Pastel still life can tell a story, tooPublished 3:16pm Monday, May 13, 2013
It’s conceivable three artists could have been “Caught in the Act” of building a fire to keep warm, since it was in the 40s Saturday for Dogwood Fine Arts Festival’s free visual arts event.
At least rain held off until afternoon. And the cold spurred sneak-peeking inside the new Dowagiac Area History Museum, which was dedicated Monday night.
Volunteers bundled in parkas, gloves and scarves as they tried to batten down literature to keep it from blowing away.
Anne Corlett started her still life on a scratchy red board, like sandpaper, from a detailed drawing that serves more as a jumping-off point than a literal guide.
Though she covered over most of the “distracting” red, it informs the progression as she connects different-colored elements she plotted like coordinates on a map.
“I look for my darkest dark, which is this flower,” she said, “and my lightest light, in the cup. I try to put those in first to give me points of balance. When I feel like I’m losing it, I always go back to the drawing.”
Corlett used soft pastels.
“There are hard pastels, like chalk,” she said. “Then there is an oily pastel with a binder in it. I like soft because it gives you gorgeous colors. You get good detail with hard, but I just use charcoal for definition. Knowing when you’re done is a really hard thing to know,” except May 11 was confined to a three-hour time limit, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“The muffin from a nearby table “provides an interesting contrast,” Corlett said. “There’s a story in it. I just did a big oil painting that was the traditional still life with flowers and candlesticks — and I put a plastic frog in it. Now there’s a story. I don’t know what the story is, but the viewer will think of their own.
“I used to do super detailed vegetables for about two years. It was all about the tension between one vegetable either touching or not touching. That had a lot to do with tension that was in my life because I was not happily married. It told a huge story only I would know, though a viewer might feel the tension. Pieces of fruit are relationship metaphors, too, if you have two apples touching and a pear that isn’t.”
Corlett has a freshman daughter “who should be in art school, but she’s kind of afraid to make that kind of commitment to art. Her dad’s a dentist. He’s very practical, so she’s torn. I decided I wanted to be an artist in high school. My grandmother was a painter. My kids grew up in Saugatuck. My son graduated from U of M a year and a half ago. He was angry because he felt like he was at a disadvantage coming from such a little town. Someday, he’ll understand why it was so nice to grow up by Lake Michigan. You never know where your passion’s going to take you.”