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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Five Things I Learned at LeucadiART Walk 2014

"Autumn Path" 9 x 12 Pastel on Paper
Started as a demo piece at the LeucadiART Walk 2014
Click here to view details
I had a booth at the 10th annual LeucadiART walk on the 101 Auguast 24th, 2014.  It was a long day, but I learned a few things:

1) Quiche really does taste best from a French Bakery.  My sister brought me quiche and coffee from French Corner on the 101, and this turned out to be the highlight of my day-- actually my week.  It kind of ruined me from quiche from any other place, not that I eat it that often...

2) If you're at a festival featuring a large number of artists (in this case 100 or so), being physically located at the end of the festival makes for a long day. People are either stopping briefly as they begin the long walk, or are tired of looking at artwork by the time they get to your booth.  Being at the complete opposite of the beer garden didn't help-- although it was probably at least quieter.

3)  "Leucadian" is a word, and it's used with pride.

4) I'll never, ever adjust through the sound of a train barreling by at regular intervals.  I find this strange, because I grew up hearing that same train fairly often, since my great-grandparents lived off Tamarack and I spent many hours playing outside there.  I jumped every time I heard the horn.

5) Even when I think I am super organized and have everything packed ahead of time, I'll still forget my can of fixative.  (This one is not so much something I learned, but rather confirmed. I think I remembered to bring fixative to one event so far this year).

I did appreciate meeting so many people who enjoy discussing art.  I'll definitely be back for that quiche and hand-made latte at some point!

For the next couple of months, I'll be concentrating on putting some artwork in local shows-- fall is a great season for inspiration and motivation!
"Balboa Turtle"
Original now available on Vango!


Want to see how my artwork would look in your own space?  Try it out with Vango!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Just for Fun

When perfectionism hits, it helps to have an escape plan...
"Chatte et Fleurs"
8.5 x 11.5 inches
Click here to view Etsy listing

In my case, I work in an alternate method.  I've been working with pastels all summer, but have hit the point where I am nitpicking over details.  When that feeling takes over, I switch to making fun collages.

When I create a mixed media collage, I like to work with big shapes and layers of texture.  For this piece, I began with a watercolor background, and layered in tissue paper to create big forms.  Once the big forms were in, I added a few pieces of recycled paper from bags (the stems), and began painting with oil and soft pastel.  

I was inspired to make the big flowers after seeing my aunt's large zinnia blooms, but felt compelled to add a little cat among them to exaggerate their size.  That's the fun part of making these collages-- I get to indulge my creative side, and worry less about achieving the detailed yet impressionist effect I strive for in my usual painting style.

Usually, after a few sessions making collage, my mind is clear enough to go back and finish off the paintings I've started.  I'll also be getting ready for the Leaucadia Art Walk, happening on Sunday, August 24th.

Click here to see event details:

Visit my Etsy store to see more mixed media collage:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Demo-licious Works

I've painted quite a few demo pieces in the past, but this year they seem to be ill-fated.  At least I got a photo of the finished product below before it disappeared:

"Water Lilies" 9 x 12 Pastel on Canvas
Available only as prints


These water lilies began as a demo piece at the Avocado Festival in April.  I had planned to give the piece away in a drawing after the Oceanside Days of Art event, so I completed it and brought it along to display during the Oceanside art fair.  Unfortunately, it disappeared Sunday Morning as I was setting up my booth for the day.  I backtracked, pulled everything apart, and looked everywhere I had been, but couldn't find it.  Assuming it was stolen, I set about creating a new demo piece for the rest of the Oceanside art fair.


The piece went along fairly well, and I figured I would complete it at home when I had recovered from the weekend-long festival.  Unfortunately, once I had it out again to work on, my son got a hold of it (along with a piece of bright orange pastel):


Luckily, with a little fixative and another layer or two of water and dry pastel, I managed to get the piece completed anyway (with a little more orange in it than originally planned):
"Koi" 6 x 9 Pastel on Paper
Click here to view large or purchase
Shipping is included in list price!

I'll be at the Temecula Art Festival this coming weekend (June 20th-22nd) in Old Town Temecula, so I'll probably be working on a couple more demo pieces-- let's hope they have better luck than the last two.  I did smile when I thought of whoever stole my water lilies running around with chalk-covered hands, since the painting wasn't framed yet and had no cover.

Visit my website to see additional works for sale!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Creative Challenges and Avocados

"Squirrel Snack"
17 x 20 Pastel on Paper
Click here to view details
2014 Entry
Although the show ended last month, I thought I would share a few of my Art of the Avocado entries over the last few years.

Each year, I try to do something a little different for the Art of the Avocado contest that coincides with the Avocado Festival in Fallbrook, California.  This year, I submitted two entries: the painting featured above, and an acrylic piece on canvas that I framed under glass.  You can see both pieces (along with my photobombing cat) in the photo below:



The painting on the right is called "Yin-Yang Yum," and features the way avocados usually look at our house: scraped clean and eaten!

The inspiration for "Squirrel Snack" came from a photo I took of a freshly snatched avocado, which appeared to have become the victim of hungry ground squirrels.  Anyone who has an avocado grove probably recognizes this view of an avocado!

I always find it challenging to paint anything with avocados, mostly because they're so...green.  Their surroundings are usually green too, and they tend to look pretty stylized no matter what you do with them.  One way to make avocados more interesting in a painting is to focus on people, animals, or scenery that accompany the avocado.  For the most part, I like to find new ways to show the avocados in different settings-- being from Fallbrook, I see them often enough, so I know there are plenty of ways to view an avocado!

"Avocado Lights"
Acrylic on Canvas
2013 Entry
Original Sold
Click here to see it on a throw pillow!
For "Avocado Lights," I had taken some nice photos of the trees in my sister's grove, so I thought I would try to capture that peaceful sense of afternoon light she gets in the grove during the spring season.

The Art of the Avocado contest has grown over the last few years.  Next year will be the 10th anniversary, so there should be even more entries!  



"Avocado on the Side"
12 x 18 Pastel on Paper
email nicolehilsabeck@yahoo.com if interested in purchasing

I did participate in 2012, but can't seem to find a photo of that entry-- my morning sickness was in full swing that year, so I barely completed the picture and dragged myself down to drop it off. Having that deadline got me back into a painting routine, though, so I'm glad I was still able to participate that year.

My first year participating was in 2011.  Not knowing what to expect, I packed my framed pastel into the car, strapped my little daughter into her car seat, and headed for the local chamber of commerce building.  That year began the tradition of bringing my daughter along with me to have her picture taken with me and my entry.  Now I have to schedule my delivery time to include my daughter-- I know better than to show up without her!

To read more about my artistic adventures, visit my website and check out my blog!







Friday, April 18, 2014

The Number One Reason to Love Pastel

I've spent the last 9 posts or so covering some of the most lovable things about pastel.

My personal favorite: it shows the artist's unique touch.

Brushstrokes are beautiful, and also unique to the artist.  Pastel strokes are made directly by hand, with no brush in-between.  To me, this conveys the artist's power directly onto the surface, making a clear connection between the artist's energy and the medium.  My favorite types of pastels to look at are those with obvious pastel strokes, so that the picture almost quivers with life.

A quick, textured pastel study holds so much more power to me than a detailed, well-blended painting.  Everyone has their own taste in art; for me, the immediacy of a rough pastel sketch is like getting a quick peek into the artist's mind.  Some think that pastels might be the first type of art medium used (think of cave art, most likely created by sticks of pigment).


I can appreciate almost any type of hand-created art, in just about any medium-- the pastels always jump out at me though, which is probably what inspired me to sign up for that first pastel class ten years ago this spring, and why I'll always keep a supply of pastels within quick reach if I'm going to be somewhere for any length of time.

Here are a couple of pieces, re-worked with soft pastel after I put them aside some time ago:

"Night View"
Click here to view details
"Balboa Gardens"
Click here to view details


On the shows and festivals front, I was happy to receive an honorable mention for one of my paintings in the Fallbrook Art Association Open Juried Spring Show for The Road to Reno.
Click here to view details


In addition to the two pieces in the spring show, I have two pieces in the Art of the Avocado show at Brandon Gallery.  All will be on display through the end of the month.

I also got to meet some great people at the Avocado Festival last Sunday-- both as booth visitors and fellow vendors!  My next event will be Oceanside Days of Art, April 26th-27th in downtown Oceanside, California.

Click here to visit my website.  Subscribe to my newsletter for your chance to win a pastel painting of water lilies in my drawing on April 30th!  Newsletters will be in your email 3-4 times a year, and your information will never be shared.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

10 Reasons to Love Pastel: A Plethora of Possibilities

Yes, I learned the word "plethora" from Three Amigos.  

There is some evidence that the earliest art created by humans was likely painted with an ancient version of pastels (think cave painting).  There is something about gripping that pastel stick in my hand that makes me want to scratch color on all kinds of things.

Pastel allows you to directly make your mark, with no brush getting between you and the color.
"Curiosi-Tea" 7 x 10 Pastel on Cardboard
Click here to view large or see purchase details
I've used pastel on many surfaces: textured pastel paper, watercolor paper, drawing paper, canvas, Canva-paper, and stationery and envelopes to name a few.  I can now add cardboard to the list.  

"Quiet Still Life" 9 x 12 Pastel on Cardboard
Click here to view large or see purchase details

I noticed that the texture of the cardboard itself makes a difference in the pastel's texture.  I also had to use fixative to keep the colors strong (particularly with the slicker cardboard I used for "Curiosi-tea").  I enjoyed the flexibility of being able to pick the cardboard up and carry it around with me (like I would a flat canvas), but definitely felt that there were times that the cardboard created more of a struggle with the application of the pastel.

I'm also becoming fond of Canson Canva-paper as a surface choice for the wet pastel sticks:

"Hummingbird" 12 x 16 Pastel on Paper
Click here to view large or see purchase details
I got a nice photo of a hummingbird that stopped among the flowers at a local school, and I wanted to capture the deep shadows and contrasting colors-- wet pastel sticks are great for getting deep shadows into a painting.

I love the scratchy texture of the Canson Canva-paper and the way it shows under some of the pastel.  It is difficult to get coverage of the white paper, so it takes many layers of water and pastel to fill in some of those whites.  The only real caveat I have for artists who want to try this paper is that I've had trouble getting good photos of the finished products.

If you're interested in the many surfaces available to those willing to experiment with pastel, check out my article on Empty Easel:


If you'd like to see more of my works created with wet pastel sticks, click here:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

10 Reasons to Love Pastel: Easy to Learn!



"Fallbrook Field" 8 x 12 Pastel on Paper
Click here to view purchase details
This is my 200th post.  I was heartbroken to find out that my absolute favorite art teacher (well, next to my grandma of course), David Musser, passed away in December.  You can see David's art here.

I took my first pastel class with David in 2004.  Before then, I didn't even know what soft pastels were, since I'd only used oil pastels.  I struggled at first, and was especially mortified when he pulled a chair up next to mine and said he was going to make me his "special project," and that I'd be able to use pastels with ease in no time.  Fortunately, he was right!

I could fill an entire blog with things I learned in David's classes (I continued with pastel, and also took some basic drawing and watercolor classes with him over the years).  He was one of the most entertaining people I've ever met, and he truly enjoyed helping his students create-- he shared all of his artistic "secrets" openly, casually painting along with us as he told his stories. 

I always smile when I meet someone who looks at my work and says that pastel is a tricky medium.  I think it depends on how you prefer to work-- if you like building layers and using bright punches of color, pastel can be fairly easy to use.  It is messy, and you can't exactly erase it-- you can usually "fix it" and paint over it though, which to me makes pastel a lot easier to work with than watercolor.

"Fallbrook Field" was created with wet chalk pastel sticks on Canson Canva-Paper.  I wanted to see if I could pull off a similar effect to the pastels on flat canvas, and I think it came out pretty close.  I used another reference photo taken at Eli's Farm Stand off Mission Road--I guess with the Avocado Festival coming up, I have agricultural scenes on the brain.

Click here to visit my fine art website!