Teaching is a wonderful way to learn more about your own work. My students ask questions that make me think more comprehensively about my methods, directions, compositional choices, and my inspirations.
When I started "Chicory" as a demonstration for my pastel students, I was in the midst of a very busy period. The day prior to class, I looked at my photographic references, saw an image of a field, and chose it for my painting. In most cases, I give a great deal of thought to my subject before making a commitment to embark on artwork. However, with my tight schedule, I didn't do my usual soul-searching. I took a look at the photograph, made a sketch, got the sketch on my Uart pastel paper in preparation for my demonstration, and called it a day.
In the middle of the demonstration, I was busted when one of my students asked what drew me to this particular photographic reference. I was honest in my answer when I responded that I really hadn't given it my usual thought. Then the rumination began. While working on the painting, I remembered why I was moved by the photographic reference. The shot was taken near Woodstock, Virginia while I was teaching a workshop at Orkney Springs. When I looked at the field before me, my heart skipped a beat as I saw chicory blossoming everywhere. This field was not cultivated, and the chicory was blooming freely. While making this painting, I was able to recall the freedom that I felt on that sunny day as well.
I recommend that students use photographs that they have taken for many reasons. One reason is this: it's only possible to deeply recognize what interests you in a location if you have personally experienced that place. So, during a cold February day, chicory was flourishing in my studio.
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