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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Benefits of an Unorganized Palette

'Rich Silence'             8x10            pastel        ©Karen Margulis
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It looked like someone had dumped out my pastels.  I looked down at the messy pile of pastels I have been working with lately and wondered what on earth had happened.  I am usually very organized with my pastels keeping them in a somewhat orderly arrangement by color and value. I usually choose the pastels I am working with and line them up neatly on a butcher tray.

But the past few months I have gone astray. I have been working from a big messy pile of random pastels.  And I am enjoying every minute! 

My Energizing pile of pastels
It reminds me of something I heard Albert Handell say at the very first workshop I ever attended. I was so new at painting and pastels that a lot of what he said didn't click until years later including this.  In the workshop he talked about the importance of having an organized box of pastels. He showed us the Heilman box and how to organize our pastels by color and value.   I embraced this idea (and bought the Heilman box) and it was one of the best things I ever did for my art. I highly recommend it too.

But the funny thing I remember is that Albert didn't work from a neat organized box. In fact it was a box full of pastels much like my messy pile if memory serves me correctly.  And he said an interesting thing. He liked working from the unorganized box so his eyes wouldn't get sleepy. That's what I wrote down. I had no idea what he meant.  How could you find the color or value you needed in that mess!?

I get it now! My messy pile has been energizing.  I have to work at finding colors that will work in the painting. I find I make unexpected choices this way. In my organized box I know where everything is and I often tend to make the same choices over and over. I choose my best friends to play with!

In a messy box I might see a color that I have overlooked or I might need to dig around for the right value and choose a value that works but not the color I would have ordinarily chosen.  Working from a messy box keeps me on my toes and keeps me from being lazy with my palette choices.   I get it now.

detail from today's painting
I probably will clean up my box and start my pile over again. But it was a fun way to work.  I got to thinking that as pastel artists we go through a sort of bell curve.  We start out collecting pastels and they are unorganized and in many boxes. Then someone tells us we need to get them all together and organize them by color and value ( a must do in my opinion) So we get a box and get organized. Then we get to a certain point where we get so comfortable with our box of colors that we need something to shake us up and get us out of the box! (and our same old color choices)  And just maybe a messy pile will be energizing for a change of pace!


Marian Fortunati said...

It's always good to change things up a bit. To learn a new technique, to try a new color...

Growth is never okay ... rarely.... a straight line.

Karen said...

Great point Marian. Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Interesting detail shot. Thanks for the freedom to mix it up a bit. I find myself getting uptight over where they belong in the color/value assortment. Does the abililty to identify the values improve with use?

Karen said...

Thanks Patti, The ability to see value does improve with time and practice and I believe it does help to keep them arranged by color and value as it will help you see value more clearly. The best practice of all is putting them back in the right place!!
Once you are confident in your ability to judge value then it can be liberating to mix it up!

angela j simpson said...

I love this painting!