In all things we become accustomed to and gravitate towards the familiar, and in so doing we find the space we call the comfort zone. Depending on your sense of adventure, security, collective receptive experiences that zone may be wide or narrow but if you think about it, you probably can identify it with ease. It applies to relationships, the places we choose to spend our time, the music we are drawn to and the tools we use in the work we do. It is why I continue to use a pentax for photography, it feels so at home in my hands after some thirty five years of practice while I have sometimes coveted a nikon, i stay with what has served me well. The comfort zone may be in part created by opportunity and exposure. It is why the first color I explored in paint came with a big free box of acrylics and much of my process in the development of color practice bounced between acrylic for canvas and watercolor for sketches. I never questioned it.
Part of what I planned for my year of living quietly included a challenge to provide a space for exploration of medium, styles, subjects and composition to develop skills and expand my comfort zone. I have spent a lot of that time falling in love with oil paint.
Far from mastering the medium, seriously it is only a year we are talking about, I am developing a comfort for how it moves, layers, holds light, and dries! I am beginning to think in terms of fat over lean which initially sounded more like a nursery rhyme or jenny craig commerical than studio speak. So, just about the time I should possibly commit, what do you think happened?
I opened the supply cupboard…..
and laying in wait…. (you could insert the music from the great white shark in jaws)
There was the most delicious boxed pastels, some gifted from my painting aunt, some christmas gifts, one purchased for it’s absolutely irresistible range of portrait tones.
Over the past couple of years I have watched demos wherein Dennis Webber used pan pastels to make the most magical transitions and impeccably soft portraits. Viewed Justin Maas compelling emotive portraits, Cindy Whitehead create landscape and wildlife images, and Dianna Ponting demonstrate staggering realism with the edges of these thick soft pigment sticks that seem impossible.
And now something new begins. We’ll see where it goes. A wonderful woman I sometimes share a painters circle with, now in her mid eighties continues to create in a variety of mediums and who continues to explore new things with gusto shared with me these thoughts. “Perhaps I should have focused on one thing and gotten really good at that rather than a bit of everything”, she has taken workshops with an impressive list of presenters and considered the hour and a half drive to a neighboring town for some weekly workshops this past winter. At eighty five her learning curve continues and her work represents a life long love of and commitment to growth. How cool is that?!
This spring I listened to Alan Wyle present thoughts on painting while waiting for his paint to set. The one I carried home was, If you want to make a lot of money, paint one thing well, over and over and over again. If you want to have a great experience, and then it kind of trails off, and inevitably leaves me with a smile and a sense of affirmation.