Monday, November 16, 2015

Art of the Carolinas

I got a call a couple of weeks ago from an artist friend here in town, asking me if I'd be willing to be the pastel demo artist for Art of the Carolinas, the annual art expo hosted by Jerry's Artarama. As I always take my vacation during AOC, I was already off work that week so agreed to do it. Once the date grew closer, I began to get quite nervous - What was I going to paint for the demo? Would I be able to answer questions about process and materials satisfactorily? Am I good enough to even be doing this??

Before I knew it, Friday morning had arrived and I was at the Hilton setting up my booth. For that first day, my booth mate was a very experienced painter, Dick Ensing, so I was initially a bit intimidated and worried about my serious lack of experience at less than three years painting compared to his lifetime as an artist. Dick was very friendly and engaging, however, so I soon relaxed, and the fact he was demoing oil paints gave me something interesting to watch during my less busy periods too. Being the first day of the expo, Fridays are always a madhouse and this year was no exception. This turned out to be a good thing, though, as I was too busy to worry about much of anything other than talking to people about art and doing a little painting as well. My first demo was a 9 x 12 soft pastel.
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - One Touch of Nature - soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card 9" x 12"
Throughout the day, I got to talk with so many interesting people, along with a lot of my artist friends who were kind enough to stop by my booth during their shopping, and it was a blast watching people try pastels for the first time. I think many folks had no idea how much fun this medium is until they tried it, and it was wonderful seeing those big smiles break across their faces as they played with the soft pastels and the oil pastels - and more than a few headed straight over to buy their own starter sets of pastels and surfaces!

Saturday was a little slower, and I was delighted to see some of the same people stop back by my booth to let me know they had either taken a pastel workshop or signed up for one, and were having loads of fun. I enjoyed talking with more new folks as well as having additional artist friends come by and visit, and managed to turn out three mini demos Saturday. My booth mate for Saturday and Sunday was one of the regular staff at Jerry's who has helped me with my shopping in the store many times prior, Greg Halloran. Greg was demoing oil paints and created some very intriguing paintings with the help of any visitors to the booth he could persuade to pick up a brush and join him!

After the two long days on Friday and Saturday, Sunday was a little shorter and quite a bit less busy, so I actually had time to do a little shopping of my own, picking up some pastel paper and several frames during my break. But I still got another mini demo done, and even had a pencil artist stop by who had never tried oil pastels but wanted to see if he could do a painting with them. He ended up painting a lovely little snow scene which I had him sign and take home to keep. I don't have a picture of that one, but I did put four of the little minis I did over the weekend on my easel all together for a "group photo".
© 2015 Tammy Kaufman - Clockwise from top left: Quietude, oil pastels on Ampersand Gessobord; Listening, oil pastels on Richeson Premium; Melodious Thoughts, soft pastels on Richeson Premium; The True Nature of Things, soft pastels on Richeson Premium - all 5" x 7"
It was an honor to be part of Art of the Carolinas as a demo artist, and I am forever grateful to Kimberlee Maselli, Ophelia Staton, Sharon DiGiulio and everyone else responsible whose name I may have missed, for providing me this opportunity. I'd also like to extend my gratitude to Jerry's Artarama as well as their vendors who make the event such a success year after year.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Raining Sunshine

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.