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Painting through Uncertainty

by Niki Hilsabeck in Uncategorized, Recent Posts
     
Art by Niki Hilsabeck

Waking up to what is starting to feel like a real-life replay of Groundhog Day, it can be difficult to feel like doing much other than familiar, easy (and less than productive) activities.

“A New Day” Pastel on Paper

When the “stay home” orders began rolling out, we took a few days to just relax.  Eventually, though, I knew we would need to get on a more productive schedule.  Luckily for us, we are already familiar with teaching at home.  I’m also more than happy to be something of a shut-in, especially during the summer months when we are all off and I have time to concentrate more on creative projects.

A couple weeks in, we’ve settled back into something of a routine.  “How can you work on artwork right now?” My daughter asked, half-joking.  The truth is, I’d been spending a lot of time these last few months designing projects for my library art classes.  It takes me several hours to design the lessons and create sample artwork, mostly because I know that the more planning I do, the less room for frustration there will be when it’s time to teach the class.  This has left me with less time for “just painting,” which I figured I would work back into my routine once spring came along.

Well, the library is now closed, and we aren’t supposed to leave the house.  Although I may not feel as motivated to paint, I’m trying to work on it every day.  Although this is a strange and unprecedented experience, this current time hasn’t been the worst for me to try and paint.

Back when my daughter was a toddler, I was home caring for her as well as my terminally ill mother.  I was exhausted, scared, and just trying to survive each day.  Part of what helped me get through the day was working on paintings.  It sounds strange, but that little mental respite each day was so helpful– being able to focus only on things like color, light, shadow, and forms gave me the chance to turn my brain off.  I couldn’t read books at the time, because the words would just jumble together and my mind would wander.  I couldn’t write much either for the same reason.  The physical act of holding the materials and focusing on images–without words– was enough to reset my mind, even if it was only for an hour or two.

“Busy Butterfly” Pastel on Paper

If you find yourself wanting to be creative at home in this time of uncertainty (and it’s been a while), give yourself some room to try it.  Instead of tackling that big painting you’ve been imagining for years, try something small and simple.  Some people like to use sketchbooks, which are nice for keeping your work accessible and don’t carry the pressure of a big project.  I like to choose from several options: finishing up something that I left at the final stage, starting a new painting, or working start to finish on a smaller piece.  Working on a series (painting or drawing the same subject in different ways) is a nice way to get warmed up, giving you the opportunity to focus on a subject in different ways.

If you’re trying to keep kids busy at home, set up an area (or create a container of art supplies) that they can access whenever they feel bored.  It’s surprising what a little painting, drawing, or collage time will do for grumbling kids!  It gives their parents a nice break too.

If you’d like to try pastels at home and could use a little guidance, here are a few of my online tutorials:

Using Water as a Blending Medium for Pastels

Create a Reflective Lily Pond Painting with Soft Pastels

How to Combine Oil Pastels with Soft Pastels

 

 

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