I used to work exclusively in pastel. Over the years I accumulated an embarrassing number of them. Until recently I hadn’t worked with them for about five years because I had packed them up to make room for oils. One day, out of the blue, I felt like using them again. I cleaned each color and put them out. I tried working with them all spread out but it was confusing and I spent a lot of time shifting boxes around and hunting for specific sticks. Frustrated, I put them away in nifty carts with drawers and took out my small travel box and tried to work out of that. This was better – but not great.
After going to a demo and seeing the neat and organized travel box being used by the artist, I went home, emptied mine out and reorganized it paying very close attention to eliminating duplicates and close values. Better again - but the box was still cramped.
To make a bigger box I decided to create it out of odds and ends in my studio. As the base I used a 20 by 30 birch panel leftover from a previous project. I flipped it over and it became a tray. I added a gently used sheet of foam core for a bit of cushioning. I cut dividers from another sheet of foam core and attached them with white tape then I lined each compartment with paper towel. So much better.
I spent the next day sorting all my pastels into the new box. Having them organized by value in one clean layer makes choosing exactly what I need much easier. Having less pastels organized this way eliminates some of the trial and error that can lead to muddy color. I cleaned up the huge mess and tucked the extra pastels back into the carts. It occurred to me that maybe less really is more.
As an artist giving myself permission to play is at the heart of my practice.
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