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Of course you should know by now, if you have been following this blog, that I love to make “pictures”.  I am driven.  Put a pencil in my hand and somehow I start drawing wobbly lines.

I have always thought it is curious that people who don’t think they can create art say “I can’t draw a straight line”. Neither can I.  My lines swirl and gash and streak, but very rarely go straight.  Every once in awhile I do a piece featuring architecture and have to concentrate on edges and angles,

Metropolitan Spring, oil on canvas, private collection

…but more often than not, the lines move in waves and swirl around the paper or canvas in organized abandon.

Wave #9, oil on canvas, artist's collection.

Finding my inspiration in England is perfect for my style of movement and emotion.  The whole countryside seems to swirl with energy.  I am never more pleased than walking in the country with a breeze blowing and a faint mist in the air.  Of course those days of pure sunshine in England are also nice, and I have experienced my fair share of those.

An early morning walk in the Lake District near Grasmere

I have created art for more years than I can count, and I thought it might be of interest to talk about why I chose the mediums I do to work with.  We fine artists all have our personal favorites, and like old friends we become very comfortable with them knowing their strengths and accepting their weaknesses.

1. Oil Paint – this has to be my all time favorite.  I am sure one of the reasons is that the oil painting studio is where I spent the majority of my artistic time at University.  I must admit I never did well with stretching the canvases, but I loved the glistening, smooth paints gliding over the surface.

My paint box in sweet disarray

The variety of color is inspirational, and if I add a touch of linseed oil, I can layer the pigment in a way that bits of color from each layer shimmer through.  It dries slowly so at different stages I can either mix other colors through the layer if it is still wet, or put a sheer layer over the dry so it comes through. It is such a forgiving process.  I can change my mind a thousand times, I can stroke it or scrape it or pile it on. (See my post Art on the Move to see how that works)

Metropolitan Spring in the studio

Everytime I look at a display of those tubes of paint in a store or catalogue or online, I am like a child in a candy store with too many choices.  One of my favorite parts of beginning a painting is choosing the colors. Sometimes wanting to try a unique color palette will drive my subject choice.

2. Pastels  – I was in Yosemite National Park in California on holiday by myself many years ago (before MBB) and I decided this was just too good to pass up, art-wise.  I had no art materials with me (I have since learned and never go on holiday without at least a good sketch pen) so I went in to the art supply store in the center of this gorgeous valley.  How considerate of them to sell art supplies right in the park! There on the shelf, right next to the Ansel Adams calendars, was a set of pastels and a small sketch book which I thought would be easy to put in my pack.

My current pastel box. The choices of color are limitless with blending!

I spent the entire vacation trying to figure out how to use the things, and finally realized if I layered the colors like I did the oils and blended it with finger, eraser or other tool, it had a wonderful effect. Pastels have become a true friend.

A wild color study of a flamboyant tree done in pastels, collection of the artist

3. Conté – this is a intriguing mixture of compressed charcoal or graphite mixed with a wax base. Conté crayons are most commonly found in black, white, and sanguine tones ( a blood red that is perfect for accenting areas).

It is harder than chalk (almost like a soft pencil), but can blend like pastel.  I remembered using it in school when quite young, and when I noticed it on a shelf of an art supply store, I thought this would be fun.

Pineapple, private collection

It works, again, with the same layering and blending technique I use with oils and pastels. I can build up my layers, blend them on the paper with the edge of my eraser, and then easily add sharper detail on top.

a conte drawing on colored paper

4. Pen & Ink: If you read my post, The Art of Sailing, you can understand why I love pen & ink.  With a small sketch book in my pocket and a pen, I can capture the world as I walk through the countryside. It is perfect for those English days when a camera is best kept in your pocket.

I have always used pen & ink as a sketching tool, a way to recall what I have seen rather than a finished medium, but I keep thinking I will explore it more one day.  It recalls Rembrandt and Durer, and I am always surprised how one small innocent tool can create such a variety of effects with marks and cross hatches and swooshes (a technical term for letting your hand go wild with pen on paper).

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to experience making art, just try it.  There are so many materials to explore.  And, who knows, you just may find a new way to express yourself and make friends with your own favorite material.

Look at my website for more of my art.