Sunday, April 29, 2018

Handling Your Medium

" Dust in my Sandals"  Pastel 9 x 12 © Donna Gross
Decades ago I taught my self to surf in the little bohemian neighborhood of San Diego named Ocean Beach.  It was an earlier chapter of my life...definitely with a lot less responsibility... single, employed as a nurse at UCSD ... no kids...I had a keen 1966 Dodge Dart convertible white with red interior that had push button was a good time.
I remember, after watching the locals surf the spot next to the pier for sometime and becoming bored with boogie boarding, I marched down to one of the local surf shops and bought a used 8 foot plank that I dubbed the Poseidon. I donned my used wetsuit and walked down to the break. With the leash firmly placed around my left ankle, I plunged in, belly on board and began paddling....and paddling...and...I not only got nowhere where I wanted to go but was taken briskly by the current right for the pier pilings. Somehow I got out to re-evaluate my circumstances and spent the next 6 months just learning how to handle the 8 foot long piece of foam and fiberglass that was attached to my left ankle like a ball and chain ready to drown me!!
I eventually learned how to handle the board...and it took lots of time and wiping out...
So too it is with art medium.  Pastel is a very delicate medium.  I have been at this seriously now for about a year and a half...painting most everyday. Learning just how much pressure to put on the paper and how to handle the bulky sticks....It is not an exacting practice but rather using the luscious sticks of pigment to "suggest" form and give my viewer a painterly expression of my intention.  I am beginning to feel the rewards of perseverance and patience.  Many of the colors you see in the piece I painted above, were done with one swipe of the stick...some were manipulated a bit more.  The point is...patience and perseverance pays off .. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Coastal California

"Wilder Ranch"  Pastel 9 x 11  © Donna Gross 
~Excellence in Pastel Award~

Christmas Day 2017 spent walking a lovely stretch of trail hugging the central California Coast at the historic
Wilder Ranch property!
Living in paradise!

Grocery Shopping for Ideas!

"Trio"  Pastel 6 x 11  © Donna Gross
Need ideas for your next painting?  Go to the grocery store and pick out some produce!  Yep! That's what I did today on my weekly run to Safeway.  I saw those red, yellow, orange peppers stacked ever so artfully and I perused the pyramid for the one with the most interesting stem!  
With what I thought was skillful deftness, I tried to pry my prize from the near bottom of the stack....much like a lively game of Jenga....
Down they came tumbling around me in an array of orange!  Looking around, I spotted another shopper quietly giggling at my predicament.  My daughter scurried over to my rescue and between the two of us we had the pyramid rebuilt in no time. 
So, next time you need some inspiration...just go shopping! But do take care where you pick from !!

Support Matters!

"Meditation"  Pastel 9 x 12 © Donna Gross
In the art world, there is a language one must learn. Outline translates to contour. Form to mass. Lightness or darkness of an image to value. Color = hue.
In the pastel world, the surface you apply your pastel to is referred to as support.  There are an array of supports one can use... sanded surface, un-sanded surface, prepared surface with a grit substance called gesso.  Each has its own unique properties when receiving the application of pastel.
I have tried them all and am convinced that SUPPORT MATTERS...
Today I can put a vote in for Pastelmat by Clairfontaine. It's like no other surface I have worked on before. It takes the pastel in a unique way. Difficult to describe.  You'll just have to try it for yourself!
Support life, too. Sometimes it's the make it or break it moment when the support you ask for is given or not... As a parent of two adult children who are in the productive "making it" phase of their lives, I am their cheerleader. I am their support. Their coach. Every moment is an opportunity to make their day .... or break it. Support matters. 
As an emerging artist...I am selective to whom I reach out to for support...Usually it is my fellow artists who offer the best support...they've been there. Making art is a solitary journey...even if you are in a studio full of others making art at the same moment. Each one of us is putting our creative juices out there for everyone to see...and judge. Be kind. Encouragement goes a long way for one to reach success......Support matters.

~ Be nice to people of your way up because you'll meet them on your way down.
~Wilson Mizner

Monday, April 23, 2018

Variety....The Spice of Life!!

"Getting Ready"  Pastel  12 x 9  © Donna Gross
I needed a change.  I love change.  I used to rearrange the furniture often before I lived in our small quaint house...drove my family crazy!! 
Creating tabletop displays was a favorite childhood activity of mine.  My dream job was to be a "window dresser" today's world that's referred to as Merchandising...I like "window dresser"better. 
The landscape is what I am most comfortable painting.  However, I am drawn to the figure. In fact, I studied figure drawing for several years at our local college and then through our Art League here in Santa Cruz.  To me, there is no greater challenge than to render the human figure, or animal figure believably....capturing the gesture and movement of the figure is captivating ....
So today, I changed it up a bit...I painted a figure...I got my need for change fulfilled and I didn't have to move the couch!!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Going Big!!

"Summer Stroll"  Pastel  12 x 18  © Donna Gross
Are you enjoying the spring weather yet?  
Here on the Central Coast of California in Santa Cruz, the days are getting longer...that is daylight is lingering until 7:30ish...
the wind is blustery and the sky is much like the image above...brilliant blues with puffy clouds.
I had a left over piece of pastel sheet on my easel. This painting measures 12 x 18 inches...a bit larger than my usual 9 x 12... it was so much fun to drag my pastels sticks across the sanded paper in large languid strokes while I blocked in the big shapes... 
This piece beckons me to take a stroll on a brilliant summer day.
I keep looking the trees, the clouds, birds....
I feel so grateful to see the world through an artist's eye....

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Thunder in Santa Cruz in April!

"Thunderhead" Pastel 6 x 9  © Donna Gross 
Available contact artist
Woke up yesterday to the sound of thunder! All the cats flew off the bed and scampered under it! 
Thunder in California is when we experience it we jump for joy!
On the way home yesterday from Monterey, my husband shot this photo of a thunderhead along 
Hwy 1. So today I decided to paint it! Hope you enjoy !

Monday, April 16, 2018

Perseverance and Patience

"Golden Day"  Pastel 12 x 9 © Donna Gross
This is a reworked piece.  The first "draft" was a total flop. Disjointed color scheme coupled with an unflattering composition of trees made for a mess... I went to bed unsatisfied with my efforts that day...yesterday.
Back at it today, I scrubbed the pigment from the paper ( the joy and versatility of the pastel medium!) gave it an alcohol wash and let it dry.  I had a plan. Which I did not have the first try.....
Lesson learned....
I picked my palette ahead of time and did not veer away from the colors chosen even though there lay a candy store variety of colors in front of me....
The result is a much more harmonious composition coupled with a fair rendering of the late afternoon  sun.  
It took perseverance and patience.  Perseverance to not give this composition up to the trash bin.  Patience to let the painting tell me what it needs and then respond. Sometimes, on rare occasion, the painting paints itself...or parts of it.  And so this is the segue to the life lesson...Always a life lesson!! Art shows me the way to serenity....persevere for your passion and have an abundance of patience to let it unfold in it's own timely fashion...and watch the moments of magic unfold....

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Always Learning...

"Blue Hue"  Pastel  12 x 12 
It was time for a lesson.  So today I dialed into one of my online tutorials by my teacher and master pastelist, Marla Baggetta.  You can find a treasure trove of pastel painting demonstrations, lessons, and experience from one of the best in the pastel world.
I put my own spin on the composition with a slightly different color choice .  
Hope you enjoy this little colorful landscape!

Making the Most of Dust!

Ground into a fine powder
Little bits of pastel stick
Adding water a little at a time to make a paste
Hello friends and fellow pastelists!!
Here's a handy tip for all those teeny tiny pastel sticks that become to small to handle....
Sometimes I gather the dust in my dust catcher on my easel. This produces usually a dull gray powder .  But gray is very useful as we all know.  However, when there are enough small pastel bits of the same color family ready to be ground up, the results are a lovely mix of the hue! 
It's kind of like baking...put all the ingredients together and then wait and see what you get!!
Let's see....can this be applied to LIFE?  MMMMM....
Got a lot of little annoyances/resentments on your mind?  Imagine grinding them up into a fine powder of beautiful color and luminosity....add a little surrender ( water ) ...and Voilá...
a new ATTITUDE!!  Changed attitudes can make all the difference in life.....
Voilá! New pastel sticks!

Monday, April 9, 2018

My Busy Weekend!!

"Lost and Found"  Pastel  11 x 10 © Donna Gross
Available contact artist
"Waiting to Open"  Pastel  12 x 9  © Donna Gross

"Girl Power"  Pastel 9 x 12  © Donna Gross
Available contact artist

I'm often unsure of what exactly I am doing when I paint.
I have a photo reference or a vase of tulips...a memory of a special time on vacation with special people...
But the truth is I never know what I'm going to get...I never know the end result...
So it is with this journey we are all on. I mean, you get up every day and tumble out of bed and expect your legs to take you to the bathroom and do the necessary things one does in the morning. 
But really, do we really know if that will happen? When I go to switch the light switch, I expect the electricity to power the light....but again, do I really know that it will go as expected.
Go as expected.
Dangerous territory... wisdom tells me that 
"expectations are resentments waiting to happen"....
When I paint, I just am...So too when I live, I just am. 
A daily practice to keep my life full of joy and 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Deep in Production

Elkhorn Slough
Pastel 12 x 9 © Donna Gross
The application is complete. I am committed. This October I will be participating in our county wide Open Studios Tours.  I will open my home and studio for two solid weekends to the public. This is my first venture into the world of capitalism!! I am a working artist and having said that I am deep in production!! Producing daily works of art....pondering tomorrow's work...imagining and anticipating the task ahead to prepare for this event. 
To calm the mind, I go to my easel. It is really magic. I do not think when I paint. I just paint. I put down my mark and then respond to that mark with another mark and so on.  I step back and look...I look outside up to the clouds for inspiration....a sip of the thought...simple.  

Monday, April 2, 2018


"Reflections"  Pastel  9 x 9 © Donna Gross
My little corner of heaven, my art studio, is housed in my teeny tiny garage....a corner of the garage.  
On beautiful sunny days like today, I open the garage door and go to it.
About 2:00 today I heard a familiar buzz.  Stepping out into the daylight and looking up I spotted amazing son, a student pilot, solo flying his little light sport aircraft at about 3500 feet ... This isn't the first time I've been lucky enough to spot him up his dream...
The first time I jumped about and shouted with glee and told a few neighbors who happened to be out in the neighborhood..."Look up! That's Gerhard! He's flying!!"
Today, I simply looked up and waved....he wouldn't be able to see me...but that's OK...I could see him.... today's effort at the easel. Reflecting back to when my son was 3 years old...a toy airplane in each hand as he gazed up when an airplane would fly over..his little voice saying, "Small plane..." I would take him to the very airport he now flies out of to see the small planes and watch them land and take off....he was a well known figure at age 3...everyone knew him...
today he's well known there as well at age 20...'s been a great journey so far.

Lillies and Lemons

"Lillies and Lemons"  Pastel 10 x 7 © Donna Gross
Available contact artist
In honor of Easter, Passover, and the Vernal Equinox , I offer this piece of still life for your enjoyment. Wishing you all a joyous season of rebirth and new beginnings!
Happy Spring to all.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Trying a Different Approach

"High Noon in Summer"  Pastel 10 x 7 © Donna Gross
Available contact artist
Feeling stuck?  They say "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.."
Thus far my painting process has been to render images from a reference photo or from a still life.
There is a tendency I have to follow the reference photo too much.  We get married in the process of my painting!  If that photo is in front of me, I habitually attempt to render it as seen with little interpretation of my own...This has led to much frustration of late and not much success for me.
So I took a leap.  I created this piece from my imagination.  I used a well worn composition that I have probably either seen many times or rendered many times and I painted it from my memory.  I picked my color palette.  I decided where the light was coming from.  I decided what time of day I wanted to depict...and I went for it.
What a fun and freeing experience. Stepping out of my comfort zone....changing up a frustrating routine....what is there to lose? I could always go back to my usual approach and hope for success.  
This time I went for it and had success and found the session so joyful and enjoyable.
Feeling stuck? Change it up! 

The Daily James

  "James" "Partners For Life" A bird can't preen its own head with its bill, so they use their feet to clean head fe...