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Jill Foster - CPPS Founder

What made you choose pastels as a medium?

I tried oils and watercolors without much success, so I really wasn't expecting much from pastels either when I took an afternoon OLLI class. But to my surprise, I was really enthusiastic about using them even though I only had a small box of student grade pastels and some flimsy paper with no tooth. I think I felt like I could progress with the pastels since they felt familiar in my hand, much like a crayon, and I had loved making art with my crayons when I was young.

How long have you been using pastels?

I started using pastels when I took my first class at the Art Alliance with Linda Schimmel as my teacher. That would've been in the early 2000s. I can't really remember an exact date.

What are your favorite subjects to paint?

I used to paint a lot of landscapes. In recent years, I've been painting more flowers and fruits/vegetables. I like colorful subjects and flowers lend themselves to that. I never run out of subjects to paint!

How has your practice changed over time?

I used to get up at 6 am and paint for several hours in the morning. As I've grown older, I've pared that down to an hour or so and I usually start when the light is better rather than using artificial light.

Being older has also limited my plein air painting. I very seldom go out in the field to paint anymore. Too much stuff to lug around and set up and the uneven terrain is harder for me to negotiate.

What is the best art related advice you’ve been given?

I don't know if this is specifically art related, but the best advice was really something that I read early in my pastel career: The advice was to 'never be afraid to be a beginner'. I think sometimes we adults are embarrassed when we make mistakes or draw poorly and soon give up because we feel that we should be doing better just because we're grown up. But if we just say to ourselves that everything has a beginning, and one only gets better by doing and practicing, a small miracle does happen and one does improve and get better.

What do you wish you’d have known from the beginning, but took years to learn?

Being that I had no art background whatsoever, I really was looking for someone to help me with the basics. I think most instructors assumed that I knew some art, so told me to just start painting and that really wasn't very helpful. I bought a lot of books about pastels and pastel painting and from those I learned about composition, value, etc.

Where do you find inspiration?

Sometimes I'm not inspired at all, but I still paint. I think inspiration comes more readily when a person is already engaged in the "doing". Ideas seem to stream from one small idea to the next and onto the next and so forth.

When is your favorite time of day to create?

Morning light is best for me. I do have full-spectrum lights in my studio, but I rarely paint in the evening anymore.

How do you develop your art skills?

I've been developing my skills by just doing the work. By that I mean reading widely about art & art techniques, subscribing to several art magazines to keep current with the art scene, and subscribing to a couple of Patreon sites with instructors whose style and interests parallel mine to some degree.

How do you define success as an artist?

My definition of success is seeing my improvement and feeling the ease at which I now apply the pastel. In the beginning I was very heavy-handed, a carryover from my crayon days, I suspect. :)

Favorite surface to paint on?

I like Art Spectrum both the warm and the cool sanded papers. They have a nice texture/tooth and I like the fact that they are different colors. I have used Uart 400 and 500 a lot and like it, except for its tendency to curl. Lately I've been painting on LuxArchival and I think it is my new favorite surface. The surface is very similar to the Rtistx board that I fell in love with but is no longer available. I have made my own surfaces using pumice and gesso, but no longer do so unless I want to paint over something to reuse.


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