Pastel drawing: grandma tortoise

Pastel drawing of a tortoise

When I think about patience, I think about slow-moving animals like tortoises. Surfing the web for something to draw, I found pictures of the tortoises at the San Diego zoo. The photo I drew was of the tortoise named Grandma, who is 130 years old. The webpage also includes links to a video of tortoises eating pumpkins. Grandma’s movements remind me of my own, as my hand loses coordination. Grandma has much to teach me about patient surrender. As it turns out, so did the process of drawing her!

I wanted to try working with pastels. They should enable me to use brighter colors than I have been able to get with the watercolor pencils. I started this drawing happily enough, but got confused quickly. The tortoise is a very unhuman animal, so I had to look carefully and not make assumptions. After my first (2 ½ hour) drawing session, I was frustrated. I thought about quitting pastels.

My theme this month is surrender and I realized that was the missing ingredient. I came back to the drawing with the intention of surrendering to the medium. Pastel paper as a texture and seemed to “want” my marks to be diagonal. Rather than following the shape of what I was drawing, I made short diagonal marks. I realized that with the small size (necessitated by my “reach” and my energy level, I can’t make things too detailed. So I drew, saying to myself “these marks will suggest a toenail…” etc. With a moment to moment surrender of my expectations of perfection and to the medium, I was able to get into a flow and enjoy myself. I’m pleased with the result and happy with the process.

Challenge: could I make a larger piece, moving the paper and easel and working on a section at a time? Do I even want to try that?


Posted on

February 25, 2017

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *