Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blueberries for Breakfast

Canadian Blueberries (pastel on panel 8 x 10)

OK, so I dug up another painting from last summer.

This one is a little more abstract than my usuals. But the subject made such an impression on me in real life that I had to paint it. We were on Russell Lake in the middle of Quetico Provicial Wilderness. The boys I was counselor for were out in the canoes suntanning (burning?!), and I was wandering around just a little bored.

It was our Layover day, which meant we were staying at the same campground for two nights in a row.

On the shore was this little blueberry plant perfectly surrounded by granite boulders. In the foreground was an amazing array of mosses and lichens the likes of which I've only ever seen in the Canadian Wilderness. I made a quick sketch, and then a couple months later, turned it into a painting, based on my memories of the colors.

It ended up being a study of shapes. Many people have trouble with rocks, but if you just keep working on their shapes, and remember how they reflect the light and have substance and shadow, eventually they will emerge as a symphony of shapes which look like rocks.

The upper right hand corner I wanted to leave especially abstract, so the focus of the work would be within the confines of the granite rocks.

Also notice how it takes warm colors to accentuate the cool ones of the lichen in the bottom left. Likewise, it took cool blue accents to fill out the shadows under the rocks (which were colored with the Unison Darks set).

Oh, and nothing beats fresh blueberry pancakes for breakfast in the bush.

Until tomorrow,
Pastel Guy - pastel paintings - jewelry store
This painting is available for sale at Gallerie M in St. Louis, MO

Friday, November 14, 2008


Winter is certainly on its way. Rain, wind, more rain, clouds, and, oh! Did I mention rain?

I decided to dig out this painting as an illustration of how it is around here. Well, minus the snow.

This pastel, Chinook on the Haute Bois (pastel on panel, 18 x 24), was done last winter here in my studio. I found the picture online by a guy who photographs all the rivers he visits to fish. There are some amazing pictures there, and he was nice enough to give me permission to paint a couple of them.

This particular painting received the most comments at the art show in September. The mirror-like quality of the water does make it look realistic enough to want to stare at it for awhile. This was one of those instances where it all worked from the beginning, and I didn't have to fuss with anything. I used just three colors in the water, and blended them carefully with my finger.

If I remember correctly, I used the Great American colors Bismark with two values of Denim. I wish I had taken a picture of this painting as it was completed, because I did the sky first (as always), followed by the stream. I remember thinking how odd it looked to have this perfectly reflective stream surrounded by blank board.

This is one of those paintings where I elected to not have any of the board show through, so I had to be very careful to cover all areas - to make sure the pastel made it into all the crevices of the pumiced board.

To me, this painting reflects what I love so much about nature - its tranquility. One of the best comments I have received about my work as a whole was during my summer show. It had been open for about an hour when a woman came through and said, "Your work is so peaceful!" With the stress of putting a show together, I hadn't realized it, but yes, that's exactly what my art does for me. It provides tranquility in an otherwise very busy life.

This painting is currently on display, and available for sale, through Gallerie M in St. Louis.

Until tomorrow,
Pastel Guy - pastel paintings - jewelry store

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Seventeen is my Magic Number...Today.

17 pairs of earrings are now gone.

PRO: I made money today!

CON: I have to make 17 more pairs this weekend to fill the holes in my display. And for some reason, people like the ones that take a while to make. Perhaps it's because they are the truly unique ones...?

Today we had parent/teacher conferences at school, and so I decided - on the spur of the moment - to take in what jewelry inventory I had. Teachers should have more time to browse the display during conferences, especially tomorrow morning once most of the conferences are over, and many teachers will have time to socialize (key word there was MANY. For some reason, I am always running around like a banshee trying to finish everything on my to-do list) and

My main display board for earrings is great in that it holds 90 pairs (I think - it's a lot). It's a great board (if I do say so myself!) that I made for my first craft fair several years ago. Perhaps one day I'll share the design with you all. The only problem is that it holds 90 pairs.

But, the income is great, as all my funds are going toward my credit card balance that I somehow racked up quite nicely with my little tangent into pastels this last year. Hopefully when I go back to them after the holidays it won't be so expensive. I'll be looking to do craft fairs in the spring, and probably some pastel workshops in the summer.

Sorry this post is so rambly. I've been at school going full throttle since 7:30 this morning. I'll do better this weekend, I promise!

PastelGuy - pastels - jewelry store

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Found Myself!

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through my blogroll looking for procrastination material (you know you do it, too!), I found myself.

OK, so it was only the link to my blog on Rena Klingenberg's blog, but hey! I'll take it. Seems she liked myJewelry making Tutorial I and Tutorial II where I photographed a silversmithed pair of earrings from conception to completion. I don't know if anyone liked it, because no one has left a message...hint...

I'm off to go prepare for a jewelry show tomorrow at work. You'd think that after 5 years of showing my wares to the same group, they would be tired of it, but they keep asking for it back again!

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Winter is Coming!

OK, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

And this year, I'm happy about winter and all that comes with it: snow, Christmas, Thanksgiving, jewelry sales, fires in the fireplace with roasted marshmallows...

See, last year, I was rather bah-humbuggish about the whole thing. Perhaps it was because I was still in the middle of graduate school, whereas this year I'll be done on December 12th. Who knows?

These earrings were a spur-of-the-moment design. One of those where you're in the middle of something else (in this case, making little crystal Christmas tree earrings), and you drop everything to delve into a new project. They have faceted milky glass squares at the bottom, three sizes of sparkling Swarovski crystal snowflakes, Swarovski bicones in an icy blue, and handmade hammered sterling silver rings to add visual weight but not physical weight.

The hardest part was photographing them. Trying to capture the clarity and the sparkle is difficult! If you look at my Etsy store you will see all my other attempts. This particular photo was done with a black acrylic base with a really low F-value (I think that's what you call it). I had to reduce it all the way down to a minus 2.

I'm hoping to get out into the studio this afternoon, since I have the day off from teaching (Veterans' Day here in the US), so I should have some new stuff to show you for the next couple of days.

Have a most creative day!

Until tomorrow,

PastelGuy - pastels - jewelry store

Monday, November 10, 2008

Landscaping / Teaching...Which Am I?

On October 17, I worked outside at school. What I thought would be a simple day of improving the curb appeal of our school turned into a much bigger ordeal, involving phone calls to the building and grounds supervisor and to the assistant superintendent. Of course, I was oblivious to all of this as I dug, tugged, planted, and weeded without a care.

Construction is set to start on our building this next week. A couple of years ago, the community passed a referendum allowing us to build a much needed new middle school. With the building of this school, the district made a pledge to the community that the two middle school facilities would be equal and equivalent. Therefore, since the new building would have a stage and fancy new ‘cafetorium’, then our 'old' school needed one as well. So construction starts soon, involving tearing off the east wall of the gym.

The landscaping around the building was installed back in 1999 when the school was built (told you it was old!), and hasn’t been maintained much since. Oh sure, there have been some bushes pruned (don't get me started on ignorant!), and mulch laid down each spring, but for the most part, it’s been forgotten and neglected. There were holes where plants have died and have never been replaced, leaving big holes in the plantings around the foundation. There were dandelions that looked as though we were growing them as crops - some sort of outdoor science experiment.

Toward the end of September, the building principal from one of the elementary schools came by unannounced to see what parts of the existing landscaping (in the construction zone) could be removed and replanted at his school, as a sort of fast, cheap (i.e. FREE) way of sprucing up his grounds for an upcoming outdoor dedication ceremony. Needless to say, that did not sit well with the assistant principal, who already feels as though the junior high is the black sheep of the district.

She then approached me so see if I had any ideas. My plan was to move everything in the construction zone into the gaps of the existing landscaping. That would mean digging up the big daylily clumps, dividing them, and replanting them around the front. "Go for it!" she said. "I'll get you a substitute, and you can have the day to do some much needed yard work around here, since we can't get Duane to do it!"

So, I had just settled in for the job – put my iPod in my ear so I could finish Angels and Demons which had been started but never finishedon the long trek to Destin this summer – when the guy in charge of the district’s grounds (i.e. mowing) shows up and asks what I’m doing.

How much do I say? Do I admit I'm a teacher from this building doing HIS work? Do I call him all the names I'd overheard being flung in his direction? Do I outright lie?

But I restrained myself. I told the truth...just not all of it. I explained that I was just moving some plants around before construction commenced, and he thought it was great – one less thing for him to have to do. However, once he reported that fact back to his boss, a phone call was made to the building principal. Then somehow the assistant superintendent in charge of facilities became involved. As I look back, I'm glad the union didn't become involved.

Fortunately, I was able to finish my work, the landscaping was much improved, and thoughts that maybe now the powers-that-be will take our requests a little more seriously dared to float around my head (silly, silly thoughts!).

Once I finished dividing and transplanting all the daisies, daylilies, and Echinacea, it all had to be watered. When the custodian went to find the hose and the faucet key, it turns out the hose had been taken to another building (didn't I mention the black sheep thing earlier?). So the head of building and grounds was called, the situation explained, and he promised to have them watered over the weekend.

Monday comes, and the plants still are wilted. During the day, I happen to see the head of B&G in the office, and I ask him personally if he would make sure they are watered. Amid big grins and much head bobbing, he assured me they would be. Naturally, it rained about a quarter of an inch that night, so he probably figured he didn’t have to water.

Now the transplanted plants are dried up little bumps in the ground. I guess his laziness just cost the district a few hundred dollars in plant replacements. But I also guess that they won’t be replaced, and we’ll be left with holes again. Sigh.

Pastel Guy - pastels - jewelry store

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Today on Etsy!

" Ladies and Gentlemen! (I'm typing in my deep announcer voice) Today on Etsy, you'll find the pride of...of...of his Mom on the Jewelry Showcase of Etsy!"

(back to regular voice) I know it sounds grand, but it's really not. I paid to be there.

It wasn't much, and if I just happen to sell something, I'll recoup my money, but I still feel ... desperate. I mean I'm paying for exposure. I know it (advertising, that is) is a multimillion dollar business, and we see hundreds of ads everyday, but I still feel...compromised. Everyone else is always blogging about how they "made the Front Page on Etsy today!" I think I'd better get over it! Ah well. The bright side is that it's already generated traffic through my little store.

But, hey! I wielded by computer's little snipper tool quite effectively, I think. I have Vista on my computer, so I had to go search in the Help library to figure it out (daunting task in and of itself!), but it's all quite easy. The hardest part was getting the blue circle around my bracelet to look somewhat like it was drawn by someone older than 2. I couldn't decide - highlighter or pen, fine or thick point, red, blue, or black ink... Thank goodness for erasers! I kid you not, the vague representation of a circle you see at the top of the page is the result of 6 tries - SIX!

I just hope I never have to go through rehabilitation or physical therapy. My head might explode first.

Until tomorrow,

PastelGuy - pastels - jewelry