Monday, 23 July 2012


"Feeling Left Out"  pastel 6x6"

I frequently visit an art site, to chat with other artists, and sometimes help them with their work (and ask for help with mine!).   This week, although I promised to show a couple more useful tools, I am going to postpone that for a week, and talk about something which came up this week on the art site, and I feel is important enough to mention while I think of it.

The background is.......a beginner showed her work. She commented that she did not paint to please herself, she just wanted the approval of others around her.  She was somewhat frustrated, I think, because there were very few comments on her work, and she asked for the thread to be removed, saying that since nobody wanted to comment, and that was the only reason she had for posting the work, she thought it best to remove the thread.

I completely understand the need for approval.  It is jolly difficult to keep patting oneself on the back.  And it  sort of doesn't count, anyway, if you are the kind of person who requires that approval from others.

I was bothered by this post.  I recognise that need for approval.......I have it in spades......but it is tempered by a hard-earned understanding that this is often not how the world works.

Here is what I said in response:

Sometimes, no matter how pleased we are with the results of our endeavours, we don't receive the approval we might seek. Should that stop us from continuing to do what we enjoy doing? I think not. AND sometimes, for some of us......we do receive that approval, in the form of accolades, compliments, even buyers of our works.....yet despite feeling pleased with all of this, a touch of dissatisfaction with our efforts still remains. this is because we always strive to do better, to learn more, to increase our level of ability. I fall into this latter category...I have earned a certain audience, yet am still continuously hard on myself, always wanting to achieve more, be "better", gain more approval. Is this arrogant? I don't think so. I think it is part of my nature, i always beat myself up for not being as good as I think I should be. And I honestly think this condition is common to many artists.

So the bottom line is that YOU HAVE TO ENJOY WHAT YOU DO, AND WANT TO DO IT FOR YOURSELF. Sometimes, you will have an appreciative audience; sometimes you will not. If you do not, that is not a good reason for jumping off the boat mid-stream. It is in fact a very BAD reason, because it means that you are seeking outside approval all the time and only allowing yourself to bask in the approval of others, without quietly recognising and acknowledging your own hard-won achievements.
A small story to illustrate the point further. I went to art school. I spent a whole term working on a project. At the end of three months, a tutor came to see what I had been doing. "Well", he said, "that was a waste of three months". I was devastated. I wanted to leave and never return. I went off for a coffee, and when I returned, there was a different tutor looking at my work. He  said "well done, Jackie, you have some LOVELY pieces here". My world rocked. I did not know what to think.

then I realised I had learned a valuable lesson. Not everyone will like what I do. Some will actually DISlike what I do. So the only important person to please is ME. And if I am sometimes happy with what I am doing, and occasionally feel a touch of pride in my achievements, I will have achieved a lot.


And then I went on to give some practical advice.  The poster asked about pastel dust and how to deal with it:

And as for pastel dust....................I recommend you work with a board tilted at an angle, so that the dust falls down the board, you can collect this dust by putting a piece of folded paper under your board. If you are frugal type, collect up the dust and crumbs and keep it. when you have a substantial amount, take the crumbs, put them in a bowl, add tiny drops of distilled water until you create a stiff paste. Flatten the paste on a flat surface, cut into sticks. You will have some new, lovely, grey pastels, always useful, for free.

here are some I made a while ago.  Notice I make various different shapes, for the fun of it. It is useful sometimes to have thinner, wider bits of pastel.  to make the darker blue one, I crushed a blue pastel and added it to my general mix of crumbs and dust.

And finally.....the poster commented that she was concerned to work " thickly" with her materials, for fear of wasting them too quickly.  Here is my response to that, which applies to all media:

If you are overly frugal with your materials, you will end up with a less than satisfactory result.  You do not need MASSES of materials - I have seen beautiful pastels, for instance, produced by an artist who went out in the field with just a dozen sticks in a tiny box.  The results were staggeringly good.  I have watched a pro paint with a tiny box of watercolours and one tube of white gouache.  All carried around in a plastic carrier bag!  His work was simply gorgeous.

  • BUT if you are working with tiny dribs of watercolour and loads of water, you will get wishy washy results, which totally lack strength. 
  •  If you don't put out generous amounts of oil or acrylic paint, you are restricting your ability create marvellous colour mixes.
  •   If you hardly touch the paper with your pastels, and just put a ghost of colour down, carefully saving your pastel will end up with a thin, unconvincing painting which looks kinda apologetic.

 Use the best materials you can afford.  If you cannot afford many materials, make the best of those you do have.  Not the worst, by trying to "save" them up.

The picture at the top? Nothing to do with anything....just there to brighten up the page!  It is a tiny pic for me...only 6"x6"....the start of a series of small, hopefully more affordable ones I plan to offer at my Open Studio in September ( and if I don't get any visitors and am stuck with them, I will offer them up via this blog.  I have found a way to frame small pastels, which means I can send them out framed).  Also, thought I would show you my latest new tiny enamelled copper bowls, these are only 3" wide, 1.5" high.  Rich colour on the inside, and interesting varieties of shades and tones on the outside.  I hope to have about 30 or so enamelled bowls for the Open Studio, and maybe some little enamel "art panels" too: (more info on my website, and on Facebook)


  1. Thank you so much for this healthy text!
    So true, so wise.

  2. This is a hard learned lesson for many of us. I think it is part of growing as an artist, this determining who you are painting for. It is hard to not hear what others are thinking, but as you say, not everyone will say what you want, or need, to hear. Your words make total sense to me and I am about to point a few friends to them.

  3. Such good advice! Regarding an earlier post, I got my folding ruler today, and have put it to the test. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you!

  4. Thank you Jackie. I have recently started an art class (yesterday) and came home feeling rather despondent and your words have turned me around. I have had little formal instruction but really enjoy sketching and drawing and playing with watercolours and coloured pencils. The one main experience I want to take from this class is to try sketching on large sheets of paper - A1 size at an easel - something I have not done.
    I will keep going so thank you again.

  5. The most helpful article I've read in a long time on the subject. Going to print it out and attach it to my easel for future reference.

  6. Thankyou from me too - a timely reminder.

  7. The truth is sometimes difficult to swallow and artists seem more sensitive than most to it, putting our hearts on our sleeves for the world to love or hate.

    I hear similar complaints from people in workshops and even in art groups I'm part of who are chasing their tails trying for approval or to try to meet the ever changing market needs of collectors. Being yourself and doing what pleases you is the best advice always.

    The practical tips for recycling pastel and being generous with mediums is another area seen too often. The other is paper hoarding, where people buy lovely paper but never use it for fear of 'spoiling' it. You've inspired a blog post for me, thank you!

  8. Not just inspiring tips - your bowls are really beautiful!

  9. great blog jackie, very good advice on drawing to please yourself. Also love the red acetate for tonal values - very clever and effective.


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