Overcoming Pastel Boredom

142-predictability.jpgAfter devoting years to the craft of learning to paint with pastels, it is easy to fall into a routine. Working day in and day out with the same pastel palette, similar surfaces, and familiar subject matter can help to refine artistic abilities, but can also lead to complacency. As painting becomes more predictable, it can also become mundane, ultimately leading to a lack of motivation.

Recently, while spending a day painting with master artist Albert Handell, I was reminded of how boredom can be the nemesis of the accomplished painter. Albert’s pastel palette (see photo), and its lack of order, is legendary within the pastel community. The individual sticks appear haphazard. Since I am an advocate of a well-organized pastel palette, which relaxes me (see my previous blog on the subject), I am constantly amazed at how Albert produces such beauty from such chaos. When he stepped back to inspect his painting, he noticed me inspecting his palette. “If it wasn’t random, I would be bored to death!” he stated. Suddenly, it was clear. The palette provided possibilities beyond the predictable. Where I wanted calm, he wanted stimulation. It added a challenge.

This got me thinking about other ways of changing up the painting game as a means of breaking creative boredom. Besides messing up your palette, try working with a different hardness of pastel. Limit or expand your palette choices. Select muted tones or overly saturated colors to dominate a painting. Work on a completely different surface. Change painting format sizes. Basically, however you have been working, make a dramatic change. While not necessarily the best thing for the beginner/intermediate painter to embrace, it can prove very helpful to the advanced painter by providing that much needed spark of motivation.

Predictability is the curse of artistic growth. Take yourself out of your comfort zone once in awhile to see where it might lead.


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2 thoughts on “Overcoming Pastel Boredom

  1. Ruth Rodgers

    During a recent workshop with Liz Haywood-Sullivan, Liz pulled a handful of hyper-saturated colours from my box and said: "I see that you never use these; now make a painting using ONLY these" The result was fabulous–one of the freshest, most stimulating paintings I’ve ever done. Who knew I had that in me? Thanks Liz!

  2. Ruth Rodgers

    During a recent workshop with Liz Haywood-Sullivan, Liz pulled a handful of hyper-saturated colours from my box and said: "I see that you never use these; now make a painting using ONLY these" The result was fabulous–one of the freshest, most stimulating paintings I’ve ever donw. Who knew I had that in me? Thanks Liz!

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