“I just throw dignity at the wall and think only of the game”
– Suzanne Lenglen- the world’s first female professional tennis player

Hit hard and fast. That is the way to think about painting in pastel sometimes. Oh sure, soft, scumbly, little strokes have their place when painting in pastel. And heaven knows I spend a lot of time doing just that. But sometimes you have to just back up from the easel and strike out with your gut. Think about the thing you are painting and not “render” it, getting that thought to clearly translate into a mark. A dash. Make a mark into what it represents and not paint a “thing.”

Make the mark count.

Teaching over the years I have tried to convey the important lesson of “Beauty Marks.” (Layer #5) Making the marks you create clear in what they represent.

Hmm… In other words, a mark or line alone can represent the edge of a collar- how soft the fabric is or the turn of a cheek as it goes toward the light. A mark can talk about the hard edge of a boot. With a few marks, or the way you hold the stick, you can clearly feel the “rubberiness” of a shoe.

It is easy to think of an artist sitting around and rendering, rendering… rendering…. struggling over detailed objects and then hoping to nail a perfect photo-realistic copy, and this can be exactly what gets us in trouble. “I have to paint that shoe exactly like a shoe!!!”

Well, no, ya don’t.

You could find some wonderful, beautiful lines that represent a shoe that is tired, or worn or tight. Or sad or soggy. Expressive line work can do that. Maybe the painting would benefit from putting more love and care into another area that needs to be more of the focus of the image… and so then line work can diminish in non-important areas.

The flower paintings of Richard Schmid come to mind-

Slow down and look closely- are there “flowers” here? Or are there marks that represent flower petals and leaves? Dashes of softly turning form. Accurate color. But most of all, the marks make this painting into a masterwork. NOT labor-intensive struggle.

Paintings are a game of hierarchies don’t ya know… back and forth… back and forth. Like a tennis match. And if you play to win you have to let some things go and dive head-long into other areas. With a stick in your hand. Only that way can you make your mark.


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