"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." ~Sir John Lubbock

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chalking Off In The Canyons

Entrance to Andreas Canyon.
A few weeks ago I spent the morning in Andreas Canyon, one of three incredibly beautiful, incredibly inspiring native oases carved from deep canyons at the base of San Jacinto Peak and the Santa Rosa mountains. The Indian Canyons, as they are collectively called (and managed) by the local Cahuilla tribe, are one of my favorite places to retreat to for a nature/wildlife fix to charge my spiritual, creative, and physical energy.

I was there for a MeetUp with my Let Nature Be YourMuse group. We were there to honor our creative time, simply gathering to make art in the canyons for the morning. I decided to try something new for me—a new medium, something I had never tried before yet have been wanting to for some time: soft pastels.

After exploring around for about 40 minutes, I found my spot. I dropped the chair, the backpack, the blanket, the camera, and water I’d been lugging around and settled in. I pulled out my sketch pad, my clipboard, tape, and my brand new box of pastels, and I set up.

I sat facing a year-round stream, with those yummy layered mountain outcroppings and dense palms framing a nice little scene. It was so lovely. And all of a sudden so complicated. Where do I start? Maybe I should I start out with something simpler? Then I remembered a couple of tips I came across, 1) start with your background first, and then another important tip, 2) make sure you start with dark colors first. Okay...?

I shared smiles with a couple hiking up the rocky steps to my right and they commented on the "beautiful setting I was going to paint." My inner-artist-ego fluttered. I just LOVE it when I happen upon an artist “in the wild” deep in the creative process, reinventing the landscape before them—their work always looks wonderful to me, and I always believe they must have been painting/drawing for years. I wonder if this duo thought that of me? Eh, probably not as my paper was blank. Glaringly blank. Hmm.

I pretty much sat there staring at the palms for a good solid 15 minutes. How do I do this, actually? More hikers. Hmm. Busy trail today. I noticed a nice round bobcat track next to my chair in the mud. Hmm, a freshy. I took a picture of it scaled with a AA battery. Then it happened. I made a deliberate mark on my paper. More hikers came by and now I had to look like I was doing something with it—my cue to just keep drawing! I thought to myself, don’t think Michelle, just experiment, be free loca. And I did. I kept drawing, rubbing, drawing and rubbing. Blowing clouds of chalk off my paper now and then.

My first attempt at soft pastels. Not only did I dis-
cover a new medium I think I'm going to love, at
this point I have a personal, artsy escape to a place
I love on those days I can’t get there.

It turns out I got into to the whole experience and really loved working with those pastels! By the time I had to leave, I was proudly sporting grimey, oily chalk hands and fingertips (maybe bring a towel next time).

I can't wait to continue working on this piece. I’d like to practice some techniques for defining elements on the trail off to the right, and balance out the palms with more palms, foreground too. Oh darn, I forgot to actually use the tape. I haven’t caught that dense oasis feeling yet—arghh! This critical yammering *gasp,* wonder if I overdo it?

Needless to say I am a little intimidated to make that first mark again. Fear creeping back. But I can do this—honestly overall it was just too fun. And next time my “FEAR” flag-waving inner critic can be my towel boy ;)

Onward toward second attempt!