my question, my husband spotted the cavalcade of police cars escorting Mrs. Obama down the interstate to, I assume, the airport.  I asked if he could see her inside the car.  That's when he noticed a helicopter overhead and answered "No.  But I'm pretty sure that's her."

It's finished!  This is the most fun I've had with pastel to date.  I was happy from the start with my initial sketch and general color palette.  There were lots of moments where I felt giddy (yes, I actually like that word) at what was forming on the drawing table.  Don't get me wrong - there were also moments of frustration, as happens with almost every drawing, where I struggled to blend the pastel just so or choose the right color.  But overall I'm pleased with how it turned out.

For those of you who like to hear the more technical details about art, I learned two valuable lessons with this drawing:  1)  Pastel is messy.  I may have a few articles of clothing with various greens on them now.  Normally this isn't a problem, except that pastel pigments are toxic.  So I have to be careful not to breathe in the colored particles that run down the paper and into the air.  I also have to wear gloves for the softer pastels to keep it off my skin.  2)  When you "fix" pastel using a spray fixative, it darkens the pastel some.  When I showed my husband the final, sprayed version, he said he didn't see a difference.  But trust me when I say that before spraying, it was just a smidgen (like that word too) brighter.  I may decide to leave my pastels unfixed in the future, if I feel comfortable they can be shipped that way.  Oh, and I'm reminded of 3)...art never looks exactly the same on your computer screen as it does in person.

I think I'll grab a spoonful of honey now.

Pastel Work In Progress

Jan 31, 2011

In:Art

I started this pastel drawing over the weekend and can't wait to see how it turns out.  (I ♥ girlie pinks and purples.)  Last year I visited the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and found plenty of inspiration there, including this flower and its buzzing visitor.

Of all the colored mediums, pastel feels the most familiar to me.  In some ways it's like drawing with charcoal: it has a smooth, chalky consistency that is easy to control.  But once applied, the colors are so vibrant it looks almost painterly.  It has the best of both worlds!  For this drawing I chose a black sanded paper just to see how the pastels are influenced by the dark ground.  And if working from a photo, sometimes I use grid lines to make sure the proportions of my sketch are as accurate as possible. (Note: Drawing a grid feels a bit technical to me, so I usually have to force myself to do it.  But it makes transferring the image from the photo to paper so easy, I never regret taking the time.)

Here's to hoping I can share the rest with you soon. :)

Until I started using it, I never thought about the composition of artist charcoal.  It's not like you'll find it on the Top 5 List of Things Required for Survival.

I think you either love or loathe charcoal; there isn't a middle ground on the passion scale.  Many artists prefer shiny, colorful paints over the black dust that gets on your hands, face, clothes and every nearby object when you use it.  On the other hand those who adore charcoal would have it no other way.

I titled this drawing "Pear Bunch", created a year ago this month.  (Have I been seriously drawing for that long?)  Up to that point I had drawn many things using graphite and colored pencils.  And even though I had an unopened package of charcoal sitting on my desk, I always overlooked it.  I preferred shiny, colorful paints.  But last year the artwork of a friend inspired me to give charcoal a try.  And when I did, I could not *believe* what I had been missing!  It was meant to be...how effortlessly it blended, how dark it could be applied, how easily it erased to bring out highlights.  It felt like spreading velvet on paper, if that even makes sense.  What I had been searching for, as an artist, was finally found.

For many months beforehand I struggled to find the right medium that would allow me to build up my inventory with quality art.  Once I finished "Pear Bunch" I knew charcoal was the one.  Who would have guessed my medium of choice would be a plant, burned to a crisp.

How Sweet It Is

Jan 20, 2011

In:Life Lessons

A week & a half ago I sprained my ankle on the running trail while training for my upcoming half marathon.  I wasn't sure why I fell, but knew it happened from either tripping on 1) an uneven board on the boardwalk or 2) brown, spiky, round things that had fallen from the trees.

Fast-forward to yesterday, when I was brave enough to venture out to the trail again.  My ankle was still a little tender, but only when I turned it a certain way, and running on it didn't cause pain.  This time I tried to be super aware of the path in front me.  Getting close to the point where I had fallen, I was determined to find out exactly what had happened.  I looked for an uneven board.  Nope.  Could it be the unidentified, round things spread across the path like a prickly rug?  I didn't dare put my foot on one of them...yet.

As I cooled down from my run by walking a short distance back to my car, I thought it safe enough to test my theory.  I stepped on one of them.  It was squishy, seemingly harmless.  I stepped on another.  It ROLLED under my foot!  Satisfaction was mine when I realized I wasn't just a klutz after all.  It was like stepping on a tiny rubber ball.  After I got home I did some research and discovered they are seed pods from the Sweetgum tree.  I laughed to myself when I read accounts of them being called "tripping hazards".

If you've never seen them, here they are in all their glory (image from istockphoto).  I don't think they live up to the tree's name.  That day, aside from my very own tripping hazard, I was in the zone, feeling great, lost in my music and thought.  Few things inspire me like being outdoors, taking in the fresh air, where creative ideas are born.  Now that, is sweet.

Christina

If you've been following my art for long, you know this is a HUGE departure from the way I typically draw.  (If you've never seen my work before, click here.)  Nevermind that it looks like an elementary-aged student could have drawn it.

A couple of friends of mine recommended a mixed-media drawing book, where the author takes a playful approach to art.  I thought it sounded like a great idea, especially to help me "loosen up" and draw from imagination more.  This cat is a result of the first exercise, drawn with ink & colored pencils.

Folks, I love this cat.  Why?  Because it doesn't look like a real cat.  Not even close.  It's missing a leg and has imperfections all over the place.  Yet it resembles one enough that you'd call it a "cat".  As I used my pencils, suddenly it felt like coloring in a coloring book.  I was taken back to my childhood.  Except this time, I was the one who drew the fun animal staring back at me from the page.

There is a certain tension for me when trying to draw something as life-like as possible.  If I don't get it near perfect, it shows (says the voice in my head).  But when drawing this cat, there were no rules.  Just me, paper, a pen & some colored pencils.  My heart sang.  Does this mean I'm going to ditch the charcoal?  No way - I love it!  But don't be surprised if I randomly insert a cartoon giraffe into one of my charcoal drawings. ;)

A Blog is Born

Jan 12, 2011

In:Art

When I first announced my art for sale last year, I really didn't think I'd need a blog.  Between Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, email and the phone, I'd have more than enough channels to communicate with my art friends, right?  Well, it didn't take long to realize I can't always get my ideas across in an item listing, a 140 character tweet, or in emails that I try to keep concise.  And so here I am, blogging.

I'm going to be honest and say this makes me feel a little vulnerable.  Like I'm sharing some deep, dark personal secrets with the bloggerverse.  While that may not be exactly true, sharing my art with the world is quite personal to me.  It's almost cliche that artwork is a reflection of the artist.  But when I was looking through my portfolio recently, I realized how true that statement is.  When you look at each drawing or painting I've created, you get a glimpse of a place I've been, something I saw and fell in love with, felt an emotional connection to, or had swirling in my mind.  When you see my art, you see...me.

I don't know what's going to become of this blog.  But I'm excited to be able to share my thoughts on art and maybe the occasional something else.  If you are reading this post, you are probably among the first, and for that I say "thank you".

Christina