Don’t Finish That Drawing—It’s Perfect Right Now

10 Nov 2013

I don't think any of you know how often I brag about you and the great work you show off in the Artist Daily Member Gallery. Recently I had several colleagues looking over my shoulder at the computer screen as I showed them the pastel drawings of Eileen Healy, who has posted several works that caught my eye, and I wanted to share her work, thoughts, and pastel painting methods with you.

Frank by Eileen Healy, pastel drawing.
Frank by Eileen Healy, pastel drawing.

Artist Daily: What are your first memories of making art? Do you remember your first drawing or painting?

Eileen Healy: I don't remember my first drawing but I remember being a very eager artist in secondary school, drawing other students at their desks when I should've been paying attention to the teacher. I guess that's why I was never good at math, English, geography, history, biology...

AD: Are you a full-time artist?

EH: In the sense that I have a studio and I work most days. I'm also a working musician and drawing teacher.

AD: Your figural drawings often feature understated but engaging compositions or arrangements and an interesting use of negative space. How do you arrive at compositions that work well?

EH: I never plan a pose before a session. Though this can add a sense of spontaneity, it can be a hindrance when working against the clock when you have to pay a model. As a result I make decisions quickly. A strong sense of composition seems to come naturally to me. I think this has helped drawings I've done in my sketchbooks. These are not plans for paintings as much as small-scale graphite works in their own right. When I get 'blocked' I look at these and they help me through and possibly influence a bigger work. Space plays a very important part in my compositions. I dislike cluttered or busy work and my portraits are very direct with very little or no background. I maximize the format often with the figure, focusing on interesting angles and foreshortening.

Imna by Eileen Healy, graphite drawing.
Imna by Eileen Healy, graphite drawing.
Louise by Eileen Healy, pastel drawing.
Louise by Eileen Healy, pastel drawing.
AD: You seem fearless in your use of color in your pastel drawings. Talk to me about that.

Erin by Eileen Healy, pastel drawing.
Erin by Eileen Healy, pastel drawing.
EH: Working fearlessly with color in pastel is something I've developed after many years of struggling with the medium. When I first started, I only used two colors on tinted paper, gradually introducing more colors and trying out different colored paper. I mostly work on colored paper, as it's very effective when accentuating highlights. I have also done pastel on white, which I enjoy, but it is more difficult. Light influences color, which determines my color range. Also a model's own skin color, especially in the shadows, affects the work. Using a spotlight will create very rich colors in the shadowed areas, often with deep blues and purples. I use small square Conté crayons, not thick rounded ones as I find these hard to control and messy.

AD: What pastel lessons are particularly important in your process?

EH: Never lean too hard on your pencil or chalk unless you know what your doing. I'm a line person so I rely heavily on this, varying the quality/thickness of line as I work. This is dictated by the light source and its influence on edges. I don't have a set process. Sometimes I work from the darkest parts to the lightest, leaving the highlights 'til last. There's always a good buzz from that. I encourage my students to do the same and to make compositional decisions before putting pencil to paper. Work lightly at first. Measure up. Use constructions lines!

AD: Are there any great resources or ideas for working that you can share?

EH: Anytime I go abroad I try to source a life drawing session. I've done ones in San Francisco and last year on a residency in New York I took part in many. It's good to work in another environment outside the studio in a group and to mess around with materials without the pressure of model cost. It gave me some great ideas and influenced new work.

Looking at Eileen's work, I get a real sense that she holds her drawings as something quite meaningful and dear to her. But maybe that is what they evoke in me—and that is the power of drawing! I want my pastel drawings to have the same power to pull out reactions from others. I'm a long ways away, but our Pastel Gift Guide has so many resources that I've been looking for, from fundamental refreshers on pastel techniques to learning the language of pastel and how to use it, to looking at artists past and present who have done amazing pastel drawings. It is truly an "all-in-one" guide for me. Enjoy!

 

 


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Comments

Blackbird_61 wrote
on 11 Nov 2013 9:29 AM

Hi Courtney,

Thanks for this piece, very nice. It really resonates with me. Many readers will be familiar with Lee Hammonds excellent books; which had a 4 Panel format showing a drawing in various steps of its evolution.

Personally I always found the 3rd Panel the best, it just resonated with my own style and eye. A drawing can be unabashedly a drawing and not a faux photo, IMHO. BB.

ralphheather wrote
on 11 Nov 2013 10:29 AM

Hi Courtney, just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful email series of art insights. I've been reading every one for a couple of years and always find myself motivated afterwards.