The weather outside may be frightful here this week, but it's definitely raining sunshine in my life right now. To put the magnitude of this into perspective, let me start from the beginning.
In late June 2013, I decided on a whim that I wanted to try my hand at painting for a hobby, so got a cheap student grade watercolor set and a pad of paper and set about attempting to learn to paint. It didn't take long for the art bug to bite for real, though, and I began experimenting with a variety of media including acrylic paint, charcoal and graphite. Frustrated with the student grade paints, I moved up to artist quality watercolors and acrylics, then expanded to Gouache and colored pencils which worked much, much better and were a lot more enjoyable to use.
As much fun as I was having, however, I still felt like something was missing so in September of 2013 I picked up a small set of student grade soft pastels and a little pad of pastel paper just to see what they were like. After my first two attempts, I was more frustrated than ever and decided perhaps soft pastels just weren't for me. Luckily, I was intercepted by some other pastel artists who noted that my frustration was in all likelihood due to the lower quality of my pastels and the very challenging paper I had selected to use with them rather than an innate inability with the medium. Never one to give up too easily, I picked up a small set of artist quality pastels and a little sampler of sanded paper - what a difference! It only took a couple of test mini paintings and I was hooked. Determined to learn this medium, I gradually expanded my collection of high quality pastels and surfaces, and studied everything I could find on them - books, online tutorials, other artists' websites. Ever since, I've been painting like a woman possessed - at least several times a week consistently. Most of my earlier works were mediocre at best, but I was putting in my time with painting and getting practice making marks, learning about color, values, temperatures and composition. I studied everything I could find on pastels and painting in general to help me learn. I checked books out from the library, purchased online training courses and joined the local pastel society.
Ever so slowly, things began to happen. I got juried into several shows and even won first place at the State Fair. But I wanted to continue improving and growing as an artist, so I was delighted when, at one of the local pastel society meeting, I met another member who had given an incredible demo earlier in the year and discovered that she taught and, even better, was willing to travel to my home to teach me! After hiring Addren Doss and studying with her this year, I saw noticeable improvement in my painting, which carried over even into my other mediums, and I began to dream bigger. I had heard about the Pastel Society of America - the premier organization of serious pastel artists. Unlike the other art organizations I had joined, membership in PSA are offered only on a juried basis, and I had heard how high their standards are so I knew it was going to require even harder work on my part if I were to have any hopes at all of getting in. So I continued to study and practice and work harder than I ever thought I could at my painting. It was difficult and frustrating at times, and other times things just clicked. I turned out some paintings I felt very good about and some that went directly into the "studies to maybe repaint later" bin. But I never stopped working at it, and I never lost sight of my goal. By the October PSA jurying session, I finally had five paintings I felt good enough about to submit for consideration for membership.
This weekend, roughly 26 months after that first frustrating attempt to draw something with a stick of pastel, I got the letter that validated all my hard work. The letter welcoming me as a juried Associate Member of the Pastel Society of America. But this is not the end - rather the beginning. Now the even harder work begins and I'm intensifying my efforts with lessons and practice as I pursue that next ever more more challenging step on this artistic journey, the quest for Signature status.