One of my artistic idols is Jean-Baptiste Chardin (1699-1779), a French old master who excelled in the genre of highest understatement. His subject matter was mostly of still lifes, scullery maids performing their humble kitchen duties, little children studying or playing quiet games, or women writing letters at their desk - anything you could find inside a very comfortable 18th century French middle class home; but he elevated these tableaux to the sublime with his carefully crafted compositions, masterful use of light and shade - the rich and creamy, fully controlled built up brush-strokes upon the small canvas format. There is an almost Rembrandt-like quality to them. This master of oils was also the master of chalk pastels. Many times over my life I tried my hand at creating in pastels - and sadly got more of that material on me than on the paper. It was a truly frustrating experience that ultimately caused me to set aside my pastels into a musty drawer where they lay gathering dust for decades.
A couple of years ago a client who was hell-bent on pastel portraits for his children approached me with a commission. It was then that I rekindled my interest in taking charge in earnest of that medium. I restudied Chardin, the ultimate master of pastel, his strokes - light and free and effortless as a ballerina's leaps. I can never hope to emulate him completely. He was one of a kind - he painted poetry; yet still I'm driven to try to bridge the gap between him and me.