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Using Parchment Paper for Pastel

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Pastel is so versatile, I like to use it on a variety of surfaces.  One of my favorites is old parchment paper (courtesy of my late grandmother, who enjoyed calligraphy and creating her own Christmas cards).  I saved the paper partly out of a sense of nostalgia-- I still have some of Grandma's handmade cards on similar paper.  I also saved it so I could try the pastels on it, and it's become one of my favorite surfaces when I want to achieve a "scratchy" look to my pastels or focus on heavier drawn lines.

If you're looking to try soft pastels on this type of paper, I have a few tips based on my experiences with pastel and parchment paper.
Tip #1: Smear with caution!  Whereas pastel paper is made to hold lots of layers of pastel, parchment paper is not.  I usually stick with a lot of broken color and smear carefully with a paper towel over my finger (basically a homemade tortillon, or blending stump).  The pastel bleeds into the parchment paper, so plan your marks …

Input vs. Output

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We live in an age where we can spend our entire day receiving input from others, even without leaving the house or talking to anyone.  We can read messages, articles, scroll through profiles and updates, or even turn on that old dinosaur known as the t.v. 

For me, there's also reading novels-- something I thoroughly enjoy but feel a little guilty indulging in when there are so many other things I should be doing.  Add to that the time I spend listening to the birds outside, or gazing at the ocean, or drinking in the afternoon light on the oak trees, and there's very little energy left for output-- which in my case is painting or writing new things. 
And then there are the cats.  They're very distracting, but they do provide me with a bit of creative inspiration.

On a side note, I feel this way about learning a foreign language.  In the year I spent in Germany, I probably spent the first six months mostly listening -- which was exasperating to the family hosting me and my n…

The Bigger Picture

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It's been quite a summer! I'm now cataract-free and adjusting to the changes in my vision-- it was only one cataract, which caused a few months of cloudy vision, but it definitely had an effect on my attitude toward life and painting.
We've had a strange summer this year: extremely hot June, a strong rainstorm in July, and a mild August so far.  Being unable to see meant that I spent a lot of time home, which suited me fine as the traffic here seems to get worse every time I leave the house.  The children were of course bored and bickering much of the time, but they seem to do that whether we're home or not.  The summer definitely had its share of annoying occurrences.

As we read Psalm 136 in church last week, I couldn't help thinking of this view of the ocean.  I love being at the beach and seeing when the light peeks through the clouds and glitters on the water.  It's often a visual reminder that the daily gripes of this world are fleeting when compared to t…

Spring Awakenings

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After a long hiatus, I'm trying to get back into a more productive cycle, which means more painting, creating lessons and teaching, and taking my work out of the house to events.

It's not that I haven't been busy, but I've gotten sort of sidetracked with fun pursuits like gardening, sewing, and breaking up fights between my children.

I did manage to teach my first paint-sip at the beginning of the year (hauling all of the materials in during a rainstorm that dropped an alarming amount of moisture!)  It was a blast, and we did the piece below in about 2 hours:

                                                     "Moonlit Valley" Acrylic on Paper
(We used canvas instead of paper, so it would be easy to hang at home.)

If you're in the North San Diego County or Southwest Riverside County area and would like to do a paint-sip event, please contact me for samples and prices at nicolehilsabeck@yahoo.com.

Since it's now April, it's a busy month for all th…

The Imperfect Butterfly

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When we're first learning to make art as children, we hear a few things that become familiar over time.  Skies are blue! Tree trunks are brown, leaves are green.  Butterflies are supposed to be perfectly symmetrical!

Well, if you take a long look around you, you'll notice that most of that well-intended advice was wrong.  Trees can have blue, purple, and green trunks-- or even red or yellow, depending on the lighting.  Leaves can be just about any color too!  Butterflies, while appearing symmetrical, aren't necessarily so if you look closely.  Most of the butterflies I paint from photos have damaged wings, which isn't noticeable to me until I take the time to examine the photos in detail.









So why do we hear the same advice being repeated to kids over the years?  What's the first question most people have when a child shows us a painting?

 "What is it supposed to be?"

I catch myself asking this with my own kids. I've tried rephrasing it into "What …

Spring Things

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It's spring, and this year that means a few more rain showers, plenty of birds, and rattlesnakes.

It also means time in the garden, along with a spring pastel workshop, which was the artistic  highlight of my month!

We painted spring butterflies, and my daughter managed to turn her face green by rubbing her pastel-laden hands all over her face as she worked.
I originally created this piece as a demo for the workshop, and finished it up a bit later at home:

"Spring Butterfly" 9 x 12 pastel on paper View on Etsy Spring is a time of renewal, and every year I find myself busy in the springtime.  The days last longer, there are plenty of art events on the calendar, and the weather is much more inviting.  The birds return to familiar nesting spots.  The nights here are still pleasantly cool, and the hills are exploding with colorful flowers.

We even did an extra bit of spring cleaning at home, and now there's more space to work.

In the past, spring wasn't my favorite …

Skies of Inspiration

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It's hard not to be inspired by the skies here in Southern California-- particularly at this time of year, with storms moving in and out throughout the days.

At the risk of sounding like a mommy-blogger, I've fallen behind in my artwork and posting since summer ended for a couple of reasons (they rhyme with "mildren").  I've also fallen into a bit of a painting slump, but the sunsets and sunrises here in Fallbrook have drawn me back into making more time for artwork.

We're having a particularly vibrant winter, as the frequent rain invigorates the contrasting colors in the landscape here.  We've also had some noisy horned owls, who like to announce their imminent departure each morning just before the sun begins to rise.  This means I'm usually up early to get a peek at the silhouette of our vocal visitors before they fly off to hide and sleep-- and if I can keep my eyes open, I get to see the occasional glorious sunrise.  I'd love to paint the owl…