Color can assist in facilitating some very basic human needs. Color can identify and specify necessary objects for survival and/or enjoyment. It can stimulate and work synergistically with all the senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Color can mark territory and manage personal space; symbolize abstract concepts and thoughts; recall another time or space. COlor provides for expressed fantasy and wish-fulfillment. It can create illusions and ambience. Color give us the opportunity to emphasize or camouflage figures or objects;
enhance self-image and personal esteem; and produce an aesthetic response. Most important, the use and arrangement of color enable us to create beauty and harmony. It give us an ability to express our personal taste, by doing so, provide us with a sense of accomplishment. From studio animator to therapist, my goal has always been for art to be an expression which invokes emotion. This provides a visual experience for the veiwer that promotes storytelling.
It’s easy to overlook the large role colors play in our daily lives. They influence our mood and decisions, they can attract or repel attention and we designate and organize things based on their hue.
Art is therapeutic in so many ways and when we bring color to the forefront, life begins.
Earth pigments are naturally occurring minerals, many times - iron oxides, that people have used for thousands of years for natural color. These natural pigments are found in rocks and soils around the world, where different combinations of minerals create vibrant colors that are unique to the region. Some earth pigments are roasted in order to intensify their color. Earth pigments include ochers, sienna, and umbers. I have found that these pigments produce soft, earthy hues that create a uniquely vibrant, natural presence within any piece. Color..... straight from nature.
The ochers come from naturally tinted clay containing mineral oxides. Among the oldest pigments known, ochers have been used for thousands of years for painting, body decoration, ceremonial practices, and the preservation of animals skins. Available in a range of yellows, golds, and reds.
Sienna is a form of limonite clay. The pigment was first used in Italy in prehistoric times. The unique color is derived from ferric oxides. The name refers to Sienna, Italy, where the pigment was originally extracted. Today the pigment is found in Tuscany, Sardinia, Corsica, and Germany (in Bavaria, Palatinate and the Harz Mountains). Sienna comes in a rich, earthy red.
A clay pigment that contains iron and manganese oxides is known as Umber. The name is said to be derived from the Latin word umbra (shadow) or from the mountainous Italian region of Umbria, where umber was originally extracted. Unearthed umbers are harvested from Italy, Ardennes, and the island of Cyprus. Umber is darker in color than ochers and sienna. Colors range from cream to brown, depending on the ratio of iron and manganese compounds.
Mineral pigments are pigments that are created by combining and heating naturally occurring elements. They include ultramarine and spinel pigments. Historically, ultramarines were derived from the precious stone lapus lazuli. During the Renaissance, the price of this rare pigment exceeded the cost of gold, and artists often reserved it for the robes of Christ and the Virgin. Used to by Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Raphael, Europeans called the expensive imported pigment “ultramarine,” which means “over the sea.” In 1824, the French Societé d'Encouragement offered a prize of six thousand francs to anyone who could produce a synthetic variety of the pigment. In 1828, the prize was awarded to Jean Baptiste Guimet who submitted a process he had secretly developed. Today, ultramarine is made by heating soda, clay, and sulfur. Use ultramarine pigments to create deep blues and violets that are fit for a work of art.
And finally there is spinel. The word “spinel” is thought to come from the ancient Greek word for “spark” (spinos). Spinels are hard, crystalline minerals of volcanic source. Pure spinels are colorless. Naturally colorful spinels are extremely rare, and are coveted gemstones. Color occurs when spinel is combined with mineral impurities inside a volcanco. The famous Black Prince’s Ruby, which adorns the Imperial State Crown of England, is actually a rare red spinel. Bold and vivid, the Unearthed spinel colors are created by exchanging certain ions in the minerals by heating and combining them with other minerals.
Spinel pigments provide vibrant colors with spark. Available in yellow, orange, green, turquoise, and blue.
Art As Therapy
Art comes in many different forms, including music, photography, writing, sculpting, sewing, drawing, acting, gardening, painting, cooking, dancing, etc. With all the different types of art, art can mean something unique to everyone! Art excites or inspires a person’s senses, imagination, and creativity. As well, art can help an individual improve his/her physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Therefore, art is important because it allows people to express themselves and have an “outlet.”
What Is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a mental health profession. It combines art and therapy in order to help adults and children heal, communicate, and improve their lives overall. It focuses on the creative process as a way to help people deal with different emotions and situations. Through art, they can work on reducing stress, increasing self-awareness, and communicating messages in a unique, hands-on way.
It is a set of standards and techniques to try to recognize the hidden messages communicated through art in order to help assess and treat problems, such as issues with relationships, substances, trauma, disabilities, illnesses, and anxiety. Very often my goals as a therapist will focus on the creative expression in developing the imagination, communication and socialization skills. These are all areas that are being worked on in school, home and other therapies. However, sometimes art can simple be used in a more non-directed way and purely allow an individual to experience the sensory elements of the materials.
In the field, using the model of “Art as Therapy”, there is a process that allows individuals to experience the creative aspect with little direction. This then allows them to gain insight and open up to their feelings in their own time. However, with the population of Autism, I see the “Art as Therapy” model more about the intrinsic sensory processes and believe that it can benefit the child that needs to “just have fun” with the creative activities. Having fun and engaging in this experience can then ultimately regulate the senses, emotions and behaviors.
Canvas As A Support
The single most important consideration- at least for me - when selecting surfaces for pastels, is tooth and texture. Tooth refers to the tiny bumps and valleys that you can feel and see. For example, a smooth paper has little to no tooth. This is vital because unlike other media pastel particles need tooth and texture to attached to or they will fall right off. Tooth is also needed to grip the pigment from the. Without it, you'll find it hard to apply a lot of color.
Paper is generally the best support for pastels, but not one that I choose to use. As long as a surface has sufficient tooth and can survive some rubbing and blending, you will be successful. So once these requirements have been met you can have quite a bit of fun experimenting.
The degree of tooth can also affect certain types of techniques, such as layering, detail work, and blending. The amount of tooth determines how many layers of pastel can be applied. If the tooth is shallow it may be filled by a single layer of pastel and when you try to add another layer on top, there won't be any tooth left for it to grip.
When deciding on the degree of tooth or texture you want for your surface, you should also think about how detailed or textured your finished artwork will be. If you plan on doing precise details with hard lines and edges, you might consider a surface with less tooth. I realize that I contradict this rule but the explanation is simple. I use India and Henna throughout the building of a piece. And yes… I prefer to refer to what I do to “building” rather than “creating”.
If you know you're going to be blending colors, most artist will tell you that from their experiences you should avoid very rough textures because they will inhibit blending. I do not find this to be true. In fact, in my experience it is merely the softness and quality of your pastels that dictates. Since I make my own, I have complete control.
When it comes to finding the right texture or degree of tooth for your style, just remember to find the right balance. Tooth for the pastels to grip but not so rough that you find you're restricted. And then there is always a way to add texture to paper (or any support) you choose by priming it with gesso mixed with sand, or using something like Golden Pastel Ground. This is useful for artists who like to create their own personal textures. If you're a beginner, don't worry about this. There are plenty of textured products available commercially.
Now I use canvas. Canvas has the required texture to hold pastels so it's a worthy surface, especially if you want to paint larger pieces. You can buy pre-stretched, canvas boards, canvas rolls, or canvas pads. These products are much more expensive than paper, especially if you choose top quality linen. Or…you can do what I do and recycle. My canvas comes from the discard at the local Office Depot.
Be cautious when buying pre-primed canvas because the tooth of the weave may be reduced by the gesso. This results in a smooth surface not particularly suited to pastels.
Why Make My Own?
I've been using pastels on and off for more than 35 years. The beauty of the medium increases and overwhelms me each time I develop a new technique within a new image. Along the way, I have strived to learn all I can about all the technical aspects of pastel, as well as the historical. My driving force was to remain free from any toxic nature due to an auto-immune disorder, followed by being in complete control of the colors.
When I first became interested in pastel making, there wasn't much information available, so I began a long process of trial and error that continues today. Fortunately, my kitchen made pastels have become something I would choose over any other. To date, my palette consists of around 92 colors.
Why make my own?
The strength of pastel as a painting medium is its rich, unsurpassed color. For an artist of any type, color is critical. For me….absolutely essential to my success in my own mind. When I received my first gift set of 100 pastels, I quickly set to work. Within a short period of time, a pattern became noticeable as I burned through my pastels. About a third of the pastels I used very heavily, and they were beginning to disappear. Another third received much less use, and the remaining third I had never used! In speaking to other pastel artists, I found this pattern was common.
So we attack this problem using several strategies. We either buy many sets to build up an impressive and expensive array of colors, or we mix and match different brands, taking advantage of strengths in each manufacturer's palette.
I went in another direction. Why not design my own palette where every stick was a color I would use and enjoy, and the pastels themselves had the qualities I wanted to best express my style of painting? In addition to this, why not be completely organic, natural, green, and healthy?
Much of what I do is very draining to the soul. It is my profession by choice to help others learn to express their anxieties, fears, and destructive natures. With therapy, I reverse the anxieties to pleasures, fears to joys and destructive to constructive. I do this with art in my practice of Orthomolecular Medicine.
Fo myself, it is a journey that must always be safe and toxin free due to an auto immune disorder. Being a three time cancer survivor misdiagnosed as a child with Type One Diabetes, I have had a rough go of it all. I am the reason I am a physician. I am artist sheerly by natural talent.
I have decided to start this blog with the encouragement of creative friends. I do not find what I do to be of any unique nature but only out of necessity. But....many of you out there have questions and so I have set up a forum for you to ask unencumbered by formalities or rules of a page. I will do my best to answer them and... my plan is to open up my studio to you by sharing techniques and processes along the way.
So here is to the next posting...fire away with your questions...
Just a Shrink doing her own therapy.