Chocolate is my friend. Well, maybe we are a bit too close when I see photos of myself.

When I was a kid I loved chocolate – all kinds. (remember the Sky Bar?) As long as it had chocolate in the name, I was all in- even if it said “chocolate flavored.” Ooohh… flavored? It should have been a warning bell. Nowadays this phrase freaks me out. I guess like most things in life I have become more discerning. Anything Nestle will get a pass on this end. Hershey is only acceptable for s’mores. I have known many people visiting from Europe who compare Hershey’s to “tasting like sick.” Even Godiva and I have relationship issues now. So many preservatives and wax in the mixture. Belgium chocolate? My ears perk up. But sometimes it is a terrible tease. Just because the label says something doesn’t mean it is the real, refined thing.

So along with tea, (another story for another time) I have become a chocolate snob. The darker and more refined the better. Most milk chocolate smacks of wax and diluted dreams of grandeur to me now. I find it much better to spend the extra buck or two and savor the cocoa beans.….

You knew I was going to relate this to art somehow, and I am. Often artists show me pastels they have bought at a “steal”… “Look! Chalk pastels”… oh my… it is like “flavored chocolate.” If you see a set with the word “chalk” on it, please walk away. There is no “chalk” in pastels.

And don’t even get me started on surfaces for pastels. When I teach, I require attendees to break into their piggy banks a bit and get a better surface to work on. A surface that is gritty and yet soft, lush and textural, that layers like a wedding cake. (sorry, I digressed into pastel porn) Never using this type of surface before can be a true revelation. “Control! I can get control!” Yes! Flexibility to correct and “re-mark” areas?… yep, it can be like a melt-in-your-mouth Belgian chocolate experience. Especially if you want to work like I do and layer with pastels. The surface makes a difference.

So try better paper. Buy a few expensive sticks. Take that expensive workshop. Yes, you may become a bit more snobby, but perhaps a bit more happy too. Learn from the best. Paint with the best materials. Create in a happier, less frustrating way.

Enjoy this experience called painting. I am.