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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!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Number 4 of 10 Reasons to Love Pastel: Push-Pull

"Hippie Flowers"
6 x 9 inch pastel on drawing paper
Click here to view large or see purchase details
December usually isn't the best time for me-- everything seems to hit the fan mid-month, leaving me exhausted (and this time sick) by the time the holidays are over.  These little flowers cheered me up as I worked on them (I called them "Hippie Flowers" because they reminded me of something from the sixties).

In spite of that, I've been working for a while on a few pieces to demonstrate one of my favorite elements of painting with pastel: the delicate push-pull between the soft, blended areas and the bolder, harder lines and strokes.

One of the most relaxing things I can think of to do is to smear a pastel painting. In my first pastel classes, we learned to block in areas of color and smear the painting as a whole to achieve that soft background effect unique to pastel.  After a layer of fixative (if desired), we would then go back over the piece, adding textured strokes and harder edges. 

I can appreciate both the soft, blended look of pastel as well as the broken color or hard line techniques different artists use.  To me, a skillfully done pastel has elements of both, engaging the viewer's eyes in a dance as they move between the softer, undefined areas and the sharper, strongly defined sections of the painting.
"A Walk at Eli's"
9 x 12 inch pastel on paper
Click here to view large or see purchase details



I painted the above piece from a photo I took on my daughter's field trip to Eli's Farm in Fallbrook, California.  It's a local farm that grows organic produce, and might just have the best strawberries I've ever tasted.  They've also got chickens and turkeys; however, being a squeamish vegetarian, I didn't ask what they do with them.

Visit my "Recent Artwork" gallery to see more of my pastels!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

10 Reasons to Love Pastel: Soft Impressions

I believe I've made it to number five of my 10 reasons to love pastel: it's a natural choice for impressionists!
"Balboa Turtle"
9 x 12 Pastel on Paper
Click here to view large or see purchase details


If you're a fan of the Impressionist Movement, chances are you've enjoyed a few pieces created with pastel.  Pastel lends itself naturally to the quick strokes and dappled lights and darks of the impressionist style, and it's relatively easy to use in a plein air (outside) or alla prima (all in one session) painting setting.  The soft, smeary nature of dry pastel also makes it an ideal medium for paintings that focus on overall lights and darks without a lot of hard line and detail.

"Balboa Water Lilies"
9 x 12 Pastel on Paper
Click here to view large or see purchase details

 
I was lucky enough to visit Musee D'Orsay as a teenager (thanks to my generous host parents when I was an exchange student), and I couldn't wait to get a close-up view of all the impressionist art.  Being a ballet student and a sucker for all things Degas, I knew I would one day have to give the pastels a try.  I didn't get around to the chalk pastels until I was well out of college and teaching full time, but as soon as I began handling the medium in my first pastel class I felt the connection to those old pastels I'd admired as a teenager.



As you can tell by the piece above, I enjoy painting water scenes using pastels.  I took some great reference photos last year after the lily pond at Balboa Park's Botanical Gardens was replanted, and I particularly enjoyed watching the turtles make their way from one bunch of water lilies to the next.  The water is normally murky, making it difficult to see the turtles-- so, I got as many photos of them as I could that day.

Here are a few more impressionistic pieces I painted with pastels:

"Venetian Duck"
12 x 16 inch Pastel on Flat Canvas
Click here to view large or purchase


"Butterfly Jungle"
9 x 12 inch Pastel on Paper
Click here to view large or purchase
"Distant Grove"
9 x 12 inch Pastel on Paper
Click here to view prints (original sold)
If you like the style of these works, check out my new Impressionistic Water Scenes gallery!