Q: Have you ever worked outside?July 6, 2013
A: As a pastel artist I’ve never worked outside – with so many pastels, it’s just not practical – but early on in the “Domestic Threats” series, I created two outdoor setups. Works in the series derived from elaborate scenes that I arranged and then photographed.
I used to take long walks along the Potomac River in Alexandria, VA, and there was a tree stump that was fascinating. It was mostly twisted roots, knotty branches, dark hidden spaces, etc. (top painting in photo). One morning I took several hand puppets and stuffed animals (my subject matter at the time) and carefully arranged them on the tree. Around me people were busy exercising their dogs. Soon I attracted quite a bit of attention – a tall blonde woman playing with puppets on a tree stump! Dogs came over to sniff. Their owners came over, too, and I was pressed into explaining, again and again, that I was an artist, that I was photographing this scene so I could paint it, etc. The interruptions were very annoying.
The second time I tried an outdoor setup was again along the Potomac River, but this time I selected a secluded strip of beach where I was undisturbed. I had forgotten to consider the light and inadvertently chose a cloudy day. I remember being disappointed that the light was flat and lacking shadows. The painting (bottom in photo) turned out to be one of my least favorites.
I resolved from then on to focus on interiors. Alfred Hitchcock famously used rear projection so that he could work in a studio rather than on location. One reason, he said, was that in a studio he had total control. I know what he meant. When I set up an interior scene and position the lights to make interesting shadows, indeed, I have control over the whole look. No aspect is left to chance. The accidents – improvements! – happen later when I work on the painting.
Comments are welcome!