The Almighty Pencil…

…”The King of all Art Instruments”…

Ahhh……the pencil……This is where everything starts for me.  It is the instrument that initiated my creative process and projects well over a half century ago…and is still my most prized “worker”.  It is this one lowly
simple piece of graphite that I could not live without!  It will start off every creative project as it transcribes my thoughts and imaginings into a visual reality.

From the lonely HB of my youth, which on its own could accomplish much, I now possess a full range from the hard “H”  to the softest 9 “B”s. These little work horses greatly enhance the creative experience.

Of course there are now even more choices then there were years ago.  Now this lowly little piece of graphite with a wooden coat has acquired a multitude of “relatives” that have shown up for the party, each with their own unique “personalities” and specialized functionality.

 Some are rather distant relatives that may “look” like their simpler HB relative, but are in fact a “distant relative” and are really only a “pencil” in name, as they hide within their centre a much more flamboyant and exotic nature.   It is my job to get to know these relatives intimately and coax them into a mutually beneficial partnership in which we can  both get credit for the work done.

So…now the new relatives to the lonely HB include:

  • H all the way up to 9H (hardest)
  • B all the way to 9 B (softest)
  • tinted graphite Pencils – to allow you to add a hint of color (water soluble)
  • Ink Pencils (water soluble)
  • Metallic Pencils (water soluble)
  • Pastel Pencils
  • Water color Pencils
  • Bendable Colored Pencils
  • Charcoal Pencils
  • Sepia Pencils
…. Well, I’ve probably missed some of the relatives … and they do keep multiplying … but … I’m bound to forget some that are not frequent visitors to my studio!…

… All the above have their unique functions and in the next blog we can explore this in more detail… 

Always follow your dream….

Most artists have drawn influence and inspiration for their art from someone whose work has captivated them.  I am certainly no exception to this phenomenon.

Hanging, front and centre, on my living room wall, for almost 40 years, is a reproduction that I painted of Elizabeth Vigée-LeBrun and her daughter.  It is a fairly famous picture, but it has more significance to me than that. This accomplished female portrait painter would be a great inspiration and influence to my re-acquaintance with oil painting.
I was given my first oil paints on my thirteenth birthday as a gift from my mother.  I had already been drawing portraits for a number of years and this just seemed like a natural progression into the arts.
The oil paints came from a shop run by a local artist that my mother knew, who was very accomplished at painting landscapes.  He offered to give me some free lessons.  There was a problem with this though, as his speciality was landscape and my interests were portraits.
Needless to say the landscape painting waned, my fascination with portraits took front and centre and I left the oil paints behind to take up charcoal and pastels.
I worked with charcoal and pastels exclusively for a number of years, doing (and selling) pictures of portraits and flowers, until I happened to make the acquaintance of another rather well known artist who liked my work but thought that oil paints were much easier to use than pastels, and convinced me that I should give it another “go”.
And so I gave it another go, but I felt that if I was going to use oils, then I would use them in the style of the old “masters”, with their deep rich palette of colors, and it would be people, not landscapes, that I would paint.  So I researched art books at the UBC library, and this is where I came across Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun, best known for the paintings she did for the Royal Family of France (In particular her portraits of Marie Antoinette). Her works and her accomplished portraiture were my biggest inspiration. This was my return to oil painting and I’ve never looked back!  
I think if there is a moral to this story it would be to – ALWAYS go where your heart takes you. If a certain kind of art captivates you then that’s what you should be doing and don’t get caught up in someone else’s vision of what you should be doing.
… And Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun will continue to hang on my wall as a reminder and inspiration to me, of a great and accomplished female portrait artist, who did what she loved to do, at a time when being an artist was a male dominated profession …
…more on Paris and Versailles in “My Travels” blog….