Category Archives: pastels

Line Turns into Shape

"Crystal No 3" - Carraher 2000

Crystal Form No. 3
2000.  Pastel on sandpaper, 7 x 6-3/4 in.

My interest in the mutable relationship of line and shape goes way back – how a line, if it wanders long enough, often creates a shape.  And then can wander away again.  It’s a very basic phenomenon, but it’s slippery nature keeps me intrigued.  It’s one of the reasons I worked with pastels for years, I believe – after all, the pastel is both an instrument of drawing, and of painting – of line, and of shape.  The piece above is typical of the way I worked with pastel for years, as is this one:

"Crystal No 4" - Carraher 2000

Crystal Form No. 4
2000.  Pastel on sandpaper, 7 x 6-5/8 in.

At the time I would apply the pastel to the sandpaper by scumbling and then smoothing the powdered pigment to varying degrees with a brush.  The line itself, in these examples, was painstakingly recreated with pastel pencil or charcoal from an original pencil sketch.  The nuances of the surface I was able to create, as well as line-becoming-shape-becoming line, kept me beguiled.  Still does.  The works I do now look different, but the evidence of the fascination is still in there.

2020 Suite

"2020 Suite No. 1" - Carraher 2020

2020 Suite No. 1
2020.  Acrylic and ink on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

I’ve been working at a relatively rapid clip these last few months, with several pieces usually in process at once.  I’ve been frankly voracious in my need to make things happen in the studio, almost like needing a drug high – not surprising, I suppose, considering the sense of futility that drains so much of our lives at this time.

Having multiple pieces in progress contrasts with how I worked for many years in pastel.  In that medium I most often worked with the piece flat on the table, applylng the pastel with a brush, and due to the fragility of the surface I needed to keep a lot of clear space around.  So there wasn’t much room to have more than one thing going on at once.  These pieces also tended to take more time in the planning and preparation than the execution.  Here is an example from 2016, from the Additional Dimensions series which derived from gesture drawings of deteriorating homesteads in my neighborhood:

"Three Walls" - Carraher2016

Three Walls
2016.  Pastel on sandpaper, 12 x 22 in.

Clearly my work now often skips that planning and preparation stage, as I increasingly prize spontaneity directly on the substrate.  With pastels the spontaneity usually went into the informal gestural sketch from which the painting was developed.  I did draw directly with the pastels at times however – as in this homestead from 2007:

:Blue-Green Cabin" - Carraher 2007

Blue-Green Cabin
2007.  Pastel on paper, 18 x 24 in.

…or this one from the same year:

"Desert Gothic" - Carraher 2007

Desert Gothic
2007.  Pastel and charcoal on paper, 22-1/4 x 13-1/2 in.

Those seem like idyllic times, now, but of course they weren’t.  But they were easier.  They were easier.