Abstract in Oil Pastels

Today, while busing home from downtown Kirkland, I was having trouble focusing on reading “How To Win Friends and Influence People” because a few people near me were talking loudly and I was finding it distracting. So I put in my earbuds and turned on my Zune, something I rarely do because I’m usually reading and I can’t do both at once. Now, Kurt’s dad, Bob, gave me this Zune as a gift one Christmas, but it used to be his. He didn’t erase any of his music first. It’s literally thousands of songs, by a wide variety of artists. I’ve definitely never complained, because just listening to it on shuffle introduces me to music I probably never would have heard otherwise. And I feel like I get to know my father-in-law better by hearing things he chose to listen to and add to his collection. I really should listen to it more often.

While I was walking home from the bus stop, an instrumental song came on, and I was struck with a mental image of a painting I wanted to try, with the song as the background. I’d always wanted to try painting or drawing something with no inspiration or plan other than a song, and tonight seemed like the perfect time. I paused it so I would still have it after I went to the bathroom, but by the time I got to the study and got out some art supplies, the “now playing” screen had reverted back to the main menu. I couldn’t find the song again, and I had no idea what the title or artist was. I was so disappointed. So I resigned myself to applying the same method to the next song that played on shuffle. I hit play.

I wasn’t feeling the first two songs, but settled on “Incredible Love” by Ingrid Michaelson. I started out by closing my eyes and lightly dragging my oil pastels (I couldn’t find any paintbrushes!) across the canvas paper in time with the music, switching colors after a few bars, making bigger strokes and swirls with crescendos and swells in the song. “The Reflex” by Duran Duran came next, and I opened my eyes to add some bold blue polka dots. It just felt right. I was literally doing whatever popped into my head as I heard the music. “Calling All Angels” by Train inspired jagged stripes of orange, red, and yellow. “Darkness” by The Police called for an emphasis on the lazy lines and swirls from the first song, bolding them with the same colors. “Loser” by Beck warranted a determined coloring in of all white spaces left, and “The Chair” by Fleetwood Mac gave me details like red spikes on one of the points at the top, arrows and extra lines on the green swirls, and a little compass rose for some reason. I’ve used oil pastels maybe once or twice and I remember hating it, maybe because I was trying to make an actual picture, maybe a portrait. They don’t do details very well, especially not realism, at least not on such a small canvas. But abstract, that I can do. No one’s expecting it to look like anything. But I like it. I lost myself in it, listening to such different kinds of music and only focusing on the colors and the lines, the fade in and out of shades of the same hue, the contrast between colors and shapes and lines. I want to do more abstracts.

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4 thoughts on “Abstract in Oil Pastels

  1. Wow, what a wonderful creation. Inspiration from random music transformed into the visual space. Keep listening and creating. The instrumental song will play again.

  2. I really like it. I really miss messing with my pastels, and while I usually write to music, at least when it comes to my novel, I think you just made me want to dig out my art supplies and try to get messy.

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