Spring is struggling to make itself known this year. There’s a chill in the air. Cold breezes vied with bright sunshine in Central Park this weekend. Color and light caught your eye after taking in some artworks inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the top of the museum, the Manhattan skyline edged the tops of the furthest trees. One can imagine spring settling in here soon.
University classes are just about done but, just across the river, students in my pastel class are still in high-gear, clearly in no hurry to have this series of classes end. Here is a practice pastel worked up in the studio class after some sketches made not long ago. In the ever-expanding armory of art supplies, NuPastels have been joined now by Sennelier half-stick pastels in 120 colors. This is a messier medium than watercolor, for sure, and a whole lot more “forgiving.” It is just about as different as it could be, in fact. But, how do people go “urban sketching” –especially if traveling abroad–with such an array of tools–hard and soft pastels, paper of all kinds, etc? More “problems” to solve! 🙂
Joining the ranks of the pastel artists can feel like crossing over to another world; upon introduction where one is welcomed with curiosity, we mention our “medium” and this apparently already says a lot about us to the pastel artists. Like how we approach a piece of paper, and what color our paper usually is (white, in the case of watercolor people). Everything we have learned is just the opposite in pastel, where among the pros the affection for this medium is a self-declared addiction.
Like every other endeavor, there’s a certain initial outlay that’s unavoidably necessary when seriously endeavoring to take on a new medium. Pastel has its own papers and tools. I started with a box of 96 NuPastels and was quite amazed at the colors they produced. But for blending and other effects, the more experienced all have additional favorites, and it can “add up” pretty quickly. (I was really glad the NuPastels worked so well as I felt less compelled to immediately go out and stock up on the allegedly even better stuff.) In addition, pastel pencils are necessary for finer details. There’s lots to experiment with… Most of the members of the group I’m learning with have a headstart and produced wonderful things some of which seem like frescos ready for display. There’s another exciting journey ahead! And another medium, pretty well-suited to urban sketching, by the way, to add to those I’ve already adopted.
New Mexico in the early Spring: bright yellow flowers in the snow, white drifts on mountain peaks in the distance, terracotta adobe houses hugging the hillsides, a fresh cold air that catches your breath, a startlingly blue sky, a lovely teahouse along Canyon Road…
From museums, churches, markets, and hundreds of beautiful outdoor sculptures to parks, shops, and restaurants, there’s much to see and do… and sketch. But on this trip the temperatures have generally been too cold for much outdoor sketching.
Even finding the time to complete a sketch can be difficult with all the attractions all around.
There’s the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, for instance, which brings the story of this amazing artist alive, ensuring that one wants to know more.
And the hundreds of years of history on display in the New Mexico History Museum inside the Palace of the Governors on the Plaza.
The colors of the hills and mountains that have made this area a favorite of artists for many years did not disappoint.
With its rich history, intersection of cultures, and mix of ancient and modern, Santa Fe is a mecca for artists of all kinds. It’s easy to see why they call it the Land of Enchantment!