About 20 minutes into laying down the first pass on this I was feeling a powerful draw towards abstraction, an inclination I ultimately ended up compromising with in small ways. I wanted my grandmother to have an image that brought her some joy and warmth in the cold of winter, not give her pause to wonder what on earth I was trying to communicate to the larger world from my strange one. I let the background fabric go a bit and really liked the result, so I’ll be carrying that element into the next several pieces. I did start an abstracted version of this one, and so we’ll see where it goes, maybe nowhere, maybe everywhere.

I finally got to use some of my prized Henri Roche pastels on this painting as I’ve been waiting for a while for the right piece to apply them to, and they are sooo dreamy. Best present from a mom ever! I’ve been using them as well as Diane Townsend’s Terrages pastels as the models for my own handmade earth pigment set, and I’ll be happy to land somewhere within a few miles of the ballbark of that level of quality. It’s either that or stumble on $16,000 that I’ve got nothing better to do with.

Actually, even if I did have something better to do with that much money, I would still buy these pastels 😀

pastel, Canson Mi-Tientes paper

pastel, Canson Mi-Tientes paper


“At any rate, it is proved that colour embodies an enormous though unexplored power which can effect the entire human body as a physical organism. If this association does not appear to us sufficient, neither can we content ourselves with this explanation concerning the effect of colour on the psychic existence. Therefore, colour is a means of exercising direct influence upon the soul. Colour is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer, while the soul is a piano of many strings. The artist is the hand through which the medium of different keys causes the human soul to vibrate.”

~ Wassily Kandinsky, On the Spiritual in Art

The time has come to return to color, and I felt that a good way to set this gear in motion would be to practice on a couple of materials I’ve had in mind, the nautilus shell and a satin fabric. Once I began sketching out these items, it occurred to me that I might have started with something a bit simpler. The nautilus shell competed heavily for my attention and eventually won, and what I at first thought would be a simple exercise in rendering a pearly white spiral shell turned out to be lengthy conversation with the properties of iridescence, and yet another struggle to see what was right in front of me. Over the course of a week as I allowed my eyes to adjust to the shell, the hues slowly revealed themselves, and by the time I had finished I was completely taken with the shell both in form and color. Sometimes the subject matter dictates the time I take to depict it, and in this case short periods of sketching over several days brought me closer to a proper understanding of the nautilus.

The satin will have to wait for its day in the sun.

Nautilus shell