Saturday, June 30, 2012

I didn't lose anything... the Waldo Canyon Fire.  I am safe, my family is safe, no material possessions or homes have been lost, for me and mine.  We are so, so blessed.

You may have heard about it on the news.  Last Tuesday, June 26, 2012, the wildfire that had been burning outside of Colorado Springs decided to jump right outta Queen's Canyon, and into a neighborhood called Mountain Shadows.

I remember sometime in the middle '80's, when Mountain Shadows was the location of the annual Parade of Homes.  We went, my family and I, and ooo-ed and ahh-ed at the posh living quarters that were being shown off.  It was considered a far outskirt of Colorado Springs, unincorporated at that point, I imagine.  I remember begging my mom, please, puh-leeeeze, let us live here, in one of these beautiful, perfect homes.  I didn't understand then that we couldn't afford it - all I knew is that I had walked into a real-life Barbie dream home (well, mountain chalet, at least).  My, how I and my little town have grown.

But that subdivision has been decimated.  Destroyed.  Devastated.  There aren't enough of, or the right kind of, words, to describe the level of destruction there.  354 homes, gone.  Burned down to the ground.  It's just, well, honestly, when I see the pictures of it and the flyovers, I'm speechless.  I know it's cliche, but it's true - it's like a horrific war movie, only no, this is real, this really happened.  It's overwhelming.

And 2 people are gone.  No one knows right now why, why they were in their home when the evacuations went out, why they didn't leave, why they didn't or couldn't get out.  I don't know who they are - I'm sure that information won't be released for weeks - but the family knows.  And my heart is floating somewhere out there, seeking them out, wishing I could say or do anything that would lighten the burden for them, the pain they feel.

It's seeking out the policeman or policewoman that had to track that family down, in all the chaos of the evacuations, to tell them the news.  It's seeking out the firefighters, who faced an unconquerable monster, who stood as David against 1000 Goliaths, hoping that everyone had gotten out alright, only to find out that no, for 2 people, they didn't.  It continues to seek out those same firefighters, and Army men, and Guardsmen, and Air Force personnel, and everyone who has come to help, who refuse to succumb to grief, for now, just for now, so that they can continue to protect us.

And it's seeking out the people that are still under mandatory evacuation, who are tired, frustrated, and lost right now, because the future of their home, their rock, is still uncertain.  They are drifters at the moment, and completely at the mercy of the fire.  That's a horrible place to be.

My heart is flying all over this city of mine, with love, with grief, with tears, with complete and utter gratitude.

I did an art journal page about this.  It's not good art, but somehow, painting homes, painting trees, painting fire, painting smoke, it helped a little.  Next, I will paint rain, and pray that it will wash over us all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm back again - Oil Pastel Review

So, as I said in my last post (over a year ago - whoa!), I've been working more on art, and less on product comparisons.  I've finally gotten brave with sharing my art, over on Flickr, and with various mixed-media art groups I'm a part of - like The Sisterhood of the Book (Effy Wild's Book of Days program).  I've even expanded out of my art journal, and onto canvas.  

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day, and she suggested that if folks are wanting to share their stuff, they might as well get a blog.  And I realized "Hey!  I already have a blog!  That's what I should be doing!".  So, here I am, ready, finally, to share my art and process and the whole she-bang, with all of you.

But first, I've got to do a product review.  I mean, I have to - it's been waiting to spill out of me for days.  I want to talk about oil pastels.

Now, as a disclaimer, I am not an artist who knows the ins and outs of oil pastels.  In fact, I had some for a long time, and had no idea what to do with them.  Yes, they're pretty and smooshy, but in art journals, you can't write over them (unless you use a Sharpie Poster Paint pen - Oil-Based - but that's another post).  

Oh ho, but then along came Rhomany, and her live UStream class, about using oil pastels as a final layer of color in portraits.  And all I can say is "LOVE!!".  I am smitten with them, and how blendy and smooth the finished product turns out.  I mean, just look at how smooth my blue woman came out:

So, I wanted to share with you all a little test I did of the different oil pastel brands I have, and give you a rundown of what I think.  In case you want to try Rhomany's method.  And I think you do - yes, yes, you do.

Here's the image of each of the oil pastels I ran a test on.  I scribbled over the swatch area, and then on the right side, blended it out with my finger, to show you the smushability (is that even a word?)  I did them all in peach flesh tones, because I only have one Sennelier oil pastel, and it's a peachy flesh tone.  Trust me, if you've seen how much Sennelier's are, you'd only buy one at a time, too (mine was $3.50 for 2 inches of oil pastel).

1.  Sennelier - These are the creme de la creme of oil pastels.  Creamy, ultra-blendable, rich pigment.  Luscious to work with.  However, super expensive.

2.  Crayola's Portfolio Water-Soluable Oil Pastels - Very creamy - about as creamy as the Sennelier.  As you can see, not as pigmented as the Sennelier, but definitely not as expensive.  I got my set at Staples for about $10. They have the added bonus of being water-soluable, so you can go over them with a waterbrush and make a watercolor effect.  However, they only come in 24 colors.

3.  Crayola Oil Pastels - Yup, Crayola.  I am falling in love with Crayola products.  These aren't half-bad, for the set of 28 I got.  I used both the Crayola and the Portfolio oil pastels on my blue girl above, and really like the blendability and color I got from them.  And, they were only $5.50 at my local Michael's.  

4.  Loew-Cornell Oil Pastels - I bought a set of these at Michael's over 10 years ago.  They're still laying down a rich layer of color.  And before you think I'm a total art supply junkie, I bought the Crayola Oil Pastels to replace these.  After 10+ years, they're a bit dry and I have to really smash them down to lay down color.  Makes it hard to work with them.  But, if you can find them, they're inexpensive (I think I paid $10 for the set of 36) and obviously last quite awhile.  If I'd found these, I would have bought them again, instead of the Crayola.

5.  Cray-Pas Junior Artist - Ok, seriously, don't even bother with these.  I bought this set to replace the Loew-Cornell's, too, last year, when I took Pam Carriker's free online mixed-media class for Strathmore (it was a great class, by the way, and she's uploaded all 4 lessons to her YouTube channel - here's lesson 1:  When I went to do her technique of blending the oil pastels, I rubbed these oil pastels right off of the page.  I've tried them on all kinds of paper, with gesso and without, and nope - if you want to blend them, you will rub them off.  About $7 for the set of 50, looks really yummy in the packaging, but they're just horrible.

I know that Cray-Pas makes a set of oil pastels called "Expressionist", that are supposed to be much better.  I just didn't want to invest the $20 in the set of 48 at my local art supply store.

So, my recommendation is, if you want to just try oil pastels, to see if you'll like them, then get a set of the Crayola Portfolio Water-Soluable Oil Pastels.  Personally, I'm using those, in combination with the Crayola regular set, on my portraits.  If you get serious about it, then yes, Sennelier is worth the investment.  I've also heard good things about Pentel oil pastels - that they're about in the same league as the Crayola and Loew-Cornell ones.  There's a wider range of colors with the Pentel ones, too (sold at Hobby Lobby).

So, thanks for stopping by, and I'll be seeing much, much more of you in the future!