Hey! It’s time for another guest post. Whoo hoo! And I was thinking it was time to move to the still life as subject. With this thought came berries in glass and unmade beds….namely the work of this month’s guest, Jeri Greenberg!
I’ve featured Jeri’s work three times in my monthly roundups. The first was a landscape in November 2014, the second was an interesting still life in June 2016 (check it out!), and the third an interior with figure in January 2017. (Just click on the dates to see the work.)
I’m delighted to have Jeri Greenberg as a guest on the HowToPastel blog this month!!
Don’t know her work? Here’s a teaser 🙂
Before handing the blog over to Jeri, here’s a wee bit about her.
Jeri Greenberg Bio
Jeri Greenberg started drawing and painting at a very early age. She went to Art&Design High School and Parsons School of Design, both in New York City. She worked in the fashion industry before moving to advertising. She’s been a working pastelist for over 10 years and a teacher for five. She has two grown sons and a cat named Sophie. You can see more of her work here.
And now, here’s Jeri to tell you about her journey and how she ended up loving still lifes!
What a lovely surprise to be asked by Gail to write this month’s blog post. Like most of you, I read these monthly blogs and gobble up the info I get from other artists.
Being a working artist, for the most part, consists of a lot of alone time, just you reflecting on your drawings, ideas, works in progress, and the dreaded “is it finished?” stage. Through social media, I’ve been introduced to, and become friends with, those I thought of as Masters, Mentors, and Pastel Idols. Yes, I’ve considered myself a groupie to a few of them, pestering them with questions and the like. And without exception, every artist I have encountered has been a kind human being. That’s what I strive for in my classes, and am grateful that the feedback I get is (usually) “you’re so kind and supportive to each of us.” Don’t tell my kids, they’ll roll their eyes.
I came to paint with pastels long after a career as a fashion illustrator for New York newspapers and trade rags like WWD, where you worked quickly and in black, grey and white. Back in the late 70s & early 80s it was a real and marvelous profession, which was phased out when the newspapers found photography a lot cheaper than paying staff illustrators. (The advent of the internet got the last laugh on newspapers I guess.) Out of necessity, I transitioned into advertising. I stopped working full time when I had my second son, tried unsuccessfully to be Martha Stewart with a perfect home, was unhappy, went back to art classes, found wonderful pastel teachers, got happy, and went to work.
Painting figures has always been my first love. My earliest memory I have is drawing and copying the women in the magazines laying around my home. Seeing the Sunday New York Times with their full page department store ads of ladies in their newest fashions lovingly drawn in ink washes or charcoal, I KNEW this was what I wanted to do, needed to do. And you could do it as a job? Holy Smokes! Figure drawing was then and is still my comfort zone.
Still Life Painting
So, how did I end up not only painting still lifes but loving them? Well, they are portable for the most part, they usually do what you want, and sometimes you can “eat your models” as my husband teases.
But truly, I love making the ”ordinary EXTRAordinary.” It may seem strange to some but I find personalities in the pieces I use for my setups. I think my apples talk to each other. I see stories in the layouts, ie “what happened here?” “what is going on?” “who’s in charge of this gathering?”
Pastels have given me a medium that works with my sense of urgency. Many times I know right away if what I see in my imagination is actually working on the paper. (I am my hardest critic.) My work is obviously very far from photorealism, as there is no way I could sit and paint every little detail and nuance. My brain doesn’t work that way. I love big mark-making. I love seeing the artist’s hand on the paper and I hope viewers of my work enjoy that as well. Most times I work my pastels larger than an area should be and then go back and cut out what I feel is extraneous, like a sculptor removing what’s unnecessary.
I found that I like exploring new ways to see the same item. I guess the painting that started the real still life journey for me was Lemons In A Green Bowl. My husband and older son and I were having breakfast in a restaurant “down the shore” in New Jersey. We were having a conversation that wasn’t going as planned. I zoned out and was playing with the “still life” of the lemons that came with my tea. I took a photo of it with my brand-y new iPhone. It later became the first still life painting I entered into competitions and won awards for, and it sold right away to the owners of the restaurant. I subsequently painted that scene a few more times, each time a bit differently. The ”last” version is in a gallery in North Carolina now.
The next still life that meant something to me, in terms of moving me forward in my career and vision, was Berries In A Glass. That painting exploded out of me for some reason. It was shown at IAPS, PSA, and other important shows. It sort of re-launched the teaching aspect of my career, as so many people wanted to come to a demo of me painting glass. I still have no idea why and how this painting happened. I’m just happy it did. I wouldn’t sell it for a long time, though this year I finally decided to let it go. It was time.
I painted a few more versions of glass with berries, or cherries, or some other fruit. Each one makes me happy. If I stop to think about why, it might ruin it for me, so I just let it be. Why do I love painting apples or lemons? They don’t have faces, so they can’t have personalities? But I think they do. I think each little mark or quirk on them makes them unique and different. I used to think being different was a negative. Now I love being different. Different is special. By the way, it took years for me to get to that sentence.
I don’t consider myself a floral painter.There are sooooo many artists who paint flowers that can stop me in my tracks. When I do paint flowers, I try to paint them as almost secondary to the vase and especially to the shadows that they cast. Shadows and negative space are another passion of mine. My painting Glass and Shadows proves that point. The word flower isn’t even in the title!
I’ve painted ribbons, bows, boxes wrapped in bows. Each one is a bit different. Each one has its purpose.
Teacups are another favorite of mine to paint. I’ve painted so many that even I think, oh no, not again. But then I turn it a different way or place it with a different friend and I am off to the races…Two teacups together are 2 friends chatting. Three are a party.
Don’t Let The Blues Get To You is an example of “you’re taking a photo of what?” I loved painting this one. Having time to kill before a movie, my husband and I stopped to get coffee and this pile of teal blue cups was just sitting there, fresh out of the steam cleaner and glistening. (Remember going to see a movie? Pre-Pandemic!) I snapped a few photos (and the sullen millennial behind the counter probably thought this woman’s a nutcase). It too is a painting that has served me well, and actually was purchased by a very good friend who felt drawn to it.
Let me take you through the progress of Sew What.
Starting off on dark paper, I knew where I wanted the star of the show to be situated, centerfront. The measuring tape draped around her shoulders and pointing down and off the page. Probably breaking every rule of “Don’t point off the page, don’t put things in the center….”
Once I was happy with Miss Pincushion, I was able to concentrate more on the curves of the tape and suggest the inch markers. I was drawn to the dark graphic shadows the images made. There are only two main characters so their shadows were quite important.
The colors were stuck in the mid-ugly stage, so I needed to kick up the red with some purple shadows and hot pink light marks. The multicolored straight pins added a bit of pizzazz. I started playing with the white table linen but obviously I went to warm and then too cool.
I decided to tone it down but stick with a warmer ground color. The yellow of the tape was casting yellowish glows underneath and I thought, “why not?” but to keep interest in the red/purple family, I signed my name in purple.
My Bed Journey
About 3-4 years ago, I started on what I now call my “bed journey.” Being someone who always loves painting fabrics, folds, textures, and shadows I wondered where I could find all those things without hiring a model? Ahhh….bed linens. With or without a model sleeping in them, the wrinkles and folds of bed linens called to me.
One day in my bedroom in New Jersey I was reading in the corner chair and looked up to find the sun’s rays casting these warm pink colors across the bed and the walls, and casting cool grey shadows behind the headboard and lamps. I took some quick photos and knew I would paint it immediately. That painting, Sunday, 5:30pm, hung in many exhibits in NYC.
I painted many different beds after that. Most meant something to me. One was at a hotel in Chicago. (We were staying there while in the city to see my son graduate from the Navy Boot Camp.) The linens were all white, as were the walls, towels, carpet etc. Weird and stark but it made an interesting painting.
Another was a daybed at a good friend’s house, filled with lacy pillows and shams. All of a sudden people wanted me to paint their beds, as if it were a portrait. I tried, but I needed to feel what I was painting, so that didn’t last long.
The one painting that most people know is Moving On/Change Is Good. This painting won the Silver award in the Pastel 100 a few years ago. This painting had “a lot of hands in it” I like to say: Everyone who saw it while it was being painted had something to say about it. I had to block all those voices out.
This was my mother-in-law’s bed. There is a suitcase on it because we are packing her home up and she was moving to a nursing facility. It was sad, emotional, and we were in “let’s get the job done” mode and not ready for the feels. I was looking at the bed, at the angle it’s painted, the suitcase is there, and the sun was streaming through the slats of her window blinds. The room was so dark and sad and yet all this light from above was coming in and playing games with the colors of the linens. I knew I had to paint it. When I showed her the painting and subsequent accolades, she laughed and couldn’t understand the fuss being made over her bed. I miss her.
The last version of a bed that I’ve painted recently was Green Blankets, 11am. It’s actually in my bedroom with Moving On hanging on the wall.
In closing, let me say this, if you feel drawn to paint something, just do it. For YEARS I thought I had to paint landscapes because THAT’S WHAT A REAL PAINTER PAINTS. I beat myself up because my trees looked sickly and my skies looked ominous. And don’t get me started on my waves. Now I know I’m good at what I’m good at, and I can be a student of all the other genres I may like to try. I still take workshops with other artists. I’ll never paint the way they do, nor do I want to. But it’s fascinating and fun to grow and experiment and push the envelope a bit. But I’ll always come back to figures, fabrics, and fruit!
I don’t know about you but I’m ready to go paint beds! Or what about setting up a still life with fruit and glass?!
Jeri and I would LOVE to hear from you so do leave a comment with your thoughts, questions, and observations!!
Until next time,