Pastel Tense

My parents are in the process of clearing out the den.  Many things have been dragged out of obscurity, tattered objects blinking in their homely dust.  Recently, my mother brought me something which seemed destined to live out its days melting in an ignored closet:  my box of Grumbacher pastels.

Clearly, this assortment of flavors suffered during its banishment.  The box itself had been demeaned by mold – you could barely see my pencil scribbles, as I was trying to work out some unknown equation which my mind apparently could not grasp merely by discussing the matter with itself.  The tape crackled gallantly, as it tried to mask the split corners.

The colors themselves were faded; crumbling from decades of misuse.  I must have been harsh when using them – for the most part they are broken; the stubs lost within wrappers, worn down by an overzealous, confused hand.

I can, in fact, recall the last time I used these pastels – it was 31 years ago.  Now it is hateful to admit that I was in college three decades ago, but there it is and that's how it was.  I was in one of my drawing classes, and our assignment was to create a poster – a work of art that can communicate a message distantly, not secretly.  A simple enough thing, but sometimes these are the most difficult to visualize.  Too many ideas, a surfeit of opportunities, can be blinding.

I bought a single, large swatch of paper (possibly 28" x 40") – thick and textured, ready to drink in the nourishment offered by color fueled by imagination and muscle.  I had decided that my poster would be an outsized invitation/announcement.  That would give me an excuse for fancy, for decoration, for all kinds of attractive inaccuracies.

I began by covering the background in swirling currents of green, which parted to make way for some pseudo-gothic lettering,  And on each side of that island of verbage was a lovely lady, dressed like a barefoot princess, wearing a ragged skirt of blue, green and yellow, and dancing the Roger de Coverley.

I worked on this from 10PM to 6AM.  To work such hours was extravagant, impulsive, invigorating.  I had never done such a thing.  To defy sleep, and welcome the dawn:  my fingers tipped with the same colors as the sky.  It was so exciting, to have worked hard, all through the planet's nighttime changes – changes I would ordinarially have slept through.

It was new – to be happily driven by creativity through dark, through light, until the thing was finished.  And it is a cherished memory.

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10 responses to “Pastel Tense

  1. Fabulous. I love that flow you get when you're working on something creative and time just melts away.

  2. wow, that is beautiful! I always thought pastels were so cool. Are they the same thing as (forgive my spelling I've never seen it spelled so I'm going phonetic) cray-pahs?
    I just noticed the "guitar oil pastel" label!!

  3. "all through the planet's nighttime changes – changes I would ordinarially have slept through."

  4. Loverly! What a treasure!

  5. wow. do we hear pastels and paper beckoning you, your fingertips, your soul again? then again, then again?

  6. [هذا هو الحكم]

  7. I especially like the part about your fingertips and the dawn colors…

  8. Suga' – thank you; I haven't thought about those pastels and the lovely ladies in years.
    Jando – it was magic, and it was something I didn't expect to find during my collegiate years.
    Ms. Pants – Grumbacher and Craypas both make oil pastels. I think Grumbacher is the older company. And how did that Guitar pastel get in there?
    emily – "I use mostly acrylics and my fingers" I'm such a terrible painter, and I think one reason is that I feel that there is such a Distance between my hand and the color. With pastels, I feel closer to the source, more in control.
    DKN – Thanks! I shudder to think where the poster itself is hidden. I have no idea where it is.
    Waterbaby – Right now I'm working with pen and ink – pastel's usurpers. But I do feel a kind of itch to try them out again.
    Beauty – Thank you – I can't draw people, but this lady had just about the most successful face I had ever attempted. It's almost in proportion!
    e2c – My favorite line too; it was the kind that just jumps into your head without thought and without planning.

  9. A wonderful testament to the creativity that is YOU, Aubrey. It's everywhere, how I envy you! My sister is an artist and works exclusively in pastels. She'll look at a sky and go, Oh, that's Prussian blue. Or anything–she can name to color of her pastel which matches. Her color memory is extraordinary.Maybe it's time for you to re-united your fingers to the page.

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