Endorphins, Synapses and Making Art!

This is a painting of my son in 2012 when we were riding along the New River

Thoughts, Emotions, Techniques and Inspiration from the Easel

by Laura Pollak

www.laurapollak.com

I have a friend that I call when I get down in the dumps and just plain cranky. The first thing she asks me is ‘when was the last time you rode your bicycle?’

On our first date, my wonderful hubby of 36 years, took me on a bike ride. I’ve always loved the freedom and the wind whistling by, not to mention the gorgeous scenery. But just recently, I’ve realized that my ‘creative health’ is very dependent upon how much I exercise.

A couple of months ago, when all my paintings were turning out like doodoo, I kept trying to force myself to get some mental clarity, and everything just went downhill. I felt that exercise was a luxury I couldn’t afford. WRONG!!! Jeff (my hubby( said I needed a bike ride (he was the brunt of my general crankiness, poor guy!)

When I got outside onto my bicycle, I immediately felt the endorphins kick in (sorta like the feeling you get after a great belly laugh or eating chocolate) and a sense of well-being rushed over me. Not to mention the eye candy of the gorgeous scenery of the rolling North Carolina countryside! What was amazing…was that old and long forgotten, happy memories kept popping into my head. AND one after the other, I kept getting new ideas for paintings that I wanted to try. Mental connections were buzzing in my brain!   Like little doors opening, rapid fire! Those endorphins were letting my synapses fire and creativity was ablaze! 

Now, I try to make exercise a scheduled activity. (I know that most of you already realized this, but I’m a little late to the game.) Yesterday, I rode 35 miles in the morning! Yes, I was tired but my brain sure does feel better. And on days when I can’t take a few hours to ride, a walk in the neighborhood does the trick.

All I’m saying is our brains need to be well oiled, just like our cars. Neither performs well without stomping on the gas and cleaning out the carburetors. So, if you’re in a creative slump, hop on your bike, take a walk or a swim. Watch what happens and let those endorphins kick in!

An Affair to Remember!

My 45-year-old love affair is still going strong…

By Mary Beth Sasso https://www.marybethsasso.com

It was the summer of 1975 when I was first introduced to the love of my life. I’d just turned 15 andnever experienced such a rush of exhilaration. It was a journey that I happily embarked upon andnever once looked back even for one minute. My life would never the same from that day forward.Looking back I was very fortunate to have started this love affair at such a young age, an age whereI had no preconceived ideas of what to expect. It was a fresh new chapter filled with warmaffection, passion, and an unwavering devotion.

Today, that love affair with pastels is stronger than ever. They still remain vivid, pure and intense, but most of all never change as the years go by. It’s still a thrill when my fingers touch their scrumptious velvety soft surface.

I love the fact that they are always accessible to me at any given moment and best of all I can makechanges anytime without a major commitment. Pastels are always dependable; staying true totheir color once applied to a surface. They never let down me down. Never. I always know what toexpect.

Pastels can be slightly hard or buttery soft, round or square that allow for a wide range of strokes. My favorite way to work with them is to gently layer colors building up to a delicious, rich color combination, and then ever so gently moving the color around with my little finger creating magnificent effects. Plus I let them do the blending sometimes because they know exactly how to create the most beautiful results. Really there are no limitations on what they can accomplish. And don’t get me started on the colors.

Once you get a taste of the hundreds of colors it is easy to become addicted. It’s like going to a candy store and having to choose, it’s impossible to just pick just a few. Impossible. But I love you my beautiful pastels and will never stray to another medium.

My beautiful pastels!

Picasso and Pastel

by W. Truman Hosner

The following is a letter from W. Truman Hosner to the PSWC written in 2015. It is timeless and timely since we are back at the Haggin this year, so we share it here.

Dear PSWC,

     I extend a sincere note of appreciation to everyone at PSWC who worked so diligently to create the Pastels USA Exhibition at the Haggin Museum in Stockton and to award juror Terri Ford for what must have been a difficult task considering the broad quality level of the work displayed. It was my honor to be accepted into an exhibition of work in a medium that I have loved and used exclusively for nearly 25 years and an even further honor to be among the award recipients.

On my “red-eye” flight into San Francisco from Detroit, I reflected on the world of pastel and how much it has evolved in those 25 years, in a large way thanks to PSWC. 

Yet upon my arrival, when I found in the Haggin Museum’s permanent collection a vivid pastel by William Merrit Chase, more alive today than ever, I was reminded of a statement by Pablo Picasso. 

Picasso said; “Art does not evolve by itself, the ideas of people change and with them their mode of expression.”

I thought what I was experiencing in the current PSWC exhibition at the Haggin was not an evolution of the medium of pastel, but rather an evolution of the thinking of the artists using it. Pastel in and of itself has always been a mature art form and we need only look back on the work of artists like Chase to realize it. 

At the PSWC exhibit I found a group of living artists who no longer should be labeled as “pastelists”. Now they must only be properly considered in a framework of; “painters”-who chose to work in pastel.

In their work is a thinking that has evolved. They use pastel to give significance to the subjects they choose. With the language of pastel they best express their joy of the unexpected, their pleasure of discovery, and their spirits stand ajar to the possibilities of the universe.

Painting will always be more a manner of thinking than a matter of medium.

In conclusion I will share a humorous story about pastel:

I couple of years back I attended a plein air event in southern Indiana. In attendance were a number of “heavy-hitters” from the oil-painting world, very nice fellows I might add. For two evenings in a row at dinner one particular gentleman made a point of quite vociferously asking me in front of his associates, “How are your charcoalscoming?” I patiently bit my tongue by always politely replying; “Quite well, thank you.”

Finally on the third evening, when he once again asked his question, one of his associates gave me my opportunity by joining in and asking: “So, Hosner why don’t you work in oils?” 

I slowly looked around the table at my new friends and smiled, and said: “Gentleman . . . why would I want to work in a lesser medium?”

There was a hardy laugh all around, and we all walked away that evening a bit closer.

This week I will be writing a letter of gratitude to Plein Air Magazine thanking them for their contribution of a Full-Page Ad as an award.

Again, -many thanks to PSWC for an exceptional exhibition!

Respectfully,                                                                                     

W. Truman Hosner

© 2015. www.wtrumanhosner.com

Finding Inspiration while Life Happens

Welcome to our March Guest Blogger Laura Pollak

(www.laura Pollak.com

Life happens! Things get in the way. Kids get sick, and parents need our help. Months can go by without standing in front of our easels. And the longer the time away, the scarier it gets to pick up that pastel stick or paintbrush! Then the inner dialogue begins,  and what a mean little devil that Negative Nancy can be!

So here are some things that have worked for me to get going again.

First, as corny as it sounds, physical exercises ‘opens my channels.’ It gets rid of my bad energy and lets happy and productive thoughts seep in. Of course, meditation to get yourself grounded and relaxed is another healthy direction.  

WARM UP

When you’re ready to get in front of the easel try this simple exercise:

  • Pick an artist that you love.  Whether it’s representational or abstract… just look at their work and decide why you like it.   
  • Take scraps of paper; whether it’s your beloved sanded paper, or even brown craft paper.  (You can always use little pieces of paper or paintings that failed and you’ve wiped down leaving a ghosted image.) 
  • Pick up some pastels that have a palette of the person’s work you admire and consciously try NOT TO MAKE A PAINTING!
  • DO NOT TO COPY THE PAINTING. Just experiment with marks and shapes. 

REMEMBER YOUR WARMS AND COOLS AND LIGHTS AND DARKS

Remember that a Concert Pianist doesn’t step out on stage without doing their ‘scales’, warmups and daily practice.   These will be your exercises.     I even took a workshop with a wonderful artist who closed his eyes in front of the class, took several deep breaths and then started painting.   We need to get our brains in the right place!

Continue to work on your warm up project. And take the pressure away, the results will never see the light of day. You are trying to find a new palette of colors that play together nicely. Then look at your values: lights and darks and warms and cools. Try colors you would never reach for and marvel at the interactions!

4″x 4″ WARM-UP Painting by Laura Pollak
4″ x 4″ Warm-up Painting by Laura Pollak

BREATHE

Have you ever noticed when you’re painting that your stomach goes up in a knot! Be aware of that and make sure you relax and breathe! It’s ONLY PAPER!

Well, last month, I went into a panic. Why? Because all the ‘Shows’ have their entry dates coming up and I had NOTHING to enter. I hadn’t painted since October! Is it smart to paint for shows? I cannot think of anything worse. What crazy pressure! But then again…there is also nothing more motivating. 

So, from January 2ndthrough January 27thI painted all day, every day. I came up with a lot of junk., or as a very kind friend said, “They’re not ready for ‘Prime Time’.” Twenty-seven paintings in twenty-five days. Just like fashion photographers…I took a lot of shots hoping somewhere in the mix there would be something worthwhile. Out of all that work came about five paintings that were ‘worthy’ of entering. Every night, I was dreaming about what I’d do next, different ideas, unique palettes, how I might underpaint… you get it. I was on a roll to the point that I could produce two paintings a day! In the GROOVE!

This month, with teaching workshops and gallery exhibits, I’m torn away from my easel yet again, so I have to start my practice of not making paintingsall over again.

Climbing out of a rut can seem impossible, but I can assure you that if you try to just Warm UpRemember Your Warms and Cools and Lights and Darks, and Breathe, and you’ll get out of your rut and into the GROOVE in no time!