2021: Artistic Reflections & Looking Ahead

Goodbye 2020.

I wish I could say I am going to miss you, but I would be lying.

Will 2021 be better? I sure hope so. But I woke up this morning to an ice storm, tree limbs across the driveway, news that someone has fraudulently claimed unemployment benefits on my hubby’s behalf, power outages, a finicky generator….sigh….

Not off to a great start….

On the other hand, my family is with me at home, safe and healthy. The power is currently on. (Yay!) Relationships in my extended family have been going through some much needed healing, praise God! And I have had the privilege to spend the last year creating art I love in a space I love.

I’m not really one to set New Year’s resolutions, but the quiet that comes after the bustle of the holiday season, especially on a day like today with snow falling onto a hushed world, lends itself to a little introspection.

I look back at what I have spent my time on this last year: caring for my family, homeschooling, music-making, painting.

But if I’m honest, I’ve also spent significant time and energy worrying, wondering, trying to discern, trying to control, trying to adjust, trying to let go.

As I reflect on the changes I have seen in our world in 2020, I hold on to the conviction that I want to do more of what brings light and life into this world.

I think that as artists we have a responsibility to share, to teach, to steward, and by doing those things, to love.

To that end, I thought I would share a little bit about some of my paintings from 2020–what I like about them, why I painted them, and what I learned from painting them.

First up: Pathways No. 1, pastel

Pathways is the genesis of a series of paintings I definitely plan to continue. They are experimental in nature. The scene is from my imagination and represents more of a “mood” than a place.

When I was painting Pathways No. 1, I wanted it to be moody, bleak, brooding, and a little uneasy because that’s how I was feeling. It was a sunny spring day when I painted it—incongruous to my emotions and a world in lockdown—and I needed to see the physical expression of my emotions.

Painting No. 1 was cathartic in many ways, and I remember feeling lighter, freer, and exhilarated as I stepped out the door of my studio when it was finished.

It’s one of those painting that I will never sell because it’s like a journal entry. I painted it just for me.

Next: Pathways No. 2, pastel

By the time Pathways No. 2 came along (above), I was looking for the challenge of creating something of a nocturne.

I strove to capture the sense of it being late in the day when the last light of a stunning sunset is leaving the sky—the time when you can still make out the slightest hints of the colors that flood the landscape during the day before they are lost to the night and your eyes can no longer discern them.

This painting reminds me that we can’t bottle time and we can’t hold on to light. We can only enjoy each fleeting moment and be grateful.

I will keep this blog posted when I paint the next in this series…

Next up: Golden Pines, pastel

Golden Pines was one of those paintings which seemed to paint itself. It didn’t take me long to paint, and it taught me that often simpler is better.

My goal was to capture the low angled sunshine hitting the pine tree trunks late on a winter day. As I look at the photo today, I can see a few things I would tweak. You might think that would make me unhappy, but it actually makes me excited. To me it means I am growing as an artist!

Next: Daisy Delights, acrylic on canvas

Daisy Delights was a delight to paint! (sorry… 😉

This painting seemed to scratch an itch I had to work with thick, impasto strokes of heavy bodied paint—something which is nearly impossible with soft pastels alone. I love the rich tones I could produce which make the painting seem to glow from within.

It was my first acrylic painting AND the first painting I had ever completed entirely with a palette knife—very freeing!

I completed Daisy Delights after viewing the channel “Palette Knife Painting Tutorials” on Youtube. Check it out if you are interested in seeing a how to.

Next: Bunny, watercolor and pen

Oh, that sweet little bunny! I saw the reference photo of this little guy on the line-of-action website I have referenced in a previous post. (I could not find a photographer’s name to credit the photo to, but it is not my own.)

There was just something about his pose and the softness of his fur that just begged to be put into a line and wash type of watercolor.

I love this kind of sketchy, loose look. And who doesn’t love a good scribble???

But my favorite touch was using a pen with watersoluble ink to make a border box. I loved touching the edge of the ink with a water brush to see it bloom and create a loose frame. I am now incorporating that technique to add tone to sketches. But more about that another time.

Next: Squirrel! pastel

Not too much to say about this furry critter except that sometimes a good painting comes out of experimentation and a letting go attitude—at least this one did! My hubby loves it so much he insisted we hang it in the house.

And finally: unnamed painting after Les Darlow, pastel

I wanted to include this pastel painting mainly because it was a huge departure for me. I painted it mostly with Pan Pastels, finely ground pastel in pan containers which are applied with sponges and other tools.

I painted this after viewing a demo by Les Darlow on Youtube—a search will bring it up easily.

I had used pans before mainly as an underpainting, but never to this extent. This painting does have stick pastel applied, mainly in the highlighted areas, and a little marker work in the treeline. Again, lots of experimentation for me, and I love the skyscapes pans let you achieve.

Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed browsing through some of my favorite paintings of the year and hearing my thoughts on each.

I pray you are well and will strive along with me to continue developing your creative side as we walk into this new year!

Till next time!

~R

“Golden Pines” A Soft Pastel Painting

Hello creative ones! I am happy to be sharing one of my latest pastel paintings with you today. 🙂

I am finding that I am seeing myself more as a seasonal painter….although I have to admit that sometimes I am a little behind the season when I get around to painting my subjects.

While some of the United States is looking forward to or even starting to experience some spring-like weather, here in northern Indiana we are expecting snow and sleet for the next few days!

So today I bring you a wintery scene featuring some evergreen trees being lit with golden light.

I hope you enjoy this painting. And if you are curious about how I painted it, click on the link at the bottom of the post to see a time-lapse video on my YouTube channel.

Let me know if you like it!

My reference photo (copyright R. Sorrells)
Thumbnail and brown Clairfontaine Pastelmat paper with line sketch
Well into the process now…Needs just a bit more….
“Golden Pines”
Assorted soft pastels on Clairefontaine Pastelmat
6×8 in.
R. Sorrells, Artist
2020

Till next time!

~R

Pastel Painting Demo: “Fallow Field in Winter“

Hello everyone!

I hope this post finds you well and loving life. I can’t believe it’s already February! My, how time flies…

Well, I’ve been moved in to my new studio for about a month now, and it has taken me some time to adjust to working in the new space….something I wasn’t expecting.

I have spent the last several weeks in this new year cocooned in a sort of creative solitude. My goal was to forge a new process or rhythm of working in my studio balanced with the demands of family life, schooling, and other obligations. Not easy.

Mainly, I have been focused on musical inspiration. Many of you may not know that I play violin, so I have to keep up my skills on that instrument. But recently I have also been learning to play guitar—something I tried to teach myself long ago, but that’s another story….

In addition to learning something new, I don’t mind telling you that I had a little trepidation about creating my first art piece of the new year in the new space….and I was feeling the pressure.

When I feel pressure, it’s usually because I am raising my expectations to unreasonable levels, and then I tend to procrastinate so as to avoid that pressure, and it can become this vicious cycle.

Sigh….

Anyway, I gave the perfection and people-pleasing parts of me a good kick in the pants, and went out to the studio to play. And today’s post is the result!

I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Let’s start with the piece.

Now for the progress shots….

First, the set up:

Next, an underpainting of cool blues and purples for this snow scene:

Slow building up of color and establishing the sky.

Deepening the shadow areas and beginning to feel my way with those pesky wintry trees:

More development of the dried grassy areas, as well as the trees:

At this point in the photo below, I thought I was getting close to being done, so I put up some black artist tape….Usually, I use a black mat that I keep on hand for this purpose, but I didn’t have a square one handy!

Hmmm. SOMETHING was bothering me. The painting was missing something or a even a few things, but what?

It was at this point that I let the piece sit on my easel for several days while I thought about it. I often need to step away for a day or so while the painting “cooks”.

When I came back to it with fresh eyes, I used my editing app on my ipad to make some notes of things that I thought needed to be changed.

For starters, I wanted more contrast in the overall piece.

Next, I wanted to bring more unity to the color scheme—especially by tying the sky colors into the rest of the piece.

Finally, I needed to lead the viewer through the work with some subtle hints about where to look.

In the photo above, you can see that I added subtle hints of turquoise into the snow shadows to tie the sky into the rest of the scene.

Next, I deepened some of the dark areas for added contrast.

And lastly, I pushed the colors ever so slightly in areas where I want the viewer to look—namely the golden grass near the focal tree and continuing in the mid-ground grass.

And here is the final result once more.

“Fallow Field in Winter” 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
Assorted soft pastels on Pastel Premiere sanded paper
Rhonda Sorrells, Artist
copyright 2020

I hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Now go get creative!

~R

Tour of my New Studio!

Hello friends!

Today I would like to share with you something near and dear to me…My new studio!

I can’t believe it’s finally done. After several months of dreaming, planning, working, revising, and more work, my hubby and I added the final touches to my new creative space.

Here is a pic of the outside. Landscaping will have to wait…

It’s 16×20 feet which is large enough for me to do my art plus double as a rehearsal space for my own needs as well as those of the string band that I lead. (Prior to having this space we held all of our rehearsals in a small room in my house that doubled as a home office, and we were pretty cramped!)

I love, love, love the tongue and groove walls and ceiling, the laminate flooring we picked out, and all the lovely natural lighting.

So without further ado, here is the video with commentary. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed taking a little tour of my creative space. I hope to do lots of painting and music-making in it this year!

Thanks for stopping by!

~R

Goodbye 2019

Hello fellow Creatives!

Here we are….literally minutes away from a New Year as I begin writing this post. Maybe I’m getting more sentimental with age, but this year, I am kind of sad to see the year ending.

Don’t get me wrong–I am looking forward to all the “new” of the new year. For me, there are plenty of things to look forward to! But I can’t help feeling a little nostalgic for the waning of 2019.

I think part of the reason I’m feeling this way is because so many wonderful things happened this year.

First, I was given the opportunity to design my very own studio–talk about exciting! I got to plan and dream and work and decorate (more about that in a future post). I was involved from the very first step of laying the foundation to the last moments of hanging curtains and placing artwork.

And I loved every minute.

For those of you who don’t know, I have been working in a very small corner of a very small room in our rather small house. But no more!

I am so grateful to my dear husband, Matt. Without his “let’s do this now while we can still enjoy it” attitude as well as his hard labor and enduring patience while I revised, tweaked, and re-tweaked my vision, my studio would have never become a reality.

Thank you sweetheart! Xoxo

Second, I was given the opportunity to share my art in person with a larger world than just family and friends for the very first time during a Christmas open house. Which brings me to a third wonderful event…

I sold my first painting… EVER!!!

In fact, I sold 9 paintings, but that’s not the point. You see, I didn’t really know how my work would be received. It felt so risky be putting myself and my work out there, you know? I mean, family and close friends tend to love you and what you create no matter what….but others???

Well, I’m glad I took the risk! And that brings me to the fourth wonderful thing that 2019 brought to my life…

A better understanding of who I am as an artist.

Let me explain.

If you’ve ever tried to learn something new–how to paint, how to play an instrument, how to dance, etc–you probably started out by learning the basics. The what-to-do and the what-not-to-do. The “rules” as it were.

Well, the same is true for my artistic journey. I have spent the last several years learning about drawing, values, composition, color, perspective, different media, the materials that go with those media, and a host of other important subjects.

As I became better with the basics and could actually begin to produce art, I concentrated on replicating what other artists did. Replication is a time-honored way of learning and is how pupils learned from the old masters because it works.

But as I grew artistically, it was only natural that I begin to have a desire to express my own voice and vision. My style began to emerge and continues to develop.

I can only tell you that it is a very exciting time of growth, change, surprise, and forward movement for me personally. I am grateful that I have been given the time, support, and encouragement to continue on this path, no matter where I end up.

It’s a journey I am happy to be continuing into this new year…for as I glance at the clock, 2020 has arrived!!!

So for now, friends, if you have made it to the end of this last post of 2019, let me share with you a collage of some of my favorite pieces of the year.

And may I say with the utmost heartfelt sincerity, Happy New Year friends.

May peace that surpasses all understanding, joy to be alive and breathing, love that conquers fear and hate, and gratitude for our Creator and the ability to glorify Him by sharing in acts of creation be yours this year.

Until next time…

~R

Pastel Painting: “Nesting Behavior” with progress photos

Hello Friends!

Summer is almost done and we are starting up homeschool next week, so I wanted to take the time to post my latest piece along with some thoughts and progress photos showing my process.

I definitely had a different mindset for this one. 
I was aiming for something a little looser, less refined. More impressionistic, I guess.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂 

 

FIRST MY REFERENCE: I took this photo in my front yard. 

Reference Photo

I think the photo is beautiful. But that’s a problem for me because as beautiful as this photo is, I am NOT into copying for the sake of realism. It’s just not my style.

As I grow and change as an artist, I find that I enjoy leaving some things to the IMAGINATION when I create a piece. I am not a camera and my eyes and brain don’t see the same way a camera lens does!

I also think it’s important to leave room for the viewer’s imagination—to suggest some things and let the viewer fill in the rest.
This approach INVITES rather than CONTROLS and let’s the viewer engage with the art.

 

PROGRESS PHOTOS & PROCESS

After selecting my reference, I began to do some expoloration—probably more exploration than I’ve done to prepare than for any other work!

First, I did a simple charcoal study to get a feel for the subject and composition…doesn’t look like much and isn’t meant to!

Vine charcoal sketch

Next, I did a simple line drawing for use on my larger paper.

Simple line drawing

Once I had a feel for the subject, I uploaded my sketch to iPastels to do a more in-depth monochrome study.

Monochrome

Now I was ready to move on to a color study. In the original reference (top), if you look closely you can see lots of green from the vegetation as well as yellowish reflected light. I wasn’t too keen about either, instead preferring to leave the background abstract and focus on all of the beautiful neutrals of the dove.

Completed Color Study

After completing the color study, my next step was to play around with the background. 

Remember, I wanted something loose that wouldn’t compete with the bird itself, so I uploaded the above image into iPastels and tried out different backgrounds…a real time saver and easy way to compare backgrounds side-by-side without wasting materials! 

I finally decided on the top right (blueish) background, and tested it out on the bottom left corner of the photo.

Background Choices

With my color and value studies to guide me, I began my painting on Pastelmat paper using a variety of soft pastels.

 

 

By the time I got to the stage in the above photo, I knew I needed to let my painting sit for a few days so that I could look at it with fresh eyes later.

So….after many days of life getting in the way 🙂 , I made a few white board notes of things I might want to change.

Refinement Notes

And Finally, the finished piece:

“Nesting Behavior” 5×7 Pastel on Pastelmat

Sorry this one was so long, but thanks for coming on this wonderful artistic journey with me!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please leave your comments in the comment section.

See you soon and stay creative!

~R

Experiment: Underpainting with Pan Pastels

Hello fellow creatives!  I know it has been a while since my last post, but I am still here. 🙂 

I haven’t had as much time at my easel lately as I have been pursuing another of my creative passions—music!  However, I recently completed a painting in which I experimented using PanPastels as my underpainting.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with PanPastels, they are ultra soft pastels that come in a cake-like form. Containing very little filler or binder, they are blendable, erasable, and produce very little dust, making them an excellent option for people who have respiratory issues or other sensitivities.
(Note: I would still be careful with the application of these pastels if a severe reaction is possible.)

For more information on PanPastels, visit http://www.panpastel.com/

For this experiment, I used a more basic set which has 8 colors plus black and white:

In the image above, you can also see the soft pastel stick palette I chose for this experiment.
I used these on top of the PanPastel underpainting and they played very nicely with each other. 😉
You can also see some of the sponge tools I used to apply the PanPastels to my paper.

Speaking of which, you can use pretty much any kind of paper with PanPastels.
For the underpainting below, I used a piece of Pastelmat, which is very easy on the sponge tools.
In the past I have used sanded papers with PanPastels; however, I do not recommend it as it can quickly destroy the applicators!

Here is the completed underpainting using only the PanPastels colors in the basic set:

I actually quite liked the bold colors I was forced to use since my palette was limited!

And here is the final piece with soft stick pastels applied over the PanPastels:

My Thoughts….

As an artist, I am always pushing myself to try new things.
I think that this experiment was meaningful in that it forced me to learn how to apply pastel in a different way—more like painting with a paintbrush. 

I’ll be honest, I probably would not use these pastels on a regular basis; however, if I had large swaths to cover in a loose way, Pans might be an option I reach for.

I personally don’t like to have any sort of application tool between me and my pastels.  
That’s probably why I haven’t gotten into painting more than I have and why I like the immediacy of pastel sticks over pastel pencils.  But hey, that could change!

So give it a go! If you don’t like the dust that sticks can create, or don’t like getting your fingers dirty, these might be just the ticket!

Till next time,

Stay creative friends!

~Rhonda

Toning Paper with Acrylic Paint for Pastel Painting

Hello fellow artists and friends!

In today’s post, I wanted to share my most recent pastel painting video, as well as a peek at the underpainting I used for the painting.

You can click on the photo above to watch the painting demo.

I like to paint on toned paper, but the sanded papers that I like to use do not come in very imaginative colors.
So, time to create my own! 

For this painting, I decided to try toning some Fisher 400, Uart 400, and Pastel Premier papers using Golden acrylic paint in Quinacradone Magenta. 

Untoned sanded papers

 I thinned the paint with water and applied it on each of the papers using a wide brush.

Each paper took on a slightly different tone.

The painting in the video was done on the Fisher 400 paper. 

Here is the painting at the end of the video.
You can see the magenta of the toned paper peeking through….

Violet Sunset

Many thanks to artist Susan Jenkins for sharing the reference photo shown in the video!

I hope you all enjoyed this post.

Till next time,

Stay creative!

Rhonda

 

Pastel Painting Demo: “Quiet Day”

Hello all of my creative friends!

I hope you are all enjoying your holiday. My family and I are feeling truly blessed by having some time off to spend making memories with each other and doing some of the things we love to do—like painting! 🙂

To that end, today’s post includes a pastel painting demonstration with photos and video.
So, let’s get started!

My inspiration photo for this demo is of a scene in our backyard. This photo, as happens in many of the photos I shoot, has an interplay of light and shadow which piqued my interest. 

Inspiration Photo

When I started this painting,I made the decision to paint without a plan—dun, dun, DUN!!! 
What?! No thumbnail?? No value study?? 

I know, I know…Normally I would do those things to get to know my subject and to take a few passes at it in order to be better acquainted before jumping in to paint. But, not this time. Why?

Well, a few reasons. 

First, I was feeling spontaneous! For those of you who don’t know me well, I am not often spontaneous.
I am, in fact, a planner. But being spontaneous is something I value because for me, it is connected with PLAY.
And play is something I am striving to do more of, especially in the coming year.

Second, like many of you, time off is limited for me. I am not the kind of artist who likes to work in broken segments of time on a project—ten minutes here, fifteen minutes there.

Instead, I tend to like to work in longer sessions of at least an hour in length. When I work this way, I can get into and stay in “the Zone” more easily. And when I have time off, it’s actually possible to work in the way I prefer. For this painting, I just wanted to jump right in.

Finally, I wanted to challenge myself to work in a different way. Not having a plan is kind of like working without a net. Maybe something good would come out of it, maybe not. But I would definitely learn something along the way, and that’s a wonderful thing!

The photo below was taken at about the half-way point.

Blocked In

Here is the finished painting. I asked my brother to suggest a name for it; hence, “A Quiet Day.”

“A Quiet Day” pastel on Pastelmat 8×10

Here is the link to the video I made of my painting process. I did not videotape my final mark-making because I like to take a break from the painting before I make those final decisions. Enjoy!

 

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed sharing it, and I hope you have lots of time to nurture your own creative play-time in the coming year.

Till next time friends,

Rhonda

 

 

 

 

Pastel Papers: UART vs. Pastelmat

Hello my creative friends!

I have forever been wanting to try a paper that is brand new to me — Clairefontaine’s Pastelmat!
This paper is not brand new to the pastel world, however.  In fact, it has been around for several years.

For more info and colors you can check out pastelmat.com.

The particular paper I purchased was in a pad of 10 sheets with five colors selected by artist Jeremy Ford.
It includes two sheets each of: white, natural sienna, brown, maize, and dark grey, each separated and protected by acid-free crystal paper (glassine, I presume).

However, the paper also comes in anthracite, buttercup, and light grey and can be purchased in pads with different combinations of colors. I bought the Jeremy Ford Pastelmat pad from SAA (the Society of All Artists) at www.saa.co.uk through Amazon for a little over $24.

According to the manufacturer, Pastelmat is a premium card surface (170 lb) coated with cellulose fibers that reduces the need for fixative and holds multiple pastel layers. The packaging on my pad states it is a “smooth cork grain surface.”

The paper is also acid free, lightfast, water resistant (so you can do wet underpaintings), and easy on the fingers and Pan Pastel tools.

Jeremy Ford Pastelmat Pad

 

In my experimentation I found that Pastelmat really holds onto the pastel, even after multiple layers.
Though I rarely use final fixative, I sometimes spray an underlayer of pastel with workable fixative if I find I need more tooth, but this paper did not need it!

I was able to apply multiple layers of pastel—in fact, just as much as I would have applied to my favorite UART 400 sanded paper.

One of the reasons I had not yet tried this paper was because many people recommend this paper for doing detailed drawings with pastel pencils.  Well, I don’t really work with pastel pencils, so I thought this paper wouldn’t be for me.
Boy, was I wrong!! 🙂

I would have to say that I have definitely been missing out by not using this paper, and that it is NOT just for pastel pencil artists.

Below is a direct comparison of a pastel painting I did on white UART 400 paper vs. white Pastelmat paper using the same limited palette.

UART 400

 

 

 

 

Pastelmat

What I Found:

  • The cardstock of the Pastelmat kept the paper from curling more than the UART paper.
    Now, this isn’t a huge deal, I know. I guess it’s one of those things that is more annoying than prohibitive while painting.  After all, I usually tape my paper to my support while painting with any paper, but it was nice that the curling didn’t happen while painting with Pastelmat.
  • The Pastelmat feels ultra-smooth to the touch, but really grabs the pastel.
    In fact, when I first pulled the paper out of its packaging, I felt it and thought, “How in the world is this going to hold onto pastel???”  Well, it does—beautifully!
  • I was able to suggest texture with the Pastelmat paper just like I could with UART paper.
    I realize that perhaps a fairer comparison would have been to look at Pastelmat vs UART 800 (UART’s smoothest grade of paper), however, I wanted to compare the grade of UART I usually use with Pastelmat.
    In both paintings above, you can see the texture that remains in the sandy areas.  The papers helped me achieve that.
  • Blending was possible once I had a few layers on the paper, but I found that I didn’t always want to!
  • This paper allowed me to apply pastel in a more painterly way than I had expected it would.  In other words, detailed, linear work is easily achieved with Pastelmat, but so is painting in a way that suggests with value and relationships between objects rather than directly sketching and then “filling in” a subject.

“A Quiet Dune” on Pastelmat pastel paper

Conclusion:  I will definitely keep this paper in my art cupboard!  It is robust and does everything I need it to do so far.  I will also be looking forward testing how it performs with my style of underpaintings, but that is for the future!
Till next time, stay creative friends! 🙂
~Rhonda