Saturday, December 21, 2019

Welcoming the Light of Solstice

"And don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous."
~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī ~

Honoring the Winter Solstice with the Maiden of Light, Mother of Love and Crone of Wisdom
May the Winter Solstice bring peace to your spirit, joy to your heart and enlightenment to your soul. May the light of hope always be with you in the promise of a brand new day.

"It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it."
~ John Burroughs ~

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Touchable Soft Pastels

So after years of frustration due to the hassles of having to frame soft pastels under glass, and even the occasional challenges of storage to avoid smearing and smudging, I had the good fortune to chat with Andrew at Savoir-Faire during the annual Art of the Carolinas Expo this month. He mentioned to me that the maker of my favorite pastel workable fixative that I often use to help fix underpainting layers, SpectraFix, had come out with pastel varnish and suggested I contact the owner about it. I was obviously intrigued since I'd been trying a couple of experiments with varnishing soft pastels but the spray varnishes I'd found so far had such toxic fumes that using them was a headache-inducing nightmare and they also tended to darken and deaden the vibrancy of my pastel works too much for my liking, so I sent a message to Della, the owner of SpectraFix. She very kindly gave me a call and told me all about her newest products, Natural Glass Varnish and FinalFix Spray. I decided to try both these products to see if they lived up to my expectations. Just by way of information, I use a variety of pastel brands, but primarily in the medium-soft to very-soft textures, and while I may not have the lightest hand in the world, I do have a fairly gentle application touch for the most part.

For my first experiment, I pulled out two small test works, one on Multimedia Artboard sanded pastel panel and the other on Richeson Premium sanded pastel paper. I sprayed one thin coat of FinalFix on each and allowed it to dry. SpectraFix products have no toxic fumes (yay!), so using them indoors is no issue, even with a cat and dog in the house. It didn't take long for the first coat to dry, and I then applied a heavier second coat on the Artboard and very lightly brushed a coat of the Natural Glass on the Richeson. Of note, since the Natural Glass varnish is slightly thick it ideally should be brushed on rather than sprayed (I found it tended to clog a pump sprayer), and the painting surface does need a coat of either SpectraFix Degas fixative or FinalFix prior to applying Natural Glass. The varnish should be brushed on very lightly even then to avoid disturbing the pastels. Of note, the Natural Glass varnish leaves a somewhat glossy appearance more like paint, whereas FinalFix maintains the smooth velvety matte appearance of traditional soft pastels.

As Della had mentioned on the phone, there was some slight deepening or perhaps very minimal darkening of the colors on both paintings, although I wouldn't call it deadening, and the vibrant sections retained their vibrancy. The surfaces had no shift or movement of the pastels when touched after allowing the SpectraFix to fully dry.
"Carrying the Sky on His Back"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
7" x 5" soft pastel on Pastelbord

Satisfied with these results, I pulled out a painting on Pastelbord and two others on standard gesso panels on cradled wood. I used the FinalFix spray on all three and let them dry. I applied a second coat on the Pastelbord and one of the panels and brushed Natural Glass on the second panel. I noticed similar results on these as on the sanded papers - slight deepening of the colors, but no terribly significant color change once fully dry. Again, the surfaces with only FinalFix retained the velvety matte finish for which soft pastel works are known and the surface with Natural Glass turned slightly glossy and paint-like, but all the surfaces were now completely touchable with no smudging or smearing at all, and virtually no pastel coming off on my hands. I achieved more or less the same results using FinalFix on Pastel Premier, Canson Touch, UArt and Pastelmat. Unsanded pastel paper has so far yielded similar results, but as expected with plain paper surfaces, it does take a while to dry and there was some minimal buckling which was not unexpected.
"Cascading Rhyme and Rhythm"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
4" x 4" soft pastel on Da Vinci Pro Resist-Grip Coarse Textured Cradled Gesso Panel
Inspired by South Mountains State Park
On a lark, I decided to test out the FinalFix on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, which is notoriously intolerant of water and also responded very poorly to the toxic varnish sprays I had previously tried. This product worked reasonably well on that surface, although I did find the colors darkened on La Carte a bit more than the other sanded surfaces I've tried so far, but in fairness I used the darker toned paper. Also, be sure you let the spray dry completely before touching this paper. Repeat - do not touch La Carte until the FinalFix spray is completely dry! (Ask me how I know this...)
"Gossamer Melody Haunting"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
Cropped section of 5" x 7" soft pastel on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: Overall, I'm quite impressed with these new SpectraFix varnishes so far, especially since I tend toward painting on stand-alone surfaces such as cradled blocks which present their own unique challenges with framing under glass, and these new products are a potential game-changer for me. Also my specialty is miniatures, so with such a small surface area I have not noticed any real issues with spatter which could possibly be a concern on larger works. For me, the slight deepening of color is outweighed by the benefits of more framing and display options. However, every artist is different and your priorities and acceptable outcomes may differ from mine, so I highly recommend testing these or any products on paintings that you don't mind ruining, just in case. Also, while there did appear to be significant darkening while the finishes were wet, in my experience the colors mostly restored once fully dry, and I found that the harder and/or grittier surfaces did somewhat better and the more absorbent/softer/smoother ones a little less so and with a little more darkening of color, though not significantly enough to outweigh the benefits for me personally. So I will likely be using this product for my cradled wood paintings for sure and probably also for some works on paper or boards that I want to frame sans glass, but I want to explore more experimental opportunities before I feel totally confident using it on my most precious works.

NOTE: The rules for some juried pastel shows prohibit the use of final fixatives so artists entering these competitions will need to keep that in mind and check the rules carefully before entering if they choose to use these varnishes.

Monday, October 7, 2019

All Of Me

“...and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.”
~ Audre Lorde ~

I've been called a fool for sharing my weaker paintings online, and that a "real" artist would only share their very best works, hiding the bad or failed ones away, to not let viewers know about them at all. But somehow that feels wrong to me. I believe that having an online artist's presence means being willing to put myself out there, being vulnerable by sharing a most intimate part of myself - the art I create, all of it. 

"Splash the Glittering Faeries Dance"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
4.75" x 7" soft pastel on Pastelmat
Inspired by South Mountains State Park
 What would be more vulnerable than sharing a less-than-perfect creation from my own hand? To admit that I am flawed, imperfect, have weaknesses, especially in my own artwork? I paint a lot - nearly every day and frequently more than once a day - and by far most of them are definitely not my best works, not even close. In fact, I have many, MANY more failed paintings than those even close to resembling success. 

"Behind Her Turquoise Tears"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
6" x 4" soft pastel on Pastelmat
Inspired by Wake Forest Reservoir
And yet, I share them all online, even the stinkers. Why? Maybe it's the hope that someone will disagree with what I consider a failed work and see it as a success. But I think it's more a means of finding strength in my own vulnerability, or perhaps even the hope of helping another artist avoid my mistakes by seeing where I went wrong with a painting. 

"Beckoned to the Edge of Madness"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
5" x 7" soft pastel on Multimedia Artboard Pastel Artist Panel
Inspired by the southern portion of the Neuse River Trail
I know that I deeply respect and admire those few professional artists who do post their failed paintings because that helps me learn from them. So I'll continue posting my works - the good, the bad and the ugly - and I hope that will encourage you to share the entirety of yourself as an artist as well. The world needs all of what makes us artists, not just the parts we think are perfect.

"With Flushed Cheeks"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
6" x 4" soft pastel on Strathmore Pastel Paper
Inspired by our backyard, painted en plein air

Monday, July 22, 2019

Finding Meaning

"I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?"
~ Vincent van Gogh ~

As time passes and I find myself in the latter half of my time on this earth, I'm beginning to gain some insights into just what it is that makes life feel worthwhile and gives this existence meaning, especially as it relates to nature, art and their value to me personally. 

"Hidden Beauty"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
5" x 7" soft pastel on Pastelmat
Inspired by William B. Umstead State Park
While there is a certain joy in selling paintings, particularly to those who feel my artwork speaks to them on a deeper level than merely color or subject matter, I'm discovering that sales are no longer that important to me. Is it simply sour grapes because I haven't had a lot of success with sales as of late? Perhaps. But I'd like to believe it's more than that.

"Threshold of Patience"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
6" x 8" soft pastel on Pastel Premier
Inspired by Dunn Creek Greenway
On introspection, I find that increasingly what matters most to me is expressing my attachment to and respect for our parks, greenways, nature preserves and natural open spaces by painting my interpretations of these local treasures.

"Tiptoeing on the Edge of Summer"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
3.75" x 7" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Inspired by Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
I realized this most clearly after being invited to exhibit my works at some area nature parks and preserves. 

"When the Light Falls"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
7" x 5" soft pastel on UArt 600
Inspired by South Mountains State Park
There is virtually no chance of selling my paintings at these venues and yet the sense of fulfillment and purpose I experience when my artworks are on display in the very places that inspire them is something uniquely satisfying in a way that is unparalleled by any monetary success. 

"Fascination Falling"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
5" x 7" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Inspired by South Mountains State Park
Having my paintings sharing the same space as their natural world inspiration brings me a sense of arriving full circle, but no matter whether they are viewed in the parks themselves or merely online, if seeing my interpretations of these beautiful places inspires others to cherish, protect and support our parks and nature preserves, then that is more valuable to me than any amount of dollars in my pocket.

"Three Queens"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
4" x 4" acrylic on Da Vinci Pro Ultra Smooth Cradled Gesso Panel
Inspired by Eno River State Park

"My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature."
~ Claude Monet ~

Sunday, March 3, 2019

So Much More Than Everything

"When I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things"
~ Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers ~

"Pictures of You"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on UArt 500
*This painting is not available.*
It's mind-boggling to me how much joy and love my dog, Frylie, and photographer husband, Steven, bring to my life. We share walks along the wooded lake trails, snapping photograph after photograph of the beauty all around us.

"Trick or Trail"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
10" x 8" soft pastel on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card
*This painting is not available.*
We immerse ourselves in the colors of the forest on mountain bike rides while Frylie joyously runs alongside.

"Dog Paddling"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix
*This painting is not available.*
We follow the twists and turns of the river in kayaks, enveloped in the glittering sunlight bouncing off the water.

"The Meaning of Life"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
Sometimes we just take a few moments to sit on the riverbank, meditating on the meaning of life.

"Through My Lens - Self Portrait"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card
*This painting is not available.*
Other times we simply contemplate our place in the universe.

"Stop and Smell the Flowers"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix
*This painting is not available.*
Through it all, though, we make sure to always take time to stop and smell the flowers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

All That And More


“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.”
~ Gilda Radner ~

"You Swam Right Into My Heart"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
My dog is truly my heart. He brings sparkle to my life.

"Aiming For My Heart"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
12" x 9" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
He makes me laugh out loud. He exhausts me.

"King of Hearts"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
He brings an ear-to-ear smile to my face. He makes me happy.

"Remember When We Were Young"
© 2018 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on UArt 500
*This painting is not available.*
He keeps me active and exercising outdoors.


"An Adventurous Heart"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
He makes me want to be a better person.

"Arrival"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
6" x 8" soft pastel on Pastel Premier
*This painting is not available.*
He gives me a sense of purpose. He comforts me by snuggling next to me when I'm sad.

"Creekhound"
© 2018 Tammy Kaufman
6.25" x 9.5" soft pastel on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card
*This painting is not available.*
He annoys me by barking every time a leaf blows by the window. He cheers me up when I'm feeling down.

"Playing Catch With My Heart"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
12" x 9" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
He's always happy to see me and wags his tail like crazy at the sound of my voice. 

"Splashing Joy"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
He gives me a reason to keep going.

"The Prince of Joy"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
10" x 8" soft pastel on Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth
*This painting is not available.*
He's my protector, my guardian, my buddy, my faithful companion. 

"Free Spirit"
© 2018 Tammy Kaufman
4" x 4" oil pastel on Da Vinci Pro Medium Textured Cradled Gesso Panel
*This painting is not available.*
He's my dog and my heart, and I can only hope he knows how grateful I am for all the goodness he brings to my life.

"Frolic"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
6" x 8" soft pastel on Pastel Premier
*This painting is not available.*

"Dogs are our link to paradise."
~ Milan Kundera ~

The Magic of Trees


"It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning."
~ Vincent van Gogh ~

© 2018 Tammy Kaufman
soft pastels on Pastelmat
Trees. I love them. I feel a kinship with them. In the forest, I discover a wondrous sense of peace and calm that I rarely find anywhere else. By reading and studying author Peter Wohlleben's amazing book, "The Hidden Life of Trees", I'm also learning about the support and care they provide one another in the forest. As part of my therapy, I'm now working on connecting with that sense of unity and support described in Mr. Wohlleben's book via my own tree and forest paintings. The series of small paintings pictured above was inspired by a single view of the same forest over many months, and it was remarkable to me how much joy I found in painting these trees through the seasons. So I'm sure I'll be doing something similar again.