Newberry, Central Coast Cluster, pastel

Keeping Sane

Newberry, Central Coast Cluster, 2020, pastel, 13x18"
Newberry, Central Coast Cluster, 2020, pastel, 13×18″

The choice of subject for plein air comes about, for me, by not looking for the interesting object but looking for the combo of light, shadow, and/or color. Best when there is all three. It is disappointing to pick and paint a wonderful subject that doesn’t have great light effects–it is in vain to arbitrarily give it special effects. This clump of tall bushes and their cast shadow was a powerful foil to atmospheric blues and greens. If you look close, you’ll see red lines inside the shadows, the red was my composing color — I picked it because it would be easy to see among the developing greens.

This is one of several pastels I drew in Australia visiting my niece, Emily. She generously took time off work to show me the sites of Central Coast. The coast is a complex weaving of bays and peninsulas, which give the feeling of dotted islands. My feelings were mostly absorbing the beauty and catching up with my niece, and knowing I would channel that energy into the art. A feeling that everything is right with the world.

Decades ago I was painting 16 hours a day on a complex painting, that took 6 months — I wondered if this obsession was psychologically dangerous. I didn’t feel bad or anything but it was so intense, and I didn’t want insanity to sneak up on me. But I did notice that in solving every painting problem I was referencing real life, like in this pastel — I was connected to exceptionally close observation of the outside world. When I realized that, instead of being worried about the intensity I embraced it 100% — and have not regretted a second since then.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 10/8/2020

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